There’s a lot of talk about misogyny (dislike of women) this week, as well there should be. This past weekend, apparently, a very angry boy/man decided he would (as he told people he would) decided to kill a bunch of women. He shot them in Santa Barbara, California because he was mad at a specific girl/woman and he apparently wanted all women to “pay” for what was done to him. (She “broke his heart”, I guess, and he — already mentally ill — went “off”).
I’m not a woman and so I can’t speak for them and their experience of misogyny. As a man, who used to be a boy, I can speak a little bit about that.
Before I do, though, let me say this and be as clear as I can possibly be about this: No one deserves to be hurt, killed, raped, disliked, kept from voting, kept from equal pay, kept from anything because of their gender. Women’s bodies, minds, spirits are as valid as any man’s and they — simply as a matter of course, because they are human beings — deserve to be treated with respect, as equals, as different people than men, perhaps, but equal in the sight of God and created by that same God, who is genderless or omni-gendered or who the heck knows. In short, the Creator of the Universe created women as well as men. That Creator doesn’t create half of the population poorly.
Now, back to men and this murderer specifically. There is an internet meme right now by women (“Yes, All Women”) as a response to a meme by men (“Not all men are like that” or MAMALT) which was a response to men’s perceptions of women and women’s perceptions of men. One of the responses out there said that the murderer’s anger was generated by “the men’s movement”, which — of course — was a response to the women’s movement.
Here’s the thing: there is no one “men’s movement” and there is no one “women’s movement”. Feminism is hated by some and loved by others — both men and women, within the women’s movement and outside of it — because of what people think “feminism” means. There are men and there are women and, in packs, they want their gender to get ahead in the world and not be held back in the world. I think most people want most people to thrive. I think that men step on women’s toes without knowing it and women step on men’s toes without knowing it. Most men, once enlightened about how they hurt others, stop doing that thing. Most women, once enlightened about how they hurt others, stop doing that thing. That’s how we have a society at all.
Did some female hurt the male who murdered these people? Probably. Did his response come from that pain? Probably. Does his pain seem like an appropriate response to his pain? Not at all. Hatred is never a measured or appropriate response to pain. Anger, yes — about a situation, about a person, about an incident — is an appropriate response to a hurt, at least for a bit. Hatred — generalized anger about a group — is never an appropriate response person X, who belongs to a certain group, doesn’t represent everybody in that group, even if they say they do. Mary is not Sally, who is not Bill, who is not Bob.
So what happens between pain and hatred? Something else — often an idea or a rule or something made up by humans — about the way things “should”, even if they’re not. In the case of this person’s hurt becoming misogyny for an entire half of the population, it comes down to this: “Men don’t have feelings”. “Men don’t know how to show their emotions”. “Men are not capable of relating to women”. “Men are violent”. “Men only want one thing” — “That’s just the way they are”. I put all of those things in quotes, because they are things men and women say about men. Between the hurt this guy felt and the hatred he expressed was the idea that he couldn’t be hurt at all. This “I’m hurting but I can’t be” created a feedback loop inside his head that spiraled out of control and it would for anybody. It’s what we in systems theory call a double bind — we have to believe two opposite things at the same time — reality and the rules about reality.
If men don’t have feelings, then their feelings can’t be hurt. If men don’t know how to show their emotions, and I’m a man, what is this thing I seem to be feeling and how do I handle it? If men aren’t capable of relating to women, why do we try? If men are all violent then why would a woman marry any of them? If men only want one thing, what are we doing when we go to work or changing a diaper?
It is hard raising girls to respect men because both a) men act like idiots and b) women expect that they do. If we send men off to war, we expect them to be hurt less, somehow. If a man is a hero, he believes he’s supposed to sacrifice his life– and so does everyone else. If a man stays at home while his wife works, he’s a “mooch” and a loser. If a man wants to be sexual, he only wants one thing. If a man doesn’t want to be sexual, he’s not a man.
Men try to operate under the rules of manhood just as much as women try to operate under the rules of womanhood. It’s all the same BS. This is what (some part of) the men’s movement tried to say. Other parts of the movement like to bang drums in a circle. This is what some members of the women’s movement tried to say. Other parts of the women’s movement think men are violent, sexual, and oppressive. Guess which part of each movement got the press?
I don’t feel the need to defend my gender by saying, “not all men are like that”. Their actions speak for themselves and the fact is that most men aren’t like that. We can be “like that” or not. It’s a choice. Please don’t tell us it’s not.