She had it coming.
She should have known her place.
Sometimes it seems as if women are simply guilty of the sin of womanhood i.e. not being men. Violence against women is on my mind. A few months ago, a man in Santa Barbara, California, went on a shooting spree. After he was shot to death by other men, a manifesto was found. In the manifesto, the shooter named women as the cause of his rage. Chicks didn’t like him. Since he was clearly born superior (i.e. not a woman) that meant they had to die.
Nearly 8,000 miles away in Gonda, India, two young women, Murti and Pushpa, were gang-raped, their bodies strewn from a mango tree like lanterns. Local officials were slow to investigate the crimes as many believed justice was served on the girls; the suspects took the girls lives in deference to the country’s “honour killing” tradition. If those girls were killed because they allowed themselves to be “deflowered,” their murders were not only justified, their murders were praiseworthy. It’s the price our gendered world market will bear for the mistake of falling prey to men behaving monstrously.
Meanwhile, 4,500 miles away down in Borno, Nigeria, hundreds of schoolgirls were kidnapped. Boko Haram, the group responsible for the abductions, apparently justified its actions this way: The girls were receiving an education. Educating girls is a sin because girls have but one purpose in this life—to serve men. We’ve put an end to the abomination of filling their minds with knowledge so that they can be married off to us, the men.
Closer to home, NFL star Ray Rice knocked his then-fiancee unconscious and dragged her body into a public lobby. Although there was video of this event, law enforcement, the NFL, and even the public shrugged its collective shoulders. It wasn’t until months later when another video emerged actually showing Rice’s attack that the NFL suspended the running back. Message: it’s okay to attack a woman as long as you’re gentleman enough to do it off camera. If the second, more explicit video had not come to light, Rice would still be playing ball.
The market for young, female bodies, including sex trafficking and prostitution, is by most measures rampant. Domestic abuse against women—like that committed by Rice—is common enough that if you sit between two women in an auditorium, there’s a good chance that one of the women to your left or right were physically abused by a man at some point. Or maybe you’re the one.
It makes me wonder where the anger comes from. Why are men so mad at people who aren’t men?
Following the California shooting, a hashtag campaign swept the internet. #YesAllWomen would encourage women to tell their own stories about the effects of misogyny on their lives. On one of my satirical Twitter accounts, I posted a comment as if I were POTUS answering questions at a press conference. I tweeted: “Yes. All women deserve our respect. Next question.” The tweet was generally well-received, but I was surprised at some of the responses. One stated, “let’s face it. Some truly don’t deserve [respect].” And another, “respect is earned not granted as a default.” Or my least favorite, “What if (as I know in one case) they destroy 2 marriages, and two bi relationships to get what they want and need?” It’s particularly disturbing to me that some of these comebacks were written by women, but for the purposes of this post, I want to focus on the fellas. After all, talking smack is one thing. But the crimes mentioned above are just a tiny sampling of what’s happening all around the world as you, dear reader, peruse this post.
I don’t mean for this to be a blanket accusation against men since, according to my driver’s license, I’m XY-chromosome positive. However, I can’t help but notice that every time one of these cultural tsunamis wash ashore and people on either side of the debate poke their tongues out at each other there’s something missing: Group reflection and accountability among men. We have plenty of women saying that men suck. But where are the men of good conscience?
If it’s statistically true that men are doing the lion’s share of beating, raping, and killing of women (and quite often men, too), then shouldn’t men be a significant part of the chorus singing that we can do better? Simply saying that #NotAllMen (to quote the now notorious counter hashtag to #YesAllWomen) are vicious abusers is lame. Obviously, not all men go on spree killings or kidnap villages of schoolgirls. But doesn’t it fall on husbands, fathers, brothers, and boyfriends to interrogate our beliefs about women? Isn’t it our obligation to oppose the culture of misogyny on our own?
It’s easy enough for me to sit here and throw bombs at other men. I’m in no danger of losing my man-card and last I checked no one can lock me out of the Man Cave. Yet, I can only offer what I do when one of these terrible incidents occurs. I imagine the girls and women who have been violated are my sisters or aunts. Or better yet, I imagine they are me. Because perhaps at the center of endemic, violent misogyny is the thought that somehow women are “The Other” in the same way that undocumented workers, slaves (both historic and modern), Jews in WWII-era Europe, and any foreign soldier fighting against our military are The Other. It’s impossible to respect The Other because they are subhuman, shameful, and not worthy of humane consideration. For any male out there who metaphorically looks down on women, just remember that you had a fifty percent chance of being born female, too.
You just weren’t that lucky.
Maurice Carlos Ruffin is a graduate of the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop and a member of the Peauxdunque Writers Alliance and the Melanated Writers Collective. His work has appeared in Redivider, the Apalachee Review, and Unfathomable City: a New Orleans Atlas edited by Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedecker. He is the winner of the 2014 Iowa Review Fiction Award and the 2014 William Faulkner Competition for Novel in Progress.