In the aftermath of the Elliot Rodger shooting, I've not only digested a wealth of what's been tweeted on the likes of #YesAllWomen and #Notallmen, but I've also read and thought at length about two prominent exercises in male mea culpa writing: one by Jeopardy's (admitted) uber-nerd Arthur Chu, and one by our own frequent contributor and master wordsmith Rev Ron, who is the farthest thing from a nerd. Lest there be any misunderstanding, Ron states forthrightly in his title, "I am the Problem." I commend both pieces to you. See what you think.
As for me, I would disagree with just about every point presented by our two featured apologists, as well about 87% of what I've heard on TV or the radio.
I have linked to the pieces so I'm not going to quote from them extensively (not at all in this post) and/or try to "rebut" them line by line. I'm simply going to tell you how I see it, and if I come off as politically incorrect (at best), or some kind of brooding/hulking Neanderthal (at worst), so be it. I honestly can't understand why anyone would apply the latter label to me unless you're not really reading what I write, but rather are intuiting a certain ugly (misogynist?) mindset behind the words. Of course, nowadays, you're basically a misogynist if you believe that some small portion of men should be permitted to go through life with their balls still attached. Have you ever heard CNN's Sunny Hostin? Oh my God.
My overarching point, which will unfold over the course of several posts, is simply that there are women who have earned the rage some men feel. Does that mean they deserve to be shot dead on the street in front of ice cream parlors? Uh, no. I'm just explaining the motivation that may help drive some of the crazies to extreme action.
So here goes nothing...
My wife has often observed, correctly in my view, that "there is no more cruel being on this planet than a teenage girl." Kathy says this not so much because of what teenage girls do to boys (to be clear, my wife is not a big fan of teenage boys, either), but because of multiple offenses against "the Sisterhood": that is, what teenage girls do to other teenage girls: bully them, exclude them, belittle them, take great delight in fat- or clothes- or slut-shaming them, and so forth. I am purposely focusing here on intra-girl behavior (girl-on-girl crime, as it were) because I want to filter the gender tensions out of the mix. We'll talk in time about the animus between men and women, and what the arguments might be on the male side. Lord knows you've heard enough of the arguments from the female side, which are, apparently, the only arguments worth hearing, judging from our mainstream media. So far as I can tell from the coverage of the Elliot Rodger shooting, there are no rational grievances men may lodge against women. (I ask again, have you heard Sunny Hostin?)
These girls who are behaving badly toward other girls are, in many cases, the popular girls, the hot chicks that Elliot Rodger couldn't persuade to bestow sex upon him. (I also think the nasty behavior grows in direct proportion to privilege. The ones with looks and money may be the most insufferable. Or to hear my wife tell it, again, "They're narcissists bordering on sociopaths." For the record, Kathy does not have a degree in psychology, but she ought to.) The point I'm making is that leaving aside their disinclination to sleep with Elliot Rodger, these girls aren't, a lot of them, very nice kids. They are, as Kathy says, cruel. For the mere sport of it, for no other reason than to flex their social muscle, they'll pick on other teenage girls, powerless girls who are on the emotional edge to begin with. They'll drive those poor girls to antidepressants or cutting or in some rare cases suicide, then post laughing comments about it on Facebook. (Do some Googling around; you'll see what I mean.)
Which is why I don't want to hear that this "mean girls" motif is "Hollywood fare" or urban legend.
Consider this poll from SmartGirl.org, an empowering site aimed at, well, smart girls, or those who'd like to be. Unscientific, yes, but telling nonetheless. Asked to respond to the statement "Bullies are usually boys," 62% of respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed.
Or you may wish to scan this white paper, which notes in its executive summary:
"Relational aggression, broadly defined as 'behavior that is intended to harm someone by damaging or manipulating his or her relationships with others,' is more common among girls, and is difficult to monitor or observe due to its covert nature."To repeat, a girl who bullies and berates does not deserve to be whacked by a Beemer-driving maniac with an overblown sense of entitlement. But she inspires a great deal of rage among people of both genders (and all ages) who wouldn't exactly shed a tear if she got run over by a speeding Amtrak one night.
And expanding the context a bit: Is it at least possible that a girl who takes delight in shunning other girls and even driving them to suicide might do some pretty crappy stuff to boys as well? I'm getting ahead of myself, but I'll just put that question "out there" and let it hang...
Now, can teenage boys be pricks? Absolutely. I might even omit the qualifier, the "can be" part. Worse, some of 'em are profane, violent thugs. They will use and mistreat teenage girls, if the girls let them. But, you know, the dynamic between boys and girls is one of those chicken/egg things. The pattern starts young, and seems to be a natural (albeit sick) byproduct of their incipient mating dance, so it's hard to know where to lay the ultimate original blame (if such ultimate original blame even exists). As noted, we'll delve into that more later, but that's why I've begun this series of posts by trying to factor out the ugliness that grows organically from gender tensions. Yes, boys are fully capable of treating girls like shit, but girls are also fully capable of treating girls like shit...and call me naive (or partisan), but I do not think that on balance, boys are as "evil," if you will, as some teen girls are.
Boys tend to be direct and overt.
"Hey Amber," some charming lad will scream across the lunchroom, "why don't you come over here and suck my dick!?"Girls do it differently—and, I would argue, more diabolically.
They invite Amber to eat at their table. They invite Amber to a party. They ingratiate themselves with Amber, get on her good side. Then they stick the knife in and twist it in a way that Amber never saw coming.The upshot of this post is that if anything, girls should bond together to support and uplift one another, to ease each other through the endemic horrors of adolescence and, yes, of dealing with asshole boys. Too often, they don't do that. Instead they are bitterly competitive over those same asshole boys.
Next in the series: The objectification of women...who's really to blame?