Unfinished Business

There are many headlines today declaring that while Alabama bans abortions for rape victims it protects the parental rights of rapists. For example,

When a young woman came to the Family Services of North Alabama office last year for help with trauma, saying she had been raped by her step-uncle when she was 15, rape crisis advocate Portia Shepherd heard something that “killed me, shocked me.”

The step-uncle, who was getting out of jail after a drug conviction, wanted to be a part of their child’s life. And in Alabama, the alleged rapist could get custody.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Alabama legislators to rush to the statehouse to correct this. And apparently it’s a widespread problem.

I started to title this post “Feminism’s Unfinished Business,” but the issues we’re facing aren’t so much about the shortcomings of feminism but the fact that too many men are screwed up, and I’d like to see more effort coming from men to correct this. Women can only do so much by ourselves.

WaPo has an opinion piece on the incels, whom the writer, Christine Emba, calls “the bleeding edge of a generation of struggling men.” The incels, of course, are the perpetually adolescent losers who live in an internet subculture promoting self-pity and rage at women. I don’t think Emba comes anywhere close to plumbing the depths of the problem. Internet feedback loops combined with poor social skills don’t even begin to tell the whole story.

WaPo also has a very good in-depth piece on Scott Paul Beierle, the 40-year-old incel who shot six women, two fatally, in a Tennessee yoga studio before killing himself. The author, Steve Hendrix, ties women-haters like Beierle to a wide range of right-wing extremism in the U.S. “More and more, we see misogyny as the gateway drug for extremists,” said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“A deep-seated loathing of women acts as a connective tissue between many white supremacists,” explained the ADL report, titled “When Women are the Enemy: The Intersection of Misogyny and White Supremacy.”

While old-guard white supremacists revered women as the mothers of the race, younger bigots despise them as just one more group responsible for eroding their status.

“Even if you become the ultimate alpha male, some stupid bitch will still ruin your life,” declared Andrew Anglin on the neo-Nazi website he founded, the Daily Stormer. Anglin has credited his site’s anti-women content with bolstering traffic even as other hate sites have seen a falloff.

Hendrix writes that the FBI began tracking hate crimes against women in 2013, but this has provided little information because local police departments are slugs about reporting hate crimes against women. And this, of course, is part of the larger pattern of not taking crimes against women seriously.

People are quick to make connections between mass shootings and video games, but the connections between mass shootings and domestic violence is ignored.

Last year a reader wrote this to WaPo after one of the mass shootings:

These incidents are commonplace in modern America. We can surely expect the same responses: Gun control will be debated, mental illness will be blamed, and politicians will send “thoughts and prayers” while doing little to prevent future attacks. Yet, these conversations often omit an important perpetrator warning sign: a history of violence against women. According to an Everytown for Gun Safety analysis , 156 mass shootings occurred between 2009 and 2016. Fifty-four percent of those shootings were related to domestic or family violence. Prior to the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting, Nikolas Cruz was accused of being abusive toward his ex-girlfriend, having stalked a second female student with whom he was infatuated and having threatened his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. Before Mr. Cruz, Devin Patrick Kelley, Omar Mateen, Robert Lewis Dear, Seung Hui Choi, Adam LanzaJames T. Hodgkinson and Stephen Paddock were also accused of having abused women. In the wake of the Capital Gazette shooting, it is already apparent that Jarrod Ramos’s harassment of a female former high school classmate played a key role in his alleged motivations.

See also:

While it often seems like there’s no rhyme or reason to mass shootings, there is at least one commonality among many of the perpetrators: a history of violence against the women in their lives.

This past Sunday, 26 people were killed and 20 were injured in a church Sutherland Springs, Tex. It quickly emerged that the shooter, a man by the name of Devin Kelley, was a domestic abuser. While serving in the Air Force, he was court-martialed on charges of domestic assault after he beat, choked and threatened his wife with a gun, as well as fractured her son’s skill.

He’s not the only shooter to have exhibited violent behavior towards his intimate partner. The gunmen responsible for deaths in Las Vegas, Orlando, and San Bernadino all have histories of abusing women. But the evidence isn’t simply anecdotal; here are just a few statistics that illustrate how closely linked domestic violence and mass shootings really are.

There is a strong argument that if violence against women were taken more seriously and prosecuted more rigorously, a lot of these mass shootings would never have happened. And maybe someday local cops and judges will figure that out. But I’m not holding my breath.

I believe the Violence Against Women Act is currently lapsed, by the way. The House passed a re-authorization bill that is sitting in the Senate. The NRA has been fighting tooth and nail to keep it from being re-authorized. That’s because it contains a provision that would allow police to confiscate a domestic abuser’s firearms.

And then there is the ongoing phenomenon of rapists who get convicted and given a pat on the wrist. The infamous Brock Turner was just the tip of the iceberg.

The rash of punitive anti-abortion legislation is part of this picture. The all-so-righteous anti-aborts don’t give a hoo-haw about babies. As I’ve written before, cruelty is the point.

No wonder the anti-abortion cause became so central to these men’s lives. It feels good. It lets them act out their inner ugliness, without compunction. And too many women go along with it because they are conditioned to submit to the patriarchy and to measure their self-worth by the approval of men.

It may be that all this pushback against women’s empowerment is the last hurrah of the patriarchy. If so, it’s about time the patriarchy is put down like a rabid dog. I hope I live to see it. But this pattern is not a “women’s problem.” It’s a societal problem, and it’s going to take all of us to change things.