This is far from the usual fare on this blog, but I couldn’t leave this one alone.
Before you start reading, here is a disclaimer: If you have come here looking for reasoned arguments and a calm reflection on the issue of the Isla Vista shooting, MRAs or feminism, you won’t really find that here. This post was written with a lot of anger, grief and pain over several sessions this week.
If you still want to read it, and still want to comment, feel free to go ahead. If you are just going to spout abuse, I probably won’t approve your comment.
Last weekend something horrible happened. It was another mass shooting (and I hate that have to use the word ‘another’), but this one blew up a little extra in my little part of the Internet.
See, the shooter was a misogynistic arsehole who hated all women and wanted to punish them, and he even put out videos and wrote a manifesto to that effect. He had become enamoured with MRA (Men’s Rights Activist) movement, and internalised a lot of their most hateful sides to fuel his own delusions.
This sparked a lot of (in my opinion understandable) rage and outrage in a number of feminists; women, men and non-binary; and a substantial amount of that was targeted at the MRA movement, and men in general.
It didn’t take long for the counter-outrage to come. “Leave the MRAs out of this”. “Not all men”. “If it wasn’t this it would have been something else”. The same old predictable responses. Maybe there is something to some of it, but is a sense of timing too much to ask for? Do you really want to poke someone’s wounds when their pain and grief is at its rawest? Do you really care to deny them their anger that much?
I see certain parallels in this to the terrorist shooting Norway suffered on Utøya in 2011. A deluded and angry man finds a community of destructive opinions that plant a seed in him, nurture it, validate his beliefs and give him an echo chamber until he’s ready to kill. That time it was right-wing extremism and hate of anything left-wing or immigrants. This time it was the MRAs and a deep hatred of women.
Both times it was a call to leave the ideologies out of it. These were isolated incidents. Outliers. ‘Crazy’ men who would have found something to kill for no matter what.
Well, I call bullshit. If these incidents aren’t wake-up calls to take a closer look at these communities and the beliefs they propagate, I don’t know what is. Do we have to wait for the next one? The one after that?
Let us focus on the misogyny to begin with. The manifesto and videos that the Isla Vista shooter made probably sounded all too familiar to a lot of women, who receive threats and angry messages spouting the exact same things on a daily basis. Should we not now take a moment to consider that some of these inhumane (and yes, I would call sending someone threats as a kneejerk response to something you don’t like inhumane) bastards might actually take action and make good on their threats? If we just keep ignoring them, we are sending the wrong message. They’ll think we don’t mind. There are already more than enough people calling out their support for this murderer, and ultimately blaming women for setting him off in the first place. And not saying a word to those who taught him to hate. Except maybe “good job”.
Is there a good side to the MRA movement? I am asking earnestly here. Because I have never seen it. All I see from MRAs is how they hate feminists, how women (whom they regularly refer to as females, because fuck thinking of them as human beings or people) have ruined their lives, how women are getting too many rights, how women should ‘know their place’, how women OWE them time, affection and sex because they are such ‘nice guys’. (Spoiler, they’re not.) And of course that paying alimony is an awful plight that women has forced on them, and it’s apparently the fault of women that they might get drafted into the army (even in countries where they’ve stopped doing that).
If you want to have a discussion on how modern society imposes unfair expectations on men, how men who are victims of abuse and rape are typically either ignored or laughed at, and/or how child custody cases rarely rule in favour of the father, then good. Go, do that. Start a blog, a forum, a campaign. Hold a protest. Organise support groups. Write letters to politicians. BUT DON’T go to those working and fighting for women’s rights and demand that they pay equal attention to anything to might have happened to a man at some point, or else nothing they say is in any way valid. That is the WRONG approach. That is derailing the conversation, and trying to get them to shut up. That is becoming part of the problem.
If all you do is sit in a little corner of the Internet and talk about how much better things would be if women just behaved, you are not helping.
So please, I implore you, if there really is a side to the MRA movement that doesn’t dehumanise women and blame all ills on them, or just try to derail any discussions on equality that pop up, then please, please, show it to me. I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong if you can give me proof.
Of course there are ‘extreme feminists’ (though I don’t think they deserve to be called feminists), but the core of the feminist movement is equality for everyone, even in areas where women have been given an advantage, and just wanting to be treated like human beings. But as they’re presented, it seems the core of the MRA movement is to enforce the belief that women are not human, and only there to serve men.
It might be as some people have theorised to me, that a good MRA is a feminist. That a good MRA doesn’t self-identify as one.
The other thing that bothers me is people just stating that “he would have found something else to kill for”. We can’t know that. We can’t. Maybe if he hadn’t gotten wrapped up with this group, he would have found help. Maybe he would have worked something out on his own. Maybe he could have matured past his excessive narcissism. Maybe he would have taken his own life. Even assuming he was ‘crazy’, it’s far more usual for people struggling with mental health issues to hurt themselves than others. We just can’t know what might have happened. We can only see what did.
He was taught to hate, and where to direct that hate. Stuff like that doesn’t just happen in a vacuum.
It does feel like the more progress we make, the stronger the backlash becomes. We should take a stand against those who would do nothing but spout hate. And if they try to bring up any sort of freedom of speech or expression to stop you if you speak against them, they clearly haven’t understood what that actually means. This goes for misogynists, right-wing extremists, and any other groups like them.
And before you claim that feminists are another ‘extreme’ group, please explain to me what is so ‘extreme’ about wanting to have everyone treated equally. As if we were all human beings. That everyone should feel safe walking down the street in broad daylight (and middle of the night for that matter). That we stop blaming the victims. That no one should get a death threat for saying they do or don’t like a piece of entertainment.
Are there bad feminists? Of course. Are there misogynistic women? Yes. But just because you are able to hold up some examples of that, doesn’t mean that all discussion should be shut down. You can find shit people everywhere. I’ve seen so many discussions of the greater cultural trends that work against women (attempt to) be shut down by “Well, a bad thing happened A Man once. This is all hypocrisy.” Usually not said quite that succinctly or eloquently, but that’s typically the gist of it. There seems to be a severe lack of a sense of scale for a lot of people. Maybe an inability to see the bigger picture. Or possibly a willing disregard for these issues and a desire to just ignore all of it.
Even if we bought the premise that everything is equally shit for everyone, shouldn’t that just be all the more reason to try to do something about it? That is of course not the point for the detractors, the point is to get people to shut up.
In the end this issue is much, much larger than I am able to adequately represent in a single blog post. This is the kind of stuff you can write a whole book about, and if I felt I had the qualifications, maybe I would. As it is, I’m going to leave this here, knowing full-well what sorts of comments I can expect. I’d ask you to stay civil, but assuming angry commenters actually read the whole post and listen to reason seems to be a bit much to expect.
My heart and love goes out to the victims and their families. No one should ever have to go through what you are going through.