Elliot Rodger’s misogynist rampage has been on many people’s minds over the weekend.
I’ve observed with interest the conversations that are being had, about gun control, about mental health, about why exactly white men are so often the ones to commit mass murders. These are the usual topics of discussion, as they were with Sandy Hook, as they were with Aurora. New additions to the table are questions and critiques of pickup artistry, toxic masculinity, entitlement culture particularly around misogyny.
I’ve heard a lot of “not all men”, “well, I’m different”, “this is just one guy, this isn’t a cultural thing”.
Why are men defending pickup artists when they drive personalized rape vans? Or writeposts on Reddit detailing serial rapes (receiving congratulations and further stories of “conquest”)? Or encourage men to overcome “last minute resistance” because women who freely consent are “sluts” and to be avoided? Or publish books that are guides to rape?
Why are men defending MRAs when they regularly employ rape and death threats to women they disagree with? Or defend George Sodini, a man who shot up women at a gym in 2009? Or spend their time complaining about how they’re demonized instead of, I don’t know, *critiquing men who are harassing, raping, and murdering women*?!?
Just fucking stop.
Yesterday I went on a radio show. I’ve been on it before, and I enjoy it. The guy in charge is a stand up comedian, who I am generally highly suspicious of because of Reasons, but I’ve felt comfortable on his show and looked forward to a fun break from the intensity of my Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Until a joke was cracked about that old joke, “take my wife, PLEASE”. And somehow it turned into jokes about shoving her into the trunk of a car. I sat there, somewhat stunned, at how people could joke about murdering women when there was so much focus on misogynist violence.
The person who started the joking was a woman. Misogyny- not just for men.
Is there something new in the air? One BBC documentary asks if we’re seeing misogyny, sexism, or liberation. I have issues, of course, with the way it equates female objectification under the male gaze as “liberation”, as if to equate the myriad ways in which women do find themselves sexually liberated to women ultimately lying to themselves. But there is some really scary shit in here that needs to be taken seriously. When female sexual liberation looks exactly the same as male gaze objectification, and men are ultimately profiting from it, I too question if we’re really liberating ourselves. Does being a porn star, or burlesque performer, or glamour model, require a personal critique to be “liberated”?
Of course, liberation takes many forms. I’m a porn performer and in many ways I find it liberating, though in other ways I do not. Financial security is a form of liberation. Feeling safe at work is a form of liberation. Accepting and loving your body is a form of liberation.
As long as we live in an imperialist capitalist patriarchy, liberation really only goes so far. We do the best we can with the tools we have.
As a society, when white men kill, we consider them as individuals. Often we want to label them as mentally unstable, even though the statistics suggest that people with mental illnesses rarely commit violent crimes, and the people who do commit violent crimes are rarely considered mentally ill. “If only they sought help,” we say, “then these men wouldn’t be so violent!”
“In a study released this year that evaluated the characteristics of 37 high profile school shootings from 1987 onward, it was found that the majority of offenders struggled with the same kinds of personal problems. Social marginalization and issues at home or work were found in all cases. Feelings of chronic rejection were common and categorized as feelings of being “bullied, threatened, or injured.” Also, it is worth noting that a significant percentage of shooters felt that they had “failed in developing their manhood.” As per the YouTube video submitted by Elliot Rodger prior to the Santa Barbara shooting, feelings of masculine or sexual inadequacy were significant.
It should be noted that reputable studies avoid hyper-generalizations of mass shooter psychology. According to the professionals behind mental diagnoses, the reason for this is because the media does significant damage by creating a rhetoric that paints the mentally ill as highly prone to violence. While psychiatrists support “reasonable restrictions” on gun access for persons diagnosed with mental illness, they continue to stress the fact that it will have little affect on total gun-related violence. The reason: people suffering from depression, schizophrenia, and bi-polar disorder account for, at most, only five percent of violence.”
It would seem that as much as we’d like to think that these people are some “other”, they are not. Like rapists, they are potentially our friends, our lovers, our family, our neighbors, our community leaders. In fact, if the victim is a woman, statistics suggest that her murderer or rapist will be someone she knows.
It’s hard to feel safe when every man you know is a potential statistic.
In the previously mentioned BBC documentary, I find the discussion with the ex-editor of Loaded, Martin Daubney, particularly telling. He says how the “New Man” with his hoovering was “asexual” (suggesting asexuality is bad, and that doing “women’s work” desexes men).
When Kirsty Wark starts showing him the teeshirts joking about rape, or hitting women, he recoils, saying how that’s absolutely misogyny. Stand up comics making jokes where women are the butt of cruelty and insult gets the same response.
He obviously SEES that jokes can be misogyny, but not HIS jokes (or the jokes he enables in Loaded), and therein I feel is the crux of the problem. When men say “not all men”, they often me “not me”. But listening to sexist jokes without speaking up, even, does have consequences on behaviour.
Thomas Ford’s research into the effect of sexist jokes on behaviour lays it bare:
“We found that, upon exposure to sexist humor, men higher in sexism discriminated against women by allocating larger funding cuts to a women’s organization than they did to other organizations,” Ford said. “We also found that, in the presence of sexist humor, participants believed the other participants would approve of the funding cuts to women’s organizations. We believe this shows that humorous disparagement creates the perception of a shared standard of tolerance of discrimination that may guide behavior when people believe others feel the same way.”
I found it particularly interesting to read the comments about this study over on the Penny Arcade forum, considering how shit-poor the creators of that comic have been about rape culture.
Elliot Rodgers was not unique, however much men are trying to suggest he is. Just this weekend another man shot at women for refusing sex with him in California. A 16 year old girl in Connecticut was murdered by a schoolmate when she refused to go to prom with him. A Californian man murdered his girlfriend when she refused to have makeup sex with him. In Florida a 14 year old girl was kidnapped and choked into unconsciousness when she refused his sexual advances. A woman jogging in California was run over when she refused to get in the car with strangers. Last year a jury in Texas acquitted a man who shot a sex worker when she refused him sex. In 2012 a woman was shot to death in her car when she told them she was trans in response to their flirtations.
And on. And on. And on.
This isn’t just individuals. This is a crisis. And it’s been a crisis for a long time.
Are we only now angry because pretty white cis women were Elliot’s intended victims?
I applaud women who are fighting cultural conditioning and fighting back against the men who abuse them. People like the Gulabi Gang, who will beat a rapist with sticks so he dares not do it again. People like Susan Walters, who strangled the hit man her husband sent to murder her. Women are taught that things will be worse if they fight back, but statistics indicate the opposite is true. We can fight back, and we need to learn the most effective ways how. Fuck being “nice”.
Martin’s piece in the 2014 BBC documentary sounds very different from his 2012 Daily Mail article, in which he expresses how fatherhood caused him to feel guilt that his work at Loaded may have contributed(!!!) to the further profiting off objectification of women. ”Fortune gave me a son, but not on my life would I want any daughter of mine to be a topless model,” he says, before expressing how porn is “a world devoid of aspiration”. His piece is ultimately not against lads mags, however (in the documentary he says how Loaded “celebrates” women), but rather censorship of internet porn.
This sort of lack of awareness is part of why I think people are so often complicit in systems of oppression. We want to point the finger at anyone else, at the “other”. It’s us. We’re the problem, and we need to fucking address it.
I keep hearing from men “what should we do, though? We don’t want to take up space!”
Men- you need to confront each other. You need to speak up when you see street harassment. You need to shut down sexist jokes. You need to tell other men that talking about women like we’re sexual prizes to be won is not ok. And as Chuck Wendig says:
“I understand that as a man your initial response to women talking about misogyny, sexism, rape culture and sexual violence is to wave your hands in the air like a drowning man and cry, “Not all men! Not all men!” as if to signal yourself as someone who is not an entitled, presumptive fuck-whistle, but please believe me that interjecting yourself in that way confirms that you are. Because forcing yourself into safe spaces and unwelcome conversations makes you exactly that.
Instead of telling women that it’s not all men, show them.
Show them by listening and supporting.
Show them by cleaning the dogshit out of your ears and listening to their stories — and recognize that while no, it’s not “all men,” it’s still “way too many men.” Consider actually reading the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter not to look for places to interject and defend your fellow men, but as a place to gain insight and understanding into the experiences women have. That hashtag should serve as confirmation that women very often experience the spectrum of sexism and rape culture from an all-too-early age. Recognize that just because “not all men” are gun-toting, women-hating assholes fails to diminish the fact that sexism and rape culture remain firmly entrenched and institutional within our culture.”
Men, you have a part in this, and it’s in male spaces.
Why do men feel entitled to women, I hear?
Now fucking go out there and do something about it.