To the Men who are "Not All Men"

I'm going on a rant because I am seeing so much "not all men" and "he clearly had a mental illness wah wah misogyny is not a problem" happening in the discussions surrounding an incident in which six people were murdered because of women being women, meaning women having the same ability to have thoughts and feelings and decision-making processes like most humans, while also having the sex organs that the perpetrator believed had wrongfully been stolen from his "deserving" clutches.
First off, there are plenty of mentally ill women in the world and you hardly ever hear about them going on a killing spree against men. Maybe it's because mental illness isn't the one big thing at play here. The mentally ill are far more likely to become victims of abuse than the perpetrator, which can be hard to swallow, I admit, but more often than not, perfectly sane people are greater monsters and threats to society than those with mental illness. Let's also not forget that this conversation on his supposed mental illness is happening most likely because he is not immediately identifiable as a person of color (he's half-Asian), therefore, we don't pin it on an extreme agenda of religion or race politics. White (and passing-as-white) murderers often get spun as "mentally ill" and murderers of color get "extremist."The media likes to find things to blame, scapegoating issues so that the public can get "back to normal" and rest assured that it was "one lone nut-job" rather than discuss deeper issues that led up to this moment that may be harder to deal with and fix. The message of hope (or ignorance, I guess) typically sells better than the Debbie Downer articles that say it could happen again, and it could happen tomorrow.

BACK TO GENDER.
Our society rewards hyperaggression and narcissism in males. Rodger's parents called the cops on him before this happened and the cops let him go thinking he was just some kid blowing off steam about those oh-so-common feelings of women selfishly withholding sex with the goal of ruining his life. That means that not only did Elliot Rodger have incredibly messed up thoughts and ideas running through his mind, which he publicly professed, but the police decided he was being pretty normal-- right up until people started getting killed. 
You forced me to suffer all my life, and now I’ll make you all suffer. I’ve waited a long time for this. I’ll give you exactly what you deserve, all of you. -- Elliot Rodger
Our society tells men that sex/dates/love work on a point system, and you just have to "win the girl" and boom, ride off into the sunset to have sex. Hold the door for her, listen to her talk about her problems, wear the right clothes, and you have successfully met all the requirements for deserving sex with this girl. It tells them that that is what they are entitled to. 
All I’ve ever wanted was to love you and to be loved by you. I’ve wanted a girlfriend, I’ve wanted sex, I’ve wanted love, affection, adoration. You think I’m unworthy of it. That’s a crime that can never be forgiven. If I can’t have you, girls, I will destroy you.  -- Elliot Rodger
And while not all men are going to murder women over holding this belief, many stalkers, abusers, and murderers feel supported and righteous in their actions because of these common messages. "I did what any guy with the kind of guts I have would do." If you look at research on stalkers and domestic abusers, major overarching character commonalities include a sense of entitlement to the bodies of others (typically women and sometimes children) and an ability to objectify and dehumanize their victims. This is what everyday, casual, "not hurting anyone it's just a laugh" misogyny fosters, from jokes on TV, to catcalling, to slut-shaming.

I am tired of so many guys saying "not all men" to minimize and derail discussions about misogyny and gender-related violence. Whether or not that's the intention, that is the result.

Instead of "not all men" let's talk about "yes all women."

Yes, all women have a level of fear about men. If you put out a bunch of cookies and said "some of these are baked with poison and razors, but don't worry, it's not all of them" it's not going to make a goddamn difference. Even if I have safely eaten 10 delicious cookies without dying, that's not going to make me feel any less like the next won't be my last. Add to that a knowledge that you're probably going to be blamed for not spotting the bad one earlier, and then constantly be bombarded with messages like "The cookie was just different. Maybe if the cookie had some frosting on it, things would have turned out differently" you are not going to trust the baker, the baker being, in this metaphor, a messed-up society that says we shouldn't be afraid  of men.


Yes, all women worry whether or not pretty much every man they meet for a first date plans to chop them up that night. We tell our friends exactly where we're going, with whom, and basically any information that could prove useful if the date turns into an episode of "The First 48." I wonder how often men make sure to post photos of what they wear for a date on instagram, not just for the confidence boost of likes, but so that there's a record of what they were last wearing in case he goes missing.

Yes, all women grow up learning how to avoid being raped. Don't wear this. Don't say that. Don't provoke. It will be your fault. We know that this is code for "he's going to rape someone, but the important thing is just to make sure it's not you, but some other girl."

Yes, all women worry that their "no" will be met with violence, sexual or otherwise, and yes, all women know that it is likely that at least once in their lifetime, that will be the case. And no doesn't always even mean in bed, or at a bar or a party. It can be anywhere. Kate Leth talks about one of many ways women are constantly confronted by impending violence at declaring our rights by sharing her experiences on buses. As Kate puts it, no, "not all men harass women, but yes, all women deserve to be heard."

You know what "not all men" does? It minimizes and derails important conversations that need to happen for the violence to stop. It says "my feelings, as an individual male, of being threatened by women who are angry at the deaths of their sisters are more important than the actual women being murdered and abused every day." If you don't want to be THAT KIND of man, don't start with any "not all men" bull. Don't f***ing start trying to take away from conversations on misogyny and violence with "but also maybe possibly he had a mental illness so let's stop talking about gender things." Sure, Rodger seemed 'kind of off' and 'dark' which I guess being a murderous, hate-filled person tends to do to you, but we can't just define mental illness as being 'kind of weird' and later killing a bunch of people. Being hateful is not a mental disease. True, he was in therapy, but not everyone in therapy is mentally ill, and not everyone who is mentally ill does what he did, or even comes close. I personally suspect he had some personality disorders, but that does not make that the one and only factor leading to the shooting. We cannot at this point say for certain whether or not he had a mental illness, but we do know that a lot of things brought him to this point, including MRA communities that helped him feel that his hatred of women was justified, gun laws that allowed him to gain access to a firearm, and a police force that did not take him seriously.


But this is not just a discussion about the UCSB shootings. It's a conversation that also encompasses the 16 year-old girl stabbed to death on the day of her prom because she rejected a boy. A boy who knew she would say no, because she had a long-time boyfriend, and by the day of prom, she of course already had her plans made. A boy who took a knife to school, knowing exactly what her answer would be. It's a conversation about communities that feel that a girl saying yes to someone who would react to rejection by bringing a gun to school is the most reasonable course of action to avoid tragedies like this. "If only she'd just said yes." It's about colleges that would rather protect their traditions and their enrollment rates and their reputations than their students. It's about telling boys that rapists are a scary other monster, without explaining in full what consent is, without explaining how not to become that monster. It's about people and media outlets that side with perpetrators of assault, even when proven guilty, and vilifying the victims for seeking justice against their abusers. It's about people who think rejecting a "nice guy"(or any guy) is throwing the first stone.

"Not all men" are the kind of idiots who feel that protecting a patriarchal system, that they benefit from at the expense of their sisters, is more important than protecting the lives of women. So what kind of man are you going to be?

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6 comments:

  1. YES YES YES to all of this. I agree with you and feel like this topic has a lot to be said about it. You really took the words right out of my mouth. More than anything, we need men to read a post like this and realize that yes, women can tweet #YesAllWomen and talk about these issues and all that, but we need men to step onto our side and try to put themselves in our shoes. Men are the ones who need to step up and defend their sisters, their girlfriends, their moms, their friends in situations like this. Women can only do so much. It is the men that need to stand up for this now.

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  2. YES! Like it's understandable to want to say, "hey, that's not me" but that HURTS the conversation, and it you, as a dude, think that it's more important for you to assure everyone that you're "not that kind of guy", even at the expense of conversations that are working to stop "that kind of guy," then you really are being part of the problem. Men need to use their male privilege to call out other men and say "hey, that's not cool" instead of deciding something is "harmless" or "just a dumb joke" because it's NEITHER of those things to women.

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  3. This same rule even applies to racism as well! I've encountered many white people telling me "I'm not racist" or "I don't discriminate based on race" but being colorblind or in this case, "gender-blind" only further brushes these important conversations under the rug. And when the majority group neglects to talk about these issues, the more that people will want to avoid it.

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  4. COSIGNED! There have actually been studies that show that children who grow up being raised "colorblind" engage in more acts of racism, because the institutional oppression the observe is taken as "just how things work" whereas children who learn about race early on learn to see, question, and dismantle racism, even on the playground. You have to teach people to see and dismantle oppression for it to go away, rather than ignore it and live in an ignorant bubble.

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  5. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT! Oh my gosh, Harper, you articulated this perfectly in light of this specific tragedy and extrapolated out into any and every event like it. Patriarchy, misogyny, and gender NEED to be discussed way more openly and in depth than it is, thank you for starting such an important conversation on the internet!

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  6. Thanks Ingrid! Man oh man does it bother me that we put more priority on the Kimye wedding than discussion of social justice issues!

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