Yowza.

Curt Schilling takes on cyberbullies and hurls a fastball dead in the center of the strike zone.
Stuff like what poor Gabby’s been through is one of the major reasons I’m not on Twitter. But Curt has the right of it. There’s no excuse for that kind of behavior toward anyone, especially not idiot guys making violent boasts about women. And it is time the consequences started being driven home.

(H/T: AoSHQ)

What We Hear

When I left my apartment to go to class that afternoon, as I recall, I was wearing a suit with either a high-necked shell or a collared shirt. I can’t remember why; I must have been giving a presentation. In any case, the outfit was modest and professional, not form-fitting–I don’t do form-fitting–or revealing in any way. My pace, as usual, was quick and purposeful. And with my backpack over my shoulder, I was very clearly on my way to campus, the edge of which was just around the corner and up one block from where I lived.
I hadn’t even reached the corner when a truck slowed down beside me, and a male voice said, “Hey, baby.”
I pretended I was deaf.
“All right, geez,” the guy said, sounding offended. I think he called me a name. In any case, the truck moved on, and I hurried on to class and tried to put the incident out of my mind.

You can see how well that worked, considering that happened… six or seven years ago.

There’s a difference between catcalling and giving someone a friendly greeting as you pass. I hear and return the latter all the time; that’s the way Texas is. We’ll say, “Hi! How are you?” to total strangers just as a matter of course. It’s common courtesy.
Note, too, that I’m not the kind of woman to scream, “Help, help, I’m bein’ repressed!” every time a man looks at me. I’m the oldest girl in the family and am blessed with an abundance of outstanding male relatives. I have a boatload of amazing guy friends who have never shown me an iota of disrespect. (Seriously, if they all brought their wives and kids, we could probably fill a small cruise liner.) I’ve been the only girl–in the group, on the team, at the table, in the room–more times than I can count and not felt the slightest unease. In 23 years of school, I can count the number of blatantly, belligerently sexist classmates I had on one hand.

I think that’s why the bad encounters stand out to me, why they rankle more. I know so many good guys that the Nice Guys are easier to spot as just plain jerks. But the Nice Guys are still out there, as are the bad guys, and every woman, at some point in her life, will hear a “Hey, baby!” from at least one of them.

I’m writing this partly in response to an article about an actress who used a hidden camera to document how often she got catcalled in ten hours of walking through the streets of NYC. I haven’t watched the video, so I don’t know whether the comments claiming that most of the calls were simple friendly greetings are correct. I do know that it gave my friend Danielle flashbacks to being sexually harrassed on a regular basis while she and her husband were serving in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia–by men who knew she was married. And that tells me a lot, because she’s no radical feminist, either.

Here’s the thing. There are indeed women who put themselves at risk with what they wear and where they go–but even if every woman wore a burka and never went anywhere but the post office and the grocery store, there would still be the calls of, “Hey, baby!” Some of that may be due to guys genuinely not knowing how women hear that phrase: not as a friendly greeting, but as a Come hither, an unwanted advance, a proposition. But as my friend Alan wisely noted a few months back, a large part of the problem is that many people haven’t learned to appreciate beauty without wanting to possess it, own it, control it. (And let’s face it: given the popularity of movies like Magic Mike and books like Fifty Shades of Grey, women aren’t necessarily blameless on this score, either.)

I don’t know what the answer is, since the creeps will always be with us until Jesus returns to set the world right. But we do at least need to acknowledge that the problem exists and learn to place the blame where it belongs–or at any rate to recognize where it doesn’t belong.

On Problematic Plot Devices

I don’t often respond to the prompts on The Daily Post, but I couldn’t let today’s pass without comment because it’s such a doozy (emphasis added):

You’ve come into possession of one vial of truth serum. Who would you give it to (with the person’s consent, of course) — and what questions would you ask?

Truth serum. Sodium pentothal or the like. Developed and used for interrogations to force people to tell truths they want to keep hidden. And in this hypothetical scenario one is supposed to get consent to use the stuff? Consent? THAT TOTALLY DEFEATS THE PURPOSE OF USING TRUTH SERUM!

It’s like the love potion trope, which many people nowadays find problematic, and for good reason. One of the best treatments of it that I’ve read, honestly, is Gottfried von Strassburg’s Tristan und Isolde, where Isolde gets a potion to use on herself to help her forget Tristan and accept her arranged marriage to King Mark; purely by accident, Isolde’s lady-in-waiting mistakes the potion for a flask of wine and serves it to Isolde and Tristan instead, which only cements their existing ill-fated love. (I generally don’t like Tristan und Isolde because of its romanticization of infidelity, but at least Gottfried’s use of the love potion plot is decent.) By and large, though, the whole point of the potion is its coercive power, its elimination of consent. Ditto Cupid’s arrow–Chaucer makes the trope all the more disturbing in Troilus and Criseyde with his portrayal of Pandarus, who all but physically throws his ward Criseyde into Troilus’ bed for the sake of his own political ambitions, but Troilus is just one of many figures in classical literature whom Cupid forces to fall into unrequited love as a punishment.

If a story isn’t going to deal with the nasty implications of magic forcing attraction from one or more unwilling parties, the author shouldn’t bring in Cupid or a love potion. Likewise, if the story doesn’t involve an interrogator forcing truth from an unwilling witness or captive (with the potential exception, as occasionally on Mission: Impossible, of helping an amnesiac or traumatized individual recover memories they couldn’t otherwise reveal), the author shouldn’t bring in techniques like truth serum or hypnosis. Now, that’s not to say these plot devices don’t have their place; they definitely do, and truth serum especially has a place in spy thrillers and war stories, even in the hands of the heroes who are in a ticking-time-bomb type of scenario. But getting past the subject’s will is both the point and the problem, and it needs to be treated as such for the story to work.

“You keep using that word….”

(Or, you know you have degrees in chemistry and English when…)
So I was just going through the posts on my WordPress Reader and came across today’s–well, yesterday’s, since it’s after midnight–Daily Prompt. The post title was “Mad as a Hatter,” but the actual prompt was asking for posts about rage.
BZZZT. WRONG.
“Mad as a hatter” refers to a completely different definition of “mad”–insane. There used to be a high incidence of hatters going crazy, and while G. K. Chesterton once quipped that the cause was measuring the human head, it actually had a much more prosaic root. You see, once upon a time, the felt used for making hats was manufactured using significant levels of mercuric nitrate. Due to the processes by which hatmakers shaped the felt and blocked the hats, as well as the poor ventilation of their shops, they inhaled vaporized mercury on a regular basis… and one of the symptoms of mercury vapor inhalation is psychosis. As the Hazardous Substances Data Bank article puts it, “Subacute exposure has given rise to psychotic reactions characterized by delerium, hallucinations, and suicidal tendency.” So widespread and severe was the effect of this occupational hazard that it became a byword in English. The condition itself is known as mad hatter disease, but even people who weren’t victims of mercury poisoning yet displayed similarly erratic behavior were said to be “as mad as a hatter.”

And isn’t that a cheerful topic to bring up this close to Christmas…. 😐 Sorry, gang, will aim for something lighter later.