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Dec-16-2012 20:21printcomments

From Misogyny to Murder: A Feminist Perspective on the Connecticut Shootings

To kill a mother, you have to learn how to hate her.

Connecticut shooting aftermath
Special thanks to perezhilton.com

(PORTLAND, OR) - When reading about the murders in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, one point in particular stood out to me as a woman: Adam Lanza killed his mother. This point reveals something essential about the nature of all violence and gives a clue as to why these horrific events take place. For though it is reported that Nancy Lanza taught her son how to shoot a gun and she believed in guns for “protection,” in order to kill a mother, you have to learn how to hate her. In order to learn how to hate one person, you learn hatred itself. My hope is that with the call for more responsible gun laws we might in the same courageous breath witness the misogyny of his act because it provides a key for unlocking any sense of “mystery” of how this could have happened and understand that women are often on the receiving end of hatred, however subtle or however much of an “aside” it might seem. This is an important point, I think, because if we are to rid ourselves of misogyny we have to trace it to its root cause; and when we do we find ourselves at the striking at the root of all acts of such violence.

Here’s what I mean: At a conference in North Carolina I had the opportunity to meet Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee of Liberia. A champion of women’s rights and girls’ education, she galvanized a women’s movement in the 1990’s in Liberia to end the civil war. Her story is well documented in the film, Pray the Devil Back to Hell. In describing women’s experiences surrounding the war, she noted that full violence would correlate with growing misogyny. She recounted the times when women would walk through their towns and hear comments such as “I can’t wait for the war to start again, and I’ll rape her.” And the women were raped—by neighbors, friends, family members, sometimes with weapons, sometimes by groups. As she tells these stories, one after another of the lives of women in a violent environment, it becomes clear that we have to pay attention to women’s lives, to small acts of hatred directed at women, growing into outright misogyny, because its logical outcome in extreme cases is murder.

Can we deny that the United States is growing in misogyny when we hear ridiculous statements by politicians our fellow citizens have helped to elect about women’s bodies and rape—statements that frequently require several “corrections” before the message happens to condemn all rape? Can we deny that the music filling the earbuds of today’s youth is full of lyrics and images that portray women as little more than their ability to perform sex acts? This marginalization is in not only in our schools and universities, our religious institutions, our popular culture; step inside more than a few households and we find women in unbalanced and unhealthy situations while the husband is consuming violent porn and he judges his wife for putting on weight or not cleaning the bathroom. Listen to the children who still expect their mothers do their laundry or wash their dishes for them but who cannot be moved from the TV screen and video games that teach them how to aim rifles domestically and wage war internationally at “enemies.” While mom turns to medication for stress, the son concludes that women are just “moody” and somehow inferior.

Misogyny has made its home in our minds. A joke about women here, a justification for rape there, a sexist comment here, a violent film here, a degrading song there. One day, we find that our minds are alienated not only from women but from ourselves and our environment.

I know a young man, a father of two. His Facebook page is full of memes which, as a woman, I would say humiliate and insult us and are a bad example to his children; he might say that they are funny, or harmless. Far from it. Another gentleman I saw in Santa Rosa, California was wearing a tee-shirt with the words across his chest “I have the [ fill in an explicit word for a male organ] so I am in charge.” He bought his ice cream, then got into his car and drove out into the world to spread that message wherever he went a little louder that day. To have it on a tee-shirt, he must have felt it was really quite harmless or funny. Or, he knew it was harmful and thought it was acceptable to offer harm in that way. If he doesn’t have a family, this man at least knows women and was born to one. I can’t help to wonder, had that been a racist comment would he have dared parade it around in that coffee shop?

Misogyny is not funny or harmless any more than racism: it’s serious, even deadly. It’s a warning signal of more violence on the way. When we catch it, we can heal it.

With a culture that silently, and sometimes not so silently, communicates disrespect toward women, children might grow up taking for granted, in spite of our best efforts to the contrary, that it is acceptable to choose women as targets as they act out whatever violence is within them. That woman might be your mother, daughter, sister, friend or classmate. She might be you. This is not a call to find new ways of “protecting women” that draw upon an old masculinized paradigm of security. It’s a call for authentic transformation in the way we understand security from one based on domination, hatred and othering to one based on upholding our natural integrity as people in constant relationship with those around us. If, as gun advocates say, “guns don’t shoot people, people do” we really need more responsibility around guns and more education around gun safety. But let us integrate that part of the picture with an understanding of what drives a person to shoot a gun: hatred, fear and othering. Without addressing or even seeing these poisons at work, guns laws alone will never do. Nancy Lanza taught her son to use guns responsibly. It didn’t work. So what happened?

The first person Adam Lanza killed was his mother. We can choose to see this as another banal detail of yet another horrific act of violence or we can realize that it warns us to address not only our hopelessly inadequate gun laws but misogyny and other underlying conditions of such violence.


Stephanie Van Hook (Stephanie@mettacenter.org), Executive Director of the Metta Center for Nonviolence (www.mettacenter.org), is a feminist and is syndicated through PeaceVoice.



--
Yours for a nonviolent future, /div>
Tom H. Hastings, Ed.D.
Director, PeaceVoice Program, /div>
Oregon Peace Institute
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forthelesser December 18, 2012 10:24 am (Pacific time)

I agree 100% with "The Voice of Reason" and couldnt have said it any better.


seek deeper December 18, 2012 5:54 am (Pacific time)

I'm sorry, but the quote I give below (from Van Hook's argumentative essay) is a unworthy attempt at connecting dots to support a proposed (apparent) theory "male mass murderers = mysogynists". Quote: "children who still expect their mothers do their laundry or wash their dishes for them but who cannot be moved from the TV screen and video games that teach them how to aim rifles domestically and wage war internationally at “enemies.” While mom turns to medication for stress, the son concludes that women are just “moody” and somehow inferior."


seek deeper December 18, 2012 4:55 am (Pacific time)

November 1978: More than 276 children, 40 infants, mostly African-Americans were murdered in the jungles of "Jonestown" Guyana. The adult followers of Jones had moved from the U.S. not that long before. The massacre of the children resulted in one of the greatest single loss-events of American children in a non-natural disaster. The FBI recovered a 45 minute audio recording of the event in progress. I am a woman, wife, mother of seven, grandmother of eleven; I don't think the mass killing which happened in Connecticut should be reduced to the excuse of "mysogyny". There are entirely other dynamics at work, in this case, I suspect. The perpetrator's mother was killed, yes, but if the perpetrator had a father at home, he would likely would have been killed too. Guns aren't the issue here either. If someone wants to kill a mass of adults or children, gun control won't stop them: they can use, poison (as in Jonestown), or build a bomb, commandeer a school bus and drive it off a cliff, fly a plane into school yard, release a poisonous gas in an enclosed area where people are congregated. Guns are not necessary for mass killing, but they may VERY WELL help a "normal" citizen disable a "socially insane" person who is in progress of causing a mass killing event(wherever it may again happen).


The voice of reason December 17, 2012 3:19 pm (Pacific time)

Wow. That this is the lense through which the author chooses to view this tragedy is disturbing on its own right. Yes there is misogyny out there but your argument here makes little sense. You choose to focus on this guy killing his mother as a sign of misogyny. There's no evidence to back that up - this appears to simply be your knee-jerk reaction. The truth is his mother was the only other person who lived in that house. Moreover, did he only kill girls in the school? No, he killed indiscriminately - boys and girls. And then he killed himself (agree that is a sign that he hates himself - but uh... wait a minute - he's a male). I think a much better question that you should be asking - is why virtually ALL of these mass killings are done by deranged and/or disturbed young boys? Not girls. We now live in a society where girls do better in school than boys - both at primary/secondary and university levels. Instead of only trying to "help" young girls - if you would open your eyes just a little and take a step away from your feminist agenda, you might see that we as a society need to try and figure out how we deal with these young loner boys.


gp December 17, 2012 3:04 pm (Pacific time)

Thanks for this important perspective.


Anonymous December 17, 2012 2:45 pm (Pacific time)

So when violence happens to women, it's because those offenders hate all women? So what's the case when violence happens to men? Is that misandry or just "violence happens?" I hate to break it to you, but the majority of victims of violent crime are male. Why are you treating women being victims of violence as a special circumstance? It's not, on its face, any more tragic or indicative of gender hate than a man being a victim of violence. You have no idea why he killed his mother, so why would you assume it had to do with gender dynamics rather than just the dynamics of their particular relationship and his own screwed up mind? As far as Liberia goes, I think men were victims of violence there too, don't you think? And even though nobody cares when a man gets raped, men do get raped during war time as well. Here's an article on it: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jul/17/the-rape-of-men


Anonymous December 17, 2012 12:20 pm (Pacific time)

As per the Founding Father's intent on the 2nd Amendment (suggest you read their personal papers, diaries, debate notes, etc. which are available to anyone who has the desire to learn how the Bill of Rights was constructed. The Second Amendment was designed for individuals, not for miltarized groups sanctioned by the government. On the contrary, considering the times, the government was viewed as a potential negative that armed individuals could be more capable of dealing with if it went rogue. There are many myths out there about the 2nd's intention, but it becomes clear what the Founders had written by engaging in a little scolarship, as the U.S. Supreme Court also clearly saw. Of course a change in that court's make-up could change the current interpretation, and if that happened, a new interpretation would be ignored. Just like the criminals ignore current laws, or any future gun laws that number in the tens of thousands collectively. Then politicans, whose primary intent is to stay in power, would assure passage of laws to overrule the courts. Emotions run high when we have a tragedy like the current one, but these tragedies do not happen when people are armed. Texas arms their teachers, as do other states, the nuts and criminals avoid these locales.Nearly all these violent crimes happen in liberal area's, or where liberals have made it difficult for people to protect themselves. If anything, there will be a huge dial-up of firearm ownership, and gun crime will continue to decline as it has per the FBI for many years now.


Anonymous December 17, 2012 10:29 am (Pacific time)

This monster was a nut, but then you will always find individuals who will use tragedies to further their agendas. The anti-2nd Amendment people should keep in mind that events such as these tpes of shootings convince more people, rather than a diminishing number, of the need to protect themselves because government cannot. Thus, we see gun/ammo sales continuing record sales. Below is some interesting info that puts the AR15 and other rifles in their proper perspectives: "U.S. Murders/ F.B.I./2009: 13,636. Homicides by Hands and Feet: 801; Rifles: less than 348


It is often said that guns, particularly assault rifles, are designed for one thing, and one thing only: to kill lots of people.Assault rifles in the United States are failing miserably in this purpose.

DJ: I agree. Assault rifles are woefully underused for their intended purpose.

There are tens of millions of so-called assault rifles in America. Because the definition of an assault rifle has been rather fuzzy, the number can be said to be anywhere from 10 million to 30 million. Of those, the AR-15 type is fairly common with numbers between 5 and 10 million.

The FBI murder statistics do not differentiate between types of rifles. There are about 100 million rifles in the United States. In 2009, the last year in

which numbers have been reported, there were 13,636 murders. Handguns were used to murder 9,146 people. Hands and feet were used to murder 801 people. Blunt objects were used to murder 611 people. Rifles were used to murder 348 people, and that is all rifles (including shotguns), of which assault rifles are only

a small fraction. Assault rifles are used so infrequently in homicides that many police departments almost never see them; in 2009, there were nine states that did not have a single murder committed with any rifle.

So why are so many intent on misinforming Americans about the above stats? Is it their primary goal, by any means, to ban rifles that are the most suitable for militia use (clearly protected by the U.S. Constitution), when they are used so rarely in murder? Banning baseball bats would make more sense, yet would be nearly as senseless."

DJ:You wonder why assault rifles "that are the most suitable for militia use (clearly protected by the U.S. Constitution)" should be banned. I agree. Read the Second Amendment. I don't believe any current owners of assault rifles belong to a "well regulated militia". So until they join such, the rifles can be legally banned.


really? December 16, 2012 9:13 pm (Pacific time)

i don't think it's fair to anyone who is directly affected by this tragedy to spin it into some BS feminist diatribe about misogyny.

Editor: It is an opinion, no more BS than your comment, that is for sure, have fun at the rah rah he-man women-hater's club.

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