Notes and Comment Blog

Movies powerfully condition what we desire and feel we deserve

May 29th, 2014 12:05 pm | By

Ann Hornaday responded to the Rogen-Apatow outrage, again at the Washington Post blog.

I was surprised Monday morning to discover that an essay I’d written over the weekend – about the YouTube video posted by Elliot Rodger, who took six lives and his own in Isla Vista, Calif., on Friday – had earned the wrath of filmmaker Judd Apatow and his frequent collaborator, actor Seth Rogen. (Rogen turned down a request from The Post to film a video segment in response to the original column.)

As un-fun as it is to be slammed by famous people, I could understand Apatow and Rogen’s dismay. Why would a movie reviewer even weigh in on the Isla Vista tragedy in the first place? It happened that Rodger taped a somewhat rambling, 6-minute rant, during which he explained that a combination of social and sexual rejection, loneliness and chronic feelings of unfairness contributed to the murders he was about to commit.

The video was startlingly well-produced – featuring rich lighting, careful staging and a classic California backdrop of palm trees. That, combined with the fact that Rodger himself grew up surrounded by the film industry, led me to write about how Hollywood movies – specifically wish-fulfillment fantasies and revenge-driven vigilante thrillers – might have informed an unstable young man’s ideas about what his college years and life in general were supposed to look like. Movies aren’t accurate reflections of real life, as I wrote in the essay. But there’s no doubt they powerfully condition what we desire and feel we deserve from it.

Because why wouldn’t they? How would we go about being immune to their influence? How would that work? How can Rogen and Apatow possibly be certain that their movies have zero influence on any human beings? Advertising works, doesn’t it? It influences people. If it didn’t, at some point capitalists would have figured that out and stopped spending all this money on it. Does advertising work solely because it comes with a label “advertising” so that we know we’re supposed to be influenced, and we comply?

I say no. How are movies fundamentally different from advertising?

They’re not, except for being much longer and thus more so. Yes, Seth & Judd, movies have power over us. Yes, yours too. Yes, even the stupidest ones.

I was not using the grievous episode in Isla Vista to make myself more famous; nor was I casting blame on the movies for Rodger’s actions. Rather, in my capacity as a movie critic, I was looking at the video as a lens through which to examine questions about sexism, insecurity and entitlement, how they’ve threaded their way through an entertainment culture historically dominated by men and how they’ve shaped our own expectations as individuals and a culture. At a time when women account for less than 20 percent of filmmakers behind the camera and protagonists in front of it, I suggested that it’s long past time to expand and diversify the stories we tell ourselves.

And we get to do that, without entitled sexist thoughtless frat-boy moviemakers pitching rage-fits.

My observations struck a chord of recognition with University of Maryland graduate student Isabella Cooper:

I have taught Women’s Lit courses in the English Department several times, and did so this past semester. Sadly, I am never short on fodder to show the students how rampant misogyny and sexism still are in our culture, and this article gets right to the heart of the way Hollywood so often bolsters men’s sense of entitlement to women’s bodies, their belief that their sexual drive amounts to a right (as Adrienne Rich put it all the way back in the seventies!).

There’s plenty of fodder. I would happily do without the fodder for the sake of better stories, with women as central characters who have a place on the mattering map.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Not all directors of frat-boy movies

May 29th, 2014 10:28 am | By

Among the NotAllMen crowd are those persecuted neglected deprived dudes Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow, who are furious that a movie critic – a woman – suggested that frat boy movies might have effects on some boys’ ideation about women. By a funny and startling coincidence, Rogen and Apatow specialize in frat-boy movies.

Actor Seth Rogen has taken issue with a suggestion, published in The Washington Post, that his films — most recently the frat-boy comedy “Neighbors” — contributed to Elliott Rodger’s bloody rampage in Isla Vista, Calif., on Friday.

Rogen was responding to film critic Ann Hornaday’s column, in which she wrote:

as important as it is to understand Rodger’s actions within the context of the mental illness he clearly suffered, it’s just as clear that his delusions were inflated, if not created, by the entertainment industry he grew up in.

“How dare you imply that me getting girls in movies caused a lunatic to go on a rampage,” Rogen tweeted to Hornaday. He added: “I find your article horribly insulting and misinformed.”

Oh yes? You know what? I find Seth Rogen’s entire view of and portrayal of women in his movies horribly insulting and misinformed. Mind you, his portrayal of men is equally insulting, but he does make men the center of the universe while women are the dim little satellites that hobble around them.

Rogen isn’t specifically named in the piece, but his movie “Neighbors” is.

Hornaday wrote that Rodger, who is the son of movie director and producer Peter Rodger, grew up in a world dominated by Hollywood visions of manhood and adolescence.

How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like “Neighbors” and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of “sex and fun and pleasure”? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, “It’s not fair”?

How many indeed; but you’re not allowed to ask questions like that. You’re allowed to treat movies as capable of influencing how people think about the world ONLY IF you are praising them. Doing it the other way around is heresy and blasphemy.

Apatow even trots out that old favorite about click bait.


Judd Apatow @JuddApatow

Remember everyone – ads next to articles generate money. They say something shocking and uninformed & get you to click on it to profit.

Uh huh, and that applies to all material we don’t like, but not to material we do like. Also, Judd Apatow makes movies pro bono. He doesn’t take a dime for himself. This being so, he doesn’t the least bit tailor his material to a mass audience. Nope, not Judd Apatow.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Not the faintest vestige of honour

May 28th, 2014 5:31 pm | By

Navi Pillay, the UN human rights High Commissioner, commented today on the murder of Farzana Parveen.

“I am deeply shocked by the death of Farzana Parveen, who, as in the case of so many other women in Pakistan, was brutally murdered by members of her own family simply because she married a man of her own choice,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

“I do not even wish to use the phrase ‘honour killing’: there is not the faintest vestige of honour in killing a woman in this way,” she added in a news release, which also noted that Pakistan has one of the highest rates of violence against women globally.

And why is that? Because they think their holy book makes it ok.

According to reports, some 20 members of Ms. Parveen’s family, including her father and two brothers, attacked her and her husband when they were on their way to the Lahore High Court, where they were due to contest her father’s allegations that she had been kidnapped by her husband and that their marriage was invalid.

“Every year, hundreds of women are killed in Pakistan as a punishment for marrying a man their families have not chosen or for refusing an arranged marriage,” Ms. Pillay said.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, 869 women were murdered in so-called ‘honour killings’ in the country last year, but the real figure could be much higher, with many such killings believed to be disguised as accidents, or not reported at all.

“The Pakistani Government must take urgent and strong measures to put an end to the continuous stream of so-called ‘honour killings’ and other forms of violence against women,” said Ms. Pillay.

“They must also make a much greater effort to protect women like Farzana Parveen. The fact that she was killed on her way to court, shows a serious failure by the State to provide security for someone who – given how common such killings are in Pakistan – was obviously at risk.”

Will the Pakistani Government pay any attention? It seems very unlikely.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Women have had enough

May 28th, 2014 4:22 pm | By

No I’m definitely not the only one. Jessica Valenti is another (and so are most of the people on #YesAllWomen).

Women have had enough. The stares. The butt-grabs. The little comments. And now this: a man writes a 140-page misogynist manifesto before killing six people, and yet – still – women are called hysterical for insisting this tragedy was driven by sexism.

And “cruel”; “selfish”; “child-molesting” – ok I made that last one up. I think.

Valenti quotes Soraya Chemaly and Lindsay Beyerstein – a bit of a Women in Secularism roll-call, which is nice.

As journalist Lindsay Beyerstein wrote on her Facebook page, it’s infuriating for people to pretend “that there’s some deep mystery about why Elliot Rodger did what he did, or worse, that there’s something unseemly or self-serving about feminists pointing out that he was an explicitly misogynist terrorist.” She continued:

Rodger told the world exactly why he went on this killing spree. He spelled it out in excruciating detail and sent his narrative of the killings to the media. In case that wasn’t enough, he made a series of YouTube videos to cement his narrative of his own crime in the public mind.

Truly, he couldn’t have made it any clearer. Why do some people nonetheless doubt his laid-out, explicit motive?

Part of the obstinate disbelief seems to be a need to protect the privileges of sexism: associating misogyny with a mass murder would mean having to recognize just how dangerous misogyny really is and – if you’re partaking – giving it up. Some men want to believe that they can continue to call women “sluts” and make rape jokes without being part of a broader cultural impact. But they can’t: sexism, from everyday harassment to inequality enshrined in policy, pollutes our society as a whole and limits our ability to create real justice for women.

Of course it’s about protecting sexism. There are a lot of men – and a few women – who think it’s fun to call women “sluts” and make rape jokes, and the backlash against #YesAllWomen is just more of that. They want to do that, they want to have fun doing it, and they want not to admit that there’s anything wrong with it or harmful about it.

They want a lot. It’s almost as if they feel entitled.

Someone asked me over the weekend if I thought this shooting – and the aftermath of activism – would be a watershed moment. I replied that I was hopeful, and I still am, because being cautiously optimistic is the only way I’m able to do this work and get up in the morning. But I’m also exhausted, and fed up.

If this shooting isn’t the clearest example of sexism turned deadly – then what is? What will it take for Americans to get real about how profoundly misogynist our country really is?

I seriously have no fucking clue.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

If you seriously want to contend that Elliot Rodger wasn’t motivated by hatred of women

May 28th, 2014 3:19 pm | By

A Facebook friend, Brian Murtagh, has a public post expressing fury at the “oh it wasn’t hatred of women” trope. It’s good to see such posts (and I’m seeing a lot of them), because this trope is truly disquieting and despair-inducing. I quote him with permission.

Look, if you seriously want to contend that Elliot Rodger wasn’t motivated by hatred of women, I don’t want you to unfriend me. I want you to explain your reasoning in a comment to this post.

I will then eviscerate your arguments, mock and castigate you thoroughly, then *I* will unfriend *you* – unless you convince me. Go on, give it your best fucking shot.

Excellent, and even better is his response to an article stating the obvious “it wasn’t misogyny ALONE”:

it’s a decent article but entirely beside the point. It doesn’t deny that the guy’s primary motive was hatred of women, it admits it unequivocally. I don’t know whether the coverage is terribly different in the UK (it usually is) but over here the media is dancing an unbelievable pavane of denial saying that that is simply *not* the case and that misogyny played little or no part in his motivation. They’re not saying he was made angry at women by some mental illness or other factor and that’s why he was so angry at women he went on a killing spree, they are saying that his blatant, admitted misogyny was largely if not entirely unrelated to the killing. Racists who kill aren’t excused their racism as a motive, religious bigots who kill apostates or heathen in their view aren’t excused that, but a man who flat out said he killed from hatred of women, in pages of online comments and a seven minute video and a 137 page manifesto is said to have had no such motive. It’s utter bullshit. The media in this country have no qualms about calling the most reasonable of feminists “man-haters” for calling out a sex-based institutional injustice, but they will *not* admit this man was motivated by hatred of women.

At least I’m not the only one who is disgusted.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

If it’s good enough for Juvenal

May 28th, 2014 3:08 pm | By

Oh goody, Soraya Chemaly and David Futrelle were on an NPR talk show – On Point – today to talk about Rodger and misogyny. Before I listen, how about a quick look at the comments…

uh oh.

Perhaps Americans have grown too unaccustomed to reading various plays by Aristophanes or certain epigrams by Martial or certain satires by Juvenal, or certain poems by Villon or certain stories by Machiavelli, or certain aphorisms by Schopenhauer or certain stories by Maupassant . . . . perhaps if we had not become so keen to shield our eyes from what vexes or discomfits, we would today be well-equipped to consider familiar themes upon their recurrence.
Perhaps we’ve cultivated overmuch our taste for only the palatable.
Or perhaps contemporary utopian feminism may not be telling us anything wholly true (or actually realistic) about either women or men.

Yeah. Good point. It’s in literature, it’s been around forever, why not just shrug and enjoy it?

Good good good point. Hatred, contempt, dismissal, belittlement, obstacles, violence – those are all good things. It’s utopian to want to change anything. Chill.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

His message of hope and love

May 28th, 2014 11:55 am | By

Hard to believe but apparently not a hoax – “Joe the Plumber” says your dead kids don’t trump my rights.

Adam Weinstein at Gawker has the details.

Continuing his tradition of providing answers to questions no one fucking asked him, Joe decided to post an open letter to the families of victims killed in Elliot Rodger’s murder-suicide rampage over the weekend. Just the victims who were shot, though; not the ones who were stabbed.

His message of hope and love: Stay the fuck away from my guns.

I am sorry you lost your child. I myself have a son and daughter and the one thing I never want to go through, is what you are going through now. But:

As harsh as this sounds – your dead kids don’t trump my Constitutional rights.

And that’s the important thing here – that Samuel Wurzelbacher aka “Joe the Plumber” gets to keep his guns and stick to them too.

There’s something refreshingly honest in Joe’s acknowledgement that this tragedy is all about him. It’s the reductio ad absurdum of an ethos that’s obsessed with the self and the self’s freedom without a concomitant empathy for other selves and their freedoms. Joe’s rant illuminates quite starkly how the right-libertarian absolutist interpretation of individual rights comes into direct conflict with the lives of his fellow countrymen and their children. To talk of responsibilities is to water down a right, and we cannot do that, no matter what the cost! (On the other hand: “They talk about gun rights,” Martinez said in his stirring press statement about his son. “What about Chris’s right to live?”)

Doesn’t count. Trumped by Wurzelbacher’s right to have guns.

It’s part of a larger move in conservatism away from appeals to the common good and toward an antipathy for anything but the self. Where conservatives used to justify the free market, for example, in Adam Smith’s practical terms—the invisible hand provides for all, a rising tide floats every boat—they now rationalize it in Ayn Rand’s fundamentalist terms: Who gives a shit if the market is good or just? It’s right. Now get the fuck out of our way, you illogical bromide-hawking self sacrificer.

And what movement is unsettlingly full of Randian libertarians? Why, it’s the organized skepticism movement, that’s what.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

More deep concern

May 28th, 2014 11:31 am | By

From the Daily Beast this time. Emily Shire writes that #YesAllWomen is a good thing BUT it is not a perfect thing. Worryworry.

#YesAllWomen has led to an outpouring of simultaneously enlightening and disturbing examples of common-day occurrences of female harassment in theworkplace and world of dating. These, in turn, have inspired a number of men to tweet out their support and recognition of the dangers and double standards that misogyny has wrought.

However, #YesAllWomen also transformed a highly disturbed, socially isolated college student into a figure somehow worthy of legitimate discourse about the serious issues of misogyny. While it is inspiring to see positive conscious-raising tweets about the female experience come out of a national tragedy, there is also something dangerous about taking a deranged 22-year-old at his words. We don’t know what exactly drove Rodger to violence, and we can’t conclude that misogyny over mental illness or social rejection was the root cause.

Well we don’t know for certain, no, because we never do. Maybe what he said and put on video was all a smokescreen. We don’t know. But we do know what he did say and did put out there on video. We can conclude that he told us that misogyny was his inspiration. We can’t conclude that was the “root cause,” no, because it would take technology that doesn’t exist to know that. But that doesn’t mean the whole thing is a big blank; it doesn’t mean the black box is still on the ocean floor.

Obviously it’s not that misogyny leads directly to shooting sprees in all cases without exception. Obviously shooting sprees are extremely rare. Obviously there are vastly more misogynists than there are spree shooters.

But when someone announces his hatred of women and his plan to shoot as many as he can, we are allowed to connect his shooting spree to his misogyny. That’s not making a big unjustified leap.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Not just a bit sexist if you looked at them funny

May 28th, 2014 10:00 am | By

Sarah Ditum wonders why there’s an expectation of privacy for misogyny but not for the women who are its targets.

Public life is full of men with manifest habits of misogyny, but whenever this is challenged, one excuse is reliably rolled out: that was private, it doesn’t affect his job. Men, it seems, are the champions of doing two entirely contradictory things at the same time.

That’s been the consensus around Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore’s misogynistic emails. And yes, they were misogynistic – not just a bit sexist if you looked at them funny, not “private banter” (as the headline of India Knight’s Sunday Times column described them), but absolutely misogynistic: Scudamore discussed women’s breasts, described women as “irrational”, and called women “gash”, reducing women to a grotesque image of their genitals. This is the language of someone who doesn’t even think women are people. In fact, Scudamore had so little respect for women that, according to Rani Abraham (the PA who leaked them), he sent these missives through a work email account that it was her job to monitor. One of the women discussed so crudely was a Premier League employee – and was copied into the emails. (Abraham says she left the job because she could not tolerate working for a man who used such language.)

That reminds me of something – it reminds me of one of Carrie Poppy’s tweets under #NotAllWomen:

Because my old boss adopted a little girl’s voice to impersonate me crying over my own assault.

Carrie too left the job because she could not tolerate working for a man who used such language.

Scudamore left no daylight between his professional life and his sexism. Yet it has been insisted in every outlet from the Times (Leader) to the Mirror (Carol McGiffin) to the Guardian (Marina Hyde) that emails sent at work, through a work account monitored by an employee, about and to colleagues should be classed as a private matter. (And yes, I noticed how many of those pieces were bylined to women. Maybe working in a massively sexist institution like a newspaper skews your sense of what is acceptable.) If these emails had been on any other topic, the idea of classing them as “private” would be laughable: it’s only because they’re misogynistic that people are anxious to separate them from Scudamore’s public role.

So this is an example of the same thing, I take it. Racism? Not acceptable. (Can be directed at men.) Homophobia? Not acceptable. (Can be directed at men.) Misogyny? Protected. (Is directed only at women.)

The hideous truth is, though, that you can do worse than call women “gash” and still have it tucked away as a private matter. In Kirsty Wark’s Blurred Lines documentary on the new culture of misogyny, Rod Liddle is shuffled out to provide the contrarian point of view, arguing (in the face of all evidence) that women experience no worse abuse than men, and what women do experience is neither specific to gender nor related to violence. Liddle has repeatedly attacked women for their looks in his Spectator column, so he’s certainly no neutral in the sex wars, but there’s also something even more concerning in his history – something which, I think, should permanently rule his opinions on the abuse of women out of contention.

In 2005, Liddle accepted a caution for common assault against his girlfriend, who was then pregnant. Liddle later denied wrongdoing and claimed he only accepted the caution “because it was the quickest way for him to be released”, but nevertheless, there it is: a man with a criminal record of violence against women, being invited to give his professional opinion on the abuse women experience. The caution was not mentioned by Wark. Presumably, it has been dismissed to the realm of the private where men are imagined to be capable of operating an entirely different – even contradictory – set of values to the ones we like to imagine they hold in the course of public decency.

Jesus fuck. I did not know that. They got a guy with a conviction for violence against a woman to talk on a documentary about misogyny, and did not disclose the conviction.

Trust no one.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

They hate the car, yet they still want the car

May 28th, 2014 9:30 am | By

I wrote a public Facebook post in the middle of the night to express my middle of the night feeling of horror at the state we’re in. I’ll put it here too, because this is the state we’re in and it is horrifying.


I’m beyond appalled, horrified, staggered. I don’t have the words to name my thoughts on the fact that we know racist violence when we see it – we don’t get ostensibly-reasonable people trying to argue that white guys dragging a black guy behind a truck to kill him is not about racism. We don’t get ostensibly-reasonable people trying to argue that Matthew Shepard was not beaten to death because of homophobia. Why THE FUCK are we getting so many ostensibly-reasonable people trying to argue that Rodger’s murder-spree was not about misogyny?

Apparently we just really are that…expendable.


It’s produced an excellent discussion. One comment in particular I got permission to publish here; it’s by Michael Šimková.

I’ve noticed in many spaces heterosexual men claim to hate women and at the same time desire them. That is another contradiction many people seem to intuitively understand and I find mystifying. This murderer actually ranted that he hated women because they would not let him love them. That is certainly not coherent using my understanding of love. My impression is that this makes sense to them because they understand women as a desired object, not a subject, and that is what they call love. It is similar to the feelings you might have about a car that won’t start when you were counting on it to get you somewhere. Many people become irate and scream and bang fruitlessly on the car. They hate the car, yet they still want the car.

That seems to be the standard model for heterosexual men now. To regard uninterested women as broken sex toys, and interested women as functional ones. This Rodgers certainly seems to have seen things that way. Under that paradigm, it makes sense to them to despise the same objects they desire and to vehemently reject the notion that their objects should have autonomy. That is also consistent with the legal status of women in most of the world and of history. Originally rape was a crime against the male owner of a woman, not the victim herself, as it sullied his private property. I still see Marxists argue that capitalists oppress proletarian men by hoarding women and that, come the revolution, women would be redistributed with the rest of the wealth, as there must be a 1-1 ratio of women to men because every man is entitled to a wife.

There are endless such examples. All fundamentally seem to be about objectification, which is really nothing new, as feminists have said this for decades only to be decried “because objectification is good” and life would be boring without it.

I think that’s brilliant. Too bad it’s true.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The quickest way to invite a barrage of social media hate

May 28th, 2014 5:37 am | By

Dave Zirin in The Nation:

If a mass killing perpetrated by a deeply disturbed misogynist does not make us look at how our society promotes and perpetuates violence against women, I am not sure what will.

Just what I keep thinking, as it becomes clearer and clearer that a mass killing perpetrated by a deeply disturbed misogynist will on the contrary make a lot of us bristle with outrage at the very mention of misogyny in connection with Elliot Rodger’s adventure. It appears that nothing will  make us look at how our society promotes and perpetuates violence against women.

It does not take any sort of genius to draw a line in between the weekend’s shooting, the torments faced by Marissa Alexander or other women who defend themselves, and the fact that the quickest way to invite a barrage of social media hate is to say something as simple as, “I don’t think rape jokes are funny.” These dots connect to create a gun pointed at the ability of women to possess the most elemental human right in what is supposed to be a free society: the right to be left alone.

It doesn’t take a genius, but it does take someone who thinks women shouldn’t be treated like shit.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

To rustle the jimmies of feminists

May 28th, 2014 5:12 am | By

There’s an Elliot Rodger fan page on Facebook that keeps returning after people manage to get one taken down (with great difficulty because Facebook is Facebook).

Facebook has removed fan pages for mass murderer Elliot Rodger, but new ones keep popping up — including one that targeted a woman who alleged its creators have harassed her for years.

Using one misogynist campaign in the service of another misogynist campaign. Enterprising.

Facebook has since said earlier versions of the pages were removed.

A man claiming to be behind the page, an Internet radio host who goes by the moniker Wild Goose, told QMI the “page was set up [in] order to rustle the jimmies of feminists around the world who are attempting to hijack this tragedy in order to further their own agenda.”

Nice company the Zaras and Hales are in.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

With bricks and sticks

May 27th, 2014 4:30 pm | By

And in Pakistan

A Pakistani woman has been killed by her relatives outside Lahore High Court for marrying against their wishes.

Police said 30-year old Farzana Bibi died on the spot after being attacked with bricks and sticks.

Farzana Bibi’s parents accused her husband, Muhammad Iqbal, of kidnapping her, and had filed a case against him at the High Court.

However, she testified to police that she had married him of her own accord. Police said the couple had been engaged for a number of years.

As she arrived at the court building for a hearing, police said about a dozen family members pulled her aside and began to attack her and her husband, who managed to escape.

What a lovely “family.”

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post by Seth on political de-politicising

May 27th, 2014 4:02 pm | By

Originally a comment on How dare you treat Rodger’s murders as political?

What’s funny is that saying ‘don’t politicise the issue’ *is* politicising the issue. Here’s my word on the subject, from my tumblr:

It’s quite simple, really. Whenever something happens in the ‘real’ world, whenever people get injured or killed due to neglect or human malevolence, there is always a cavalcade of gainsayers admonishing everyone not to ‘politicise’ the tragedy (at least whenever it’s a tragedy that can be lain at the feet of white men). Whenever there’s a shooting, the NRA falls all over itself to say that anyone who might propose reasonable gun control measures is ‘an opportunist’ who should be ashamed of themselves for taking advantage of violence for their own political ends. Whenever men attack women (in such a way as to garner widespread attention), there is a contingent of people who deny that widespread misogyny and rape culture had anything to do with it, and anyone who claims otherwise is ‘an opportunist’ who should be ashamed of themselves for taking advantage of violence for their own political ends.

We’re unlucky enough to be able to experience both of these groups of people rising in response to the horrible violence perpetrated in California. Despite the fact that the perpetrator participated in misogynist communities, despite the fact that he posted a video manifesto that positively dripped with hatred of women just before he fulfilled the threats he made with a gun. We’ve been warned on the one hand that Americans’ ready access to firearms had nothing to do with this man’s ability to slaughter people, and on the other hand that his obvious misogyny had nothing to do with his targeting of women. We’re told to shut up, not to draw any conclusions (or even engage in any kind of discussion) about the issues that this violence raises.

The thing is, these people (let’s call them ‘denialists’, since that’s what they do) always tell us to shut the fuck up, no matter what. They beat us about the head any time we talk about feminism, about social justice, about welfare or gun control or climate change or a million issues that involve compassion for other humans. So when the denialists tell us ‘don’t politicise this tragedy’, they’re turning the tragedy into a political attack against us.

There’s a difference between politics and culture, just as there’s a difference between politics and policy. Politics entails using real-world events to orchestrate attacks on one’s opponents or to shore up support amongst one’s allies. That’s not always a bad thing; often, it’s a vital and necessary activity in order to successfully enact policy and/or shape culture. But political activities are not synonymous with policy or cultural activities. Pretending that they are is inherently political, since it serves no purpose but to attack your enemies and bolster your allies.

But, of course, we cannot expect anti-feminists and misogynists to be consistent.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

From very far away

May 27th, 2014 3:56 pm | By

Oh yes.

Tobias Buckell and John Scalzi on Twitter:

I love how the phrase ‘no politics’ always comes from someone swimming in politics… just of their own brand. So little self-recognition.

John Scalzi @scalzi

. “MY politics aren’t REALLY politics, you see! They’re just plain COMMON SENSE!”

Oh yes. That “I think you are homing in on what disturbs me – it’s about trying to spin tragedy for political purposes” from earlier today is a classic example. “Your view of this is political, while my view of it is from a distant point in space where politics no longer exists.”


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Try staying quiet for a while and actually listening

May 27th, 2014 3:35 pm | By

Phil Plait has a great article at Slate on #YesAllWomen, with a shout-out to Amy at the end for giving him a helpful idea – that’s how good it is.

The murderer was active on men’s rights fora, where women are highly objectified, to say the very least. They are seen as nonhuman by many such groups, and at the very least lesser than men—sometimes nothing more than targets or things to acquire. What these men write puts them, to me, in the same category as White Power movements, or any other horribly bigoted group that “others” anyone else. While it may not be possible to blame the men’s rights groups for what happened, from the reports we’ve seen they certainly provided an atmosphere of support.

Horribly bigoted group that others and also dominates and despises.

He says the defensive reactions of a lot of men on Twitter were unhelpful.

…the people saying it aren’t furthering the conversation, they’re sidetracking it.The discussion isn’t about the men who aren’t a problem. (Though, I’ll note, it can be. I’ll get back to that.) Instead of being defensive and distracting from the topic at hand, try staying quiet for a while and actually listening to what the thousands upon thousands of women discussing this are saying.


Fourth—and this is important, so listen carefully—when a woman is walking down the street, or on a blind date, or, yes, in an elevator alone, she doesn’t know which group you’re in. You might be the potential best guy ever in the history of history, but there’s no way for her to know that. A fraction of men out there are most definitelynot in that group. Which are you? Inside your head you know, but outside your head it’s impossible to.

This is the reality women deal with all the time.

He says he can’t know what it’s like because he’s not a woman, and it’s taken him a long time to adjust his thinking to reflect that.

Over the weekend, I retweeted a few of the #YesAllWomen tweets I thought were most important, or most powerful, and saw that again and again they were misunderstood. In almost all the cases I saw, the men commenting were reacting to it, being defensive about the hashtag instead of listening to what was being said.

Earlier, I mentioned that the conversation is about the men who are the problem, not the ones who aren’t. Well, at this point, a conversation needs to be had about them, too. Even though we may not be the direct problem, we still participate in the cultural problem. If we’re quiet, we’re part of the problem. If we don’t listen, if we don’t help, if we let things slide for whatever reason, then we’re part of the problem, too.

We men need to do better.

That would help. It would help a lot.

And one final word on this. As a man, having written this post I expect there will be comments insulting me, comments questioning my manhood (whatever twisted definition those people have of such a thing, if it even exists), and so on.

But you know what there won’t be? People threatening to stalk me and rape me and kill me for having the audacity to say that women are people, and that we should be listening to them instead of telling them how to feel. Yet that is precisely what every woman on the Internet would face if she were to write this.

And that is, sadly, why we so very much need the #YesAllWomen hashtag.

My thanks to Surly Amy for a helpful suggestion she made to me about this article.

That was good. No “concern” about feminists furthering their agenda, no alarm at the “cruelty” of feminists saying misogyny played a bit part in the actions of Elliot Rodger, no tutting about feminists “grandstanding” or turning a “tragedy” into something [gasp] “political.” #Notallmen yo.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The worried worried

May 27th, 2014 3:10 pm | By

Oh no, feminist writers stirring up moral panics – someone call – VaculaMan!


Justin Vacula The Daily Mail is over-the-top with its headline, too, calling him the “Hunger Games Assassin.” I guess we can be outraged by tabloid publications. I’d rather not.

Anyway, to recap and follow up on recent comments, I think that focusing on misogyny and people like Valenti/Macrotte/SPLC representatives talking about this as being part of a “war on women” or “proof that misogyny kills” is as silly as people saying women who kill their male sons by microwaving them being “proof that misandry kills” or a “war on men.” It’s just much more complex and it’s really no surprise, unfortunately, that the SPLC and feminist writers are using this to further their agenda by creating moral panic following an isolated incident committed by a troubled individual.

Indeed, statements the shooter made were hateful toward women, but that’s only part of the issue. I don’t, though, think that cultural messaging that men are entitled to have women as rewards has anything to do with this (or at least a major part of it). I further fail to see how a ‘damsel in distress’ trope explained by Sarkessian (or Disney movies) has anything to do with this incident.

Beware the feminists furthering their dastardly agenda of not being treated like shit any more! Won’t someone please think of the microwaved boys?!

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Guest post by Antonia Bookbinder on the normalization of misogynist ideology

May 27th, 2014 1:52 pm | By

I recall being a twenty-something woman and being tremendously attracted to one or another sexy, smart man. These men almost always friend-zoned me for being butch and sarcastic, saying how great it was to be friends with me because I wasn’t “really a girl” and whining about their far more conventionally feminine girlfriends. It hurt, a lot, and I eventually learned to avoid that particular sort of male “friend”. Somehow, though, I never ranted about how all men were evil or depraved or contemplated purchasing firearms to massacre popular students. This is mostly because I was never told that I had an inalienable right to male bodies. I was told instead that I should focus on enjoying life without a sexual relationship, that my sexual satisfaction or lack thereof was not the single most important fact of my existence, and that even good, fulfilling relationships were inevitably also complicated and painful.

When we teach boys (explicitly and implicitly) that they are incomplete or inadequate unless they have access to a woman’s genitals, that sexual relationships can be had by following certain manipulative rules, and that compliance with gender norms is required for satisfying sexual relationships, we teach children to become rapists and murderers. This is not to excuse men who perpetrate violence of the Isla Vista sort, but it is worth examining where such perpetrators come from.

Our collective failure to notice or address the prevalence of extremist misogynist ideology in mainstream culture creates more such men from today’s boys. Every time we hear and do not confront a child or youth repeating misogynist “humor”, and every time we avoid discussion of pick-up-artist ideas in our conversations about gender-related violence, we are each complicit in tomorrow’s Isla Vistas.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Their depraved emotions and vile sexual impulses

May 27th, 2014 12:02 pm | By

Amanda Marcotte has some thoughts on PUA ideology and Elliot Rodger.

This theory—that ordinary and worthy men are oppressed by women who refuse to have sex with them—was articulated in Rodger’s 141-page manifesto he sent to newspapers.

Women are incapable of having morals or thinking rationally. They are completely controlled by their depraved emotions and vile sexual impulses. Because of this, the men who do get to experience the pleasures of sex and the privilege of breeding are the men who women are sexually attracted to… the stupid, degenerate, obnoxious men. I have observed this all my life. The most beautiful of women choose to mate with the most brutal of men, instead of magnificent gentlemen like myself.

This sort of rhetoric is fairly common on some of the more embittered PUA forums, and the “men’s rights” forums that have quite a bit of overlap with them. 

And it is what it is. It’s not all that belief-defying that one very warped guy would take the rage and channel it into violence. It’s surprising that more warped guys don’t. (But many of course do it one at a time, in private, without a manifesto.)


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Rodger told the world exactly why he went on this killing spree

May 27th, 2014 11:09 am | By

Lindsay Beyerstein has a brilliant public post on Facebook that has 392 shares as of this moment.

I am so tired of ostensibly smart, liberal men pretending that there’s some deep mystery about why Elliot Rodger did what he did, or worse, that there’s something unseemly or self-serving about feminists pointing out that he was an explicitly misogynist terrorist. I read Rodger’s manifesto twice. I wish all English comp students could formulate a thesis and support it as clearly as he did.

Rodger told the world exactly why he went on this killing spree. He spelled it out in excruciating detail and sent his narrative of the killings to the media. In case that wasn’t enough, he made a series of YouTube videos to cement his narrative of his own crime in the public mind.

The only thing I would add to that is that there are a few ostensibly smart (but not liberal) women doing the same pretending – Christina Hoff Sommers, Cathy Young, Miranda Hale and other slime pit types, women like that. I haven’t seen one ostensibly smart, liberal woman doing that though…

Lindsay points out crisply that Rodger said why he did it; he said it very clearly; he said it repeatedly.

A person’s own account of their behavior is never the final word. But when the person outlines their motives as lucidly and in as much detail as this guy, that is the starting point for any reasonable interpreter. Yes, we can talk about mental illness. Yes, we can talk about gun control. But none of these factors negates the fact that Rodger was a textbook misogynist terrorist, on the model of Marc Lepine and George Sodini.

Is it “grandstanding” to say that? Is it “cruel”? Is it “selfish”? I can’t see it.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)