Friday, six people were killed by a young man who believed he had every right to take others lives, all because he believed he had been mistreated by women. Ignored and unloved, he decided to take out his final revenge in a killing spree designed to obliterate a university sorority. Two sorority members were killed.
The video of this 22-year-old (who will remain nameless) is chilling. He believes he is entitled to sex with women. The rejection he feels is unacceptable, because women should exist only to serve men and fulfill their desires.
The internet responded with a fabulous hashtag, #YesAllWomen. But it’s also responded with more men who feel the spree was justified.
This isn’t my usual kind of post, but given that my blog talks about dating, I want to take a few minutes to address this situation. I want to get personal. I want us to get our hands dirty. Let’s dig in together.
Before the #YesAllWomen hashtag came into existence, articles were claiming that the shooting spree was leading a “men’s rights movement.” This movement, born of six bullet-ridden bodies, defends the poor young man who was overlooked and ignored by women. Posts like these:
Huffington Post says this Men’s Rights Movement believes men are entitled to have sex with women. These men turn to pick up artists to instruct them on how to lie, cheat, and do whatever it takes to get a woman into bed. Because she has to. It’s her duty.
But these men are not the only ones. Their kind are carefully hidden and concealed, crafted into such sweet or attractive packages that it’s near impossible to tell who is the “good guy” and who is not. I need the white horses and dark knights to differentiate, because you just. can’t. tell. And that’s what causes fear in women. That’s why every woman I know has a story.
This one’s just mine…
For those who don’t know me well, I have a fascination with the morbid. I don’t like gore, but I watch a lot of crime shows, like crime novels, true crime, and was pre-law for about as long as nap. I work in the news industry, writing about shootings, stabbings, and bombings every day. But all this makes me very paranoid. I am a very cautious person.
When I go to the bars with friends and I am approached by a male, I will introduce myself by my middle name. I literally do not want a strange man even knowing my first name. My friends who regularly come with me to bars know this move by now and play along. But why do I do that? Why won’t I give my actual name, the name my friends call me, my family calls me, the name I assign to bus cards and restaurant receipts. Why won’t I give that name to a random man in a bar?
It’s because walking into a bar puts me on high alert. I’m preparing myself for the unwanted barrage of attention. The strange men who think they’re entitled to stick their hand up my skirt (I’ve never worn a skirt out again) or to come behind and grip my waist like a vice, crushing himself into me as if he were doing me a favor. And I am expected to be complemented, be honored by this invasion of space and unwanted attention, because — after all — women exist only to be seen and appreciated for their beauty. And by going out to a bar, clearly I am going there expecting (even wanting) this attention.
The best way to ditch one of these dudes is to say, “sorry, I have a boyfriend.” I try not to use that one, because it’s not true and I like to think I’m creative enough to find another suitable, and true, solution to remedy this situation. But “I have a boyfriend” works, because men respect other men. They would rather respect a fictional, absent boyfriend than possibly believe you’re simply not interested in them. That would be an impossibility, and would be unacceptable. But if I say, “no thank you, I’m not interested,” I am yelled at and called horrible names — from “bitch” to “cunt.” All because I simply wanted to spend time with my friends, and not be molested by a stranger.
And don’t even get me started on buying me drinks. First, the question of what’s actually in the drink. Unless I watched the bartender make every step of the drink, and that same bartender makes the same drink the exact same way a second time, and the drink-buying guy drinks his first — I don’t want your free booze. And second, I have a job. I can afford my own drinks. I never understand the point of guys buying girls drinks. You think it’s because now we’re besties and I’ll have to spend the rest of the night hanging out with you and then go home with you. Me? I just say, “hey, free drink.” It’s your loss and I feel no obligation to stay and talk to you. But thanks for the drink. And online dating is just a virtual bar, with guys lining up to buy me an obligation-tini.
Most girls I know have a story of being assaulted not just at a bar, but on a college campus. College is basically just a no-rules, no-holds-barred shit-show featuring hormonal young adults. Plus alcohol.
And, in wanting to bring a face to that generalization, here is mine. I think this story has been told to maybe two people. If that.
Just before I left for my semester abroad, some friends threw me a going away party. In full disclosure, I drank too much. I was among good friends and wasn’t planning on driving anywhere that night, so why not?
And then, R came in. I had never met him or heard of him, but he seemed nice. A friend of mine kept trying to put us together into rooms, shooing us outside together or leaving us talking in the kitchen alone. At one point, we were talking in a common room when he kissed me. That seemed okay. Then he started groping me. I told him to stop, but it wasn’t stopping. It continued as I said “stop” again and again, crying. Soon, a friend noticed what was happening and told R to get the hell out. R left. I spent the night crying and vomiting.
So why don’t I tell this story?
I don’t tell this story, because the response to this story is, “oh, poor Carin. Poor you.” or “That’s horrible. That must have been so traumatic.” The looks of pity, solace, and comfort are unnecessary. I am a grown woman and I have more than handled that situation and put it in my past. The only voice I want to hear is the one saying, “wow, that guy was a douche.” Because he was, and probably still is.
The next morning as I lay in my bed, I started getting phone call after phone call from R. I hadn’t given him my phone number. I had at least 3 voicemails before lunch, and I texted a trusted friend (at the time) to ask what was going on. She responded by saying, “oh, R wanted to apologize and you guys seemed really cute together, so I gave him your number.”
Even women force us into these unwanted relationships, fulfilling their role as matchmaker and perpetuating this fictional role of obligation. She and I are no longer friends, and to this day I can’t even believe what was going through her head, after watching my reaction to the night’s events.
The worst part of the whole story is that I consider myself lucky. I am thankful that things ended quickly and my story ends with only a few minutes of uncomfortable, unwanted touching. Because, as a woman, I should be thankful that this is how the situation ended, rather than outraged that it happened at all. “It happens.” “At least he didn’t rape you.” “You were drunk.” “You asked for it.” “Boys will be boys.” This is also why I haven’t told that story before today.
Women are not objects that can just be used for a man’s amusement or pleasure. I’ve had boyfriends threaten to commit suicide when I broke up with them. Nearly all of my friends piped up on that one, saying they’ve had the same experience. Why are we made to feel obligated to be in bad (or at least unhappy) situations, at the expense of ourselves, our happiness, our ambitions, and our dreams… all to please a man who we don’t even really like? But this is the expectation. How could we leave him in such a state?
And out of this shooting, comes a movement of women who are standing up and saying, personal rejection does NOT mean you are entitled to kill women. This has to stop. These are some of the best, courtesy of Time:
These 140 characters are so poignant, so beautiful. We are not alone as women. It is not okay to live in a world of forced middle names and carrying pepper spray. We are not entitled to do anything we do not want to do, and we should not feel bullied, guilty or intimidated by sticking up for ourselves.
I would encourage all of you to check out the #yesallwomen on Twitter, and contribute if you’d like.
And one of the most beautiful things to come of this is the response of many men, shocked and horrified by the tweets of tired, abused, and embattled women. Perhaps a woman’s best weapon of defense is awareness.