It’s time for an updated edition of Susan Faludi’s Backlash
Witness the recent mass murder of women at a gym in Pennsylvania by a man obsessed with his inability to get women to sleep with him. Also witness the media response, most of which has focused on how unhappy the poor man was (you know, when I’m unhappy I cry on a friend’s shoulder, or mope, or have a drink – I have yet to decide that murdering strangers would be an appropriate response to unhappiness). Witness the killer’s blog, which was full of misogynistic ranting about how evil women were for rejecting him, and fantasies about hurting them. Witness in particular the response from some men who seem to consider this guy some sort of hero.
And then let’s remember the young man who drove his car into a crowd of pedestrians in Akihabara in Tokyo and then stabbed a bunch of people. Half a world away, a 23 year difference in age, and yet an oddly similar fixation on the idea of rejection by women as somehow tied in with generally low social status.
There was also the Virginia Tech killer, whose manifesto contained strikingly similar ideas about how he felt mistreated by women.
What do these three men have in common? A deep and disturbing anger against women and a strange fixation of the idea of women’s not wanting to sleep with them as the source of all their personal problems (compounded in the Akihabara case by the fact that the killer was about to lose his job, another classic spur to male status anxiety).
It’s a creepy syndrome, and it seems to be becoming more and more common. Why are so many men so very angry with women? Where does this fixation come from, this weird sense of entitlement to sex and attention from women?
That’s the other thing. On the rare occasions the media bothers to pay attention to this syndrome, they usually focus on the men’s complaints about not being able to get laid. That’s not really all that’s going on with these men, though – if you look at their own words, their frustration isn’t focused simply on not being able to get laid. What comes up time after time is the idea that women owe them attention. They don’t just want sex, they want all the things that (they think) go along with sex – a woman who will love them unconditionally and strive to make them happy, a sense of themselves as “real men” as defined by the fact that they’re able to “get” women, the respect of their peers. They feel entitled to these things, and they’re furious at women for not playing along.
Pretty much any woman can tell you within reading a few sentences of anything any of those men have written why they were so unsuccessful at “getting” women. Those men are, not to mince words, f*cking scary. Their maniacal obsession with “getting” women in order to prove themselves, their creepy sense of entitlement to women’s bodies and time and attention, the overall sense that they don’t quite grasp the concept that women are actual people…most women, getting even a whiff of that attitude, will run away as fast as they can. Which is, in fact, a wise decision.
The question remains though, why are there so many men like that, and what can we do about it?
I would argue that the underlying thought processes that lead men to that place, of seeing women as objects that they’re entitled to whose non-compliance deserves to be punished, are actually commonplace in most cultures and on the rise in many. Witness the fact that someone actually wrote a book called A Natural History of Rape, which by it’s very nature and framing suggests that rape is somewhat not the fault of the rapist since it may be an evolved behavior (just imagine for a moment if someone wrote a book called A Natural History of Genocide what the reaction would be). Witness the rise of evolutionary psychology (formerly known as sociobiology, and no more scientifically credible in its current incarnation than in the last one), the entire purpose of which seems to be to defend the idea that women’s lesser social status is natural and justified and that men can’t help being jerks to women.
The question is, then, what we can do about it. Allowing the mentality behind what can eventually evolve into a psychosis to permeate our cultures is dangerous. It should not be the case that so many men are walking around thinking that they have a natural right to women’s time, attention and bodies, and that if these things are not forthcoming the problem is not their own shortcomings but women’s refusal to do what they’re “supposed” to do. As long as that thinking is commonplace we’re going to see a lot more cases of angry, frustrated men going into public places and killing every woman they can find.
In fact, it would seem that some in the MRA movement are actually encouraging that very thing in the hopes that the world will see the manifestos the killers leave behind and somehow compel women to do whatever it is that they think women ought to be forced to do (frankly this isn’t entirely clear, given that the men in question are often both incoherent and prone to contradicting themselves from one sentence to another).
Why do so many men think that they have a right to women? And what can we do to turn the ones that haven’t gone completely off the deep end yet around, before the next time that one of them decides to vent his frustrated rage on a room full of strangers?