Let’s get one thing straight: I like to abuse words … like the title of this article. Call it my inheritance from my father: the unalienable right to pun, or, in my case, play on words. The French preference for a jeu de mot or double entendre has always drawn me. In my own language, I know “posthaste” means quickly, but I’m breaking it down to it’s literal meaning: I am now in a state that is after (post) my hurry up and hurry some more (haste) state of the past four months. Call it reverse irony.
Without irony, however, my post-haste reflection includes my confusion around the Santa Barbara killings and the Men’s Rights groups that spawn such thinking (though not such actions), although this important topic has disappeared from the news cycle by now. I’m confused about the hatred toward women, the enemy, video-game bimbos to shoot dead in comic-book relief. As with all hate-infused crime, women are dehumanized to the “they,” (the Other). I see how a mentally ill person can become champion of the “we,” the norm, the dominant culture: speaking (and shooting) for the men who decry #yesallwomen (because the truth hurts). It’s nothing new: Read a Victorian perspective on accosting women on the streets here on the blog Splashes in Silent Water.
My confusion stems from how it gets so bad that someone takes a gun and starts shooting strangers indiscriminately. Where were all the steps between “I feel rejected by this girl here” to “you don’t deserve to live in my painful world”? I think I understand the lack of perspective: mental illness does that. Our culture distorts the reality of male-female relationships, as the by-now-over-shared post by the Geek blogger points out. And as Joe the Plumber ridiculously emphasizes, our guns trump all, so the shooting part is understandable from a certain American maverick/vigilante perspective. But who lets hatred toward women go un-noticed until it boils over and spews out bullets?
Misogyny to hides well in our culture: it hides on Madison Avenue and Wall Street in what we see and buy and how much we get paid. It hides in full view at Hollywood meetings that decide which stunning female is going to get stripped to her hard-won abs. It hides in wasp-waisted super heroines and women who go “postal” for revenge (the madonna/whore complex rewritten). It hides in women who assume traditionally accepted male behavior in the workplace and then get fired for being harsh. And it hides behind men who scream out their rights when women dare to speak the truth of their experience (which does not, in and of itself, deny men’s voice or perspective, although some individuals may). The #yesallwomen hashtag opened my eyes to some everyday forms of abuse that never even occurred to me: getting fingered in a crowded bar so a woman wears shorts under her dress, as a PG-rated example. My surprise is pure naïveté, willfully wishing it weren’t true, while knowing it is: I had my ass grabbed in a crowded space the other day, and I’m 52 years old!
We all let misogyny go un-noticed every day, as men thump each other on the back for sexual conquests (consensual or not) and as women consider what we wear before walking alone on the street at night — as if we really had the power to stop assault and aggression. Does that mean we are all at fault for someone losing it and lashing out at humanity in the name of women?
Pointing fingers is unproductive, but we are all tasked to change things, to see the steps between bad feelings and devastating action. The first place to start is with our sons, with one of the most cogent baby steps toward better male-female relationships:
Teach our boys to respect the brains, bodies, and boundaries — however contrary to their world view — of our girls, period.
Teach our children (all of them) what to do with the frustration that happens when they don’t get what their world view says they should.
The girls will do the rest. I have faith that they will become better positioned to do so.
Girl Power: my daughter’s first metal work (photo: afp 2014)