This past weekend has been like watching a nightmare unfold in real time. A man guns down women in Santa Barbara after posting a bone-chilling manifesto actually titled “Retribution.” This man targeted sorority girls, planned his attack, and his rhetoric shared the same DNA as many Men’s Rights “Activist” groups. It’s an unspeakable act, and it’s more than just a spree killing.
It’s the bloody wound that lies beneath a scab which most men are choosing to ignore. That scab has been peeled back this week, and we’ve been given an opportunity to have a renewed conversation on male privilege in our society.
I’m a cis-gender white-middle class male. I’m swimming in privilege. I was born into privilege (on more than one front), and I know this. The cards have been stacked inordinately in my favor. I haven’t had to share the same concerns, disadvantages, or outright fears of women, people of color, or LGBT Americans. I choose not to deny, overlook, marginalize, or lean upon these privileges. I benefit from them, indeed… but I refuse to allow society to haze the lens for me. I refuse to allow myself to re-scribe our modern existence as one that is actually equal. Though I often feel frustrations and fears in life, I refuse to believe that my specific frustrations are universal.
I do care that women have to run scenarios through their minds when encountering men. These scenarios are not the same scenarios men have to process when dealing with women. I can’t honestly say I’ve ever worried that a woman was likely to lash out against me in violence. The precious few times this has actually happened in my life, I’ve been able to ride out those moments without feeling as if my life were in jeopardy. When I’m alone in public, or even at home, I don’t put much thought into my sense of personal safety.
The notion of a madman driving past me on the street and gunning me down is so remote in its feasibility, I invest zero emotional energy into such a possibility. My friends who are women, however… they can’t afford such blithe nonchalance.
Because this has happened. And though these were the acts of a madman… they weren’t “simply” the acts of a madman. They were the lashings of a vicious, toxic beast that has festered in the sewers of our societal myopia. We as a whole have fostered a world in which men feel as if they are entitled to access of a woman’s body. They are encouraged to disregard the person of a woman, instead seeing them as objects. What’s worse… men are trained in a specific kind of doublethink which not only denies the existence of misogyny, but turns their generalized frustrations into a fantasy of victimization at the hands of women. It’s sick, and it has created a nightmare in Santa Barbara.
The most bone-sickening aspect of this latest event has been the outpouring of support for Elliot Rodger. Beyond that, men have stepped onto as many public and online platforms as is humanly possible in order to exempt themselves from what they feel is a personal indictment from women at large. These women who have had to play against a stacked deck their whole lives, who have labored under an entire spectrum of oppression, victimization, and brutalization to the point of outright murder, are fully entitled to their anger. And though it’s understandable that an individual would want to feel as if they are not being accused of the deeds of others… they lack that pause of consideration wherein they realize that adding another voice whispering “not all men” becomes a low and menacing growl that drowns out the burgeoning conversation, robs these angry women of their platform, and hooks them with the all-too-familiar message bullhorned through the media: “You Don’t Get To Feel This Way!”
They do get to feel this way. They’ve felt this way for a long, long time. And now that the Internet is giving a larger signal boost to the outrage, the same Internet is giving voice to those who actually believe in what Rodger has done. It’s an alarming mirror to hold up to oneself. This isn’t comfortable. It’s not supposed to be. Let’s not rush toward comfort. Rather, let’s take that pause of consideration and process what is being said.
Now, I’m not really adding anything to this conversation that hasn’t been said more eloquently, succinctly, passionately, or widely by greater voices. But I can add my single voice to the whisper of allies who are saying “too many men.”
So, lacking a more direct means of salving the pain, I can tell you what I plan to do about misogyny.
I have a son.
His mother and I have spent his entire life fostering a sense of universal respect for all people. We have encouraged a view of the person instead of the body. As he ages and comes into manhood, the conversation will become more direct. It will deal with emotions, sex, consent, and how to deal with his peers who have had been fed the doublethink. And as brilliant and amazing a mother as my wife is, I do, in fact, have a means to reach my son that she does not. I can be a model of male behavior for my son. He sees how I treat his mother. He sees how I interact with his teachers and principal. He hears how I describe women in leadership. He watches as I share joys and pain with my friends who are women.
This is what I plan to do about misogyny. It’s the best I can do. I intend on rearing a young man who will not buy into the rhetoric shared by those who support Elliot Rodger. I will add one more ally to the next generation. And I’ll urge all other fathers to do the same.