This is to serve as both a content warning and a warning about NSFW language and/or images.
Before I begin anything that I am about to say, I want to express my most heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of the Santa Barbara tragedy. This was a tragedy that should never have happened.
Let me repeat that for you, because it is important. This was a tragedy that should never have happened.
The hardest part for me about writing this post was reading the manifesto, because of how blatantly obvious it was that society has created this dilemma. There were parts that made me sick to my stomach, because these ideas are so pervasive, that we hear them and say them without even thinking. There were parts that felt like a punch to the gut because it is so similar to conversations I’ve had with others. I was reminded of memes, and jokes. It took me four days to read the entire manifesto, because of how similar it was.
I want to be self-sufficient. I can’t. I’m not meant to be alone. I need to be needed.
This is a quote from a woman I know and care about. She is smart, and kind, and charming.
I’m no girl’s first choice. I’m the nice guy who’s the backup plan that gets walked over.
This is a quote from a man I know. He’s been a friend of mine for years, and is generous, and sweet, and wonderful.
I deserve better than that. I am an intelligent gentleman, and I deserve the love of girls more than the other obnoxious boys of my age, and yet they get girls and I don’t.
This is a quote from a 22 year old murderer who stabbed his roommates, and opened fire on a sorority house and a deli killing 6 people, injuring 13 others, and then finally killing himself.
What the hell kind of society have we created where three quotes from three people who have lived completely different lives sound so similar that they could be interchangeable?
We have created a society where hyper-masculinity is encouraged. It’s encouraged to use “game” to touch women inappropriately and without consent. We live in a society where instead of encouraging people to be interesting human, and to treat others with respect and kindness, we encourage the use of “game” and bash on feminists who want equality. We have created a space where we encourage men to be violent towards women in the most subtle of ways, and then act surprised when it happens. A society that discourages men from coming forward to talk about their own sexual assaults, harassment, and violence, because of the problematic and pervasive ideas that it doesn’t happen to men, and they should just like it. We have encouraged men to hide their feelings, and express themselves through violent behaviors and have encouraged poor communication, and we wonder why there are so many violent men, so many mass killers have been men. Why wouldn’t they, when they have been conditioned constantly to express feelings through violence. Why wouldn’t they feel entitled to women and sex when they are constantly getting reminders of how they should only feel masculine if they’re having lots of sex.
We have done it to women too. We have created a society that encourages women to allow themselves to be objects. A society where women are discouraged from being too aggressive in their lives. A society where women are used to being interrupted by men and having their opinions, ideas and feelings trivialized and ignored. This is the same society where a conversation existed to remind women that not all men were bad. As if women didn’t already know that. A society that bullied a 19-year-old girl to SUICIDE because she did a porn. A society that has responded to the conversation about how all women experience some sort of misogyny with complete and utter surprise. A society that treats women of all sexual backgrounds (or maternal backgrounds, or physical, ethnic, intellectual, financial) with contempt, and then becomes surprised when they speak out, and equally surprised when they are silent. Why wouldn’t they be silent? Why wouldn’t women-who are treated with contempt on sites like Return Of Kings, or who are silenced on the internet because they are offered death threats and rape threats when they speak their minds- stay silent? Why have we allowed a society where any time women dare to question the status quo they are treated with contempt and threats against their personal safety until they quiet down, and yet they are made fun of for checking the backseat of their car at night, or carrying knives, or dumping out drinks, or behaving in any of the number of ways they were taught to protect their safety, because from a young age they were taught that their bodies were public property and they had to protect them.
— shadowplay (@pasteleyes) May 29, 2014
We as a society are failing, and the tragedy at Santa Barbara belongs to all of us.
We are failing our girls. We are failing to make them believe that they have the right to their own bodies, thoughts, and opinions. We are failing to give them the ability to live up to their potential by saddling them with insecurities and behaviors that we feel are appropriate and feminine. We are failing them by asserting that they need to get married, or make boys like them, or have a relationship in order to feel whole. We are failing them by discouraging behaviors that we deem too “aggressive” for girls, and from behaving like a “tomboy”. We are failing them by deciding that if they are having sex they are promiscuous, and if they are not they are somehow failing to please their male counterparts. We are failing them by treating women who are too “masculine” as inferior, and then again by treating men who are to “feminine” as inferior. .
We are failing our boys. We are failing to make them believe that they can be masculine and successful in their own right and that they do not need to have sex or have a woman to be a “man”. We are failing to give them confidence in their bodies and in themselves so that they can succeed and treat others with respect and kindness. We are failing to encourage them to explore their emotions rather than only expel emotions in violent, aggressive ways. We are failing them by encouraging them to seek out partners who are attractive rather than seek out partners who are compatible. We are failing them by deciding that being a man involves sexual behaviors and that only certain sexual behaviors and partners “count”. We are failing them by deciding that if they behave in a way we deem to “feminine” that they are inferior.
We are failing all people by not teaching them how to be happy in themselves, and by encouraging the idea that happiness can only be found in another person. We are failing everyone by giving standards that no one can live up to.
We are failing, and it needs to change before the body count of those in our society who feel that they have failed for not living up to the crushing weight of expectations we place on every single person from the moment of their birth grow. Start speaking up in the face of injustice. Start voting for people who will affect change. Start sharing on your social media, and use your influence and your sphere to affect change. Stop hiding behind the anonymous veil of the internet and become active.
We as a society are failing, and it is time for us to try harder, be better, and do more, before more blood is shed.
* This post is Cis-focused, as I do not have the background or qualifications to comment on how society is failing those in the Trans* communities. If I find an article that handles this topic, I will post and recommend it.
**I have not and will not address the conversation on gun control and mental illness. It is a much-needed discussion and a deeper conversation that needs to happen on a nationwide scale. My lack of coverage on this topic is not in any way indicative of my feelings on the topic.