New Evidence Suggests Loughner Was Driven by Misogyny

New details about the primary suspect in the shooting in Tucson, Arizona that resulted in the death of 6 people and injury of 14, including Rep Gabrielle Giffords, suggest that Jared Loughner was driven, at least in part, by sexism and misogyny.

Jared Loughner, smiling with shaved head and black eye

A new NYTimes article describing Loughner’s personal history indicates that Loughner held sexist views and believed that women should not be in positions of power.

From the article:

“At a small local branch of a major bank, for example, the tellers would have their fingers on the alarm button whenever they saw him approaching.”

“It was not just his appearance — the pale shaved head and eyebrows that unnerved them. It was also the aggressive, often sexist things that he said, including asserting that women should not be allowed to hold positions of power or authority

One individual with knowledge of the situation said Mr. Loughner once got into a dispute with a female branch employee after she told him that a request of his would violate bank policy. He brusquely challenged the woman, telling her that she should not have any power.

Though everyone from the far-right wing to the “liberal elite” is clamoring to dismiss Loughner as a “lone wolf”, anomaly, or outlier, the truth is that his brand of resentful, angry sexist is nothing new. While no one would suggest that Loughner was driven solely by sexism, or that his profile aligns exactly with previous gunmen that espoused sexist or misogynistic views, it’s obvious that his views on women informed at least in part the decision to attempt the assassination of Gabrielle Giffords, a female Congresswoman who he had once complained to a friend was “stupid and unintelligent” according to the Times.

Even before details highlighting sexism in Loughner’s personal philosophy emerged, our very own Jessica Valenti published a piece in the Guardian arguing that “the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords highlights the ‘man-up’ culture in US politics.”

I believe that, given the evidence that has emerged over the weekend, we can take it a step farther and place Loughner as the latest in a list of violent perpetrators whose crimes were informed and motivated by hatred of women and anxious masculinity. As Jessica highlighted in a piece last year for the Washington Post:

Women are being shot dead in the streets here [in the U.S.], too. It was only last year that George Sodini opened fire in a gym outside Pittsburgh, killing three women and injuring nine others. Investigators learned from Sodini’s blog that he specifically targeted women. In 2006, a gunman went into an Amish schoolhouse in Pennsylvania; he sent the boys outside and opened fire on almost a dozen girls, killing five. That same year in Colorado, a man sexually assaulted six female students he had taken hostage at a high school before killing one of them.

Picture of George Sodini wearing plaid shirt
George Sodini, gunman in Pittsburgh gym murder that targeted Sodini’s ex-girlfriend and resulted in the death of 3 victims, all women.

Amanda Marcotte has also made some important points about the way that gender played into this shooting over at Pandagon. As Marcotte patiently explains, even though gender issues were clearly at play here, “there isn’t a single answer for why something like this happens. It’s a combination of factors…Many things can be true at once.”

I don’t have any interest in using this violent act as an occasion to wave around a feminist I-told-you-so card. In fact, the idea of doing so makes me feel disgusting. But I also don’t intend to sit by and let Loughner’s obviously sexist views be ignored or dismissed as irrelevant or somehow exceptional. Because as uncomfortable, confusing, and complicated as it may be to sort out the chilling musings of a murderer, the violence won’t stop unless we get past the political fallout and get real about the disconcerting prevalence of sexism and misogyny in our society.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to her work at Feministing, Lori is an Associate Director at Planned Parenthood Global. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

Read more about Lori

Join the Conversation