By: Eric Thomas
Go to Twitter and type in #YesAllWomen. If you take nothing else from this blog, please do that. It’s one of those rare times when a crazy act of violence produces something honest and necessary.
Mass shootings have become so common that they’re barely worth mentioning anymore, itself a sad commentary on the state of things. The latest shooter, the young man who took six lives in California on Friday including his own, has a motivation that seems someone unique. He’s been labeled a misogynist, but it’s clear his anger was far more wide-reaching than that.
The murderer—I’m intentionally ignoring his name— was driven by sexual frustration. He made videos and wrote a 141-page “manifesto” (ugh) which described and detailed his anger at sexuality in general. He drew little line between women and men who were sexually active.
He, of course, chiefly blamed women for rejecting him, but didn’t display hatred for women in general. He blamed only women that he himself was attracted to.
He seemed to blame society for his lot in life. His YouTube videos were largely laughed at and attracted mocking attention on social media meeting places like Reddit long before he began his rampage. It’s instructive to know that he claimed his breaking point was when his brother started dating and thereby became “one of them.”
This isn’t new.
A similarly motivated mass shooting took place in 2009, when a 48-year-old man, driven by his own sexual frustration, opened fire on an aerobics class near Pittsburgh. He wrote a personal blog where he cataloged his own anger, where he claimed he hadn’t slept with a woman in 19 years.
What makes this latest murderer more resonant? Is it that he was 22 years old when he committed his acts? Is it his privileged background?
Hard to say, but it isn’t misogyny, it’s something more than that.
The younger and more recent shooter has nonetheless sparked an online discussion about the inherent misogyny in our culture, which is far more prevalent and permissive than any form of discrimination in the United States today. Society swirls and attacks when racism or anti-Semitism rears its head.
Misogyny doesn’t get nearly the same treatment, despite the fact that its victims make up 50 percent of the population.
Women are openly questioned, ridiculed and dismissed in this culture, regardless of their position in life or circumstances. Monica Lewinsky recently penned an excellent column in Vanity Fair in which she discussed online lynch mobs, a subject Ms Lewinsky has EXTENSIVE experience in, and she was depressingly shouted down and shamed by people who should have been a lot more receptive to her arguments.
Maureen Dowd—a writer whom I normally have a massive amount of respect—was especially repugnant in her New York Times column, calling Monica disingenuous and (of all things!) pretentious.
The motivations of women are always up for debate, as if there is a baseline of manipulativeness that every woman must climb above before an honest discussion can begin.
Every time a woman says or does anything in our society, the first order of business is to determine the hidden motivations or methods.
Strippers have Daddy issues; successful women slept their way to the top; stay-at-home mothers don’t want to work.
Women take medication to control their mood swings, while men are considered “decisive” or “assertive.” A promiscuous man is applauded; a promiscuous woman is demonized. The list is long.
The conversation is on Twitter under the hashtag #YesAllWomen. Everyone should read it, and think about what people are saying. It reveals the underlying fear inherent with heterosexual women.
One of the leading causes of death, especially under young women, is men.
Guys will never truly understand this fear. Women can emotionally destroy us, sure. Men have been driven to years-long depressions, alcoholism and PTSD as the result of a particularly ruinous coupling, but murder is at least statistically unlikely.
There isn’t an easy solution to this. You can’t make murder any more illegal than it is. Would elevating femicide—yep, it’s a word!—to a hate crime make much of a difference? Unlikely, because the perpetrators aren’t thinking about the consequences.
Heterosexual women are the most casually repressed group of people in America today. They are paid less because they produce children and might need maternity leave—an odd attitude toward propagating the species that ignores a man’s role in reproduction.
If women engage in heterosexual sex too often they’re shamed; if they engage in it too little, they’re prudish, and those standards vary widely based on peer group, location, age and other arbitrary factors. Heterosexual women the only group on earth who are subjected to this sliding standard.
That’s misogyny, and the murderer in California doesn’t fit that definition. He’s something else. He’s the result of a philosophy we have in this culture, where women in general are objectified. It’s too simple to dismiss his views as misogyny.
The shooter didn’t simply hate women. He seemed to elevate women—granted, only certain women whom he deemed “beautiful”—to an absurd level. He didn’t see women as humans, but as an idolatry. There’s something very, very chilling about the way we discuss feminine attractiveness in modern times, where a woman’s entire worth can be tied to her appearance on any given day. Even more absurd is that this standard is set by media traditionally directed toward women.
Red Carpet specials and entertainment shows pillory women for their appearance, and endlessly ridicule those who make incorrect choices.
Men don’t get the same treatment, and if they do it’s done in the interest of thumbing the scale to make things seem more fair, but the true venom is reserved to women.
Beautiful women become idols in this culture, and in some way are expected to surrender their humanity for this elevation. They are placed on a pedestal regardless of any other circumstances, and traits like intelligence or humility are considered a bonus. “She’s so beautiful, AND SMART!”
This murderer didn’t hate all women. He hated the beautiful women who rejected him, reducing those human beings to goals or objects.
He never noticed the irony, as many men do, that these women are simply seeking the same choice that he himself was making. The men who loudly whine about the lack of “desirable” women don’t seem to notice the lines they draw around their own feet. Their complaints are so hypocritical its hard to fathom.
He couldn’t measure up in a California culture where dating has nothing to do with the people involved and everything to do with status. Your girlfriend or boyfriend is an accessory, like an expensive watch or car.
It’s equally tragic that these mass shootings are becoming symptoms of societies’ larger problems. We endlessly argue about the gun culture or restrictions on firearms, and ignore the larger context. This culture is quick to forget people. We see people, all people, as objects. Women’s magazines talk about “How to get a man” and Men’s magazines talk about “How to please a woman,” and ignore individual humanity.
Unemployment numbers are statistics; poverty is discussed in general terms instead of zooming in on the individual horrors. We see human beings as either helping or blocking our own aims, and fortify these solipsistic views with our language.
We take selfies, re-evaluate our priorities, and do what we can to make friends and influence those around us. Selfishness is normal and understandable until it’s intentional. We’ve taken the tact that singular focus is the best thing we can do for society; our own desires are paramount over everything else.
This isn’t an easy one to discuss, nor is there any easy solution. It’s overly paternalistic and simplistic to dismiss this as simple misogyny, because it goes so much deeper than that. Maybe we need to adjust some of these puritanical practices and understand that women are often the victim of them.
Maybe when we discuss “family values,” it might be helpful to mention the subjugated role of women in those values.
It’s depressing that we can’t seem to solve an obvious problem that exists among 50 percent of the population.