I Don’t Know What I Need to Hear, but I Need to Hear Something

Last week a guy walked into a school in Colorado and sexually assaulted and killed some girls.  Yesterday, a guy walked into a school in Pennsylvania and lined some little girls up against a wall and shot them.

I woke up to NPR this morning and the woman reading the news was going on about “the children.”  “The children” were tied up.  “The children” were killed.  And so I woke up thinking “Those were girls and it matters that they were girls because the killer chose them because they were girls.  Don’t say ‘children’ like the story is their age.”

It makes me feel unmoored.

I can remember the story of the school in I think it was Saudi Arabia where there was a fire and the girls were shot as they came running out because they weren’t properly covered.

From that, I extrapolated that that kind of thing was happening all the time over there.  But you know, I don’t know that.  It may be that I remember that story because it was so outrageous that it made the news over here.

Still, it was reported and from that, I felt confident in drawing inferences about Islamic culture.

Do I do the same for our culture?  Do I look at the dead girls piled up these two weeks and draw some inference?

On the one hand, I’m not sure there’s any new information to be gleaned.  Two disturbed men killed some girls.  What can you say about that more than that?

On the other hand, it matters.  It matters that they were girls.  That they were alive and now they’re not because they were girls.

I keep waiting for the big feminist voices to say something about either incident, but I haven’t seen anything.

And I don’t feel eloquent enough to even begin to know what to say.  I don’t understand it.  There’s nothing to rally you against because of the deaths of these girls.

There’s just six dead girls in less than a week, dead because they were girls. And I’m left with just this feeling I don’t know how to put into words.  Jessica over at tinyluckygenius aka the Unicorn’s tear says

Walking down the street and being out in the world, the fear is always with you, a little, some, that someone will get you. When you get older, the fear become more acute, and “get” becomes “rape”.
But I never feared when I was in school.
I never feared I would be raped and killed in my classroom.

Yeah, I think that’s it.  Here’s this one place where we can be fairly safe and free.  How many of us are where we are because school was opening up new worlds to us, giving us access to new ideas pointing us towards ways of entering important conversations?  How many of us first found what we were good at or something worth loving about ourselves at school?

Educate us and you give us freedoms women in past generations have never had.

You teach us how to nourish our minds.  It’s sacred in some non-religious sense, because education is liberation.

Killing us in school is like shitting in the front of church.

It offends me at a soul-deep level.

It feels profane.

50 thoughts on “I Don’t Know What I Need to Hear, but I Need to Hear Something

  1. As a teacher, I watch time and again as students divide themselves by race, class, and gender (among other things). I also see that it is typically those in positions of power who are least likely to want to share their power to those without it. It might seem obvious when I say it that way, but when it comes to real situations, it is still jolting when the white men in class argue that racism doesn’t exist while the students of other races listen (sometimes too quietly) with horror in their eyes. I would even argue that you, Aunt B., found that to be true here a few weeks back with your post on racism.So, it does seem to me that in our political climate, where feminism is tagged with the destruction of the family, women will be blamed for the ills of society (by some, at least). And while political debate is crucial to our survival, the current wave of thinking (thanks to the radical far right) is dangerous to women and girls. We can call it coincidence all day long, but I think to do so is to deny something fundamentally dangerous about our culture. These may be crazed men, but aren’t their actions just over-zealous versions of the laws currently being changed about abortion, non-nationals rights, and human torture? When we begin dividing people into groups of those-with-rights and those-without-rights, aren’t we inviting this thinking into all areas of our lives?

  2. I did a brief and depressing recap of school massacres in the US (or at least those that I could find easily). Five things stick out.1) In earlier massacres, like the Bath School explosion that killed 45 people, the emphasis was on mass destruction and so no particular gender was targeted at the school. Shrapnel is an equal opportunity killer. So if you add up all victims regardless of method of murder, the numbers look equal.2) If you exclude bomb murders (I was surprised to see how many of these there were), it becomes sickeningly clear that girls are the target of choice, not simply targets of opportunity. 3) Equally disturbing is the connection between out-of-school homocides and the later killings at schools. Again, I was surprised to note how many of these dudes — always dudes — offed wifes, mothers, and grandmothers first before heading off to ravage elementary schools and college campuses.4) Many of the killers act to avenge themselves against perceived slights received at the hands of women or are triggered in an interaction with a woman that they think isn’t deferential enough. A major prize that went to a woman that the killer thought he deserved. An old humiliation from with the killer never rebounded. Bitterness over a debt incurred by paying for the health care of a tubercular wife. A "stuck up bitch" who couldn’t read the assailant’s handwriting.5) Finally, and again, this is just based on the data I have handy, it looks to me as if the gender-specific attacks have steadily increased in the last twenty-five years. In some ways, that would seem self-evident — the last ten years have seen a whole lot more attacks anyhow. But the killing of young women is not so obviously the point in pre-1980 school murders. So the depressing news is that yes, you are empirically correct in your observations. Girls are being gunned down for being girls and it’s getting worse.

  3. I have to say, B, that the whole thing freaked me out because they were girls. The report that the guy "spared" the pregnant women and those who had small children with them, sounded out loudly to me-we are only useful as breeding machines for men. I have always hated that my children-all girls-have had the burden of possible rape on their shoulders by the luck of the chromosome. Totally carefree is an unknown concept for girls and women.Thank you for posting this.

  4. Your overthinking, because it is much more comforting to blame this on the grand patriarchal scheme of things, than to confront the ugly truth.This is a horrific, absurd, raandom, bolt out of the sky, type of event. The first man in Colorado who did this was homeless. Does this say something about homeless men and sexuality? The second man attacked the Amish (of all people). Does this say anything about the Amish and sexuality?Sometimes, to be perfectly blunt: Shit happens.Shit happened in Colorado, which probably led to a similarly deranged pervert to cause shit to happen in Pennsylvania.

  5. Not to say that sexual perversion and mysogyny didn’t have anything to do with this.But this goes back to Jack the Ripper cutting apart prostitutes back in the 1800s.Sadly, nothing new.

  6. Now, Lee, how can you have it both ways? How can you say both that misogyny did have something to do with it and that "blaming the patriarchy" is inappropriate?I mean, if it looks like a pattern, and a pattern we’d like to stop, shouldn’t we ask questions?For instance, suicide is the 8th leading cause of death among men. Each man who commits suicide (whether in the privacy of his own basement or in a classroom full of girls he’s just executed) has his own personal reasons for doing so.Does that mean we shouldn’t try to see if there aren’t some overarching trends we might address?

  7. First, I fucking hate it to be told I’m "overthinking." Disagree with my conclusions if you must, but don’t imply that my thinking is the problem.I have to say that you’re succumbing to the "one bad apple" theory of violence against women. You know, some dude smacks his wife around, that’s just a sick guy and not indicative of anything about a system of power that perpetuates inequality. So some sick fucks pump a few rounds into this or that line of tied-up schoolgirls. (Oh, and he often does this after he abuses or kills his female relatives, his kids, his livestock, and his pets.) It doesn’t mean anything particularly about the society we live in. It doesn’t meant that there’s any connection between massive outbursts of gender-specific violence and problems with male domination in the home.Except that it does. If it were only one dude, maybe you’d have a point. Shit does happen. But it’s many dudes, acting on similar grievances, choosing similar targets, hitting similar locations, using similar methods. Jack the Ripper didn’t invade a Victorian girls school looking for his victims. There’s something that certain men believe and then act upon that makes women more vulnerable to attack — in their homes, on the streets, and in their schools. And they are doing it more and more. At some point, don’t you have to pull back and say — "Whoa, it’s not just isolated sick fuckers, but part of a broader problem that we should think about and address?"Bad apples do spoil the whole bunch, regardless of what pop radio told you.

  8. They are not doing it more and more, there is just more and more media saturating.Should we look at the Duke rape case, and say what is wrong with women in society, and falsely crying rape ? Why are women falsely claiming rape more and more? I’m sure you are familiar with a similar case down at William and Mary where a woman falsely claimed rape and ruined a man’s life.There’s something that certain women believe and then act upon that makes men more vulnerable to charges of false rape.

  9. I’m still stuck on the fact that in both cases it appears that girls were chosen because the sick killer perceived girls as weaker and easily dominatable. What does it say about society’s projected image of girls as being so weak that a man tortured by his own weaknesses as a human being perceives girls as far weaker than he?

  10. "Should we look at the Duke rape case, and say what is wrong with women in society, and falsely crying rape ?"Lee, it was never proven one way or the other whether that woman was lying or raped.

  11. Perhaps it’s a backlash against female power. I’m not referring to feminism, and I do realize we still have a partriarchy for the most part.But women have a large power over men’s self image. It starts with mom, and it’s perpetuated when any heterosexual man wants a date. A woman’s opinion is more important to a lot of guys than another guys. It’s usually easier to interact with another guy, but women are more mysterious. And it’s a lot more crushing to be rejected by a woman than by a man, at least socially. Ask any teenage boy who can’t find a date to the prom.If Bridgett is correct, perhaps the increase in violence against women is correlated with an increase in chosiness among women which leads to rejecting more men.

  12. No, Lee, I think you’re incorrect. Gun murders in schools are happening more now than they did in the 1920s. Or the 1930s. Or the 1950s. When guys climb in through the window and kill white kids, American media always report it — so those kind of assaults really are on the rise. What’s harder to figure out is whether gun assaults by black or Latino kids on black or Latino kids are also on the rise. In my neighborhood this week, the schools have been torn up by violence after a black kid shot another black kid, several people got arrested for multiple stabbings, etc. That didn’t make the national news, though. Nor did the one in Detroit. Nor the one in East Orange County. (And so on.)So, school assaults really are happening more. And it’s happening even more than you realize because the media that you think is blowing these things out of proportion is actually only telling you about a thin slice of what they have determined is "news." About certain kinds of violence. About certain kinds of predators and their victims. Hmmm…why is that? And what effects is that having on American perceptions of who should feel unsafe? And who might be easy pickings? And who isn’t worth talking about at all?

  13. "Males were 9 times more likely to commit murder than females, and males are 3.4 times more likely to be murder victims in 2002."http://www.benbest.com/lifeext/murder.htmlWhere is this patriarchy that has men and boys targeting women and girls? Males are 3.4 times more likely to be murdered than females*. Our society obviously hates males. These incidents are terrible, but is it less terrible when a boy is killed than when a girl is killed? Is it more terrible that nine girls were killed in one building, than that 30 boys will be killed in ones and twos across the nation?* No, I’m not ignoring that men are the bastards doing to killing, only pointing out that these bastards target men more than women. So while women have much more to fear from rape or domestic battery than do men, if women are more afraid of being murdered than men are, that fear is caused by psychology, acculturaltion, or something else other than the reality of the situation.

  14. Clearly there would be nothing inaccurate in saying "girls, girls, girls" instead of "children." Even if someone does not agree with B’s analysis (which she claims is more a concern & fear than a reasoned out and deductive proof of the rise of the patriarchy), it is true that those killed recently have been girls by plan, not accident. And, stating that B is "just overthinking" and shouldn’t concern herself with such abstractions (especially if she doesn’t also concern herself with other abstractions, which might appear to contradict her intuition) is quite counterproductive to any attempt to help relieve her of her concerns about the violence of our society, epecially where men are trying to control women & girls.

  15. Bridgett, If you look at the rate of kids born outside of marriage, you find a distinct correlation with violence and other anti-social behaviors.Young boys need men in the house to teach them to be men.

  16. > Young boys need men in the house to teach them to be men.Young boys being raised solely by women is not new or different. If nothing else, the last 6,000 years of wars have meant that a lot of young fathers were killed, leaving their widows to raise children. I don’t buy it.

  17. > Clearly there would be nothing inaccurate in saying "girls, girls, girls" instead of "children."If the newscaters had said "girls" instead of "children", there would be ‘shrill’ feminists (not necessarily here, but it seems there’s no pleasing Twisty) claiming that by saying "girls" they were sending out a code: "Don’t worry these were only girls, no need to be concerned."

  18. I’m kind of fascinated that B. writes about girls being murdered in school and Lee immediately says that it’s not about sexuality. And then follows up with musing about attacks on prostitutes.No, it’s not about sexuality. B. didn’t suggest that it was. It’s about little girls being assaulted and murdered–shot in the back of the head, this latest time–in a place that should have been safe. It’s about poer and vulnerability. About gender, not sex.Not to pick on you, Lee, because I don’t think you were trying to derail the subject. But when indifferent children asks where the patriarchy is, it’s in that response: "oh, it’s about females, and females are about sex, that’s what they are all for, so it must have been about sex, or not, which we should discuss." It’s so ingrained that no one even sees it.P.S. Twisty isn’t shrill–she sometimes uses her rapier-like wit on unworthy objects, but nothing that funny can be shrill, I think.

  19. Using the word ‘shrill’ was a tongue-in-cheek reference to a thread a few weeks ago. There was a discussion about people (ok, usually men) using the adjective ‘shrill’ to dismiss anything unpleasant that a woman says.

  20. >If nothing else, the last 6,000 years of wars >have meant that a lot of young fathers were killed, leaving their widows to raise children. I don’t buy it. yeah and no. One can see the similarities between Post Weimarch pre Nazi Germany and African American populations post Vietnam.(if one looks closely and past preconceived notions about both cohorts) Seems that male populations fell prey to charismatic leadership of a sort that filled several voids. Perry Farrel said the gang and the government are no different. However, the social millieu for the wide range of populations you discuss may have contained support structures that stepped in when traditional families broke apart.

  21. Oh, now Galdalph don’t you start flinging that sloppy "traditional families" bullshit around here. You and I both know a "traditional family" isn’t mommy, daddy, the kids and dog, but a mom, a dad, a mother-in-law or two, some uncles that haven’t left the nest yet, a spinster sister and a flock of cousins OR whatever other constellation of folks related by blood or necessity fate brought together.

  22. Ha, one might argue that all these problems with y’all (men) started with the dismantling of the true "traditional" family and its replacement with the nuclear "traditional" family we’ve got now.

  23. > Ha, one might argue that all these problems with y’all (men) started…Nah. The problem started when the women-folk wanted silk to drape over their bodies, spices to mask their terrible cooking skills, and doo-dads to decorate their necklines. Then we men-folk had to go conquer brown people to get all these things. Left to our own devices, we would still spend our afternoons reclining on goat skins, drinking mildly fermented goat’s milk, watching the beetle races on the dirt floors of our huts.But no! We have to be all ‘heroic’ and acquisitive. You notice it wasn’t the Spartan men saying, "With your shields or on them."

  24. Careful, that "true" traditional family was true only in some places at some times. If you want to find it in most of the U.S. or in northern and western Europe, for instance, you’re going to have to go back further than you think. It was gone (or had never been there all that much) centuries before industrialization. But the young men were problems even when/where it was around, if their contemporaries are to be believed.

  25. For a world-wide perspective on oppression and violence, check out jihadwatch.org. If you think the level of violence is bad now….

  26. and to add, I would prefer that what preceeded the last sentence not be ignored in a back and forth over what constitutes a traditional family to Takeshi vs what the phrase means to Billy Bob. The "blame" doesn’t fall squarely on the single parent female run household, and so "Strong male role models," aren’t the magic bullet.

  27. Yah, if the family that is normative (let’s say, rather than "traditional") for a time/place is being broken, or is (in the aggregate), undergoing a lot of changes, that breaking/change will have a lot of impact, much of it unpleasant, on the individuals caught up in it. I withdraw my quibble about Aunt B.’s quibble.

  28. BUT I think that young men have been perceived as at least a potential problem at almost every time/place we have documented. There’s a lot of writing about them in literate societies, and it has a lot of bad to say (most of it alarmist and unjustified, I’m sure, but it’s hard to ignoer). And many non-literate societies have developed elaborate structures for keeping young men’s potential violence/anarchy in check.

  29. Well, now, I wonder.Ha, sorry. I don’t mean that I think strong male role models are some kind of magic bullet, but aren’t strong adult role models good for kids? I mean, I’m not opposed to, in fact I believe in, kids having strong role models, male and female.I think the bullshit comes with saying that the people who supplied the genetic material for you are by definition the best people to be those role models.And I agree that there are some interesting ways to link post-WWI German men with post-Vietnam Black men, but I don’t think you can overlook how crack devastated Black families (and, in case anyone missed that, just watch meth work its way through the rural white population for the heartbreaking sequel).Dumping crack into the inner cities and then making the prison terms for it much harsher than the prison terms for comparable cocaine possession has done a lot to remove men from homes.It’s been my observation that men loose their minds between the ages of 15 and 25 (approximately) and that it’s all most families can do to keep them from doing something that will fuck up their lives for the rest of their lives.As you know, though, with Black men/boys being under constant scrutiny by law enforcement, they really don’t have the same opportunities to fuck up and still be able to get on with their lives that white boys/men do.Both of my brothers are living proof of that.

  30. "Not to pick on you, Lee, because I don’t think you were trying to derail the subject. But when indifferent children asks where the patriarchy is, it’s in that response: "oh, it’s about females, and females are about sex, that’s what they are all for, so it must have been about sex, or not, which we should discuss." It’s so ingrained that no one even sees it."In good faith rebuttal, I did think sex, because I assumed that the reason the genders were separated before the massacre was because of this guy’s sexual issues.This guy was diseased in the head. Not legally, but of a moral, twisted sort of way. I keep thinking of Dostoyevsky. Much more that led to this horrible event was triggered inside this man head than by his outside conditioning. I believe, and this explains my intitial full force diving into this, that this is about as explainable as the Manson killings, or Mark David Chapman shooting Reagan to impress Jodie Foster, or Susan Smith drowning her kids in a river.This is much darker, much more… universal to mankind in general.

  31. And if anybody comments on the inherent sexism of using "mankind" I’m driving down to Nashville and buying them a beer while I tell them how wrong they are.Hint hint, wink wink.

  32. Lee, bless your heart. I thought we’d been over this.Man used to be the gender neutral version of the word. Y’all were the weopmen (or the men with weapons) and we were the wifmen (or the men who traded) (Ha, you know if I have that etymology wrong, it’s going to be a race between nm and Bridgett to see who can correct it first!).Just because y’all are so insecure that you had to take a perfectly good neutral word and start using it to mean only you is no reason for me or anyone else to give up using it in its neutral sense.Hence the reason I find womyn to be either offensive or laughable depending on my mood.But you can still buy me beers.

  33. Oh my god. Are you going to make me admit to loving Miller Lite right here in public?Okay, fine! I love Miller Lite. I have no taste.Don’t look at me! I can’t bear to know you can never think of me as an erudite thinker now that you know I willingly choose to drink Miller Lite and like it.

  34. wyfmann (note the double n) = O.E. woman, or female servantmann = O.E. personwaepan = O.E. weapon; waepnedmann = O.E. armed manwyf as a prefix doesn’t suggest trading, though. A wicmann might be a trader, I suppose, though I don’t know whether that form was used. The form wicing was used, from which we got the Vikings, and if they weren’t an example of young men causing trouble I don’t know what is.

  35. Oh, and BTW: "In good faith rebuttal, I did think sex, because I assumed that the reason the genders were separated before the massacre was because of this guy’s sexual issues."Funny, I would have thought that he had issues about one sex or another (i.e. about gender), but not that he had sexual issues. I don’t see how you can go there so automatically. I assume that it’s because as a participant in American culture you have thoroughly absorbed some bad misunderstandings of Freud,* but really–everyone who carries out a massacre has sexual issues? I don’t think so.And you miss a larger point, I think. If isolated instance after isolated instance after isolated instance of mass killings at schools primarily target girls, you can talk all you want to about the specific history and triggers that set off each event, but you have to pay attention to the fact that most of the explosions are directed towards the same group.*Not that I want to let what Freud actually wrote off the hook, but I don’t think he was properly digested before we absorbed him.

  36. "First, I fucking hate it to be told I’m "overthinking." Disagree with my conclusions if you must, but don’t imply that my thinking is the problem."You’re right. My belated apologies. I meant to say you were making the situation more complex than it needed to be, but I was insulting, and maybe I was trying to be. My bad.

  37. Understand nm, but the guy apparently had pedophillic (sp?) fantasies of little girls.From the AP:"QUARRYVILLE, Pa. (AP) – The gunman who killed five girls in an Amish schoolroom confided to his wife during the siege that he molested two relatives 20 years ago when he was boy and was tormented by dreams of doing it again, authorities said Tuesday."http://apnews.myway.com/article/20061003/D8KHEIC00.html

  38. B,The crack epidemic was an epidemic of opportunity. The violence of the crack wars in the major urban areas in the late 80s were more disruptive to Black families than was the *use* of the drug. RE: Strong models Huh? You just rephrased me. Re: age of mind losing.Happens earlier than that. I’d say the window is getting shorter and shorter.

  39. Well, I was trying to agree with you, but with some slight differences, so I guess it should have sounded like I was rephrasing you, somewhat."Epic of opportunity"? Is that what we’re calling CIA operations now?

  40. Dammit, I didn’t want any part of this.But don’t think you can besmirch the good name of the CIA with your crack slander and get away with it.

  41. That crack crack was witty and you know it. If the CIA didn’t want hippie liberals making crack cracks about them, maybe they shouldn’t have traded guns for drugs in the 80s.

Comments are closed.