In the wake of yet another mass shooting a new round of debate has erupted, this time centered on the misogynistic rantings of the young male shooter. As a society we want a nice tidy explanation of these things so we can Fix It. Unfortunately it doesn’t really work that way. Mental illness, gun culture, bullying, violence in entertainment, breakdown of the family, it’s not just one of these. It’s some deadly concoction of all of them. It’s all been argued endlessly and sadly, we’re no closer to a real solution, if such a thing even exists. I have my positions on all these issues as do we all but I don’t think I can add much to the sea of opinion out there. However, the discussion ignited recently is slightly different because it goes beyond discussing mass murder incidents to discussing problems that affect society not only in these horrific, attention grabbing cases but every day. Thus the twitter trends #YesAllWomen, #NotAllMen, #YesAllMen…
Now I happen to basically agree with #YesAllWomen. All women live with a knowledge at the back of their mind that they must be wary. All women, unless they have been carefully sheltered, have experienced either directly or through attitudes in culture towards their sex as a whole, degradation. Thankfully for many if not most of us these incidents are not grave. However, it doesn’t take a serious assault to change your entire outlook. On my nineteenth birthday I went out to a pub with a large group of friends. This was not a night club mind you, an Irish pub, and I was dressed in jeans and a long sleeved shirt, January rainy Vancouver attire. At one point I was in a crush of people listening to the live band when someone grabbed me inappropriately. The whole incident lasted about 2 seconds, but it was clearly no accident. I never saw who it was and I immediately moved out of the crowd and stayed close to large male friends for the rest of the night. Nothing horribly scarring, but then again, I take that back. It is scarring to know that just by virtue of being female and in reach I was a target for someone. The casualness of it all is unnerving, the fact it’s just an “everyday” sort of assault. It was a lesson and a reminder, and not the first I’d had even at 19, that women are not safe. That women must be always on guard. So Yes, All Women.
Not all men? Yes all men? I think they’re both true. Not all men individually treat women disrespectfully in person. And yes all men, and yes all women too are to blame. Because we as a society, as a culture, are ALL to blame. #YesAllofUs! It’s not really an us against them proposition. Women tend to be victimized by men because it’s a fact of biology that men generally start out in a position of physical power and are more sexually driven. However, the blame for the attitudes that feed misogyny and rape culture are certainly not the exclusive province of men. Women are suffering because of our culture’s obsession with sex.
And it’s not only men who are obsessed. Really ladies, who buys Cosmopolitan? Women. The nice little google image search of their covers there reveals an awful lot of sex tips. Please note how many are about keeping “him” satisfied and interested. And it sells. In fact sex sells everything from clothing to hamburgers. Sex can make you famous. And sex is the basis of so much of our sense of humor and entertainment. Sure, I’m a practicing Catholic who believes in saving sex for marriage. But I’m not talking here from the point of view of morality. If you watched a couple hours of mainstream television at any given night on any given channel, followed up with listening to a Top 40 radio station, what would you decide was The Most Important Thing to our society. Sex. Hands down. Is that what we want?
Now sexuality is a fundamental part of human nature. Biologically speaking it does drive much of what we do, but just because it is one of the most universal and most basic urges doesn’t mean it should be the most significant. Is it misogyny that a young man felt he was owed sex by the attractive sorority sisters around him? Absolutely. It’s also completely in keeping with what society tells young men. Sex is a completely casual, completely expected part of the every day life of all young people. This is what sitcoms, dramas, movies, music, magazines and billboards tell us at every turn. Now again, I’m not arguing here from morality. Set aside whether or not extramarital sex is good or bad. Even if you think it’s A-OK, do you want to say it’s the most important thing about us as persons? Because it certainly ends up feeling that way. Virgins are treated as figures of fun, objects of pity or scorn, defective, repressed, unfulfilled, not fully adult. For men especially, virginity is like a dirty secret to keep to yourself lest your abnormality be discovered. Often virginity is played as the big obstacle to overcome. This interesting piece has much more to say about all of this particularly as it relates to young men like last weeks shooter.
So who is to blame for the degradation of women today? Let’s all take a good long look in the mirror. Do you enjoy listening to songs about satisfying your man, or about bitches and hoes? #YesYou’rePartoftheProblem Do you sit down to watch sex comedies that play sexual obsessions and the objectification of the other for laughs? Or dramas filled with degrading scenes that are “important to the plot”? Do you shrug it all off as pure entertainment like what we enjoy as a culture doesn’t shape our society? #YesYou’rePartoftheProblem Do you treat your friends who choose to (or perhaps don’t choose but still do) keep their virginity as inferior to you in some way? #YesYou’rePartoftheProblem Do you somehow classify, as I did earlier, small incidents of harrassment as minor and no big deal, like because some people do worse it’s ok to engage in “just a little” assault? #YesYou’rePartoftheProblem.