Being Mary Watson’s spouse: it’s who you know

Being Mary Watson’s spouse: it’s who you know

Regular readers know I make an effort in this blog not to identify genders, unless someone has volunteered it. I don’t identify mine, or my Significant Other’s or our now adult kid’s. I try not to do it with authors and such, either.


One of the things I love most about the internet is that it’s possible to be judged only by your thoughts…not by your intrinsic characteristics.

If a website requires me to enter my gender before I can post or shop, I simply don’t use that site.

Now, I don’t mind if people choose to disclose, and many do. I don’t feel like I’m hiding who I am, and I’m not ashamed of it. 🙂

It’s just that I want to set the precedent that you don’t need to identify (and perhaps be judged) by what you are (as opposed to who you are) if you don’t want to do so.

I try not to do any intrinsic characteristics, although it’s sometimes hard to not to suggest at least an age range for me, based on my experiences. I openly tell people I go back to the punch card days…I think you’d be quite hard pressed to find a  Millennial  (born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, approximately) who had worked with one of those. Vinyl, yes…punch cards, no. 🙂

There is a tendency to default unknown people as male. For example, there has been a lot of talk in the news lately about a “female fugitive”. I think almost every story I’ve seen has identified that person’s gender. If there had been one fugitive left who was male, I would be very surprised if they consistently referred to the person as a “male fugitive”.

That’s odd, isn’t it, when the majority of people in Europe (and the United States and Canada), where the story originates, are female? Since males are the “exception” (although the numbers tend to be quite close), you would think you point out that someone was male and not point out when they were female.

I’ve also had quite…passionate discussions with people about whether or not “actress” is an acceptable term. I maintain that it is a minimizing term…that it diminishes the person. When you ask how many actors are in a play, that includes males and females (as it should, in my opinion). You have a way to ask how many female actors, but not a way that ask exclusively male actors (without brining in more words). To me, “actress” again suggests the exception, something different.

I think almost no one uses “authoress” any more, although that used to be pretty common, I believe. If you check your dictionary, you may even see it defined as a derogatory or sexist term.

Then there was something that prompted this post.

I write about movies in another (relatively little read, but fun to write) blog,

The Measured Circle

I think a movie called

Suicide Squad

may surprise a lot of people this year with how well it does at the box office.

It features a group of D.C. Comics villains being “recruited” for a mission (I don’t want to say more than that).

The first interesting experience I had with it was when I was in a comic book shop (that’s actually a rare experience for me…I was looking for a gift for an office holiday gift exchange).

I mentioned the movie, and one of the clerks asked which characters were in it.

I mentioned the Enchantress.

The other clerk corrected me, saying that Harley Quinn was in it.

Yes, they are both in it. It’s possible to have two strong female characters in the same movie. 😉

The other thing was then trying to explain to someone else who Harley Quinn is (quite a popular character, although Quinn’s only been around for less than a quarter century).

Look up Harley Quinn, and you’ll immediately see her (identifying the gender is important here) identified as a “girlfriend” (or perhaps accomplice) of The Joker.

That’s true even when Harley is the only person in an image…not 100% of the time, but commonly.

Sure, I get that: people know The Joker, and don’t know Harley…so it gives you a point of reference.

You know what I don’t see?

I never see The Joker identified as “Harley Quinn’s boyfriend”.

Even if they were both together in an image, I doubt you’d see that.

That got me thinking…

I think especially female characters tend to be defined by their relationships to other character…typically male characters.

Again, that’s not universal, and it’s not just female characters. I’m sure we see Dick Grayson (Robin) identified as “Bruce Wayne’s ward” far more than we see Batman identified as “Dick Grayson’s guardian”.

I thought we could have some fun with this.

I’m going to flip it, as I did in the title of this post. Let’s see if you know who the other character is by defining their relationship to someone.

Who is…

  • Mary Watson’s spouse
  • Kala’s human child
  • Toronado’s rider
  • Mrs. Hudson’s best known tenants
  • Scout’s father
  • Becky Thatcher’s love interest
  • Wendy Darling’s pretend spouse

Hm…I think this is easier than I expected, at least for my readers. I would get all of these pretty easily. I do think that if I posed the questions the other way, asking who was so-and-so’s love interest, more people would get it.

I’ll post the answers soon, but I’m guessing someone identifies them in the comments in the next day. That’s fine, by the way…I won’t confirm it for a day at least.

Bonus note: I was finally able to order an Amazon Echo today! You had to have asked for an invitation, and had Amazon approve your request.

My estimated delivery date?

Between May 27th and July 2nd.

Not only is that some time away, it’s quite imprecise. I’ve never seen a more than a month delivery window before!

Still, I’m excited to be getting one!

If you are wondering what the Echo is, here is my category of posts on it:

Join more than a thousand readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

I bought my Echo through AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


14 Responses to “Being Mary Watson’s spouse: it’s who you know”

  1. Harold Delk Says:

    Actress is not a word in my vocabulary; nor is plumbertress, butcheress, cheftress, or doctoress. Mistress? Jury’s still out on that one.

  2. Edward Boyhan Says:

    There are two comments I’d like to leave on this post. This one will be the shorter of the two.

    I wonder whether the strange way Amazon is rolling out the Echo has anything to do with their experience with the Fire Phone roll out?

    With the Fire Phone they made a big splashy announcement. With the Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and the Echo the roll outs have been relatively muted. As an aside, the product manager at Lab126 responsible for the latter three products has recently left Amazon.

    I wonder about their decision processes with requests for invitations to buy the Echo (requiring an invite seems on its face bizarre to begin with). I sent in my request within a day or two of hearing about the Echo; I got the invite a few days later; I bought it immediately, and within a week and a half of hearing about the Echo, I had one. Why me? Why is yours so stretched out? They can’t be having supply chain shortages that bad — there’s nothing in the Echo that I can see that would constrain supply this badly?

    Are they feeling burned by the Fire Phone inventory problems?

    The reviews for the Echo have been mostly mildly positive to very positive (although there haven’t been a great number of reviews).

    Sort of like movie distribution: some get wide release; some only go into narrow release (:grin)

  3. Nicola Says:

    As a woman, who is proud to be feminine and female, I find posts like this offensive. When being gender neutral, people aren’t being as pleasing as they think. I find it extremely condescending to women.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Nicola!

      Thank you for respectfully disagreeing! As regular readers know (and you may be one, of course), that’s my favorite thing.

      I’d like to know a bit more about your position. Why do you find it condescending for me not to identify genders? Certainly, people are allowed to identify their own here, as you have done. What I try to do is lead by example that people need not do that, if they so choose.

      When someone is not actively here, I don’t want to make that decision for them.

      That’s it. It’s not so much about being pleasing, I think…I say, “I think,” because I am (constantly) assessing my own positions. Most people are not offended by hearing gender references, based on how common they are. I don’t think most people are pleased by their omission. For me, it’s about not being judged by anything but your thoughts, feelings, and expressions of same. There are women and men who are equally brave about expression…and women and men who are equally concerned about expressing them. There are situations where a male might fear that if others in the conversation knew they were male, it would reduce their opinion of what was said…the same can be true for females, for issues of sexual orientation, heritage, even place of birth. I just want to remove that barrier by letting people make that choice.

      Note that it isn’t just gender: it’s other intrinsic characteristics as well.

      Condescension also implies a reaching down from someone who presumes they are in a superior position. I’m guessing your presumption is that I am male, and that I think I am somehow protecting “weaker” people. If that was the goal (and I don’t feel it is), I wouldn’t see it as particularly extreme.

      I don’t normally listen to talk radio: I usually listen to text-to-speech. However, I was on a very short trip and my Fire was in my laptop case in the trunk, so I turned on a local station. I found it very condescending myself when a talk show host suggested that all female sex workers were victims. It was even phrased by asking if the caller would approve of one of their (female, only female in this context) children was going to become a “stripper”. It made women seem like children. I wanted to ask, “Do you think the women who make that choice are too unintelligent or too weak to avoid making a decision you think is bad for them?”

      Certainly, there are people who have had their ability to make a rational decision compromised by experience…but to suggest that is the case for all people of a certain type making the same decision seemed unfounded.

      However, whenever I find myself reacting emotionally to something, I really make myself think about it and try to see the other position.

      So again, I’m glad you are expressing this here and I would like to hear more about what you think about it! Since I’m most in a position to change what I do (as opposed to what others do), I’m particularly interested in what you think is condescending about my not identifying my own gender or those of others, while being open to them doing so if they want.

  4. Peter Willard Says:

    I’ll take a stab at it

    Mary Watson’s spouse: Peter Parker/Spider Man
    Kala’s human child: Tarzan
    Tornado’s rider: Zorro
    Mrs. Hudson’s best known tenants: Holmes and Watson
    Scout’s father: Atticus Finch, sounded familiar but had to look it up
    Becky Thatcher’s love interest: Tom Sawyer
    Wendy Darling’s pretend spouse: Peter Pan

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Peter!

      I do wish you hadn’t looked anything up, but I didn’t say that you shouldn’t. 🙂 When I’m on the forums, I give “trivia points”, but always make that a condition.

      At least one of your answers is different than what I had intended. 🙂

  5. Kathryn Diak Says:

    Regarding gender, two recent science fiction books Ancillary Justice and Ancillary Sword, are very interesting in the way gender is handled.
    Regarding the Echo, I received an invitation early and have really enjoyed the experience. I have been home from work following surgery and enjoy the voice activation feature.
    I hope yours arrives sooner than later!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Kathryn!

      I have had those books recommended before…I appreciate the suggestion.

      Science fiction has sometimes dealt with gender in interesting ways…I remember one in particular where they were humanoids with three genders, and how an Earthling, who “fell in love” with one of them, was schooled about the difference.

      I have a sibling with a medical condition that can make doing things by hand quite difficult…my siblling also has an Echo arriving at about the same time as mine.

      Yep, I’m hoping it comes sooner, but I am a patient person.

      Best of luck with your recovery!

  6. Lady Galaxy Says:

    The only one of these I didn’t know was Toranado. I assumed Toranado was a horse, but it didn’t ring a bell. After reading other responses, I’ve now figured it out, but I won’t claim something I didn’t already know.

    I’m glad you’ve finally got a tentative date for your Echo, but that does seem like a long way off. I was frustrated because the Kindle cover I wanted was put on a wait list until some time in February.

    I’ve already discussed my opinion about being gender neutral. Feeling that you need to hide gender implies that gender is something that needs to be hidden. We hide things out of fear and shame. Why would I need to hide the fact that I am female? Is it because there is something wrong with being female? There was a time when that was true. Ask George Eliot. Does it still matter today? I don’t know. Would J. K. Rowling have captured the imagination of so many boys if she had used her full name. Who knows?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      Toronado is also known by a slightly different name…I suspect using the other version might have helped some people.

      I think I’m surprised as much by the range of dates that I was given as by how far away it is. I could say mine is schedule for June 10th…give or take two or three weeks. 🙂

      On your last point…

      I don’t know your ring size.

      Have you been hiding it from me because you are ashamed of it?

      Nope, it just isn’t relevant, so it hasn’t come up.

      Similarly, I feel like there is nothing in your first two paragraphs that is dependent on your gender…it just isn’t relevant to those points.

      It is the language that is designed to reveal your gender, rather than my not using those terms hiding it.

      I assume that the defining that the language does is there because of people having considered it relevant…and I would assume that is because of expecting to react differently to (and perhaps value differently) opinion from males and females.

      Let’s go a bit further.

      Let’s say that there were people who unfairly thought that anyone with a size 8 or smaller ring size was inferior, and that their opinions didn’t matter. Beyond that, they actively insulted anybody with a size 8 or smaller…often viciously and threateningly, saying that they should have their fingers cut off.

      In that situation, would it make sense to make people reveal their ring sizes in online comments about, say, publishing?

      It doesn’t seem that way to me…it seems like it would unnecessarily inhibit the interchange of ideas. Certainly, there would be bold people who would reveal their size sixes…but the less bold also deserve to have their ideas heard.

      It is standard language which reveals gender…not, I would say, me that is hiding it.

      One argument in favor of that: I don’t reveal gender when I often don’t even know what it is…so I may be “neutralizing” females or males. That suggests to me it isn’t about shame of one or the other.

      I’ve often been very dualistic in the way I’ve written about this, but there are certainly cultures and groups where gender is much more of a continuum, as a cultural construct.

  7. Edward Boyhan Says:

    Reading your post about gender neutrality got me to thinking about languages more generally. Actually, English is more gender neutral than many other languages. Both French and German (for example) assign gender to every noun, and reinforce that assignment through a wide variety of gender-specific grammatical rules.

    In Japanese, the language is very status and gender specific. There are complete sub-parts of the language that are only used by women, some only used by men; parts differentially used with those whose status is above, below, or equivalent to your own.

    Language is a reflection of history, culture, and other conversational norms, but different languages also reflect different perceptions of the world they see. Languages slice and dice reality differently. One very obvious characteristic of the world in which we live is biologic gender. Some languages slice along the gender axis strongly; others like English less so.

  8. Answers to Being Mary Watson’s Spouse | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] Being Mary Watson’s spouse: it’s who you know […]

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