Tag Archives: mass shootings

Men Need to Expect More from Men

by Gabriel Valdez

I went to look up more information on the Maryland school shooting, and the shooter’s motives in relation to an ex-girlfriend.

What came back was a host of articles going back the last year of men shooting ex-girlfriends. This search was limited to Maryland.

So I looked up Massachusetts. Mississippi. What about states with less population? Vermont. Wyoming.

Again and again, pages and pages, of men murdering girlfriends and exes. Pages and pages going back through time for each without even reaching incidents prior to 2017.

There is a significant, unaddressed problem with toxic masculinity in this culture. This is hardly the first time I’ve said this and I’m hardly the first person who’s said this. It’s been said for decades, and in different language for centuries across the history of our culture.

It doesn’t change unless men expect better from the men beside us. It doesn’t change unless we talk with men about this, even men we agree with, because it has to be normal for us to talk about it. It can’t just be something we bring up when we think there’s a problem.

It has to be something we bring up because it’s important and core to our culture and core to who we are as men, and who we want the men beside us to be as men, what we want our community and culture as men to value. When it’s a problem, it’s already too damn late, and somebody’s already getting hurt because our silence and complicity and avoidance of the topic has already been interpreted as license.

Higher expectations of other men doesn’t mean a damn fucking thing if we don’t voice those higher expectations, and make doing so a normal part of our lives, a normal part of their lives.

Otherwise our expectations are empty, and we only speak them to remain perceived as safe by women in our lives – and that kind of subtle politicking is so you can interpret the performance of ally-ship as your own license, as your own excuse, as your own fallback.

This is common with every privilege – whiteness, straightness, being enabled. If you don’t go out to other men and do the work of it, and vocalize your expectations of them, you’re simply politicking to the people around you so you can keep safe a harbor for your own privilege.

As men, we need to do so much more. We need to not just feel safe because we have a moral expectation, but we need to risk feeling unsafe because we’re willing to hold others up to the same. People are literally dying because too many of us aren’t willing to step outside the realm of ally-ship that’s most convenient and comfortable. We need to fucking get over that.

The feature image is from the ABC News story on the shooting here.

Their Desperate Arsenal: Beasts with No Leashes

by Vanessa Tottle

The gall of them:

The gall of some little bitch with a bowl cut, son of some proud lineage of death in South Carolina.

The gall of a Chicago cop who treated his trigger finger like that of a Ferguson cop or a Cleveland cop.

The gall of a man in a movie theater with a gun and the anger to use it.

The gall of Roseburg, Oregon. The gall of San Bernardino, California. The gall of Houston, Texas. This is the 355th mass shooting this year.

The gall of a man who once lived in a town called Black Mountain, like a beast from mythology. We best not return him there, in the fog of a cabin lonely in the woods where police will hear a man has hit his wife and shot at dogs and do nothing because that is the purpose of living in the fog of a cabin lonely in the woods.

Dear Colorado Springs,

Here’s my body, dictate it.

“No more baby parts,” he said.

We fight a war of remembrance, the names too many. Across the nation, victims will be remembered for their relation to others, for cruel fates, for last moments spent wanting to be a child again hiding under covers.

I want to hide under the covers. I don’t want to be saddled with memory now.

“No more baby parts,” he said, like a Fiorina or a Cruz. Like a Rubio or a Trump.

We tell the shooters this: I swear to God I will forget you. I swear to God I will forget you. I swear to God I will forget you.

Yet I can’t. We strive to keep terrorists out, but their sponsors hold debates on CNN and say that women bleed too much to ask questions on national TV, that a woman’s body is given too much freedom, that we must be kept, or dangerous if escaped, or shot if dangerous, or forgotten if shot, or meaningless if forgotten, so why spend so much time on women at all?

They are beasts with no leashes, they are footsteps coming closer in the hall outside with the lights off. Hiding under the covers won’t prolong what comes next. I know.

Which is more dangerous, the gun or the camera? The gun points one at a time. The camera points 45 million men with guns in the U.S. alone.

He once lived in a town called Black Mountain, like a beast from mythology, and beasts beget beasts, and to return these beasts to myth is to make them myth, is to beget beasts, is to hide under covers at night with the lights off and footsteps coming closer in the hall.

We are not crafted of hiding under covers. We are not crafted of anticipating our own pain. We are not crafted of covering this over with Star Wars and Christmastime and ‘It will get better: because.’

We are made of voices, all. Support what they hate. Support feminism with a fury. Support freedom of religion for Muslims and Christians and everyone else. Accept and offer asylum for refugees, whether victimized by ISIS across oceans or a man with a fist who lives in your own town. Ban guns and fucking mean it. Get the KKK out of our police departments. Haul everyone you know to vote.

We can ignore them endlessly, we can hide under covers endlessly until the day it’s not our problem anymore, and the young look up and see us hiding under covers and think it must be a good example to follow. Or we can make them obsolete. And we can make them obsolete.

“No more baby parts,” the gunman said. Just body parts.

To him, that is all we are.

We are crafted out of so much more than that.

 

For more:

“Their Desperate Arsenal: Isla Vista and the War at Hand”

“Silent All These Years – American Terror Story”

“If Only She’d Had a Gun”

Their Desperate Arsenal: Isla Vista and the War at Hand

Too Familiar

by Vanessa Tottle

The gall of them. The gall of one young shit in Isla Vista. He used a Sig-Sauer P226, which is what James Bond used in Bolivia after getting a woman killed because he fucked her like a prize.

He also had a Glock 34. Denzel Washington used that once in Man on Fire. He looked very good in slow-motion gunfights. He needed to. There was a white, blonde, baby Dakota Fanning to save from endless Mexicans.

I was owned once. It was not in the way that Elliot Rodger would have liked. It was in the way that an abusive family owns you, like a vase they don’t know where to put, so they stick you out of sight and out of mind, but still you’re owned, and your chief quality is your quietness, and sometimes that is reinforced.

I weigh 105 pounds. I am a 105 pound vase. I crack myself because my quality is quietness. I have a black belt in krav maga. It has cost me three cracked ribs and a broken jaw. Try getting the flu with a broken jaw.

I lead paleontology digs now. I have taken assistant leadership roles in Canada, the United States, China, and South America. I almost have my Ph.D. It has cost me a broken ankle, a concussion, and cool-looking parasites. Once, I stood looking at a bear while friends climbed up river banks to safety, and I was all that was between my friends and the bear. The bear didn’t move. Maybe it saw a vase whose quality was quietness, with too many cracks to give a shit about one more. Maybe it was disinterested.

The gall of one young shit in Isla Vista, to think I can be owned, to think I would go back to that, to think I would move aside for him, to think that Bond and Denzel gave him strength enough to move a woman. I was thin as ragged bones until I left my parents’ house and learned I was crafted out of more than quietness.

What has he to show for pain? Disappointed misogyny? Three guns and nowhere to use them? Pain is real. You don’t come back from it. You feel it all the time. I don’t doubt that he felt pain. I doubt that he had ever earned it.

Pain can be taught. I’m a Harry Potter fan, I think every abused kid is, so let me describe it like this: pain can be cast like a charm over you. Pain can be offered as an excuse by people who want to master you. You think it’s real. You think you won’t come back from it. You think you feel it all the time. But it isn’t real. You are bewitched. You are the victim of an illusion.

Believe in any pain for long enough, and you become a thing, owned by whoever made you believe in it. The boy in Isla Vista belonged to someone else. He belonged to the Male Rights Association. He belonged to a philosophy. He had found a family who taught him the pain he should believe in, and who taught him being owned by their philosophy was the only outlet for that pain. He became a vase they didn’t know where to put, but one they crafted out of violence.

If you want to temper a human being, you give her hope. You tell her that her enemies are behind her, that they cannot hurt her anymore. You teach her cracking can be beautiful. You teach her to look at herself as a leader.

If you want to temper a weapon, you give him hate. You tell him that his enemies are all around him, that they only think of hurting him. You teach him cracking isn’t acceptable. You teach him to follow you.

I was a vase, stuck out of sight and out of mind. So was he. To pretend we started any different is a lie. To call him evil is to isolate the repercussions to a dead man. I hate him, but I won’t ease my mind with excuses. He was shaped this way by others. He was tempered through a process. He was taught who to blame and who to hate. His life was not a war, he was just a weapon made by others. He was an amateur. The professionals don’t get their hands dirty. The ones who teach young men to think this way are waging the war. The politicians who seek to control our rights to our bodies are waging the war. They teach men to be mastered. They teach women to be tired. Before we see what other weapons that philosophy can make, we need to treat this like a war as well. Our weapons are leadership, creativity, knowledge, communication, and relentlessness.

They try to take away our leadership by destroying Head Start and Acorn and unions across North America. They reinforce the idea that one president’s too black to lead and the next president is too much of a woman to lead. They try to take away our creativity by stealing from PBS and NPR, by foisting us with Common Core education and standardized testing. They try to take away our knowledge by making higher education unaffordable. They consolidate media into a handful of channels, and these channels interrupt discussions of hate crimes and government deadlock with breaking Justin Bieber news. They try to take away our communication by bankrupting the postal service and making plans to sell the internet chunk by chunk like parcels of land. They replace these with false alternatives, hoping we don’t notice. They try to take away our relentlessness by making us re-fight the battles we have already won – abortion, voting rights, fair pay, social security, veteran care. Women are exhausted from fighting for our bodies. Minorities are exhausted from working harder for the right to vote. The poor are exhausted from working more to make the same. The elderly are exhausted from a broken promise they worked all their lives to earn. Soldiers are exhausted from physical and emotional scars that go untreated.

This isn’t by conspiracy, not entirely. It’s by mentality, but when a mentality is so deeply and overwhelmingly ingrained in us, it exhibits the same traits as the conspiracies we make up to distract ourselves. But why do they fight so desperately? Why do they take away so much? Because our fate is progress, and theirs is to dwindle.

When you’re in a corner, your training takes over. You don’t think. You react from years of being taught what to do. When I broke my jaw, I was sparring two men who are twice my size and ranked above me. One was my instructor. Krav Maga is never fair. You’re not meant to win fights. You’re meant to learn to keep on going despite being broken. I believe that’s why I take to it. I remained sparring for five minutes after my jaw cracked. I could barely see or hear through the pain. Breath came and went. My body took over as my mind receded. All I could think of was not being cornered. Don’t get cornered, don’t get cornered. I had been cornered years of my life; I would not go back to that. I was given the option to stop. I would not stop. Classmates told me I became vicious. I had no chance to begin with, and then my jaw broke. I lost the match, that was always the point. But I understood then: I was tempered through a process.

Theirs is a different process: Right to rape. Oppression by exhaustion. Destroying the middle class. Imprisoning minorities. Ownership via hatred. They have been tempered by an ugly mentality. But their desperation is no different. We can recognize it if we stop to think and consider their ridiculousness. They have the option to stop, but they react from years of being taught what to do. They are still mastered by their mentality and those who preach it. It is because they will lose that they have become so vicious on its behalf.

I have overheard friends say there’s nothing we can do. I have been told change is a process that takes place over decades. No shit. What number decade is this in that process? My right to vote was established in 1920. The Civil Rights Act happened in 1964. Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973.

Change doesn’t happen for people out of sight and out of mind. It doesn’t happen for the quiet. It certainly doesn’t happen for those afraid of being cracked. I think we’re all done with that. I hope we’re all done with that. They have brandished their weapons. Now let us brandish ours: Let us lead. Let us create. Let us teach. Let us communicate. Let us be relentless. Ours are not the backs against the wall anymore, so let us refuse to act the part.

Long ago, our chief quality was quietness. We are crafted out of so much more than that.

Isla Vista lead

Wednesday Collective — Talking About Isla Vista

Isla Vista

Ask me about dance or film or anything else, and I can go on for hours right now. Especially right now. Ask me about Isla Vista and…I’ve written pages of reaction and vetted them with a close friend, and they’re just not there yet. I will tell you a quick story about the Pick-Up Artist and Male Rights culture, however.

I lost an old friend in February last year to the Pick Up Artist culture. Let’s call him Bob, though that’s not his real name. I had visited Bob in New Jersey for a weekend, but one untested restaurant later and I was slammed with the worst case of food poisoning I’ve ever had. He was very helpful, even going with me to the hospital, but when he had to step out and I needed to ask his roommate for help, it became an issue. Let’s call her Alicia, though that’s not her real name either. You see, to put it in his words, Alicia was his. She had already informed him once that she was very much her own and no one else’s, but this didn’t stop him from exercising some territorial mark to everyone behind her back. As he described to me, one day she’d realize she owed him for his being such a good friend, and everything else would work itself out.

Bob had been spouting Pick Up Artist gibberish for years: “Have you heard about negging?” “What about getting a friend to talk you up?” “Do you have a backstory ready?”

For years, I had joined other friends in laughing off Bob’s PUA obsession as something harmless. We’d argue with him from a philosophical standpoint, but we’d invariably let it go as not something important enough to truly fight over. That was our mistake, because by the time that thinking had festered in him for years, by the time he found himself with his life truly backed up against the wall, women had turned into nothing more for him than a goal his suffering earned. Alicia was to be Bob’s reward for having a tough run of life, and he spouted off the PUA gibberish as if it were religious dogma.

I asked Alicia if she would still be around to let me back in after I hobbled down the street to get a prescription filled for my nausea. It was the end of a friendship. Now, I feared getting locked out for the day in a bad section of New Jersey while I could barely stand upright, but in Bob’s mind, other men in the apartment weren’t allowed to be alone with Alicia, because all men must think like he did. Suddenly, I became privy to the same kind of gender inequality we usually only attach to the most extreme religious fundamentalism. It didn’t matter that I was seeing someone. It didn’t matter that Bob and I had been friends for years. It didn’t matter that I must’ve looked real supersexy puking my guts out Exorcist-style. It certainly didn’t matter that Alicia was a person capable of her own free will. Bob could only understand the world through a reward-system of sex and male dominance. In his mind, every decision in his life had to be oriented around the acquisition and defense of sex.

I ended up driving home on massive medication, and not having eaten in two days, because it was too disturbing to stay in New Jersey. When I got home, there were e-mails from him. There were texts from him. I started getting calls at 2 a.m. just to inform me Alicia was his. I scuttled the friendship. Bob had, over several years, adopted himself into a cult. And make no mistake – PUA and the Male Rights Association are cults, developed with the same purpose in mind as any other cult – to indoctrinate and addict paying believers. Like many cults, they need an enemy who’s visually different from their membership – in this case, women. Like many cults, teachings become more and more aggressive to the point of violence and hatred – the one who offers the best opportunity to blame and hate the enemy makes the most money.

I talked with Alicia some weeks later. She was fine. She had found a way to largely extract herself from the situation. I haven’t talked to Bob since, and I’m thankful for that.

MRAs around the country are cults, pure and simple. They don’t always take the look of cults because they’re compound isn’t brick and mortar, but rather an online, anonymous one. They have extensive online outreach, messaging campaigns, newsletters, forums, advice columns, all driven toward the purpose of indoctrination. Some of the more complex ones have oriented themselves around hacking women’s phones and computers. There’s a cottage industry of revenge porn, often involving photoshopping the ex-girlfriends of members onto the bodies of nude models, and then forwarding the resulting fake to the ex-girlfriend’s employers, friends, and relatives in an effort to make her ostracized and get her fired. Other members may volunteer their time to stalk the ex. If they can’t have her, she doesn’t deserve to have a life – that’s what many of these men feel. That’s what the idiot in Isla Vista felt. These cults have members who form the same kind of cause-driven militias that other cults have, and though these associations may be socially networked, their guns are very real.

I also don’t want to relegate the issue to a couple of dangerous nuts. What makes so many men susceptible to PUA and MRA is a culture that values sex as a reward to be won in our films, our video games, our television, our books. We don’t just need better gender representation in our media, but a reassessment of the value systems that our media reinforces. We have a Star Wars film with one female lead to six male leads. How much do you want to bet she’s a love interest? We have 25 superhero films centered around a man for every one superhero film centered around a woman. That includes the most expensive cinematic franchise ever created, which boasts exactly one female superhero among eight males. That’s bullshit.

Look, I’m only qualified to talk about this from a media and art perspective, maybe something of a political one, though it’s been a few years since I was in that game. Every reader is going to be qualified to talk about this through their own specialties. Figure out what you have to say, make sure it’s something that adds to the conversation, and voice up. We may think our goal is to keep Isla Vista from happening again, but the truth is, Isla Vista happens in the form of assault and rape thousands of times every day because of the way men are raised to view themselves, sex, and their relationship to women in this country. The conservative estimate is that a sexual assault happens once every two minutes in the U.S., but this doesn’t take into account an estimate that 75 to 95% of assaults go unreported. That means that the real number may be as high as once every six seconds.

But I’m not an expert in this. There are people far better equipped than I to talk about what caused this and what might begin the process toward addressing it. Please read their words and consider what they have to say. I’ll post their articles below without the usual Wednesday Collective commentary because, frankly, what they have to say, they say far better than I can:

Stockton Man Reportedly Opens Fire on Women After They Refuse Sex
Isha Aran

Let’s call the Isla Vista killings what they were: misogynist extremism
Laurie Penny

On Elliot Rodger, Isla Vista, Patriarchy
Chris Braak

Elliot Rodger’s California shooting spree: further proof that misogyny kills
Jessica Valenti

Christopher Michael-Martinez’s Father Gets It Right
Adam Gopnik

Seth Rogen Is Not A Victim Of The Santa Barbara Killings
Jessica Goldstein

‘No Way To Prevent This’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens
The Onion staff