August
8th 2009
Man shoots women: just another “dog-bites-man” story!

Posted under: American history, Gender, unhappy endings, women's history

Gee, friends:  do you think anyone will listen now that a man with a column in the New York Times says it?  (Thanks to reader KW for the tip.)  Bob Herbert focuses on the sexual nature of gynocide and the sexualized ideation of men who murder women:

What was unusual about [murderer George] Sodini was how explicit he was in his blog about his personal shame and his hatred of women. “Why do this?” he asked. “To young girls? Just read below.” In his gruesome, monthslong rant, he managed to say, among other things: “It seems many teenage girls have sex frequently. One 16 year old does it usually three times a day with her boyfriend. So, err, after a month of that, this little [expletive] has had more sex than ME in my LIFE, and I am 48. One more reason.”

I was reminded of the Virginia Tech gunman, Seung-Hui Cho, who killed 32 people in a rampage at the university in 2007. While Cho shot males as well as females, he was reported to have previously stalked female classmates and to have leaned under tables to take inappropriate photos of women. A former roommate said Cho once claimed to have seen “promiscuity” when he looked into the eyes of a woman on campus.

Soon after the Virginia Tech slayings, I interviewed Dr. James Gilligan, who spent many years studying violence as a prison psychiatrist in Massachusetts and as a professor at Harvard and N.Y.U. “What I’ve concluded from decades of working with murderers and rapists and every kind of violent criminal,” he said, “is that an underlying factor that is virtually always present to one degree or another is a feeling that one has to prove one’s manhood, and that the way to do that, to gain the respect that has been lost, is to commit a violent act.” 

For a reminder on my old posts on gynocide and the perverse linkage between masculinity and violence (especially gun violence), see here, here, here, and here–commentaries on incidents of men killing women and their own children, and all within the space of one month (April 11-May 9).  I find it strange that Herbert didn’t mention the murder of Johanna Justin-Jinich, whose murder in Middletown, Conn. was covered like local news by the Times, and whose killer, like Sodini, appears to have been motivated by frustration and rage at his lack of sexual success.  Instead, Herbert focuses only on other mass-murderers who didn’t choose targets known to them–but why not, when gynocide (whether personal or general) seems to stem from the same causes?

8 Comments »

8 Responses to “Man shoots women: just another “dog-bites-man” story!”

  1. Susan on 08 Aug 2009 at 1:00 pm #

    I doubt even having a man write about it in the NYT will make a difference. But it’s good to see it there. And while women like Johanna Justin-Jinich are part of the story, I think there is a difference when women are targeted anonymously: she was targeted because of her killer knew her, while those in Pennsylvania were just, well, women.

  2. Notorious Ph.D. on 08 Aug 2009 at 1:43 pm #

    The comments are interesting, too. I only got to page 4 of 13, but they appear to be mostly supportive. But there’s the inevitable “Dear God, what about all the men who are victims of violence?” and “Women in the U.S. have it much better than in places like Pakistan.” As if that made it okay.

  3. Historiann on 08 Aug 2009 at 5:10 pm #

    Susan, doesn’t separating the selected victims from the random victims perpetuate the notion that killers who kill their wives/girlfriends/daughters/other women are engaging in “domestic” violence? My concern is that interpersonal violence like that gets normalized, and it’s only random mass shootings that are considered disturbing or aberrant.

    Just as feminists have strived not to separate “date rape” from “real” (stranger) rape, so I think we need to see all violence against women as one end of the spectrum of men’s sense of entitlement to women’s bodies, attention, and time, etc.

  4. Historiann on 08 Aug 2009 at 5:37 pm #

    IOW, to clarify: did Johanna Justin-Jinich do anything to deserve her death more than the women murdered last week in that health club in PA? Did those women and children murdered last spring by their husbands & fathers do anything more to deserve their fates than the victims of Cho?

  5. John S. on 08 Aug 2009 at 5:45 pm #

    Another issue that Herbert doesn’t discuss (and that so much other coverage has ignored) is the question of race. In one section of Sodini’s diaries that the NYT and other outlets haven’t quoted, Sodini wrote in November about his despair at Obama’s election. Specifically, he believed that Obama would ensure that every black man would get a young white “hoe” for his own use. (I hope that language doesn’t sound too exploitative–it really is the sanitized version of what Sodini wrote.)

    Sodini’s fears of a powerful black man zeroed right in on this question of black man-white woman sexual liaisons. Maybe the only thing worse to Sodini than his inability to control white women was the fact that black men can (or will) be able to control them? (That’s my pop psychologizing.) I’m not suggesting this as a “race trumps gender” kind of thing, but it is interesting to me that Sodini’s sexualized gynocide was pretty specifically racialized as well. So not only has the media ignored some of the points you raise, Historiann, but also the fact that sex and violence go hand in hand with race in American culture.

  6. Kathleen Lowrey on 08 Aug 2009 at 6:41 pm #

    I totally, totally agree with the misogyny analysis and the racist analysis, I want to say that up front. But I think the “oh he was distressed by his lack of a girlfriend” thing is a real red herring. I’d really be glad to see some kind of psychoanalytic account of the intense pleasures of rage. Rage can be a delicious, seductive feeling — it can reflect back a powerful and righteous version of ourselves — it thrives and grows on being nurtured and attended to — it can be an all-absorbing partner.

    I don’t believe this guy had any real interest in a girlfriend; I think he had a very very deep relationship with his own rage. I do think a substantial portion of popular culture works to cross the wires of the pleasures of sex with the pleasures of rage (vide: mean, hateful porn) (vide: the pick-up artist/ “game” subculture) (vide: the weird saturation of all mainstream detective shows with sexeee mutilated female corpses).

    And, obviously, sexual paranoia about race employs the same triggers: naughty sexy negroes! so horneeee! so angreeee!

    Like, all that “date younger women” literature he was into isn’t really “find a girl” lit; it’s “feed your loathing” / “here’s a poke in the eye to all women!” lit: the men who buy it now full well it will creep out under-30s and hurt the feelings of over-30s. That’s the point, full stop.

    Anyway, I would like to see an analysis that recognizes he wasn’t a man without a relationship: he had one really, really, really consuming partner.

    That doesn’t mean I want the conversation to follow the pattern, “oh, let’s not talk about sex or race! Let’s talk about this one person’s personal hang-ups”. I more mean, let’s talk about the fact that sexism and racism trigger rage, and rage can feel *awesome*, and people are really reluctant to give up their sources of pleasure. I think one thing that gets in the way is the idea is “oh, but sexism and racism are negative. No one really wants negative energy in their lives, therefore no-one is really deep down sexist or racist”.

    That’s wrong; it’s worth exploring what people get out of sexism and racism when it’s obviously not social power (if America were less sexist and racist, imagine the social safety net we’d all enjoy!). It’s toe-curling jollies, that’s the scary truth.

  7. Jesse C. Anderson on 10 Aug 2009 at 10:26 am #

    Don’t know what was wrong with this person, but most people’s that was young and learning about love do have sex two to seven time a day believe me I have been there, but what he did not get was that when we grow old thing’s change, he just didn’t have good insight about life! My heart is hurting for the women that were kill by the mad man, make the Lord bless them.

  8. Gender, ownership, and the law : Historiann : History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present on 22 Jul 2012 at 2:41 pm #

    [...] Women–mothers in particular–get blamed for these killings, so it only seems fair to let them decide  whether or not their sons should have guns.  (Women–or rather, the women who aren’t f^<king them, also get blamed for shooting rampages, often by the killers themselves.) [...]

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