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A White Guy With a Grudge and a Gun

By now the story is almost risibly routine. 

A white guy with a grudge and gun -- the kind of grudge that comes from believing that you are owed control, and adoration, and sexual service, and the kind of gun that can kill a lot of people in a very short period of time, with a minimum of effort -- murders a bunch of people, many of whom he didn't even know, many of whom were women.  It happens all the time in America.  It is, the gun fetishists tell us, just the "price of freedom," just an unintended, but inalterable, consequence of the Second Amendment.  As has also become fairly common, the white guy with the grudge and the gun left messages:  in this case, YouTube videos that explicitly spelled out how his "Day of Retribution" would play out, not to mention a 140-page "manifesto" sent to his parents, therapists, a radio station, etc.  (The police interviewed him and, as he was white, and privileged, and polite, decided that he was harmless and didn't do anything.)  And then there were his Facebook page and the messages that he'd left on various "men's rights" websites. 

Welcome to 21st Century America.  Just another day in paradise.

Yet, somehow, the fact that this particular white guy with a grudge and gun was willing to say out loud some of the things that often go unsaid (or that are said only through dog whistles, advertisements, and images) seems to have garnered a bit more attention than just your regular-run-of-the-mill, ho-hum, mass murder, which, again is just the price of freedom and the Second Amendment that makes America great, and I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free.  Did some celebrity get married this weekend?

This white guy with a grudge and a gun explained that women were to blame for what he did -- the classic abuser's rant, generally followed with a really, really, serious, jaw-braking, eye-blacking, tooth-loosening slap:  "See what you made me do?!?!?"  ("I am all-powerful and I deserve, by virtue of my Y chromosome, to 'exercise headship over you,' you irrational and emotional woman, you, but you can completely control my behavior any time that you decide to 'misbehave' -- see what you MADE me DO?!?!?!") 

Here are a few examples: 

*  "You girls have never been attracted to me. I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It's an injustice, a crime, because... I don't know what you don't see in me. I'm the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman."

*  "I will punish all of you for it. (laughs) On the day of retribution I'm going to enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB. And I will slaughter every spoiled, stuck-up, blond "sl*t" I see inside there. All those girls I've desired so much, they would have all rejected me and looked down upon me as an inferior man if I ever made a sexual advance towards them (scoffs) while they throw themselves at these obnoxious brutes. I'll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you."

*  "And girls, all I ever wanted was to love you, and to be loved by you. I've wanted a girlfriend, I've wanted sex, I've wanted love, affection, adoration. You think I'm unworthy of it. That's a crime that can never be forgiven.  If I can't have you, girls, I will destroy you. (laughs) You denied me a happy life, and in turn, I will deny all of you life. (laughs) It's only fair."

I could (as the white guy with a grudge and a gun in fact did) go on, and on, and on, but I think you get the idea.

Within minutes of the news story, the misogyny, the patriarchal attitudes that set this white guy with a grudge and a gun in motion, the perceived entitlement to women's emotions and bodies got a lot of attention.  And then a lot of people, mostly men, showed up to express the truisim that "not all men" do this kind of thing, say stuff like this, believe that women owe them sex, love, affection, and (!!!!) adoration.  This one white guy with a grudge and a gun, they mansplained, must have been crazy, mentally ill, an outlier.  Nothing to see here; move along.

But he's not.  In our society, he's not an outlier.  This kind of thing KEEPS HAPPENING.  You can't keep saying it's an accident.  And he's the completely logical result of patriarchy, carried to its logical end.   

The pushback was, I'm happy to say, fast and strong.  Many noted how quick we are to excuse the sons of privilege for their "affluenza," to ascribe their violence to "mental health issues," even as we refuse to do the same for people of color or for those whose parents didn't buy them BMWs and apartments in Santa Barbara.  #yesallwomen provided hundreds of examples of the ways in which all women experience the violence of patriarchy, even as men keep mansplaining that "not all men," not all white guys with grudges and guns, not all men who haven't received enough adoration, go out and "slaughter every spoiled, stuck-up, blond sl*t" they see.

Which is all a rather long wind-up (my bete noire as a writer) to saying that I spent a lot of time this morning thinking about how Paganism differs from the form of patriarchy to which a number of women and a few men, as well as this white guy with a grudge and a gun, just fell victim.  (I take Robin Morgan's point* that saying that men, as well as women, are victims of patriarchy  tends to diminish the harm that patriarchy does to women.  But I do believe that it harms, as, in the end, it harmed this white guy with a grudge and a gun, men, as well, even at the same time that it provides them with privilege.)

So here is how I think that Paganism is different from the worldview that leads to white guys with grudges and guns.

The Charge of the Goddess teaches that "All acts of love and pleasure are rituals of the Goddess."  Women don't owe you sex (or adoration!) simply because you were born with a penis.  To engage in sex is to worship the Goddess -- and worship is an act that can only be voluntary.  To force or coerce sex is, as I have said before, a version of the Black Mass:  it turns an act of worship and adoration on its head and perverts it for evil means.  Most Pagans also believe in a divine immanence:  other people (rocks, trees, animals, mycellium, etc.) ARE divine:  "Thou art Goddess; thou art God."  You can't kill them when they don't give you what you want; you don't have the right or that agency. 

I keep coming back to that worldview and to trying to explain how it differs from a worldview in which if women don't adore you, well, then, it's ok for you to shoot them.   I don't see how anyone can hold both notions in their head at once.

In Evolutionary Witchcraft,** T. Thorn Coyle*** writes that "In our culture, sex is tricky.  It is glorified in strange and twisted ways, yet simultaneously swept under the rug.  To reclaim sex, we must reclaim the power of the life force, which is in all creative acts."  She continues, "Calling sex back is also an acknowledgement that I cannot place responsibility for my sexual self upon any other being."  I can't help but wonder what difference it might have made to this white guy with a grudge and a gun if one of the therapists that his well-to-do parents had hired for him, or if, indeed, his parents themselves had helped him to understand that he could not place responsibility for his sexual self upon women, sorority "girls," or "blonde sluts."  Coyle continues, "I can feel sexy for myself and enjoy my own pleasure in sexuality."  If only that had been a skill taught to this white guy with a grudge and a gun.  Coyle also explains that "Sacred orgasm is a reentry into sex, for and of yourself, as a pure celebration of life, where we use sex energy to bless ourselves, our bodies, and our spirits."  This was the sex that never even occurred to the white guy with a grudge and a gun.  And it never occurred to him because patriarchy works very hard to keep that concept hidden.

In The Chalice and the Blade,**** Riane Eisler ***** wrote:

“All over the ancient world populations were now set against populations, as men were set against women and against other men. Wandering over the width and breadth of this disintegrating world, masses of refugees were everywhere fleeing their homelands, desperately searching for a haven, for a safe place to go.But there was no such place left in their new world. For this was now a world where, having violently deprived the Goddess and the female half of humanity of all power, gods and men of war ruled. It was a world in which the Blade, and not the Chalice, would henceforth be supreme, a world in which peace and harmony would be found only in the myths and legends of a long lost past.”
 

Let's take as given that this white guy with a grudge and a gun was bullied, had some form of psychological problems that made relating to other humans difficult, and that all the help that his family tried to give him just didn't work.  You still cannot read his "manifesto" and not feel terrified at the ways in which his problems funneled him into patriarchy's concept that those who are wealthy are more worthy, that men with guns are "gods" and "alpha males," that women owe men adoration.  That's patriarchy, and I want to undermine it every chance that I get.  And I get a lot of chances.

I want a world in which sex is a positive thing.  I want a world in which women are safe.  I want a world where no one feels entitled to the bodies, emotions, or actions of other people.  I want a world in which it is OK to need sex.  I want a world in which it is OK to tell men, "No."  I want a world in which privileged young people get to work with others who have less than they do so that they can compare the fact that women don't adore them to the fact that some people have much worse problems.  I want a world where children learn early that divinity is immanent.  

I'm going to go sit at my altar and light incense.  Will you join me?

The awkward young man approached the temple.  He'd had to work hard, all year, in the fields, to earn the coins.  The grain went to feed those who had no food.  He resented the effort; once, his family had been wealthy and he'd have had the coins without the callouses from laying solar panels on roadways and without the ache in his back.  But he walked through the fountains that washed him clean and approached the temple of Aphrodite.  The woman who stood just beyond the spray of the the fountains took his coins, kissed him as the sacred act of the Goddess, and whispered into his ear that his hair was curly and thick.  He walked on, into the sacred pools and watched lovers make love.  He didn't feel jealous;  he watched, as one watches the priests swing the incense container or as one watches the priestesses water the sacred corn.  He stepped into the temple.  A priestess stepped towards him.   Her work was given the highest regard in the land.  He kept grabbing and focusing on his own pleasure.  Some priests came forward and took him off to a sacred grove for a quiet talk, a gentle demonstration, a revalatory experience.

The priestess came back.

A few days later, he left.  Now, he understood.  

Meanwhile, young women went on with their lives, undisturbed.  They planted trees, watched plays, ate apples, had sex with whomever they liked, discovered cures for diseases, sculpted statues, harnessed starlight, danced the spiral dance, and tamed foxes.  It was as if they were meant to live on Earth.

*  Robin Morgan:  "And let's put one lie to rest for all time: the lie that men are oppressed, too, by sexism--the lie that there can be such a thing as 'men's liberation groups.' Oppression is something that one group of people commits against another group specifically because of a 'threatening' characteristic shared by the latter group--skin color or sex or age, etc. The oppressors are indeed FUCKED UP by being masters (racism hurts whites, sexual stereotypes are harmful to men) but those masters are not OPPRESSED. Any master has the alternative of divesting himself of sexism or racism—the oppressed have no alternative—for they have no power—but to fight. In the long run, Women's Liberation will of course free men—but in the short run it's going to COST men a lot of privilege, which no one gives up willingly or easily."


** http://www.politics-prose.com/book/9781585424368

***http://www.thorncoyle.com/

****http://www.politics-prose.com/book/9780062502896

*****http://www.rianeeisler.com/

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HecateDemeter is a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an ecofeminist, a lawyer, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth.

Comments

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Sunday, 25 May 2014

    I'm not going to indulge in hollow-sounding apologetics about my sex. I know the intense onslaught of testosterone that can drive boys insane, and that even warps the worldview of their older role models who are supposedly entrusted with teaching them control and compassion. I will simply affirm that I want the same sort of world that you do. Yes, I will join you at your altar.

  • Thesseli
    Thesseli Monday, 26 May 2014

    Excellent article.

  • Byron Ballard
    Byron Ballard Monday, 26 May 2014

    I have been catching up with news this morning and was grudgingly ready to write something on this event. I am so grateful that you are such a brilliant, insightful writer. That you are plugged in, thoughtful, passionate. I went to my altar earlier this morning and will return there tonight. Thank you for this clarity, sister. When will enough be truly enough? (ending with a leading question is my bete noire as a writer.)

  • Aquila ka Hecate
    Aquila ka Hecate Monday, 26 May 2014

    I've been thinking a lot today about the Partnership Model which Eisler promotes.
    I do believe that was how we were meant to be.
    Love,
    Terri in Joburg

  • Gabriel Moore
    Gabriel Moore Monday, 26 May 2014

    A good article Hec. I have to admit I came to a completely different conclusion on motive though, I was a bit tormented thinking about it but it comes to 3 things. A lack of self-esteem, materialism, and really just being spoiled rotten. The fact that 4 men and 2 women died and 8 of the 13 injured were killed during shots being exchanged with police shows he was not "targeting" women. The way he used that as an excuse is pathetic. Really his problem was greed. Look at dad and mom, the life he had. Surrounded by luxury, wealth and privilege. We know that many in that life are defined more by what they own, what they have and how they intend on obtaining more, then on who they are as a person. That's a greed and materialism problem, not a problem that can be defined by a patriarchal or matriarchal society.
    The feeling of being owed something isn't unique to any one gender. It is a human problem. When that problem is transposed upon a romantic relationship or a sexual situation it is even more destructive. Dad and mom gave him everything he wanted, he was never told no and when he finally was, boom. The self-esteem issues this guy had were bad though. He was defining himself by what he was able to obtain from others, in attention and otherwise. He had no self worth other then that which he had from his possessions and the attention and sex he was able to obtain.
    This is why we should teach our young women and men to be happy with themselves. The Charge of the Goddess also says, "That if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee"
    Thing is we don't have to be rich or privileged to make the mistake of defining our own self worth in someone or something else. Our society is full of women and men, boys and girls, with broken self-esteems looking to define ourselves is someone else because we can't stand the image looking back at us in the mirror.

    Just a different opinion in a sea of them, hope ya don't get too mad at me :)

  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ Monday, 26 May 2014

    I don't know about you but when I was 18 I had never had a date, I felt sad about that, but it never crossed my mind to shoot anyone...

  • Laurie Knowles
    Laurie Knowles Monday, 26 May 2014

    Great analysis and commentary. It is always a tragedy when we see the extreme results of un-sane beliefs pushed to their limit, and even more a tragedy when we fail as a society to change in response to these sights.

  • Patricia Maria
    Patricia Maria Monday, 26 May 2014

    PLEASE stop using this young man's death in this way. He had Asperger's syndrome. I would urge you to do some research into how it affects boys in particular: they tend to have an altered perspective of not only their place/role in society, but also that of others in relation to themselves. They often find it extremely difficult to understand the things which the rest of us accept as social/societal norms. My eldest grandson has Asperger's and we are beginning to see in him some of the behavioural traits I have mentioned. Unfortunately no amount of reasoned discussion can 'make' him see that his perceptions are incorrect and it is EXTREMELY difficult to get any form of help with these young people UNTIL THEY HAVE SOME KIND OF MELTDOWN . Of course by then it is too late and articles such as this, vilifying someone who has little or no understanding of, or control over, their actions and the subsequent consequences, start to appear: the beginning of the 'witch hunt'.

  • Ophylia
    Ophylia Monday, 26 May 2014

    Hello Patricia.
    I'd like to respectfully inform you that Elliot was not, in fact, ever diagnosed with Aspergers. Additionally to place all the blame on such a diagnosis would completely demonize those who are on the spectrum, and distract from the multiple other issues at hand, including, yes, misogyny. Blessings.

    Source: http://laist.com/2014/05/26/alarming_email_prompted_elliot_rodg.php#photo-1

  • Patricia Maria
    Patricia Maria Monday, 26 May 2014

    Having joined I think I'll be leaving again. All very well to cry 'Misogyny' at every opportunity, but don't use it as an excuse for Misandry. I'm pretty sure the Goddess would want us to practice EQUALITY FOR ALL.

  • Stephen M. Stirling
    Stephen M. Stirling Tuesday, 27 May 2014

    By the way, Elliot Rodger was Eurasian, not "white" as that is commonly defined in the United States.

    Try flipping the signifier with a search-and-replace for "Eurasian" in your article and see how it sounds. He didn't kill people because of his ethnicity and cheap stereotyping doesn't help.

    This sad, dangerous and mercifully now deceased nutter was just that -- a nutter.

    Virtually all young het males have feelings of anger at sexual rejection and jealousy towards more successful guys; it's just one of the miseries of being in the interval between puberty and sanity. I certainly felt that way fairly frequently when I was in my teens and early 20's.

    But while the majority of violent crime is committed by this demographic (young males) the overwhelming majority don't go berserk and kill people in a suicidal rampage.

    To do so is -ipso facto- evidence that his wiring was badly fried and that his superego had malfunctioned or hadn't successfully formed. Witness the extensive psychiatric intervention, which as usual didn't work. Every other organ in the human body malfunctions now and then; why shouldn't the brain?

    His problem wasn't patriarchal ideology; it was biochemistry. There are always going to be people who have psychotic breaks, and they're probably always going to be largely young men.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Tuesday, 27 May 2014

    Good points, Stephen. When something terrible like this hits the news, the reactions of people who weren't there and didn't know the participants are like a Rorschach test; they say as much about the commentators and their issues as about the event itself.

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