Stormy Weather

Today, I had to tell an eight-year-old that he had to stop chasing down girls and kissing them. He rolled his eyes at me and told me he couldn’t stop, that the girls were “too hot,” and he had to kiss them.

I put him on time-out for thirty minutes, because with little kids, you can do that. You can sit them down, explain to them that they don’t have a right to their classmates’ bodies, tell them to keep their hands and mouths to themselves, and then discipline them if they don’t listen to you.

It’s harder to do that with grown men.

It’s especially more difficult to do with grown men when the men in question are driving vans into people.

Last Monday, April 23, 2018, Alek Minassian drove a van into a crowd and murdered 10 people, most of whom were women. He did this because he was angry at women for not having sex with him. He was part of a group of men that labeled themselves Incels, or Involuntary Celibates, a group that harbors a particular hatred towards women because women don’t want to have sex with them. In their minds, though, sex was a right that they were owed.

This attack, however, wasn’t the first of its kind.

In 1989, Marc Lépine shot 28 people and killed 14 women. He blamed feminists for ruining his sex life, and killed women because of it.

Again, in 2014, Elliot Rodger drove to a sorority house and opened fire. He shot three women and killed two. He went on to kill a total of six people and wounded 14. His goal was to punish women who weren’t having sex with him, and punish the men they chose over him.

In the Incel communities online, these mass murderers are praised as heroes. They’re men that took action and sought justice. They are men that the large online Incel community—the Reddit group alone contained 40,000 men—looks up to.

The group itself isn’t particularly new. Neither is online misogyny or harassment.

It is surprisingly uncommon for women to get death threats as well as threats of rape or other violence towards them online, and especially on twitter.

In a poll done by Amnesty International regarding online abuse and harassment, “The findings showed that nearly a quarter (23%) of the women surveyed across the eight countries said they had experienced online abuse or harassment at least once, including 21% of women polled in the UK and 1/3 (33%) of women polled in the US. In both countries, 59% of women who experienced abuse or harassment said the perpetrators were complete strangers.”

In 2015, there was an online debacle called Gamergate, which had something to do with video games, but that doesn’t really matter right now. What matters is that when women tried to add their voices to the online discussion, they were attacked–and viciously. A Vox.com article reported, “video game critic Anita Sarkeesian had to cancel a lecture in Utah after someone threatened to carry out “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if she was allowed to speak. That happened in the same month that Brianna Wua video game designer targeted by Gamergate, fled her home because she received death threats.” Felicia Day, another woman involved in the gaming community, had her personal information, including her home address, distributed all over the internet.

Feminist Frequency, a non-profit organization focused on looking at pop culture and video games through a feminist lens founded by Anita Sarkeesian, shared screenshots of the abuse they received during Gamergate.  Twitter user @JayMcKlay tweeted at her and told her “I hope every feminist has their head severed from their shoulders.” User @CorrupedNuk3r told her “Just putting it out there, you deserve all those death threats you are getting.”

And those are the ones I feel acceptable to publish on my blog.

The internet allows a place for hateful attitudes and cultures to grow. It provides, ironically, “safe spaces” for these trolls, these predators, these abusers to gain followers and support. It should surprise no one when these attitudes turn into actions and physical violence.

According to a Unicef report, “approximately 60,000 adolescent girls die each year as a result of violence and 120 million girls in the world today – about one in ten – have been victims of rape or forced sexual acts.”

This violence happens because, no matter how many times people call Incels a fringe group, and despite the fact that we are in the middle of the #metoo movement, women are still seen as possessions.

In 2011, Lauren Astley’s body was found strangled with her throat cut. She was 18 years old. Her ex-boyfriend killed her because she broke up with him.

Last month, Jaelynn Willey was shot in the head in her high school. Her murderer was her ex-boyfriend.

This has never, nor is it now, just online Incel groups perpetuating violence against women. It is our society.

This needs to change.

Women are not objects who owe sex to anyone. Women aren’t required to stay with a person that controls and hurts them. Women shouldn’t have to fear men not listening to them or not respecting or, God forbid, murdering them if they say no to a date.

But women have this fear. We are raised with it. When we walk home in the dark, we know to have keys between our fingers, or pepper spray at the ready.

In a Harper’s Bazaar article, Jennifer Wright says, “ by the time women reach sexual maturity, pretty much every woman has learned that you don’t want to make men angry. Ever. We learn to pacify men whenever possible. We tell them that we have a boyfriend rather than saying we’re just not attracted to them. We avert all eye contact with people catcalling us from their cars so as not to encourage them. We certainly don’t yell that they’re being inappropriate back at them. We laugh at men’s jokes, even when they aren’t that funny. We sit politely while they explain things to us we already know, indeed, topics we might be experts in.”

For centuries, women have existed to make men feel better about themselves. They have been accessories, an afterthought, an inferior being. Women have been raised to avoid problems instead of addressing them, to fit themselves into a society that doesn’t make space for them.

This is wrong, and it has been going on too long.

Women have been the majority of domestic and sexual violence victims simply because of their gender. They have been objectified by the media, they’ve had their lives and their personalities and their beings shoved into a too-small box. They have been blamed for the actions of men. That needs to stop.

Men need to take responsibility for themselves. They need to evaluate their actions. They need to realize  that sometimes, women just don’t want to have sex, and sometimes, even if they do want to have sex, it’s not with you. Women are independent, powerful, autonomous beings that aren’t property or inferior.

So please stop hurting us.

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