By **Rebecca Bates**
Lately I’ve found myself at odds with the folks [please note the gender neutral noun] over at the Ms. Magazine blog. I’ve already gone after them this month, and I don’t necessarily intend to make a habit of it. However, I can’t keep quiet while they attempt to shove major news issues into a narrow, preconceived framework. I find their blog post from last week about Jared Loughner’s motivation for his Tucson shooting particularly irritating. Caroline Heldman argues that “one aspect of the Tucson massacre that has received little attention is misogyny.” She writes that Loughner “left behind several notes, including one that read ‘die bitch’”, and that this suggests Rep. Giffords’s was a target because of her gender. Is it possible Loughner has misogynistic tendencies? Absolutely. But let’s not forget that the guy is mentally unstable.
In fact, Heldman refers to a Wall Street Journal article about Loughner’s first encounter with Giffords in 2007—after Loughner’s apparent ”mental downfall” a few years earlier. I quote Heldman: “[Loughner] asked [Giffords], ‘How do you know words mean anything?’ and Giffords, assuming Loughner was referring to bilingual issues, responded with a few phrases in Spanish. The young man was angered by her response and reportedly told a friend that Giffords was ‘stupid and unintelligent.’” Of course he did, because, once again, Loughner is more than a little off his rocker. If you watch the videos Loughner made, you’ll note that he himself has no idea if “words mean anything,” as he is frequently unable to put together a cohesive thought. Nothing inherently sexist here.
Next, Heldman cites a New York Times article to prove that Loughner is “contemptuous of women in positions of power.” However, the same New York Times piece also admits that, in terms of definitively proving the violent 22 year-old’s motivation, “the pattern of facts so far presents only a lack of one, a curlicue of contradictory moments open to broad interpretation.” Heldman merely selects one bit of evidence while ignoring the rest.
This attempt at forcing Loughner’s women-hating down our throats concludes with this little gem: “The fact that few media reports note the obvious misogyny at play in this case is a testament to the fact that sexism is so ingrained in U.S. culture that it’s not even worth mentioning.” The obvious misogyny? Perhaps misogyny has not often been mentioned because writing “die bitch” in a notebook does not denote an all consuming, deep-seated hatred of the female gender. Moreover, blaming Loughner’s assassination attempt on his latent misogyny and then arguing that no one else in the media is crying “misogyny” because the media is misogynistic is so incredibly reductive and near-sighted it makes me feel embarrassed.
Misogyny can’t be the answer to everything, and consistently returning to that is old and boring and eventually loses all persuasiveness. The Ms. Magazine blog could stand to be more, er, multi-layered; they could and should consider narratives that don’t stem from an us-against-the-world mentality. That can only lead to more oppositions, more fights, and more anger.
Copyright 2011 Rebecca Bates