Why ignore misogyny? (Because it hurts less.)

The responses to the recent Pennsylvania shooting speaks volumes about how we view (or ignore) misogyny.
In the aftermath of George Sodini’s horrific crime, I took some solace in the fact that the media was covering the crime as one targeted towards women. (Something they failed to do several years ago when similar shootings occurred.) And this weekend, I was even more heartened – and not at all surprised – to see Bob Herbert of The New York Times link the shooting to our culture’s hatred of women:

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.

Yet despite the links being made in the mainstream media, and the numerous bloggers and reporters who have shown that Sodini had ties to the “pick up artist” community and probably would have fit in well with the “Nice Guy” sect as well – some people are aghast that anyone would link Sodini’s crime to a larger culture of misogyny.
Take, for example (and this is just one of many), conservative anti-feminist blogger Cassy Fiano – who after a roundup of feminist blogger responses to the shooting, writes:

…To say that it is a “culture-wide problem” because America is apparently just still so misogynistic is ridiculous and wrong. And feminists know that. Most men do not harbor secret fantasies of forcing women to have sex with them whether they want to or not, nor do most men dream about enacting violence against women. Yet it doesn’t keep feminists from labeling men this way.
What I think it boils down to is that feminists no longer have anything to fight for. And so, a movement that once was dedicated to fighting for equality between sexes has now resorted to slandering all men as angry, violent, women-haters in order to further their own feminist agenda. George Sodini is a sick, evil man who I hope rots in hell for what he’s done. And while I don’t think feminists are evil, they should still be ashamed of themselves for exploiting a tragedy of this nature in order to continue to smear men.

I genuinely find this kind of reasoning completely fascinating. Calling feminists opportunists and conflating cultural criticisms with man-bashing seems to serve only one purpose – denial. (And some head-patting from misogynists, of course – but that’s a post for a different day.) Seriously, I have often wondered why anti-feminists spout what they do. The only answer I’ve been able to come up with is denial, and an extreme desire to believe that if they’re not one of those women (feminists, sluts, etc) then they will be safe. If they can separate themselves from the reality of most women’s lives, and the terrifying culture that is misogyny in America, then somehow they will be immune to it all.

Part of me gets it, truly. Opening your eyes to the way that U.S. culture views women – and hates women – is not pleasant. It’s scary and unsettling and makes you question…well, everything. But the sad fact is, you can’t wish misogyny away. It exists whether you believe in it or not.
And when you rail against feminists, or the idea that misogyny is a culture-wide problem – you are enabling misogynists. That’s why I wasn’t surprised to see that this was the first comment to Fiano’s post:

There is no ‘culture of misogyny’ at all. The feminists are, as usual, unhinged. to a point, I think Mr Sodini had a few valid points. I’m not the most attractive guy in the world, and have experienced downright offensive rejections when I attempted to approach an ‘attractive’ girl. The women viewed me as completely beneath them, and how DARE I approach them, since i clearly was not up to their standards. These were the same girls that cried and whined when they had sex with a guy that never called them back. So from one perspective, I can relate to his feelings. He simply took it to a serious extreme.
If the feminists want to blame anybody, they should be blaming themselves for how so many of them treat men in today’s modern society.

Another commenter calls Sodini “a victim of the women who dismissed him.” One person even singles out me:

If sex is but a good time, it’s a real insult to not sleep with a man; you are denying himself and yourself a fun, healthy time. If sex is special – if chastity means something more than just a way of life to be shunned – then not having sex with a guy is normal.
Once you criticise chastity, you reverse the default position from not sleeping with someone to sleeping with them. So, Jess, author of The Purity Myth, how do you feel about the logical consequences of your politics?

These commenters blame everyone from the women who rejected Sodini to feminist authors – but never the culture of misogyny, and rarely Sodini himself. Because for the men who benefit from this culture, recognizing that misogyny exists would mean having to change. And for the women who live in this culture, it’s just easier – and less painful – to believe that the widespread acts of violence against women are simply anomalies that could never happen to them.
But as Herbert writes, “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.” Because maybe then, we could start figuring out ways to end it.

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