Steph Met is a student at the University of Melbourne. She is a proud Feminist who often finds solace in dogs and other fluffy creatures when she remembers that “WORLD IS FUKT.”
TW: Domestic violence, Rape culture, UCSB Shootings
Growing up in the US for the majority of my formative life, I’m no stranger to gun violence or misogyny. Every morning my Mum and I would watch the news before I left for school, and if only one person had been shot, it was a pretty good day for Philly. Too often the gun violence went hand in hand with domestic violence, further ingraining my understanding that misogyny leads to a dangerous descent into violence. However shooting after shooting, misogynistic rampage after misogynistic rampage, I found myself in an incredibly frustrating and infuriating position; if I wanted to stay safe, it was MY responsibility to avoid dangerous situations and the onus was entirely on me to not get raped/ assaulted/murdered/etc. It wasn’t until I watched a fantastic TedTalk by Jackson Katz many years later that I finally realised that although I had been conditioned to assume that violence against women and misogyny in general is a “women’s issue” it is in fact a men’s issue and more broadly, a human issue.
After years of being told that I “simply cannot understand” what causes mass shootings such as the one that most recently occurred at the University of California – Santa Barbara (UCSB), and consistently being drowned out by louder, more dominant (and often male) voices, I was yet again conditioned to resort to a sort of learned helplessness every time these atrocities occurred.
But this conditioning has gone on too long, and I have finally come to the understanding that my silence in these issues does not help anyone, let alone myself which is why I have decided to compose a sort of open letter to anyone involved in the discourse surrounding the UCSB shootings. Don’t get me wrong, I’m under no illusions that my Facebook-status-turned-open-letter-turned-blog-post will revolutionise anything. All I hope is that those who read it will come to the same realization that took me nearly my whole life to come to: no matter what the MRAs and other such douchenozzles say cloaked by the cowardly anonymity of the Internet, you are not alone. The sisterhood is still alive and well and will never stop fighting to secure your right to a safe space. You are not alone, please remember that.
After seeing the endless drivel in FB comments around the UCSB shootings, I would like to make something perfectly clear. To those who say it is a gun issue, you are not wrong. To those who say it is a mental health issue, you are not wrong. To those who say it is a misogyny issue, you are not wrong. However to those who try and excuse and explain away the shooter’s actions by completely ignoring the latter cause, you are all sorely misguided. These issues are not mutually exclusive, but rather, feed and further compound each other.
If you think for just one second that patriarchal constructs and macho-culture don’t contribute to men not seeking help for mental health issues, you ARE wrong. If you think that patriarchal constructs and macho-culture don’t contribute to the lack of gun laws, obsession with the second amendment and unfathomable rates of gun violence, you ARE wrong. If you think that the MRA- movement has not contributed to the spread of disgusting and vitriolic rhetoric against women and has nothing to do with this, you ARE wrong.
I have zero time for men who sit online and complain about how terribly unjust it is to be lumped in with another man who was “just a psycho,” when what you should be complaining about is how abhorrent it is that our society glorifies men like that and thus, perpetuates violence. This is no longer a “women’s issue,” it is very clearly a men’s issue. We should not have to try and frame any argument (let alone this one) around the rhetoric of “she was someone’s daughter/mother/sister/wife/etc” because that implies that in order for people to empathise with the female victims of this tragedy, we need to find a way to put a classifier on them to make it easier for people to feel some sliver of empathy.
For those of you who sit in cowardly comfort behind your computer screen while “trying to help by playing devils advocate,” let me be crystal clear; you are NOT helping anyone. By sitting on your computer and pushing people to persistently defend their point of view is selfish, misguided and traumatic. You do not know what the person on the receiving end of your pathetic, private school debating tactics has been through and you probably never will, but the most terrifying thing about that is through your ignorance and childish bravado, you can bring someone you may not even know unimaginable pains by reopening old wounds you were completely oblivious to just because you wanted to prove something to yourself and/or your mates.
And before anyone tries to derail this discussion by saying that there were male victims and I’m being selfish for not including them (I wouldn’t be putting this in if I hadn’t see it happen before), let me say this. All the victims of this shooting died tragic, senseless and most importantly, preventable deaths. But let me reiterate my previous statement; if you think this horrific act of violence was caused by one, oversimplified, reductive and narrow factor, you ARE wrong.