Men Who Hate Women

The rage of men who feel powerless has always been a part of the pathology of mass murderers. But there’s something particularly nasty about the open hatred of women in last night’s shootings in Isla Vista, California.

One of my best friends in lived briefly in Isla Vista, so I came to see him there in the late 90s. I remember it as a kind of laid-back, middle-class student town. An extended campus. Very like student neighbourhoods I knew in Europe. To imagine this level of carnage in such a familiar little place is strange. I called my friend this morning. He told me this is the third mass murder in the area within a ten minute walk in a little over ten years. A postal worker shot six of her co-workers dead just up the street in 2006 and a mentally ill person drove a car into a crowd of students in 2001.

This is not normal. Mass murder is not something you should have to live with and deal with. It’s an insanely rare event, a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Not something that happens on the block every few years.

So, the first thing we should notice is that this is not an individual thing. This shooting is an indication of a systemic problem: a culture of violence, and a malaise of readily available guns. Neither fully acknowledged or dealt with by the society around the killer. The seven dead people are dead in part because their government failed to do its job, failed to stand up for them and protect them.

So there is definitely something specifically American about this particular mass murder. And that problem, that bleeding wound in the American body politic, needs to be dressed and healed by American politics doing its job.

But there is also a more general evil here.

The killer was a agent of an ideologized hatred of women. In the same that racists hate black people and Muslims, this man hated women. And while some of his pathology may have been mental illness, this is the time to take that ideology out and examine it.

We need to start thinking of the ideological hatred of women as a thing similar to racism: a general underlying hatred (misogyny, hatred of women) which becomes politicised, ideologised, radicalised. In chat rooms and blogs and social media echo chambers this way of thinking becomes codified and organised. Arguments are developed. Support structures erected. This kind of ideologised hatred finds room to grow and develop.

We have seen the kinds of states racism builds. It builds states like the Third Reich, pogrom Russia or the US South of slavery and Jim Crow. We have also seen the kinds of states that hatred of women builds.

A member of the Taliban religious police beating a woman. Notice the child in the foreground, and think about what kind of men and women this kind of politics produces.

This is as good a time as any to get at the root of this evil. We need to call out and end the hatred of women and the violence against women perpetrated by men.

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7 comments
  1. Some people absorb evil much more readily because it feeds them transitional power…. they get hooked on it…… simply like any other addict

  2. Definitely my new favorite blog.

    Anyway, I just wanted to point out racists don’t hate Muslims; Islam is not a race. Many such racists’ underlying motivations can be divided into either racial and religious: they may revile a person because of the color of his skin (and I use “his” meaningfully) regardless of the faith he professes, or they may revile a person because of the faith he professes regardless of the color of his skin. There ought to be some other word for religion-based hatred. Is there?

    • Release said:

      Cheers for the kind words!

      I tend to disagree. First off, I think that defining racism as purely genetic leaves out a large swath of identical hatreds up through the years. Racism becomes biological only around the advent of Darwinism. This is just a new mask on a very old face. Earlier racisms have been theological (Catholics, Jews, negroes as unchristian) or class-based (Irish, Italians) or any number of of other explanations for why the subaltern is below in status. The new hatred of Islam and Muslims is just a return to a different racist scheme, I think.

      • I agree about the nature of racism and that there’s never been any shortage of scapegoats to blame everything on. But I didn’t say race is purely genetic–what I meant was race is a social construct built around degrees of phenotypical variation.

        There are things associated with each variant, including historical baggage and widely-held stereotypes, but generally when people react or even attribute those associations (eg “Must be a Muslim”) they do so as a reaction to either the phenotype (“Looks Arab”) or what’s associated with it, which may have been attributed or exaggerated because as you pointed out, people just need an excuse to discriminate against a group especially if it has a trait that lends itself to neatly defining an “other”. Which appearance does more than belief, unless belief alters appearance…which is also probably why I haven’t found many bigots who behave this way because they are genuinely bothered by the nuances of the ideology but plenty who never really “liked” a particular subset of people and have suddenly now found out “why” they felt so uncomfortable around them. (Aha! Islam!)

        So what they feel about one usually colors their perception of the other. That’s been my experience, as an agnostic Pakistani; it doesn’t matter what I say, so long as I look the way I do or am part of the culture that I am. On the other hand, a white Muslim convert in a Western country might find it hard to convince people (Muslims as well as non-Muslims) that he/she is in fact a Muslim and would likely be treated better than I would be even if both of us were to declare our views. That’s the real racism here, and it gets conflated with Islam only because so many more people who look the way I do follow Islam AND because that’s the latest demon that’s caught everyone’s imagination.

  3. There are so many factors to the Isla Vista shooting that cannot be ignored. Mainly that this was not an issue of gun rights. The violence would have taken place with any weapon he could find. This is a young man who had a very long history with psychiatric problems. He was most probably a psychopath.

    His parents saw all the warning signs that he was going to hurt someone and tried to stop it by calling the police, and the police did nothing. They had a five minute conversation with him and figured he was no threat.

    What do we learn from this? Censorship? No. We should be focusing on public education on mental illness and better resources for families who see these signs.

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