The Age of yet another creepy stalker portrayed on screen as the good guy

Today has been full of rage. I woke up to the news that some terrorist shithead ran over people coming from church (actually muslims leaving their mosque, but certain people’s empathy knobs have been twisted so they can only emphasise with people like them nowadays, so maybe this way everyone can relate), and somehow resisted the urge to tweetstorm about the UK media’s responsibility and lack of public outrage and condemnation. Luckily, JK Rowling, who has a somewhat bigger profile than me, stepped into the fray. Then, I heard the news from the US that a pregnant woman had been shot dead in front of her children after calling the police about a burglary, by said police! I mean, what the actual fuck, right?

Anyway, since I can’t change these facts or the state of the world, much as I would like, I decided to watch a silly movie tonight, to take my mind off things and calm down. Reader, this did not work. The movie I chose was The Age of Adaline, which started off interesting enough (a woman who never ages because of wavy-hand science reasons spends her life reinventing herself, complicated relationship with her daughter who is now older than her, lonely existence, what’s not to love?).

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The Age of Not this again..

Then, enter, the MAN. Now I love a good romance as much as the next person, but I’m sick and tired of the movie tropes that tell guys they just need to hound women and those women will eventually relent and even APOLOGISE for being freaked out about the man’s stalker behaviour. Like, way to teach men not to respect women as people, respect their choices, and respect when they say NO, movies.

Anyway, in this movie, the MAN sees Blake Lively, aka Adaline, at a new year’s event, storms after her when she leaves, pushes his way into an elevator with her, then stops her cab from leaving trying to get her to agree to go out with him. She says no. The next day, she’s at work, and guess who comes by, it’s only Stalky McStalkface, who has seen her there before (could’ve said hello, man) and refuses to donate some precious book (she works at the library) unless she agrees to go out with him. Eventually, she relents. They go out, he manages to convince her to go out to dinner with him at his place, they spend the night, she tell him the next morning that was all he’s going to get. Then naturally, he hunts down her address, which she never shares with anyone (hello, secretive ageless person) and shows up outside her building. I mean, red flags, right? Then, and this is the stupidest part, Adaline’s daughter talks her into giving him another shot, and she goes to his place and apologises for freaking out about him showing up unannounced at her doorstep!

If you don’t see what’s wrong with this, ask a female friend, because hoo boy! Anyway, this got me thinking, with so many movies doing this stalker-turned-happily-ever-after bullshit (the worst offender, of course, being the Shades of Grey horror-show), how can this be written differently? Now, while I’m no Wonder Woman writer/director (go see it if you want to see a healthy relationship develop on-screen), I thought I’d give it a shot. So, here is an abridged rewrite:

Adaline sees cute dude enter the room. Eyes meet. She turns back to friend. Later, she is alone, calling her daughter to wish her a happy new year.

Cute guy: “Mind if I join you? The view here’s something else, isn’t it?”

Guy actually looking out the window, not at her.

A: “Sure.” [recites obscure poem about view]

G: “Wow, that’s [obscure artist], I love her work.”

A: “Wow, I don’t know anyone else who knows her (cause I’m secretly hella old).”

Some talk about shared interests follows, then Adaline excuses herself and goes home. Man watches her, sad that she didn’t give him her contact details, but he accepts it.

A few days later, Adaline is at work, when Guy shows up.

A: “What are you doing here? How did you find me?”

G: “Wow there, I’m just here to drop off some priceless old books because I’m totally a secret millionaire philanthropist. It’s totally cool that you work at the library though, I love books.”

A: “Me too. I’m glad you brought books. They are good.”

G: “Yes, they are. How wonderful that we have so much in common. Hey, I was going to go to [obscure poet]’s exhibition, want to come?”

A: “Oh, I hadn’t heard about that. That would be fun, but…”

Adaline is obviously struggling because Guy is hot and she’s attracted to him, but she’s moving in seven weeks and also basically a secret immortal being.

G: “I get it, this is weird, but let me ask you, would you go if I wasn’t going?”

Adaline hesitates, then agrees to go. They spend a lovely evening talking about all the things they have in common, then Guy convinces her to go somewhere secret with her for lunch. In return, she shows him a secret place in the city that nobody knows about. They end up at his place, smooching, and eventually sleep together, because come on, did you really think an ageless Blake Lively would be celibate all those years?

The next morning, Adaline tries to leave, tells him it was just the one night, explains about her leaving. Guy (gently!) convinces her to go out again because they still have a few more weeks, and so they have time to have fun before she goes, nothing too serious. I mean, who wouldn’t pick a few weeks with a brainy Blake Lively over no time with her at all?

The last weekend before she’s set to go, Guy convinces her to go to his parents’ place for the weekend, to enjoy some fresh air and outdoor stuff. There, she meets her former lover aka his father, the whole thing comes out, she runs away, changes her mind, doesn’t get into a car accident and stays a badass eternal lady. He welcomes her back, they share their feelings (after weeks together, rather than a few dates, which is no solid basis for love), and he learns to cope with her eternalness and her elderly daughter because he loves her. The End.

(Yes, she gets wishy-washy science’d into becoming mortal again near the end, and I do not agree with that either. Sorry if this abridged version doesn’t make much sense to people who haven’t seen the movie. My point is, if I can come up with this in an hour, professional screenwriters should be able to come up with something less macho-bullshit, toxic masculinity, cliche-central, right? Right?)

Let me know in the comments if you agree/disagree/have a better alternative. Hopefully I will calm down enough at some point to finish an actually researched blog post again, particularly on dealing with failure in publishing, which has been sitting in my drafts for far too long.

I have fallen in love and cried at work

Tim Hunt, a nobel laureate, thought it would be appropriate to tell the attendees at a meeting honouring women in science that labs should be segregated because “You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them, they cry!” Twitter has responded brilliantly to this by flocking to the hashtag #distractinglysexy with pictures of women in science doing their thing. Alas, most of my science is done behind a computer, which isn’t even slightly distractingly sexy, so I don’t have a picture of my own to share. Many people have discussed why Tim Hunt’s statement is inherently false in its sweeping generalisation. I would like to add my own account, having done all the things he says makes the workplace untenable, and show why it doesn’t matter.

Like a lot of people in all kinds of occupations, I fell in love with a co-worker. We noticed each other, took some time to realise we were on the same wavelength, and then decided to do something about it. Even when I was crushing, without any idea he felt the same way, it did not affect my work. Just like crushing on someone outside of work, or a celebrity, these human emotions do not at all inhibit my ability to perform my job. There are plenty of people, men and women, who unfortunately have to deal with relationship problems. Hell, I spent a year of my Bachelor degree taking care of my terminally ill father, which is about as distracted as you can get. Men’s problems do not miraculously go away when men enter the lab. Both men and women can be affected by personal issues, in a way that affects their work. This does not make them bad scientists, it makes them human. Besides, having a few women around the office (who are allowed by (frankly outdated) societal norms to show emotions) to talk to about your situation can be quite a boon for the males, as I’m sure many will agree!

As for unreciprocated office romances (which again are in no way unique to science), I have seen a few in my time, and if anything it made the scorned party work even harder, become even more productive, and did not at all affect working relationships. The only time one-sided love can become a problem is if the person with romantic feelings (I won’t assume male *coughTimHuntcough*) is in a position of power and tries to use that to leverage the other person into reciprocating. That is what one would call sexual harassment, and just plain wrong no matter what gender does it.

Nice rack

The good thing about the Tim Hunt debacle is that it highlights how funny women in science are!

As for his last assertion, that women in science cry when you criticise them: I have cried, once at work, not because I was criticised but because I was hugely disappointed and basically screwed over by another person, who because they did not do something they promised to do unnecessarily delayed the end of my PhD (this was after a few such instances and quite near what was supposed to be the end, so the very last drop in quite a full bucket). Luckily my male primary supervisor was incredibly understanding and supportive, and generally a much better role model than Tim Hunt could ever be! I know other PhD students who have cried for similar reasons, not because they were criticised, but because they were so passionate about their research that they could not stand someone else tripping them up out of pure carelessness. It is a feeling of powerlessness that probably most PhD students experience, the only difference being that women are told from a very young age that a valid response to this is crying, while men are taught instead to punch a wall or get angry. Neither of these responses is particularly productive, and more importantly does not change anything about the quality of work (as my many publications will attest), but just shows that people are invested in the science they are doing, which is a good thing!

As for women who do respond to criticism by crying (I don’t personally know anyone that does), I’m guessing their response is more healthy than men who respond to criticism by shouting and cursing. After a woman has stopped crying, she can reflect on what the criticism meant and better herself. After a man has cursed out the person delivering criticism, he has burned a bridge and due to inherent privilege might even go on believing that he was right regardless of what the reality of the situation may be (not all men, obviously, just like not all women cry, but I know some men who do act like this, who are luckily not in science). As some others have also pointed out, maybe if women cry after you criticise them, you need to change your approach, at least if your goal is to help instead of merely hurt.

Whew, this became a bit of a longer rant than I intended. My point is that yes, not all women in science behave like Tim Hunt thinks they do, but that even if they did, that doesn’t have any effect on the quality of their work. If anything, mixed workplaces are better for everyone, no matter what field one works in, because it allows one to experience different perspectives and learn how to be a well-rounded member of society comfortable talking with everyone in a friendly and professional manner regardless of gender etc.