Scapegoating by anecdote

For every one Mollie Tibbetts who’s murdered by an immigrant (whether documented or otherwise), there are…A LOT MORE nice young women murdered by American-born men.

If the goal is to minimize violent crime, sorry but targeting immigrants is focusing energy in the wrong direction. The lion’s share of criminals are here by birth.

But of course the use of Mollie Tibbetts as a poster child for border-walling isn’t about protecting women like Mollie. It’s about demonizing brown people coming from poor countries. Mollie’s family is having none of your bullshit.

What excuses will they make for the Charleston shooter?

There has been a mass shooting at an AME church in Charleston, SC. Six black women and three black men were shot dead by a young white man who had been attending their prayer service for the past hour.

Even after years of being openly atheist and running with the outspoken atheist crowd, I can’t help but think there’s something especially disgusting about shooting people in church. I respect the idea of church as a sanctuary. People should have a reasonable expectation of safety in church.

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#YesAllWomen are blamed no matter what we do.

Here’s a tale of girls having guns pointed at their heads, and still treated like they’re the aggressors.

When I was a freshman, my sister was in eighth grade. There was a boy in two of her periods who would ask her out every single day. (Third and seventh period, if I remember correctly.) All day during third and seventh she would repeatedly tell him no. She didn’t beat around the bush, she didn’t lie and say she was taken—she just said no.

One day, in third period, after being rejected several times, he said; “I have a gun in my locker. If you don’t say yes, I am going to shoot you in seventh.”

She refused again, but right after class she went to the principal’s office and told them what happened. They searched his locker and there was a gun in his backpack.

The boy was arrested, but the girl was left at school with her friends telling her it was her fault the boy brought a gun to school, her fault the school was put in danger, and why couldn’t she just give the kid a chance? She made him lose his temper because she said no so many times. So selfish of her, not to give this kid what he wanted.

Years later, when I was a senior, I was the only girl in my Criminal Justice class. The teacher, who used to be a sergeant in the police force, told us a story of something that had happened to a girl he knew when she was in high school. There was a guy who obviously had a crush on her and he made her uncomfortable. One day he finally gathered up the courage to ask her out, and she said no.

The next day, during an assembly, he pulled a gun on her in front of everyone and threatened to kill her if she didn’t date him.

He was tackled to the ground and the gun was taken from him.

I don’t want to quote too much, but what happens next is…special. All the boys say the girl was to blame for the boy’s actions. The way one kid reasons is:

one boy raised his hand and literally said; “But if someone were to punch me and I punched him back, who is at fault for the fight? He is, not me. It’s self-defence. She started it, so anything that happens to her is in reaction to her actions .It’s simple cause and effect.”

“She started it” by refusing to go out with a boy who made her uncomfortable. Refusing a date is the same as punching someone in the face.

I’ll admit that we’re talking about very young kids here. Their life experience is very limited and they might not yet have the mental sophistication to keep in mind that a boy who’s horrible enough to pull a gun on a girl who says no to him will probably not be a good partner to a girl who says yes. He’s already demonstrated a capacity for violence. That doesn’t bode well for a romantic relationship. But maybe these kids just don’t know enough to think that far ahead! They’re only thinking of their own discomfort, and they’re just looking at what the girl could’ve done to spare them the stress of seeing a gun pulled out at school. Maybe they don’t respond to the news of a woman getting killed by her male partner with “But why didn’t she just leave him??!!”

Even so, they’re already propagating the message that a girl doesn’t have the right to say no to a boy’s advances. They’ve already gotten the idea in their heads that if a boy desires a girl, that desire is important enough to warrant threatening her with serious harm and putting other youngsters in danger. They’re already treating (female) refusal as a provocation to (male) violence.

Not all men are violent. I haven’t yet heard anyone suggest they are! Most boys never go anywhere near bringing a gun to school. Most boys don’t respond with violence when girls turn them down.

And yet, for every boy who threatens to shoot a girl for refusing his advances, there are plenty more young people who think “WHY COULDN’T SHE JUST GIVE HIM A CHANCE?” is a better response than “WHY COULDN’T HE JUST LET HER GO?”

Most men will never be in the ranks of those who murder women who don’t want to be with them, but then there are those who tell us that withdrawing contact is an act of violence.

I don’t want to hear any more about why women should stop lying about having boyfriends. I don’t want to hear any more about the evils of giving fake numbers. I don’t want to hear any more finger-pointing about how women aren’t sufficiently direct in telling men they’re not interested. I don’t want to hear any more jabbering that the latest woman to be killed or nearly killed by an abusive partner should have JUST left him earlier. No. I see violent men and boys getting their targets coming and going. She says no at the start, he gets homicidal. She says yes and gets involved, he puts her through months or years of violence. She stays with her abuser, he eventually kills her or drives her to suicide. She leaves, he comes after her. She goes back to him, he keeps on battering her. She refuses to go back, he kills her. No matter what she was up against, somehow she should’ve responded differently.

With that in mind, I am totally done with any discussion of what women might do differently to protect ourselves from violence. I’m done. There are no legitimate critiques of women’s behavior as targets of male violence. If everything we do permits male violence, and everything we do elicits victim-blaming, then all criticisms are meaningless.

I don’t want to hear any more objections of “Not All Men are like that!” You want to be seen as one of the good guys? Then act like a good guy.

#ElliotRodgerFunFact: Suffering no lack of privilege or connection

I’ve learned more about the Nice Guy Mass Murderer since my post on Saturday. For example, he actively advocated for women not to have power to decide whom they fuck. That goes beyond rape apologia into rape advocacy. He was especially angry about men of color socializing with pretty white women. He was biracial (white father/Asian mother) and identified overwhelmingly with whiteness. He characterized women as “evil, sadistic beasts” for sleeping with the wrong men—wait, not even sleeping with them, necessarily, just hanging out with them!, which sort of makes sense about as much as “the food is terrible and the portions are too small” until you see that he wasn’t thinking of women as companions, but as objects to possess and control. I started a hashtag on Twitter: #ElliotRodgerFunFact. Nowhere near the scale of #YesAllWomen, but I’m still pleased to see other people using it.

The mass murder didn’t start outside. Three people were found dead in Rodger’s apartment. At least two of them were his roommates.

This story here from the AP makes me feel a lot worse for Rodger’s parents. I’m sure we’ll wait a bit longer and find out more about how they brought him up, and they’ll be at least partly culpable for his developing such a heinous view of the world, but for now, it seems that his parents were trying to keep their son from joining the ranks of mass murderers. They were really trying, but how do you really handle it when you think your son is a danger to society? He was seeing two counselors, which is noteworthy, and his mother (her name is Chin Rodger, though she’s not named at the Yahoo link) saw his videos in April and got in touch with one of the counselors. The story sounds very much like the police department is trying to deflect blame for not recognizing the danger Elliot Rodger posed when they had the chance. The counselor called a mental health service, which called the police, and the police say they weren’t aware of any videos. Maybe the part about him making homicidally threatening videos got lost in the chain of communication, but that’s the sort of question the police might have tried to ask before they made their assessment.

I’m also hearing from various sources that Elliot Rodger was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is part of the autism spectrum, as a small child. ACCORDING TO FAMILY FRIEND MR. SIMON ASTAIRE, this is untrue. The family long SUSPECTED that Elliot was on the autism spectrum, but he was never diagnosed. It’s cringe-worthy to see speculation about Nice Guy Mass Murderer being an Aspie, as it’s inevitably followed by people equating Asperger’s to mental illness, and mental illness to his inclination to violence. Here’s the thing: researchers have tried to find a correlation between autism and violence. They’ve found no such correlation. EVEN IF our Nice Guy Mass Murderer was on the spectrum, it should not be used to portray autism as a cause of violence.

Whatever mental health problems our Nice Guy Mass Murderer had, he wasn’t left to struggle all alone. He was seeing therapists and his parents were involved in his life. Whatever mental health issues were troubling him, he was able to present to the police as a nice kid, so they let him go on his merry way. He was not isolated, or neglected, or in such dire mental health that he lacked control over his actions.

ETA the part about Rodger not actually being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Nice Guy, Mass Murderer

There was a shooting spree in Santa Barbara last night. I have gathered the following information from The Washington Post, LA Times, LAist, USA Today, and Radar Online.

Elliot Rodger, age 22, was the son of the 2nd unit director of The Hunger Games, Peter Rodger. Just two years ago, he was present on the red carpet at The Hunger Games premiere alongside his father. Elliot Rodger has been identified as the shooter who killed six and injured seven more until he was found with a bullet in his head after crashing his car into a parked vehicle. The black BMW that crashed with the shooter inside has the same license plate number as the car on Elliot Rodger’s Facebook page. With that positive identification, it’s okay to say we know who he is.

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Never too young for slut-shaming.

Some people will take absolutely any opportunity, no matter how pedophilic, to make girls feel horrible about having been born with female bodies:

The parents of students at Decatur Classical School in Chicago’s West Rogers Park neighborhood voiced their displeasure with principal Susan Josephine Kukielka’s actions Monday at their local school council meeting, according to CBS Chicago.

The parents allege that Kukielka left some of their daughters in tears after they were told they were “not girls of distinction because their shorts are too short” at an assembly on the last day of school.

The girls were given an “award” by Kukielka for their attire and were asked to stand and be recognized for their “achievement” during the assembly, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

This woman brought the girls up on stage, during an assembly, and gave them a snarky “award” for wearing short-shorts.

And, sure enough, some of the commenters on this article are agreeing with the principal. You know, girls with their butts hanging out at school, they need better parenting, how dare those parents allow their daughters to leave the house looking like that, yadda yadda…

Decatur Classical School is K-6. Those girls in short-shorts were just elementary school kids. The mom of one of those girls sent in a picture of her daughter in her too-short shorts. She’s a skinny-legged 10-year-old.

“Oh, but, but, the girls rolled up their shorts to show more skin, and they shouldn’t be at school looking like that!”

No. I don’t give a fuck how far up those girls rolled their shorts. Their bodies aren’t even sufficiently developed for skin-showing to be an issue. I don’t care, either, if “maybe” some of those 7 girls were healthy 12-year-old early bloomers with big hips. That principal showed those girls that if they don’t hit the constantly moving target of “modesty,” they will be humiliated by an authority figure they were supposed to trust. She showed the rest of the kids in that auditorium that it is not only acceptable, but necessary, to march girls out into the town square and put them in the stocks if someone looks too long at their bodies. This, boys and girls, is where rape culture comes from. We must always police women’s appearance, but never challenge the way some men think they can treat women. Girls are never too young to be told their legs are attracting too much attention. No, judge, no I did not rape that 10-year-old girl, she totally wanted it.

Ms. Kukielka should resign, and she should not work in a position of authority over young people again. Those girls are lucky that their parents care enough to stand up for them. Not all kids are so fortunate.

Capital Punishment Logic is So Weird.

Here we have news of the Ohio kidnapping case, in which Ariel Castro possibly faces the death penalty:

Prosecutors said Thursday they may seek the death penalty against Ariel Castro, the man accused of imprisoning three women at his home for a decade, as police charged that he impregnated one of his captives at least five times and made her miscarry by starving her and punching her in the belly.

The allegations were contained in a police report that also said another one of the women, Amanda Berry, was forced to give birth in a plastic kiddie pool.

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty said his office will decide whether to bring aggravated murder charges punishable by death in connection with the pregnancies that were terminated by force.

“Capital punishment must be reserved for those crimes that are truly the worst examples of human conduct,” he said. “The reality is we still have brutal criminals in our midst who have no respect for the rule of law or human life.”

Castro, a 52-year-old former school bus driver, is being held on $8 million bail under a suicide watch in jail, where he is charged with rape and kidnapping.

Michelle Knight is the one who was subjected to abortions by starvation and battery. She was also put on midwife duty for Amanda Berry’s childbirth and—how’s this for mental abuse?–threatened with death if Amanda’s baby died. None of the captives ever saw a doctor or other qualified health professional. Fortunately, Knight knew her MMR and saved the baby.

I’m sure it would be even more interesting—and probably horrifying—to find out why Amanda was allowed to give birth while Michelle was not allowed to continue her pregnancies.

That’s a digression, though. Here’s what I want to point out: the prosecutor is talking about the death penalty, while the prisoner is on suicide watch.

I suggest a different strategy: just don’t bother with the suicide watch. Put him in a cell alone with some razorblades and rope, and let the chips fall where they may.

I don’t agree with the death penalty. The practical argument against capital punishment is that are some suspects who are wrongly convicted and executed. As long as there’s any possibility of wrongful conviction, the death penalty is an atrocity. That’s not an issue with Ariel Castro: we know what he did. But then we have the philosophical issue that the government is using its power to kill prisoners in order to show the populace that killing people is wrong. There’s something inherently fucked up about that. I don’t think the government should give itself permission to kill prisoners.

However, I also think the justice system is not obligated to protect prisoners from themselves. If Ariel Castro wants to die, he should have our permission. It’ll be the most sensible decision he’s ever made.

I have to acknowledge this.

Way to puncture my good mood, The Smoking Gun. This happened:

Charles Ramsey, whose 911 call and subsequent TV interviews have made him a microcelebrity, was once a repeat spousal abuser whose marriage ended in divorce following a 2003 felony conviction for battering his wife.

Here’s the thing: this is not trivial information. It’s not irrelevant dirt someone dug up just to spite this guy. It doesn’t make his actions with Amanda Berry any less powerful or admirable. It doesn’t change the fact that he helped three women escape from captivity. It doesn’t suggest any ulterior motives for helping Amanda and her daughter break through that door.

It does, however, put a little damper on this:

 Ramsey has also reportedly said that he went to help Berry because he “was raised to help women in distress.”

No, that doesn’t quite work.

His ex-wife reports that he has since apologized for his actions to her. It’s possible that he learned from his experiences and now understands that domestic violence is a horror that no one should have to endure. It’s possible that he stepped up to help Amanda Berry, while thinking it was an everyday case of partner-battering, because he knows, as a former abuser, how important it is for bystanders to step in.

I don’t think that if you’ve done something bad in the past, that it determines your character for the rest of your life. I don’t buy into “once a misogynist batterer, always a misogynist batterer.” We should have room to learn from our mistakes and live our lives as better people. It should be okay for bad husbands to grow up to be the bravest of neighbors.

Except for guys like those Castros. They can be marooned on an island with a revolver loaded with only two bullets, for all I care.