Saturday, August 08, 2009

Real Men Don't Hurt Women

Women at Risk

By BOB HERBERT August 8, 2009. Op-Ed Columnist

[ We should pay attention to, and act on, what Bob Herbert is saying. He's been way out in front on this issue for a long time. When will we see real men stand up and start defending the dignity and honor of women? - Rick ]

“I actually look good. I dress good, am clean-shaven, bathe, touch of cologne — yet 30 million women rejected me,” wrote George Sodini in a blog that he kept while preparing for this week’s shooting in a Pennsylvania gym in which he killed three women, wounded nine others and then killed himself.

We’ve seen this tragic ritual so often that it has the feel of a formula. A guy is filled with a seething rage toward women and has easy access to guns. The result: mass slaughter.
Back in the fall of 2006, a fiend invaded an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania, separated the girls from the boys, and then shot 10 of the girls, killing five.

I wrote, at the time, that there would have been thunderous outrage if someone had separated potential victims by race or religion and then shot, say, only the blacks, or only the whites, or only the Jews. But if you shoot only the girls or only the women — not so much of an uproar.

According to police accounts, Sodini walked into a dance-aerobics class of about 30 women who were being led by a pregnant instructor. He turned out the lights and opened fire. The instructor was among the wounded.

We have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected.

We profess to being shocked at one or another of these outlandish crimes, but the shock wears off quickly in an environment in which the rape, murder and humiliation of females is not only a staple of the news, but an important cornerstone of the nation’s entertainment.

The mainstream culture is filled with the most gruesome forms of misogyny, and pornography is now a multibillion-dollar industry — much of it controlled by mainstream U.S. corporations.

One of the striking things about mass killings in the U.S. is how consistently we find that the killers were riddled with shame and sexual humiliation, which they inevitably blamed on women and girls. The answer to their feelings of inadequacy was to get their hands on a gun (or guns) and begin blowing people away.

What was unusual about Sodini was how explicit he was in his blog about his personal shame and his hatred of women. “Why do this?” he asked. “To young girls? Just read below.” In his gruesome, monthslong rant, he managed to say, among other things: “It seems many teenage girls have sex frequently. One 16 year old does it usually three times a day with her boyfriend. So, err, after a month of that, this little [expletive] has had more sex than ME in my LIFE, and I am 48. One more reason.”

I was reminded of the Virginia Tech gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people in a rampage at the university in 2007. While Cho shot males as well as females, he was reported to have previously stalked female classmates and to have leaned under tables to take inappropriate photos of women. A former roommate said Cho once claimed to have seen “promiscuity” when he looked into the eyes of a woman on campus.

Soon after the Virginia Tech slayings, I interviewed Dr. James Gilligan, who spent many years studying violence as a prison psychiatrist in Massachusetts and as a professor at Harvard and N.Y.U. “What I’ve concluded from decades of working with murderers and rapists and every kind of violent criminal,” he said, “is that an underlying factor that is virtually always present to one degree or another is a feeling that one has to prove one’s manhood, and that the way to do that, to gain the respect that has been lost, is to commit a violent act.”

Life in the United States is mind-bogglingly violent. But we should take particular notice of the staggering amounts of violence brought down on the nation’s women and girls each and every day for no other reason than who they are. They are attacked because they are female.

A girl or woman somewhere in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every couple of minutes or so. The number of seriously battered wives and girlfriends is far beyond the ability of any agency to count.

There were so many sexual attacks against women in the armed forces that the Defense Department had to revise its entire approach to the problem.

We would become much more sane, much healthier, as a society if we could bring ourselves to acknowledge that misogyny is a serious and pervasive problem, and that the twisted way so many men feel about women, combined with the absurdly easy availability of guns, is a toxic mix of the most tragic proportions.

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Blogger A Thespian in the Desert said...

It's refreshing to read this Rick. My wife is an anthropologist, and together we have done fieldwork regarding women and violence (most recently with Roma [Gypsy] Women in Poland). We have a pre-teen son, and it is a perpetual struggle to 'shield' him from culture's pervasive misogyny (walk into any convenience store, and 'men's magazines', or what I call soft porn like Maxim, are right at eye-level for young children to peruse). And as a professor of Anthropology, my wife is always astounded by how many students don't see misogynist practices / discourses as problematic. I just discovered your blog today (I am a self-professed lay-Jesuit father/husband from Canada), and really love it. Thanks. Shawn.

Thu Aug 13, 04:41:00 PM 2009  
Blogger Brad said...

What about countries like Colombia, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Brazil... the list of catholic nations is long and a lot of them are very violent.
You've had over 500 years of religious monopoly in Latin America; it's still poor, backwards, uneducated, corrupt and very misogynistic. You can't even get enough of your own people down there to become priests!
Why should we listen to your church about this country when you've done a much worse job in places where you've had things your own way for centuries?

Sun Aug 30, 07:46:00 PM 2009  
Blogger manhattantwst said...

Brad’s comments are very true; I have lived in recently I lived in Dominican Republic and psychological damaged incurred by women there over the years is incredible. It is estimated that over 1200 acts of rape and abused against women go unreported on a weekly basis, over 800 cases of woman targeted by muggers on their way to school, work or home happens every day.

The worst part is the sense of hopelessness that you can observed in the eyes on mostly women that are victims in a society that regards them as stupid or less then worthy of attention whenever they suffer such attacks in a male dominated society that has little or no respect for women.

Wed Oct 21, 02:04:00 PM 2009  
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