When I tagged this link for posting a few days ago, I wrote myself a note:
I don’t know what to do with this, but it scares me to think about writing about it. That probably means I should do something with it.
I know nothing about Laurie Penny except what’s in this article. I know nothing about the New Statesman except what I found at the link above.
What I know is an unstable young man, frustrated at his inability to attract women, chose to blame them instead of accepting responsibility for his own failures. He killed his three roommates, then drove through Santa Barbara, California, and shot ten more people, killing three. Finally, he killed himself rather than face the consequences of his actions when police started shooting back.
As much as the killings, though, Ms. Penny focuses on his motivation.
Before beginning his slide into infamy, the young man posted a YouTube video and what the press is calling a manifesto online. The manifesto explained his hatred of women, blaming them for failing to be attracted to him, for failing to provide him sexual pleasure, as his adolescent fantasies dictated they should whether he was worthy or not. The video explained that he would shortly have his revenge, that he would soon punish both the women who had scorned him (by which he seems to have meant all women) and the men who had the temerity to be attractive to them (by which he seems to have meant all men except himself).
I have neither read the manifesto nor watched the video. I’m sure you can find them easily, and I won’t link to them here. I accept my limited knowledge as sufficient to pronounce this young man profoundly disturbed–and an utter craven.
And his attack on the people of Santa Barbara, as Ms. Penny points out, amounts to an act of terrorism. Not terrorism of the political or religious kind–this was an act of misogyny, of a man’s hatred of women. Because of the accident of their birth, he reasoned, women deserved death at his hands.
I’ve never styled myself a feminist. I’ve been guilty of my share of sexist imaginings, even of apologizing for or distancing myself from those who call themselves men but would do violence to women. That’s not me, I’ve explained. I would never do something like that. And even less helpfully: That man is clearly [somehow different from me]. How dare you compare me to him?
It’s a common stance, as Ms. Penny points out. And it’s defensive. It allows me to sidestep the real issues–the patterns of domination and violence that still propagate in our culture–and hide behind my indignation. And from there, it’s impossible to take constructive action.
Read the article and draw your own conclusions. For myself, her words point out yet another way I can strive to become a better man.