On a Serious Note

For the most part, I make a conscious effort to steer away from politically-charged or potentially controversial subjects in my blog.

Today, I'm going to make a rare exception, and talk about something that I saw last week that really bothered me.

I'm talking about the short video a young woman made. It's a simple film, less than two minutes long. She never speaks. She does nothing, in fact, but walk down the street.

Now, let me showcase my social ignorance for a moment. If asked to predict the content of a film in which a young woman wearing jeans and a crew-neck tee shirt just walks around, I'd have predicted she'd receive a couple of random smiles and a hello or two. Because yes, I'm the social equivalent of a hermit crab, and I foolishly assumed that in 2014 people of any gender can just walk around unmolested in North America.

If you haven't seen the video yet, I urge you to give it a look. Less than 2 minutes, but very illuminating. The link is below.

In the space of the film, she is harassed and accosted more times that I could count. One idiot even follows her, side by side, for four whole minutes just because she wouldn't respond to his clumsy come-ons.

What the Hell, people? Every single male portrayed in this video needs what we in the Deep South call a Class II Ass Kicking (Class II because not only must the offending male be beaten, so must at least one other male blood relative, just to get the point across to the whole wretched backward clan).

Let me back up for a minute.

I'm not the most traveled guy around, but I have been a few places. Montana. Arizona. Memphis. Austin. I work on a college campus in Mississippi.

I've never seen behavior like this, and I'm a careful people-watcher because I'm always on the lookout for fiction fodder.

I'm not saying that what happens in the film doesn't happen. It obviously does. I'm not saying the film was edited, or the incidents exaggerated. Neither is the case.

I'm just saying I should get out more, but I'd better retain the services of a competent criminal trial lawyer first, because it is time we men who are NOT dishonorable cretins knock the ones who are back into the gutter from whence they crawled.

Am I advocating violence?

Yes. Quite frankly, I am, because I don't think a carefully-crafted debate on the proper behavior towards ladies is going to carry the same weight with Mr. Hey Sexy Baby that a well-placed face-punch will.

I suppose I've been sheltered. I don't see this lewd behavior here in Oxford. I do know that if someone addressed my wife in that fashion, well, my newly-retained lawyer and his good friend the bail bondsman would soon be very busy, and I would be contemplating the dubious merits of jailhouse cuisine (protip: never eat the meat loaf).

And it would be worth it. There's a scene, alas deleted before the final version saw print, in which my detective Markhat and his vampire friend Evis are discussing an incident in which Markhat broke a stranger's jaw because he insulted Darla, Markhat's then-fiancee. Markhat spends a long weekend in the Old Ruth, a notorious jail with a less-than-100-percent survival rate among even brief detainees. Evis admonishes Markhat to show a modicum of restraint next time, to stay out of jail, and Markhat responds thusly -- "Any husband not ready to spend a night in the Old Ruth on behalf of his wife isn't ready to be handing out engagement rings."

I still believe that. It's not up to the ladies to weigh themselves down with pistols and pepper spray because some men can't mind their manners. I believe it's up to the men to police our brethren, and make it crystal clear that an insult or attempted intimidation to a random woman on the street is an insult to my wife, my sister, my daughter, my mother.

And some of us don't take kindly to such things. Not kindly at all.

None of you men should. It's one thing to smile and say hello to a woman in singles club (do such things even exist anymore?). It's another to shout down a lady on the street. She isn't there to meet you, or make your day. She's going to work or going home, like the rest of us poor slobs.

To the woman in the video, I can only offer my most profound apologies on behalf of my gender, a large percentage of which is obviously unacquainted with the concept gentlemanly behavior.

And to the morons in that video, you should be two things -- first and foremost, ashamed of your inexcusable behavior. Second, you should be bleeding from a broken nose.

To the guys who saw the catcalls and the intimidation happen, you should be ashamed of yourselves too, for not standing up and speaking out.

I'm not stating or implying that women are fainting daisies incapable of taking care of themselves. Far from it.

I am saying women shouldn't have to teach strange men not to be raging arseholes. Women shouldn't be tasked with conveying that sad message one hundred times a day.

No, this kind of verbal assault and intimidation is a man problem. Each of us dudes is either a part of the solution, or an enabler.

So cut that crap out, you idiots. You might just say something around the wrong wild-eyed southern boy. Maybe I'd win, maybe I'd lose, but that's not the point -- there would be a reckoning.

Okay. Deep breaths. I'm putting my soapbox away, because I do have a follow-up question to all this, that I hope one or two of my female readers might be willing to answer.

I write several female characters. Darla, for one. Gertriss and Mama Hog. And then there's Meralda, Tirlin's lady Mage, about whom I have based two novels and a novella. But seeing the video, and then reading about 'gamergate' and the many instances of outright physical assaults against female cosplayers at cons, I have to wonder if I'm portraying my female characters with any degree of realism at all.

Meralda walks around Tirlin all the time, and aside from traffic cops doffing their hats to her and her apartment doorman saying hello, she never gets cat-called. Darla, Markhat's wife, has faced down vampires and murderous witches, but never endured a mob of idlers on a park bench commenting upon her anatomy.

Honest, such things never occurred to me, because, I assume, I'm a clueless male.

Which gives me pause. I want very much to make Meralda and Darla and all the rest as whole and as believable as I possibly can. I want readers, especially female readers, to feel as if they see some of themselves reflected in my portrayals.

So -- by omitting this aspect of being a woman in 21st century America, have I damaged my fictional people?

Conversely, do you women even WANT to see such things pop up, especially since I write fantasy, or would you rather fiction be a safer place, a bastion of reason, if you will?

I am genuinely interested in hearing your thoughts.

So that's it for this week. Next week I'll try to get back to ghost hunting and funny stuff.

But sometimes even hermit crabs should speak out.

Peace out, fellow babies!