What happened in Santa Barbara was horrible. As a woman, it frightened me. Seeing the behavior of men who support the shooter's actions really frightened me. So I spoke up on Twitter and now, here. Women everywhere are speaking up about their experiences and exposing the fact that everyday misogyny is ubiquitous. And it's wrong, and we're tired of it.
And then I saw one blogger begin an essay with the tagline: "Elliot Rodger doesn’t need to have been a madman. It’s enough that he was a man."
There's an entire essay behind that, and it's got some valuable points. But, like with many toxins, the concentration of the dose matters, and that tagline has distilled a healthy idea into something dangerous.
I understand that they're trying to spotlight misogyny, but its oversimplification feeds into the idea that all men are villains and all women are victims. And that's simply not true. I've suffered from the institutions of misogyny on many occasions. At almost every job, in my hobbies, everywhere. I've also suffered from ageism and from not participating in the most popular church (I think that's technically religious persecution, but I don't know if that applies when I'm not religious. Meh.)
My gender doesn't make me a victim by default. And to the men who would read this: your gender doesn't make you a monster because you don't whip yourself for the crimes of the disturbed who share your identity.
It's enough that men stand beside women, and believe them, when someone claims a woman's chromosomes are reason enough to kill her. They don't have to stop being men.
Over-correction worries me almost as much as the problem that needs corrected in the first place. It ends up with under-educated boys on medication in our schools, getting suspended for pop tart guns. If so many men feel oppressed by feminism, it could be partially because their maleness has been labeled a disease. Maleness doesn't entitle men to violence or acts of abuse, but it also isn't a sin. "Boys will be boys" has been used to wipe clean some very messy slates. Even so, testosterone isn't inherently bad. It's necessary.
Let's use this tragedy as a reason to improve our mental health programs, examine our gun laws and help both men and women lead happier lives.
I know I have allies on both sides of the gender divide and I take strength in that. Let's not attack our supporters in the throes of fear. It's also wise to recognize who your allies are.
Allies are the ones who:
- Believe you when you say someone threatened, insulted, or frightened you.
- Help you get help when you're ready for it.
- Stay with you until you are ready for help, without pressuring or judging you.
- Don't tolerate abusive peers, and aren't afraid to tell them their behavior is unacceptable.
Nowhere in that list is the demand that they reject their own identity to protect yours. Allies can stand strong beside you as themselves. This is true in any area of human conflict.
Go forth and put your compassion first.