Recently, I heard on the news that there had been another shooting. I tuned it out, I honestly could not deal with hearing about another senseless act of gun violence. The atrocity that I was numbing myself to was, of course, the Isla Vista tragedy. It was not until later that the matter was brought to my attention again. This time I heard more about what had happened: a hate crime – a man (his name really does not matter) shot and killed six people because he was an out-of-control misogynist. Was this the action of a mentally disturbed individual: he probably was. That said, to call this crime “insane” is to put it in a far away box and not examine the issue. This act was not random, it was fully planned out. The savage history of it exists on the internet and can be viewed right now.
There is a perception of this crime as an isolated incident that I feel is incorrect. I am not the only one who feels this way – the #YesAllWomen movement on Twitter, as well as really every feminist and humanist rally out there, acknowledges that this hatred is sadly not isolated. What happened in Isla Vista was an extreme version of an all too common incident. While there is no rationalization to be learned from the killer (NOTHING will ever make what he did forgivable – in any circumstance), there is an alarming window into society. The killer was not evil, he was a human being. He grew up in the United States, he had an education – he was probably a very intelligent individual. That is what makes it frightening. We’re not dealing with a boogeyman, we’re dealing with a person. That is why I am writing this article.
Let me show you a video from Joss Whedon that I saw last year:
Whether you agree with all the points he made or not, there is one line that simply sums up the issue at hand: “You either believe women are people or you don’t. It’s that simple.”
Unfortunately, I believe that it has been (and to a lesser extent, still is) part of the American culture to view women as less than men… as less than people. Now, that is a loaded statement. For the record, I do not believe that American culture directly creates misogyny (hatred towards women), I believe that is only one reaction. Our culture is far more guilty of creating the attitude that, while women are special, they are not people like us men. It goes back to the image of the hero. I have posted this quote on this website before:
Look at that, there’s even a bald eagle next to it. This, to me, is still a beautiful quote. However, the term “hero” is problematic. What is a hero? Well, if you look at culture – you have Hercules, Superman, Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Batman… there are hundreds of examples (many of them are women, I am just focusing on the males to make my point). All of these characters are heroes and they all share similar qualities. They never give up, they keep fighting, they are true to themselves, etc. This pays off in victory. The hero saves the day, beats the bad guy, grabs the girl, and rides off into the sunset. Wait, slow down – grabs the girl? Yes, in many hero narratives, the good guy gets the girl – simply by being a good guy. This makes for wonderful literature but HAS (not could – HAS) contributed to a lesser view of women in society: simply that they are a treasure to be won. A reward for being good.
You may respond with: “That’s fantasy, I know the difference between that and real life.” If so, good for you but not everyone does. Also, this is a behavior that can happen subconsciously as well. Few men probably look at a women and directly wish to “own” her (at least I hope so). Yet there is a belief that good behavior brings rewards. This is not a bad belief to have. We should, as a species, be encouraged to do the right thing… but not for a reward. Fellow internet voice Arthur Chu wrote an article that wonderfully articulates the point I am trying to make (find it here). There does still exist the attitude that women owe men for our generosity, our kindness, our attentiveness… specifically: that women owe us for treating them like men.
Have you ever heard a guy talk about how he listens to all his girlfriend’s problems and doesn’t really care but whatever, the sex afterwards made it worth it. I have, and I have not said anything. That’s just guy talk, right? Sure, some of us talk like that when only men are around but… but it’s because we think that’s okay. It’s guy talk – no harm comes from it. Except when it does. I was re-watching a show from childhood recently, X-Men Evolution, and I noticed something I had never even noticed before: Jean Grey was dating a total asshole before she dated Scott Summers.
What does that say about Jean Grey? I know it may look like I’m getting off topic here by talking about a stupid cartoon when people have just died but it is relevant. This is a show that (primarily) young boys, such as myself, watched. It helped to show how Scott Summers, by being the good guy, ultimately got Jean Grey… but seriously, what does it say about her that she is dating such a pig? Relationships say a lot about the individual and, in all other areas, Jean Grey was a strongly developed character. She was cool-headed, mature (even motherly to a point), and very confident… dating the loudmouth, cocky jock athlete. The show never shows their relationship in a positive light so the audience never likes her old boyfriend – you just wait and cheer for Scott to win her over, which he eventually does (to be fair, Jean decides to break up with her old boyfriend and date him but still). It was just such a throw away, another challenge for Cyclops to overcome in becoming the hero. For the record, the show also had some very positive episodes:
Okay, that diversion is done, back to the serious conversation: American culture needs to change. We are far too comfortable in our dismissive views of women as part of life’s achievements rather than as fellow travelers. Some out there may still think that I’m being extreme… it’s the 21st century after all. Very true, when’s the last time you heard someone ask a guy: “are you really going out dressed like that?”
When’s the last time you heard it said to a woman?
As a guy, I have walked home late at night many times. Was I ever scared that I was going to be robbed: not really. Was I ever afraid that I would be raped for wearing clothing that just turned some rational, civilized human being into a sex-crazed monster: can’t say I’ve had that worry either. The existing rape culture results from this skewed view of women. Who could ever rape another human being? Furthermore, who could defend the perpetrator should that tragedy happen? We do. We do it every day: what were the other factors? Tell me about the girl?
THERE IS NO OTHER CRIME WHERE WE ASK QUESTIONS LIKE THAT.
“Oh, you got robbed? Did you leave that new big screen by a window… shit, man… sounds like you were asking for it.”
“Oh you were drinking, well murdering six people isn’t so bad then. You couldn’t control yourself.”
Women should not be labeled as extremists for asking for the same rights and protection that men enjoy. I am not saying: women, welcome to the crime-free awesome existence that men have, I am simply saying that it is time to stop saying that things are fair and actually MAKE them fair. Should parents teach their sons to be nice to the girl that he likes: absolutely. That said, the next lesson should be “she has no obligation to be nice back.” That’s life.
This is, for us men, a turning point. We have a lot of the power here. There is another video I would like to show you, this one is from Patrick Stewart (yes, as my sources indicate, I am this much of a geek):
Will there still be violence against women if the cultural view is changed. Yes. It isn’t like men are nothing but roses to each other. For the record, men are also not the only ones who can inflict abuse. The reason that I have focused this article on directing men to change is that we are the largest source of abuse. More men abuse women than women abuse men. Sorry guys, them’s the facts for right now.
We can all help to put this dark chapter behind us. To use Joss Whedon’s word: genderism is still alive and well in the United States. It always will be… but we can make it weaker. We can make it as backward and as persecuted as it should be. America believes in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is time that we spread that to everyone. So, nice guys, the next time you’re trying to win over a woman, just remember: she is another human being. There is nothing you can do to ultimately change the mind of another human being. Be nice, be the best you can be – just remember that you’re dealing with another you, even if he’s/she’s a different gender.