Men, get to work.


[CONTENT NOTE: gendered violence, murder, suicide.]

OCTOBER 26, 2020
 BREAKING NEWS 

Man shoots girlfriend dead on Manhattan street, then commits suicide in front of shocked onlookers

Bursts of gunfire sent passersby running for cover just before 9:20 a.m. at Morris St. and Trinity Place in the Financial District, where violence is rare.

Read the Latest

I wasn’t going to post this. Not because it isn’t important (it is), nor because it isn’t newsworthy (the New York Daily News says it is), nor because I don’t have anything better to do (I’d rather be doing or writing about virtually anything else). I am posting this because the same story plays itself out over and over again at a rate so frequent and routine it’s mind-numbing.

And that’s just it: I don’t want to become numb to it. Honestly, I don’t want you to become numb to it either, but of course that’s on you.

The setting and details may differ, but the raw facts are always the same:

The 46-year-old shooter, believed to be from Canada, was wearing a hat when he confronted the 40-year-old woman and shot her twice in the head before shooting himself in the chest. She died at the scene, police said… Medics rushed the shooter to Lower Manhattan Hospital, where he died.

It’s horrifying and enraging and connected to other kinds of gender-based violence and abuse that are as common as dirt. Every time that story runs, we are reminded that as individuals we are utterly powerless to do anything to fix it. We are also reminded that whatever institutional solutions we may have in place in our society are not fixing it either.

It’s an incredibly shitty feeling, this roiling paralysis of horror + rage + helplessness. No wonder we don’t want to get too close or look too deeply at any of this. Best to breeze right past that headline, let the numbness set in and work its magic. Shut it down.

Thing is, this shit may be normal (in the sense of commonplace), but we cannot ever let it become normalized. We absolutely need to be shocked and sickened and disgusted and enraged for as long as it takes to figure it the fuck out and fix it. And by that royal “we” there? I’m not including myself or other women in that; I mean men.*

Women cannot fix the problem of gendered violence any more than Black people can fix racism. Don’t you think if that were possible, it would be fixed by now? Women are most often the ones dealing with the aftermath of gendered violence and abuse – in other words, cleaning up messes made by men. We can volunteer for hotlines and shelters, do the fundraising, lobby the lawmakers, raise community awareness, support and listen to our friends when they are victimized in this way, but all of that does absolutely nothing to prevent the next goddamn murder-suicide.

(Shouldn’t men be the ones doing all of this work? In a just world, yes. But if we had anything resembling a just world we wouldn’t have this problem in the first place.)

So if women can’t fix it and men won’t fix it, what the hell do we do?

I HAZ IDEEAZ.

Start with kids. Teach them from an early age about bodily autonomy and consent. Teach them conflict resolution and de-escalation skills. Teach them about compromise and negotiation and WIN-WIN solutions. Teach them bystander intervention and how to call out bad behavior in their peers when they see it. Teach them about human dignity, human rights, civil rights, respect (distinct from obedience) and especially empathy and how to practice these daily. Teach them about social hierarchies and how to do their part in mitigating bigotry and injustice.

And you know what? I think men should teach the entire curriculum and model this behavior, at least for boys (K-12) and men (college, trade schools, the military, etc.). Student participation should be mandatory. Physical education is, this can be too.

What’s that? It would cost too much money? HAHAHA NOPE.

The money comes out of sports funding THE END. Wherever there is an overwhelming indoctrination touting the virtues of competition and domination, there needs to be at least as much of a push for the virtues of cooperation and equality. No one will ever convince me that fucking football is more important than ending gendered (and racist and every other kind of bigoted) violence.

The scope and scale of the problem is breathtaking. It has a long lifespan and an even longer shadow, because its roots are, among other things, inter-generational. It gets woven throughout every single aspect of our lives. For example, consider this (via New York Times Oct. 15, 2020 email briefing):

Trump and other Republicans don’t seem to be doing worse among Latino voters than in 2016. Nationwide, Republicans are still winning about one-third of the Latino vote, polls show.

As a result, Trump still has a good chance to win both Florida and Texas.

ONE THIRD OF LATINX VOTE FOR TRUMP AND REPUBLICANS JFC.

Why is Trump holding steady with Latinos? There is no one answer, partly because Latinos are such a diverse group (many of whom also identify as white). But an important part of the explanation appears to involve gender.

Recent Times polls of battleground states show that the gender gap among Latino voters — 26 percentage points — is significantly larger than it is among Black, white or Asian voters…

Among Latina women, Biden leads Trump by a whopping 34 percentage points (59 percent to 25 percent). Among Latino men, Biden’s lead is only eight points (47 percent to 39 percent). These patterns are similar across both Latino college graduates and those without a degree.

Stephanie Valencia, the president of Equis Research, which focuses on Latino voters, told us that its polls suggest that Latino men may have even moved slightly toward Trump this year. If so, they are the only large demographic group to do so.

In effect, gender seems to be outweighing ethnicity for some Latino men.

Jennifer Medina recently wrote an eye-opening story called “The Macho Appeal of Donald Trump,” focused on Latino men. The whole story is worth reading, but here is a key passage:

… what has alienated so many older, female and suburban voters is a key part of Mr. Trump’s appeal to these men, interviews with dozens of Mexican-American men supporting Mr. Trump shows: To them, the macho allure of Mr. Trump is undeniable. He is forceful, wealthy and, most important, unapologetic. In a world where at any moment someone might be attacked for saying the wrong thing, he says the wrong thing all the time and does not bother with self-flagellation.

The story was set in Arizona — a state that could decide the election.

“Macho,” it is important to note, is another term for patriarchal, not for masculine. Conflation of these concepts is ubiquitous, and hardly unique to Latinx culture.

I know, from the honor of knowing some truly spectacular men, that masculinity is not toxic. Patriarchy is. Defining for oneself, and for the broader culture, forms of masculinity which are not patriarchal is critically necessary work, and it can only be done by men.

Men, get to work.

__________
* Yes, women terrorize, violently abuse and kill men too. But the statistics weigh so disproportionately in the other direction, I find it difficult not to characterize these women as behaving like (toxic) men when they do. Furthermore, men who are victims of violence/abuse are much more likely to experience it at the hands of other men. So how about we agree that if we are serious about the eradication of interpersonal violence in society, the best place to start is addressing men behaving violently – against anyone.

__________

One more thing I just thought of. Something was bugging me about that Daily News alert (besides the sadly familiar facts of the story, which prompted me to write this post). I couldn’t quite put my finger on it before, but I’ve got it now: It’s that quip at the end about violence being rare in the Financial District. Almost 60,000 people live in FiDi, and there is no reason to believe gendered violence is any more rare among the people who live there than it is anywhere else. That is to say, not rare. I could also make an argument that FiDi is the epicenter of unbridled capitalism, a system which spawns the violence of our wars, private prisons and privatized healthcare. But that’s another post.

Comments

  1. says

    And you know what? I think men should teach the entire curriculum and model this behavior, at least for boys (K-12) and men (college, trade schools, the military, etc.).

    Here you are implying that boys and young men should have men as role models and attend meetings of what sounds like a men’s club. But why exactly should boys have men as role models (and girls have women as role models)? What about a kid having several role models of various genders? Why not teach boys that they don’t have to try to emulate men but good and caring people of any gender? Also, why the boys’/men’s club? Gender segregated spaces where dudes hang out among themselves have traditionally bread sexist attitudes and violence towards women. A mixed gender space in which young people learn about personal boundaries, respect, and cooperation seems like a better idea to me. If in one room you teach boys how not to be abusive dicks and in a different room you teach girls how to deescalate conflicts whenever some abusive dick attacks them, you aren’t exactly solving the problem that our society socializes boys and girls differently and puts different expectations upon them. Also, “how not to be an abusive dick” is a lesson that all young people should learn regardless of their gender, because some women are abusive.

    To them, the macho allure of Mr. Trump is undeniable. He is forceful, wealthy and, most important, unapologetic.

    Now this is something I struggle to comprehend. A wannabe macho dude should see other wannabe macho dudes as competitors rather than idols to whom they happily submit.

  2. says

    @Andreas Avester 1
    “Now this is something I struggle to comprehend. A wannabe macho dude should see other wannabe macho dudes as competitors rather than idols to whom they happily submit.”

    Macho dudes may ally with each other to engage with common competitors under a chosen macho leader for organizational purposes. Macho dudes may even take damage from their own politics if it hurts a perceved enemy, spite as politics. Once the enemy submits they will new find ways of dividing each other up to compete.
    And on and on since it’s a set of social behaviors.

  3. says

    Andreas: You are right. That’s what I get for rage typing followed by exhausted editing. I actually quickly put in “at least for boys and men” last, without considering and following that thought through, so thank you for catching it. My initial idea (and sentence) did not imply student sex-segregation. However, I do think men should teach and model these behaviors (for everyone), because it’s important for all genders to see a masculinity that is not patriarchal. A masculinity that is “good and caring.” Many (most?) kids may never have seen this before.

    What about a kid having several role models of various genders? Why not teach boys that they don’t have to try to emulate men but good and caring people of any gender?

    The problem is that we’re not starting with blank slates here. We are talking about young people who have been swimming in a sea of toxic masculinity since birth, and have no capacity to see beyond a traditional gender hierarchy (masculine = strong, aggressive, dominant, rational, unemotional, more intelligent etc., feminine = weak, submissive, emotional, irrational, less intelligent etc.) There are many homes and communities (and churches 🙄) where that paradigm is the only one that exists, and it is enforced and reinforced at every turn. A respect for all genders as equal is the goal, but it is definitely not the starting point in broad swaths of US society. There are subcultures here where showing signs of being “caring” will get a boy bullied, and he will be attacked and denigrated in a particular way: by feminizing him, with sexist/homophobic insults. Thus the traditional gender binary gets further reinforced, often with violence or threats of violence.

    The question is how to overcome this obstacle (and it is huge). I maintain that to move the needle in the right direction here, men are the ones that need to step up, be present and embody a different kind of masculinity in a way that women simply cannot. Because until that obstacle is overcome, the same cycle will continue. It’s a means by which patriarchy self-perpetuates (though hardly the only one of course).

  4. L.Long says

    Because of stuff like this when my daughter (& son) were old & big enough I taught them archery, later the entire family started judo, then courses in anti-rape/assault, at this time she became state woman’s shooting trophy winner, then sword & knife fighting. The only dude dimwitted enough to try anything, picked himself off the ground a few minutes later.
    She has since then studied 5 different martial arts and her kids are doing the same. You can’t ever count on the cops for anything, because they can’t possibly stop anything like this, but being trained can. She is as girly as any woman, but she can also stop any attacker that gets within reach.

  5. says

    I know, from the honor of knowing some truly spectacular men, that masculinity is not toxic. Patriarchy is. Defining for oneself, and for the broader culture, forms of masculinity which are not patriarchal is critically necessary work, and it can only be done by men.

    This seems to parallel what I mean by “growing up”. A lot of macho stereotypes seem to me to be a little boy’s conception of what it means to be a man.
    It’s just so silly. You think loudly asserting your unfounded opinions makes you more of a man? No. Having enough sense to know when to shut up and listen to someone who knows more than you, that makes you more of a man. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses, so you can find a place in the world that works both for you and the people around you, that makes you more of a man. Accepting that sometimes it’s not about you at all, that makes you more of a man.
    Interestingly, the things that make you more of a man would also make you more of a woman, which is why I tend to think of it as just being a grown-up.

    That’s why I find it so strange that Trump is appealing to some people. To me, he comes across like an overgrown baby, constantly whining and expecting things to be handed to him. Utterly incapable of considering anyone else, but in a constant state of complaining about how mean other people are being to him.
    These are not the qualities of a grown man. They’re the qualities of a child. Specifically, the worst qualities of a child. His presidency has essentially been a four-year temper tantrum. Now little Donnie is threatening to burn down the amusement park because he has to get off the ride and let the other kids have a go.

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