Mysogyny and Victim Blaming: UCSB Shooter Edition

At this point, many know about the murder of 6 innocent people at the University of California Santa Barbara. In fact, at this point, many people have watched the UCSB shooter’s “Retribution” video about the reasoning behind the actions he took. However, not enough people are discussing the inappropriate ways in which people are reacting to this incident. There is a false sense that this incident was an isolated one, however as is explained in “Elliot Rodger and Illusions of Nuance” misogyny and victim blaming are nothing new. People may be shocked by the incident, but how could they be considering the way it’s being discussed is all too familiar… people are victim blaming and using misogynist language just as has been done as a reaction to other instances of violence against women.

The following are comments made on the YouTube video in which the UCSB shooter explains the reasoning for his actions:

Some people actually blamed women, and the fact that they didn’t have sex with him:

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Apparently, although 6 people died, it is still humorous to tell women that if they don’t “give themselves” or sexually appease men, they will be in danger. Essentially, this “joke” is “jokingly” placing the blame on the women who have been killed.


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Although this individual expressed some disdain for the UCSB shooter’s actions, he also works under the assumption that if the UCSB shooter had had sex, he would not have killed 6 people and injured another 13. This messaging is incredibly harmful, it validates the extremely hyper-masculine idea that if he had had a sexual release of sorts, he would not need to become physically violent- which is NOT true.


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Just another example of male entitlement, the same type of entitlement that propagates violence such as the one exhibited by the UCSB shooter and the same sense of entitlement that propagates rape culture. We’re supposed to think this is funny though… right? No.


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Then there was the one that blamed feminism… an entire movement of people (not just women), who strive for gender equality and the prevention of gendered violence (among a host of other human rights) for his actions. Not only does this post blame women for the murder and injuries inflicted on the people of Isla Vista, it also paints the UCSB shooter as a victim.


Some people insulted Elliot Rodger- by attempting to emasculate him…

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What’s interesting about this comment is that in order to insult a misogynist who planned and executed a mission to kill women because he felt rejected, he called him a “magnificent little girl”. This is interesting because, apparently, the best insult Fabricio Luiz Braga could come up with, for a man who killed, and disrespected women was “little girl”. His comment in, and of, itself is misogynistic; he puts a man down for hurting people, by insulting the very people whom were hurt.


Some people only showed concern for Elliot Rodger and shifted the blame away from him:

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It may be true that “America is a lonely place”, however, since when is loneliness an excuse for killing and injuring innocent people. The actions that took place were premeditated and calculated. It is important to understand where people come from before judging their actions, however, is it really appropriate to go a step farther and applaud honesty and justify such violent actions?


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This post altogether circumvents the fact that he harmed people and instead proceeds to explain how “sad” it is that people are having sex, and that the UCSB shooter looked “hurt” and “sad”. Then, more explicitly, he says that if his parents had paid a little more attention to him, he “wouldn’t be needing love”.  The blame here is placed on a culture in which sex is very important and the parents of the UCSB shooter- however, it is not the fault of those who refused to have sex with Elliot Rodger or his parents, that he chose to harm so many people. In fact, women are not to blame for not loving, being in a relationship with or having sex with the UCSB shooter. Additionally, the UCSB shooter’s parents tried to take steps to correct his behavior and protect others by calling the police to check on their son’s “wellness”- I can imagine this is not an easy thing to do to your own son, however they did take steps to prevent such a catastrophe.


Then were those who collectively did all of the above:Picture5

In this thread, RedPanther9 attempted to shift the blame off of Elliot Rodger, and wrote that he had done “a good job”- he congratulated the individual for killing 6 people and injuring another 13. Woodzy responded by insulting RedPanther9, although it is good that the inappropriate nature of RedPanther9’s comment was noted, the way in which it was inappropriate. Using the word “retarded” is hate speech- to find out more about why the R-word is hurtful, check out R-Word: Spread the Word, to End the Word. Also, by using the words “cunt” and “pussy” as derogatory terms, he is insulting a misogynist, murderer by emasculating him- by calling him variations of demeaning terms used to describe vaginas. Why would a body part be inherently insulting? Or is it the fact that vaginas are closely related to being a woman, and being feminine is the insult? Then, Shepot95 tops of the insulting comment by saying “stop being such a beta and find yourself a girl” as if finding a girl could stop any of the offensive behavior exhibited by the other people who commented and the UCSB shooter.

Have any ideas or reflections on how the conversation revolving this incident are reflective of the negative aspects of our society? Please let me know!

I am NOT just a “Feisty Latina”: Microaggressions in everyday life

I would like to start off by stating that when I am vocal about racism, sexism, and other problematic language; I am NOT to be dismissed as just another “feisty Latina”.

As a Latina feminist, living and going to college in DC, I live in a place predominantly surrounded by liberal individuals who understand the dangers and evils of prejudice. This complicates the way in which power dynamics are viewed, discussed and how their role in my life, and the life of the individuals with whom I interact, is interpreted. In a predominantly white, higher-to-upper middle class, social-justice-oriented institution, it is sometimes hard for me to explain my experience of the subtle, insidious effects of sexist and/or racially-charged microaggressions.

The word “microaggression” (Click Here to Learn More About Microaggressions) was coined by Chester M. Pierce in the 1970s, and several psychologists have since worked with the term. More recently, Derald Wing Sue defined microaggressions as: “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people.” Microaggressions are usually said without negative intentions, by people who have the privilege of not being aware of how or why their words are hurtful. Peggy McIntosh expanded the conception of privilege- the exploration of how groups can either be systemically advantaged or disadvantaged from gendered discussions to racial discussions. In her working paper, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’(1989), McIntosh acknowledges her own discovery of her privilege when she writes: “As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something which puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage.” A particular sore spot is the mentioning of white privilege (see “White Privilege the Invisible Backpack” for more information) and extensions of it, which come in the form of offhanded, offensive language. Microaggressions are usually casually brought up, with no intention of being insulting- they are, however, offensive, even if they are unintentionally so.

As McIntosh mentions, it is hard for people to recognize their own privilege. This leads to people perpetuating racism or sexism in ever-so-insidious ways, even if they do not intend on being offensive. The fact that microaggressions are not intentionally offensive makes it hard for those who are less privileged, or who are triggered or insulted by them to explain how or why they feel their identities being belittled, challenged or otherwise insulted. At this point in history, it is increasingly rare for people to say blatantly racist, sexist or homophobic slurs without natural social sanctions serving as consequences for those statements. However, the mainstreaming and generally privileged nature of “whiteness” in American society still allows for the perpetuation of racial and/or sexist stigma through the use of microaggressions- most of which come from the oversimplification of or the same ignorance of the complex nature and connection of race and identity in communities of color, that fuel racism.Personally, as a Latina, my experience of being a minority is new, and has been limited due to the fact that I was brought up in Miami, FL. In Miami, I was surrounded, mostly, by Hispanic people like myself. At the time, I did not recognize the privileges that came from being a member of the demographic that was a local majority.

In an environment in which I am new to being a minority, and some people are not used to minorities, or Latinas, it is difficult for me to pinpoint and express the ways in which I’ve been affected by microaggressions. Recently however, a friend who actively tries to understand me and my culture offhandedly called me a“feisty Latina”. I laughed at this, because I am proud of my reputation of speaking up for what I value, and I am proud of my heritage. I was not directly hurt by the statement- but it did make me more conscious (and self-conscious) of my identity contingencies. Identity contingencies, as described by Claude Steele in his book Whistling Vivaldi, are “the things you have to deal with in a situation because you have a given social identity”. Steele argues that identity contingencies affect us when they are compounded by stereotype threats, which are instances in which you are aware of a stereotype about one of your identities and refrain from doing things that would affirm those stereotypes. This played out, in my personal life, later that night.

Alex, his friend John and I went out for a late-night dessert was when I discovered just how insidious the effects of microaggressions can be. At the shop, my friend Alex and I were looking at books together while John was browsing in a nearby section. Then, some man came up to us, looked at me from head-to-toe, pointed at me, and told Alex he had a “hot friend” (me). The way the stranger looked at me, with a perverted look in his eyes, and then didn’t acknowledge me infuriated me. I could not believe how he could simultaneously pour over my body so intently and act as if I don’t exist; it felt like objectification at its most revolting. I wanted to coolly tell him that it was not acceptable to be disrespectful. I wanted to yell at him that he was being a misogynistic ass. I wanted to say something- but I didn’t. The first thought that raced through my mind was to make sure I wasn’t overreacting or just being feisty. That identity contingency, which I usually ignore, rendered me unable to respond to this strange man’s disrespectful behavior. THAT is the threat that microaggressions pose- they are so subtle that they go unnoticed, but ultimately lead to self-policing behaviors. Racism is not as overt as it once was, but it is pervasive. Racism has become so ingrained in our society that although we may know there is more genetic difference between people of the same “race” or “ethnicity” than between people of different “races” or “ethnicities” we still divide people along those arbitrary lines. We still assume that the “feisty Latina” and “angry black woman” stereotypes have some validity. Racism looks differently now, it is systemic, ingrained in our thought and is usually a result of self-policing which results from the fear of validating negative stigma about one’s own race/ethnicity.

What I learned from it all:

I was NOT being a feisty Latina. I was being a human, who was angered by racist and sexist language.

 

 

References

Sue, Derald Wing; Capodilupo, Christina M.; Torino, Gina C.; Bucceri, Jennifer M.; Holder, Aisha M. B.; Nadal, Kevin L.; Esquilin, Marta. Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice. American Psychologist, v62 n4 p271-286 May-Jun 2007.

McIntosh, Peggy, ‘White privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack’,Peace and Freedom (July/August 1989), 9-10; repr. in Independent School, 49 (1990), 31-35. http://people.westminstercollege.edu/faculty/jsibbett/readings/White_Privilege.pdf

Steele, Claude. Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do. W. W. Norton & Company, 2011. Print.

“Tough Guise” and “Women’s” Issues: A critical look at American Masculinity

On Thursday, April 3, 2014, American University hosted Jackson Katz, to discuss the role of men in sexual assault and gendered violence prevention. Jackson Katz led the discussion at the “More than a Few Good Men: A Lecture on American Manhood and Violence Against Women” event.

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion, American University’s Athletics, Women’s Initiative, the Panhellenic community and AU’s Peer Educators for the Elimination of Relationship and Sexual Violence (PEERS).

This event was introduced by Karrie Diekman and Daniel Rappaport (read more about his role as a Sexual Assault Prevention Coordinator at AU here), who introduced the event as a kick-off event for the events that will take place in April, as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

Jackson Katz is a leader in gender violence prevention education. He is also the founder of Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) one of the original bystander initiatives. It is a gender violence prevention program that targets athletes as leaders in the violence prevention and bystander intervention fronts of sexual assault prevention.

Intro to Jackson Katz, a TED talk from the past:

The role of men:

His opening argument is that on a political, social and emotional level, men are following the lead of women who have led the fight against sexual assault, and gendered violence prevention. He explains that “there is no doubt that men and boys have been helped by their [the work of women] efforts” to prevent these issues. Later, he explains the connection between labeling these issues as “women’s issues” and “gendered” issues can be confusing; and how in our patriarchal society, it prevents men from seeing past their privilege and acknowledging their role in preventing these issues. Following this, he explained how the language used to describe sexual assault, and it’s passive nature, perpetuates the idea that men are not the issue (Ex. rape is discussed passively: “a woman was raped” not affirmatively, as in the statement: a “man raped a woman”.

“You can’t take gender out of the equation”

Katz explains that using gender-neutral language in fields where men are dominant, is pragmatic. He explains however, that erasing “gender” doesn’t get rid of gendered issues, it erases their importance. The erasure of the “gendered” nature of these issues, he explains, is that it serves men, who leverage more power in our society.

“It’s embarrassing to be congratulated for doing what men should be doing”

He conjectures that in a society in which it is unremarkable for men to stand up for women, less assault and gendered violence would exist. The problem is, he is, that the perpetrators of these issues are much more normal than people want to expect- this makes people uncomfortable, he explains, because it forces people to reflect introspectively about their own capacity to partake in such behavior.

Race and Violence

Katz connects racism to violence against women by explaining that “when a man of color does it [is violent or assaults women]” issues are seen as a problem associated with their race. On the contrary, stereotypically, when white men assault women, whether it be sexually or violently, the violence is rationalized by blaming it on alcoholism, childhood drama, and mental health issues.

Feminism and “Feminazis”

Katz opened the discussion on feminism by discussing how in-congruent it is to believe in American, egalitarian ideals and not self-identify as feminist:

“if you are an american, and you believe in justice, freedom and equality, and you are NOT a feminist, then please explain your ideology”

What does “feminazi” mean? It is an amalgamation of the words “feminist” and “Nazis”. Feminists are some of the great “anti violence leaders in the our time, and of all time”. Nazi’s were the “embodiment” of the anti-Semitic, homophobic, genocidal glorification of masculine cruelty.

He later went on to say that feminists should not be demonized because:

“Feminists don’t hate men, they expect more from men because they have higher expectations of them.”

Masculine Push-back and Being a “Beta-Male”

Katz explained how men push-back against him.  He has been called names like “man-gina”, “beta male” or “Katz-trated” all of which get at the root of the issue of standing up for gendered violence. All of these names they equate compassion towards women as feminine, and violence towards women as masculine.

The Denouncement of Sexual Harassment in the Australian Army: 

Jackson Katz used the video to demonstrate the behavior that he hopes will be mirrored by leaders in all aspects of life which are affected by gendered harassment, assault or even slurs.

Risk Reduction in the Name of Prevention

Katz explored how risk reduction was promoted in the name of prevention, at the expense of depicting women as victims and men as perpetrators.  As an activist, in his twenties, he worked to try and find out how to invite men to prevent sexual assault.

Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP)

This program was the first program to utilize the bystander approach to include men in the conversation of sexual assault without labeling them “possible perpetrators”. He capitalized on the social capital of collegiate, male, athletes by targeting them as advocates for change. He explains that by strategically targeting men who have standing among their peers, he empowers them to challenge the broader understanding of masculinity and misogyny in their peer groups.

Wanna read more about Jackson Katz’ activism and MVP? Read his article Reconstructing Masculinity in the Locker Room: The Mentors in Violence Prevention Program (by clicking here).

Changing Culture

Jackson Katz stated that he makes a point of pointing out to his son, and the men he work with, that violence and violent behavior are not symptomatic of strength, so much as symptomatic of weakness. He argues that standing for justice and non-violence IS STRONG and that masculinity needs to be redefined. He responds to arguments that teaching men to stand up against violence is emasculating, by explaining that  by teaching boys to be emotional, sentient, socially engaged human being, he is not emasculating them, in fact, he is empowering them.

Tough Guise: Media Representation of Men *trigger warning for sexualized violence*

Jackson Katz created a video about the depiction of men in the media which perpetuates the idea of a narrowing, increasingly more violent embodiment of masculinity. See a clip here: