Why We Hate The Huntress

If you have any social media presence, a television or, on occasion, read a newspaper, you’ve likely heard about American hunter Rebecca Francis. She’s the one who posed, smiling, with a giraffe she had shot, then posted the photo to social media.

The shot heard 'round the Twitterverse.

The shot heard ’round the Twitterverse.

In a phenomenon that happens disproportionately to female hunters, she was harassed, received death threats and was the subject of vitriol not even reserved for baby-killing war-mongers. It was a reaction that played out across every platform I participate in. It made me wonder, what prompted our extreme hatred of Ms. Francis?

Firstly, we must keep in mind that big game hunting and trophy hunting are not poaching. That is to say that big game hunting and trophy hunting exist within the confines of local or international law. While we may morally disapprove of someone’s choice to participate in hunting, they are not participating in activity that is illegal. Like abortion, kink or making art out of one’s bodily fluids, our approval or dissaproval should not directly affect someone’s ability to participate in a legal activity. Whether we chose to try to change the law is an entirely different matter and one that is open to generally unpleasant debate.

Secondly, I’m going to choose not to discuss the inherent gender, colonialism, capitalism and income disparity issues that this particular case has brought forward. Not because I don’t think these issues need discussing, but because, in this case, I’m much more interested in why our reaction was so violent compared to other similar cases.

Thirdly, I am going to state that it is possible to choose not to endorse an initial behaviour while also disapproving of the reaction to that behaviour.

Which leads to my first theory on why we hate the Huntress:

1) You’re Either With Us Or Against Us

Who remembers this clip?

(Note: I linked to the most succinct clip, and do not know anything about the organization that posted it.)

I didn’t realize it at the time, but this statement was telling. It was a moment in history that was either reflective of, or in part responsible for, a massive shift in how we viewed ourselves. One was either on one side or the other and there could be no middle ground. There was no space for disapproval of both the attacks on the US and the military actions of the US. There was no space to approve of the armed forces but not the government in charge. There was no space at all. There were two sides and only one could be chosen. And if you and a neighbour had chosen opposite sides, then you were now enemies. Unlike the yin yang ideal of two sides of nature, where each contains some of the other, the line was perfect and it was impermeable.

This carried over into everything. You could be pro-gay marriage or anti-gay marriage. You could be for reproductive rights or against them. You could be pro-war or pro-peace. And the more we defined our opinions as a binary, the more we separated into factions. And it wasn’t just about feeling safe in our shared ideals, it was about being against the people who were on the other side. It wasn’t about choosing not to participate in activities one disapproved of, but about making sure that no one could participate.

You were either with us, or you were against us. You were either an angel or a devil. Multiple choice answers had been replaced by yes/no boxes that dropped us into smaller and smaller groups until we were alone. Morally right, of course, but alone.

2) She Does With Glee What We Do With Guilt

Another reason, I suspect, that we so hate the Huntress, is because of what she represents. One’s head would have to buried deep in the sand to be able to ignore the damage being done to our planet’s ecosystems. This is especially evident in the numbers around species loss.

I used to volunteer in the biodiversity section of a local museum and one of the statistics scientists there were discussing was that by 2050, we may see a fifty percent reduction in the number of species on this planet. This is a frightening statistic and fear can lead to important and life-saving action. Or it can lead us to attack easy targets as a way to temper our fear.

The biggest dangers to the creatures we share the planet with are overpopulation, habitat encroachment, pollution, introduced species and, yes, over-hunting and fishing. As westerners, much of the damage we do is via consumption. We buy food from a company that uses deforestation to build agricultural factory farms, we purchase newer and shinier items that use chemical processes that create toxic run-off, we plant non-local plants because who doesn’t want a perfect lawn? Every day, we make small decisions that contribute to creating endangered species. Our existence, if not pursued with great care, is part of the problem.

Yes, but can we make the footprint smaller??

Yes, but can we make the footprint smaller??

Still, to live a life with zero footprint, or even a reduced footprint, takes a great deal of effort, money and time. Most of us cannot or will not reduce our footprint to the point where we are not contributing to the decline of species numbers.

Do you know what’s easier than changing your entire life? Attacking a person on the internet. Admittedly, attacking a person on the internet is actually easier than almost everything else we do. It takes almost no thought and gives us the same sense of satisfaction that actual action brings, but without the pesky effort.

With this in mind, I modestly propose that rather than attack a human being, we help the creatures we care about. If making change is not possible, then look into organizations like The Giraffe Conservation Foundation, or any of the 28 four-star rated animal conservation charities listed here. Perhaps if we are more vigilant ourselves, we will feel less inclined to seek a sense of accomplishment by flailing outward.

3) Giraffes Are Cute

You know I’m right. If she was holding up an endangered trout, most of us wouldn’t even have noticed.

In the end, we need to examine what our extreme reaction (I saw people calling for her torture and death) means, what it says about us, and what we can do with our feelings to create positive change. Ask yourself, what is the end goal? If it is to stop big game hunting and improve the lot of animals, sending threats to one hunter is an inefficient method of accomplishing that goal. Public shaming doesn’t create change. Public action does.

*If you comment, please do so respectfully.


Sexual Assault And The Twitter Tide

*trigger warning*

This is not my life. I have told myself that a lot the last few days. Not my life. These stories are about someone else’s life.

But the dialogue – it’s something I know we’ve needed to have for a long time. There’s been a shift, and that shift is coming online and from younger people.

This is a link that will take you to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, if you need to talk to someone.

This is a link that will take you to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, if you need to talk to someone.

Let me take you back a bit. Roman Polanski went to court for what he did. I read the court documents while writing a story on him. He drugged and anally raped a 13 year old girl. The actual reports are graphic and brutal. Hours of mistreatment and abuse. When I wrote the story about 15 years ago, the general flavour of the discussion around Polanski was that he was a tortured genius, reeling from the death of his wife at the hands of the Manson Family. He was forgivable. Even the (now) grown woman in question had forgiven him, so why couldn’t we?

Remember, this was a case that had been reported to the police, had gone to court and had resulted in a conviction. That’s rare enough on it’s own. There was no doubt that Polanski was a child rapist. Still, the narrative favoured him. He was an exiled artist. A man misunderstood. What were we saying? Who wouldn’t rape a child under those circumstances? Her bodily autonomy was worth much less than his creativity? A great creator can not also be a horrible man?

Click here to find Rape Crisis Centres in Ontario.

Click here to find Rape Crisis Centres in Ontario.

When Jian Ghomeshi posted his Facebook statement, many of my artist friends reposted it. After all, who among us hadn’t had our lives judged by our patrician higher-ups? Add to that the weird societal idea that women lie – an idea that goes all the way back to our Sunday School classes, comic books and saturday morning TV shows…

Oh Veronica. She’d tell any lie to get Archie – and hasn’t that Hannah Montana gotten herself trapped in yet another situation because she just can’t be honest about who she is?

People I respect and care about posted his well-scripted preemptive strike and I did not. Even then, my gut said wait and see (my gut is not a scientific tool, but it’s been pretty handy, so I listen to it.)

What I noticed almost immediately was something I had never seen before – as quickly as the narrative that cast him as victim was produced, people started to question it. Folks suggested caution to those incensed by the firing. People mentioned friends who had found his behavior frightening or who had noticed that he could be intimidating in his dealings with women. People talked about their own experiences with powerful (mostly) men that had mirrored these allegations. Within hours, the overwhelming support had become far more cautious as people started to question whether his statement could be taken at face value.

Click here for ways to contact the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre.

Click here for ways to contact the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre.

I followed the tide as it shifted and realized that I was watching something completely new. As the women started to come forward, one after another, bravely attaching their name to allegations that I can’t even describe right now, hashtags like #ibelievelucy, #ibelievethem and #beenrapedneverreported took over Twitter. If you are under 30, you may not understand exactly how new and amazing this is. I get that Twitter is not the real world. It’s a microcosm that is young, tech savvy and opinionated. What happens on Twitter will not translate to homes, police stations or courts of justice – but that’s okay. It is a public space where women were heard and believed. That bowls me over. It gives me hope. It says something.

Yes, Twitter is where women find themselves harassed and threatened. I’m not dismissing that. But it’s also forum that has allowed for a shift in how we talk about assault. It has allowed hundreds of thousands of women to say “You don’t know me, but I’m telling you a person attacked me and committed crimes against me and no one listened.” Previously, that kind of openness has been limited to survivor’s groups and clinics and diaries that no one sees. We’ve moved the story out into the world. Let’s see where it goes from here.

The Sprint to Spritz

Hey Blogosphere,
You’ve not been this excited since Miley decided she wasn’t daddy’s little girl any more.

How fast are you reading this? Pretty fast, right? I mean, you’re reading the words probably somewhere around the pace you’d be hearing them if I were speaking. It’s possible you read faster, and I’m all chipmunk fast, but it’s probably somewhere in the neighbourhood of 200 words a minute.

There is a magical software that promises to boost that. It’s called Spritz and the interface is clever. It works like this:

You see one word at a time.

The center of the word is red.
Like this.

The word is centered in a box.
The red letter is always in the same place.
So your eyes learn to expect it.

As you read each individual word, your speed will jump dramatically. Mine did, almost instantly. It’s a fun brain trick to watch the numbers soar and realize just how quickly you are reading.

But I don’t like it.

Red Reading by Melissa Venable (Click image for artist's page)

Red Reading by Melissa Venable (Click image for artist’s page)

I don’t like it because it so isolates each word that I lose my sense of context. I’m forced to gorge a meal I’d rather savour. I like to read a book languorously. I like to play over phrases. Roll them around in my brain. I like to look back to the top of the page and re-experience a salacious piece of dialogue or a brilliantly descriptive term. I like to repose in bed or on my sofa and hold a book (or even my Kobo) and spend minutes more than necessary on one phrase.

Were I the type who needed to consume large quantities of data for my work, say a lawyer or an engineer – this could change my entire day. Utilitarian reading suits a utilitarian  method. Spritz’ pitch, however, has been to splash across social networking just how fast you could ream through a 1000 page novel (about a day for me, a mere hour or two for a spritzer.)

I could also listen to music on high speed, watch only Vine videos and consume all my food in pureed liquid form.

I want to savour a book. I want to immerse myself in it.

I’m fascinated by where this technology may go. I could see it being useful for LD students, ones for whom conventional reading is problematic. By isolating individual words, the possibility of mixing words is eliminated. If they weighted the font (thinner at the top, thicker at the bottom) so it wasn’t flippable vertically and coloured it to indicate a front to back flow (light to dark) so it wasn’t flippable horizontally, they could change reading for kids and adults who find it challenging. It could be a big help for those with low or limited vision who have a smaller field of usable vision

Who knows, this may be where we are headed. I am not opposed to change. We are machines and our efficiencies are amazing.

Still, if this is where we go (and we might) I think I’ll be glad I was born before it. After all, as a child of the 80s, I lost out on the beauty of a slow cooked meal in favour of the wonder of instant packaged portions and fast food.

I’m glad that I learned to read in the era of slow words. I think they will always suit me best.