We acculturate our children in a culture of domestic violence. In playgrounds across the country this summer and into the following school year and those to come, little girls will learn that the boys who push them into the grass are the ones that like them. They will grow older and become teenage girls who accept the sting of a “love tap” in their arm as a sign that they have been chosen.
With any luck, the young women will unlearn these expectations.
And with hope, the young men will, too.
Somewhere along the way, young people learn violence as a part of how men and women learn to relate to one another, and are expected to do away with it in their adult years. CDC national domestic violence stats suggest that men are among the health threats to women, with the U.S. Surgeon General naming “domestic violence [as] the leading cause of injury to women in the United States.”
Ninety-five percent of domestic violence victims are women.
Having read mass-murderer Elliot Rodger’s “manifesto” (a word that seems too grand to describe what is no more than whiny maniacal rant about the perceived “injustices” of his own life of privilege), what’s most unusual about it is the ordinariness of the childhood and adolescence he describes. Rodger documents the everyday experiences of other couples in his writing in a fairly black-and-white dichotomy: There are brutish assholes who are undeserving of female affection and there are “nice guys” like him.
He never states what exactly makes him so “nice,” and even if he had, it wouldn’t make it any better. In a world where “nice guys finish last” is an actual thing that gets said aloud in polite company, men are discouraged from courtesy and encouraged to use aggression as a tactic to give them a competitive edge in the social sport that has become sex and dating.
But there’s an even more cynical side to this as well. The side that suggests that being nice should be enough to get a man what he wants to begin with, regardless of what a woman wants for herself. Call it “the right to refuse,” something that stands in the shadow of conversations about women’s reproductive rights. To be sure, Rodger’s belief in this was extreme, but it exists in less aggressive ways. Call it misogyny. Call it misguided male entitlement. Either way, it’s dangerous for girls and women.
To be clear, “nice” is a social tactic like anything else. And it’s certainly not to be confused with “respectable” or “upstanding.” It’s certainly not mutually exclusive with “confident” and says nothing of “kindness” or whether or not someone is “interesting” or “attractive.” And even the best of these qualities cannot earn anyone affection; love, sex, attention are all to be given freely. Anything else is an act of violence.
Still, there are entire communities of creeps who gather online to clog the Internet with lamentations about women who these men feel have abused or used them in their failure to be receptive to their advances. Men from various backgrounds who bang away at their keyboards in frustration about what eludes them. Those men eventually sign off and live life in the world with the rest of us. In an enabling culture of violence.
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