UCSB and the culture of hating women

Like everyone else, I spent most of yesterday following the story of the UCSB shootings and the #YesAllWomen tag in horror. The shooter’s actions were beyond horrific, but it was the responses to it that really made me sick to my stomach. The media not even mentioning the misogynistic motivations behind the shooting. People saying he was “just unwell” or even calling him a HERO for his actions.

Every time something like this happens, journalists attempt to blame it on media consumption. Violent movies. Violent video games. We can be pretty certain that the shooter’s father’s connection to The Hunger Games will be dragged up here. And those of us who are anti-censorship, anti-book burning, anti old fashioned conservative hysteria, mock these arguments. We roll our eyes and say how ridiculous it all is.

Well, for once, I’m going to agree with anti-media hysteria. This shooting happened for a whole myriad of reasons coming together, but the main reason, based on the shooter’s own words, is that he was allowed to dehumanize women and view them as a commodity that he was ENTITLED to. Lots of things contribute to the feasibility of this view, and one of them is the media we consume.

When we play video games where all female characters are prostitutes or treated in a “gotta catch em all” way, we’re told that women don’t count as people. When they play games that encourage us to act out violence against women, we get desensitized to this violence.

When TV shows and movies present female characters as nothing more than the “prize” that the hero earns for being a good hero, we learn that men are entitled to worship from the woman of their choosing.

When women are presented as the horrid villains of movies, deserving of comeuppance, because they rejected the protagonist, we’re taught that rejecting a man’s advances is a cruel thing done by cruel people.

When movies and TV shows show rape and torture of women and are then rated R or even PG-13, we see violence against women as normal. And when stories use rape or murder as a suitable punishment for “bitchy” women, we learn that this is what women deserve.

When women’s voices are dismissed in stories, we’re encouraged to dismiss them in real life too.

Our whole culture enables and even encourages the perspective that the shooter took to extreme levels, and the media is a major part of that. From screaming rape threats on X-Box Live to enjoying the latest episode of Game of Thrones, stories, and our consumption of them, are constantly telling us that violence against women is okay. That objectification is okayAnd considering how many hours the average person spends playing video games and watching TV shows and movies, we can hardly pretend that this doesn’t have an impact on the way we all view women in real life. For some of us, that leads to ingrained sexism that we’d rather not have. But for others — for too many others — this leads to real life violence, justified by years of gradual conditioning. And that is an unacceptable cost for “free expression” in storytelling media.

09 comments on “UCSB and the culture of hating women

  • VVendetadlc , Direct link to comment

    I agree with most of what you said. And you are right ot said “free expresion” because it’s only free util you said something feminist. Then come the “not all men are like that!” and the threats. Sad but true.

    When someone said “men who like videogames” noone fells that they have to add “not all men play videogames/like sports/whatever, but if you said, “men who rape” or “men who hate women” to criticize that action, there’s always someone who tried to invalidate whats being said with the “not all men, so shut up now or you’ll offend the men who don’t do that”.

    Always suspect that the ones who use that argument, deep down are like the ones doing it and can’t conceive that there are men who don’t identify with the rapist. Same with this killer. The ones who are saying that they “understand why the killer acted that way and blame women, in truth, hate women too.

    But in a twisted way, the reactions to de GoT rapes could be a “hint” into wich kind of people avoid. If someone tell me that the scene with Jaime and Cersei it’s not rape, I’ll start avoiding that person or being really carefull around that person if I can’t. Same with other misoginist coments.

  • TheLadyDire , Direct link to comment

    While media does have an effect on the opinions of people I would say that most can discern reality from fiction and are capable of making their own decisions. There are games where all women are prostitutes but I would say that the vast majority of examples against this outweigh the actual examples. And furthermore a woman being a prostitute does not make her less than a person.

    More interestingly I think is that you mention games which ENCOURAGE violence against women to be accepted, accepted and taken part in. What games are these? There are examples of which I can think of violence against women is depicted but there is a vast difference between depiction and encouragement.

    I do agree that women as prizes are inherently problematic but I’m not entirely sure of your statements on women as villains. Horrific villains are always deserving of a comeuppance in the audience’s eyes regardless of whether or not they’re male or female but this part “we’re taught that rejecting a man’s advances is a cruel thing done by cruel people” seems somewhat unrelated. I do see situations where men can’t take no for an answer as bad.

    As for torture and rape against women seen as acceptable is wildly incorrect, but I think you meant to have it within context that the female character “deserved it” based on your second statement. Indeed the problem of rape and torture as acceptable is visible across the board but interesting the most obvious example I can think of is not in fact a woman, but the character Theon Greyjoy who I’m sure a large portion (a not entirely male portion) see the sexual violence and torture as acceptable and entirely justified. However I think this is more of a reflection of society’s habit of seeing anyone (man or woman) who commits relatively bad but not too bad ( too bad such as paedophilia, rape, torture, murder) indiscretions are automatically deserving of death or at least a lot of suffering.

    I’m not entirely sure of the next part. I don’t think people would legitimately dismiss a woman’s opinion simply because she’s a woman but it does make me think of a certain situation is ASOIAF where Catelyn is preaching peace but everyone dismisses her because “she’s a woman and she doesn’t understand a need for vengeance”. But I think few people today would legitimately see the face that a woman is a woman as a reason to dismiss them.

    But I fail to see the extreme amount of stories telling us that violence against women is okay.

  • Anonymous , Direct link to comment

    To say that media is the animus of such hatred and horror is incomplete at best and dangerous at worst. It seeks to excuse behavior with “well he can’t help it, he watched it on HBO and played it on his XBox.” There are many many people (yes, including men) in the world who also watch HBO and play it on XBox and come away from it viewing it as “isn’t it awful what happened to her?” In this case, the individual was mentally unstable and a monster. To rage against the media is to miss the real point here. The truest cause is mental disease, coupled with, absolutely, sexism at its most vile. It is an understatement to say that sexism is rampant and largely unchecked in our society. It is also an understatement that the disturbed and mentally ill are poorly handled as well. Does the media play a role? Sure. But far from the most important role.

    • Sandra , Direct link to comment

      To say that mental disease is the animus of such hatred and horror is incomplete at best and dangerous and extremely ableist at worst.

      Mental illness had nothing to do with what this arsehole did. There are thousands, millions of people who are autistic or depressed or bipolar etc etc who do not do this. There are hundreds, THOUSANDS of people who are autistic or depressed or bipolar etc etc who have been victims and survivors of violence that has been perpetuated against them BECAUSE of their mental illnesses, because of the misconceptions that people have about them.

      Society wants us to think that people with mental illnesses are dangerous and likely to be violent. In fact, people with mental illnesses are far more likely to be the victims of violence.

      • VVendetadlc , Direct link to comment

        I agree with Sandra. It seems that mental illness is being used as scape goat to not think about a part of our culture that while beloved, has some dark parts. But if we really loved TV Shows, films and books, we should be able to criticize that parts so we can make them better.

        Sure, there’s many people who see that shows and don’t become murderers (obviusly XD), but some become a little more sexist. Not because they rationally think “women are inferior because I saw tits in TV”. Obviusly that doesn’t make sense. But TV normalize many “catch phrases”, clothes and, yes, ways to act. And we repeat many of the things we see withough thinking in the implications. How many time as teenagers we have copy things from our favorite shows? So no, fictions is only a reflection of something bigger, but at the same time influence the same culture it comes from. It’s a cicle and right now the rol it has for women it’s not that good. People like that killer use that to justify his ideas.

        We allways focus on the killers, but here’s also beaters and people who are polite, but would never hire a women. And on and on…

  • Linda , Direct link to comment

    I´m rather “mixed” about this. On one hand, violence against women is the worst, the lowest you can think of, especially sexual violence, but even domestic violence. It´s hardly accepted in modern western culture, quite the opposite. A man who deliberately hurts a woman physically, or takes advatage of her sexually, is ususally wiewed as either a loser or a monster. That´s why violent attacks on women in movies and TV-shows, often are used to portray how “evil” a male character is. Violence against men are in general much more accepted.

    But then we have the other part of reality. where objectification and sometimes even violence against women are both common and considered “normal”. In video games, in the porn industry and in everything related to this. Where a “bitch slap” is something that some women deserve, where men are entitled to women´s bodies etc. Here we also have a huge underground movement of men who can´t handle modern gender equality, who feel threatned by women etc.
    The worst among these men, think they are – or should be – superiour to women, but that´s quite rare, at least in western society. Much more common are those who don´t neccesarly think bad about women or equality, but that feminism have gone “too far”, that more traditional gender roles are “more natural” etc. Even many women stick to this view. And in this context, oppression of women or sometimes even violence against women, are seen as a “reaction” on modern society, where women have more power than ever. (Usually only over their own lives, but still). Some even claim that women have power over men (sexual power for example), and that Elliot Rodgers actions was a result of that, rather than the misogynic act it actually was.

  • phil , Direct link to comment

    The way the media portrays anyone is biased and steeped in old fashioned and damaging views and not only the views the media perpetuates about females.

    I will share a personal story of mine to make my point. Once I was married, my ex wife and I were very happy but after a while it became clear that she expected from me what is traditionally expected of men. Thanks to tropes she had learned from tv, stories ect I was perceived as less than male for not meeting up to these standards. Mocked for not being able to repair the car, not being able to build furniture, for being sensitive and trying to share my feelings, for being indecisive. According to several girlfriends I have had there was one word for a pitiful less than man like myself and that was gay.
    The worst of it stems from the worst stereotype males are branded with in media and that is the stereotype that males are only interested in sex and will take it at any opportunity. My ex wife wanted a baby and I wasn’t ready so she literally held me down and rode me until she got what she wanted despite my protests and efforts to remove her. A man’s erection and ejaculation are based on stimuli and do not imply consent nor enjoyment but the media will tell you otherwise. She felt entitled to me as a sex object, she felt comfortable for forcing me to provide that for her because as a man I’m a provider right? And she was proud that she did it.

    I am not saying that stereotypes are not damaging to women on the contrary they absolutely are but then again they are damaging to everyone. And while I acknowledge you feel that women get the worse end of the stick in this regard and perhaps justifiably so, I cannot wait personally for these conversations to become more inclusive because this is an issue that effects more than just women.

    • Rhiannon , Direct link to comment

      I’m so sorry that that happened to you. You’re right that these stereotypes are damaging to EVERYBODY, as two sides of the same coin: just as women are presented as lesser, men are told that they have to do everything they can to NOT be like women, or else they’re lesser as well. Media stereotypes are very damaging, especially since they’re so ingrained that we barely notice them any more. And just as the idea of “getting the girl” helped contribute to the shooting of these women, the idea that all the other guys were getting women that the shooter felt he deserved contributed to the men’s deaths in this tragedy as well.

What do you think?

%d bloggers like this: