Sunday, 25 May 2014

Male entitlement kills, and we are all to blame

This is not going to be a cheerful blog. It should be - I'm going home to see my family - but six people were shot dead by a young man. They were shot dead in a premeditated act of violence, and it seems to stem from a sense that this young man was somehow entitled to a girlfriend.
This follows an attack in a school where a young woman was stabbed because she wouldn't go to prom with a guy, and while these are not the norm they are the pinnacle, the festering tip of the rot that is everywhere in our society. This rot has a name. It is male entitlement.

It is the belief, held to a greater or lesser extent by all men, that we are somehow due a girlfriend. We are taught from the cradle that getting the girl is the be-all and end-all: in Disney movies, we see ourselves as the prince. All we need to do is slay the dragon, or hit that home run, or just be a really good guy.

That's the message. Right from the cradle, right from the time our eyes are strong enough to focus on a screen, that's the message. You overcome something. You get the girl. The girl is not a person, with her own hopes, desires, fears and worries. She is the prize.

It is oft-quoted - but not often enough - that in this game, women are not the opposite team. They are the ball. This young man couldn't understand why girls didn't find him attractive, but he notes early on in his 141-page autobiography-cum-confession that he held his father in higher regard because he had been able to find "a mate" so soon after divorcing his mother.

This attitude - this mindset - is not genetic. It is taught, as I said, from the cradle. And after the cradle, when we develop thumbs and hand-eye co-ordination we start playing video games, and this same ugly trope rears its head again. Women are things to be won. "Your princess is in another castle," says one of the most famous video games of my generation. Your princess.

And then after this comes the internet. I am one of the greatest proponents of the world wide web; I'm hopeful it's going to be the saviour of this species. It allows instantaneous communication; it allows people to share information and data and reach out across the world to people like them. Unfortunately that last point is a double-sided blade that has given birth to a community of men who hate women and who can communicate with each other about just how much they hate them.

This hatred is not innate. It is a virus that sprays from television sets, from cinema, from every possible medium. Like a virus it does not cultivate everywhere; some people are immune. Some people get just a little infected, and some are completely contaminated. And they spread it. They become zealots of this new religion, but it is a religion whose roots are so intrinsic to our society that it is impossible to kill it. They are to the everyday what Muslim extremists are to Islam and the KKK are to Christianity - it is impossible to deny that misogyny-lite is utterly, utterly embedded in our system.

But we're surprised when these things happen. We really weren't expecting it, we say, and by we I mean male law enforcement and male psychologists and male politicians. I think other people were expecting it. An apocryphal quote, most usually attributed to Margaret Atwood, sums up the whole rotten situation perfectly:

"Men are afraid women will laugh at them; undercut their world view. Women are afraid men will kill them."

This boy felt, over and over again, a great pressure to be popular - and we all know that the best way of being popular is having a beautiful girlfriend. The phrase here is "arm candy," the meaning clear once more. A girlfriend is a trophy. An accessory. A thing to be desired and possessed.

The actions of this young man are surprising only to the people who do not see the unrelenting yet subtle message that is pumped through our media. You deserve a beautiful woman. You are a good guy. Women fall for good guys. If they're not falling for you...there's something wrong with them. As if women are robots, or machines, or programs. Input: friendliness and time. Output: sexual gratification.

The subtitle of this blog is we are all to blame. We do not protect our young men from this poisonous culture - we encourage it. Parents pushed their sons into sport because "girls like sporty men." Or if they showed an aptitude for IT then we had that awful strapline "the geek shall inherit the earth"
Then boys find out about sex. The sexual activity of other men is held up as a standard to aim for, as a mark of popularity, while the same is not true of women. They see their male friends becoming more popular the more women they sleep with, and they see women being punished for the same. The crushing weight of our upbringing is now applied via the fulcrum of puberty. We are suddenly, starkly, horribly aware that women hold the key to our popularity, to the satisfaction of our desires. And while there are no films that teach us shopkeepers will give up their money if you keep asking, almost every single one will teach you that women can be coerced if you ask them enough times, if you are simply nice enough to them.

Combining this attitude with one in which men are encouraged to be violent to achieve their desires, and it seems an almost perfect storm. This attitude is most prevalent in responses to feminist thoughts about equality: I hear too often that if women want to be equal, they have to accept the violence that men are apparently not currently giving them. This thought process requires that we assume that violence is a male trait, and that maleness thus described is the equality that should be aimed for. It assumes that male is the base or normal state, and that women (and therefore "feminine" values like passivity) are the Other, which must be eradicated in order to return to the base state.

Is that not absurd? Is that not the weirdest thing, to assume that violence is the basic state of humanity? Have we not advanced from the Stone Age?

'Teach your sons not to rape' is a popular slogan at the moment, and it outrages many parents who feel they do exactly that. The problem is that what the slogan should say is 'Teach your sons to be aware of the patriarchal structure of society which demands that they devalue women to the state of objects. Teach your sons not to use analogies about "keys" and "locks". Teach your sons that yes means yes, and nothing else means yes at all. Teach your sons to pick their friends up when they talk about women as sluts, to be vocal in defense of women's rights, and to treat women as people."
But it's difficult to fit that onto a sign.

This blog is a few thoughts thrown together, and it focuses on men. There are far better, far more qualified bloggers than I who talk about feminism and the many grotesqueries that women still face. Search Google. Read The Second Sex, if you've got time. Open your eyes and really look at the media you absorb. Analyse its content. How are women presented? How are men?

This blog has been about the patriarchy and its shitty effect on men. It is not intended to reduce or in any way remove from the struggle of women but, as a male writer, writing about a male hate crime against women, I feel this is where I can offer just a little bit of expertise. 

It's a product of Cracked articles, and conversations with Monique, Ria, Krista, Brandi, and the thousands of people who make up groups and pages I administrate. I am thankful to every one of them for the multiple times they've helped me learn.