Much has been made of the Santa Barbara shooter’s misogyny, but he did what he did because he was nuts; and despite feminist screeds to the contrary, it wasn’t hatred of women that drove him to mass murder. Either his wires got badly crossed in childhood or he inherited an errant schizophrenia gene from Great Grandfather Herman. All the mass killers within the past few years have had a screw loose. They all had twisted views of themselves as avenging angels or misunderstood misfits. They all suffered the normal frustrations of adolescence, but because their brains were addled with bad chemistry and weirdly-firing synapses, they couldn’t file and sort like normal teenagers, hating and loving their parents, sussing out come-ons, cool guys, and losers; and ultimately making enough sense out of the world to at least fly right.
To try to assess logical cause in an illogical mind is fancy. The Santa Barbara killer may have hated women, but so do lots of men. Misogyny has been around for a long, long time. In fact it was one of Shakespeare’s favorite subjects. Take the following passage spoken by Posthumus in Cymbeline:
Could I find out The woman's part in me! For there's no motion That tends to vice in man but I affirm It is the woman's part. Be it lying, note it, The woman's; flattering, hers; deceiving, hers; Lust and rank thoughts, hers, hers; revenges, hers; Ambitions, covetings, change of prides, disdain, Nice longings, slanders, mutability, All faults that man may name, nay, that hell knows, Why, hers, in part or all, but rather all. For even to vice They are not constant, but are changing still One vice but of a minute old for one Not half so old as that. I'll write against them, Detest them, curse them. Yet 'tis greater skill In a true hate to pray they have their will; The very devils cannot plague them better.
Leontes in The Winter’s Tale is no different, and misogyny is behind his unreasoning suspicion of this wife:
There have been,
Or I am much deceived, cuckolds ere now;
And many a man there is, even at this present,
Now while I speak this, holds his wife by the arm,
That little thinks she has been sluiced in's absence
And his pond fish'd by his next neighbour, by
Sir Smile, his neighbour.
Troilus in Troilus and Cressida watches in secret as his betrothed, Cressida, makes love with another man and says:
Let it not be believed for womanhood!
Think, we had mothers; do not give advantage
To stubborn critics, apt, without a theme,
For depravation, to square the general sex
By Cressid's rule: rather think this not Cressid.
Troilus does not want to believe that all women are deceitful, wanton, and unfaithful, but he really does, and has to come up with an illogical justification for her actions to save face.
There have been thousands of misogynists in literature, and they merely reflect the feelings of many if not most men. However, men do not really hate women. They are afraid of them because of the ultimate power they hold – that of paternity. Male jealousy can quickly become a virulent, but narrowcast misogyny. No man can be absolutely sure of the paternity of his children, and in the days of Shakespeare and well before and after, certainty about the legitimacy of offspring was a matter not only of male pride but economics, politics, and social status. Kings needed legitimate male heirs to secure proper succession; peasants bridled at the thought of laboring for children who weren’t theirs and passing on their land to cuckolded bastards.
In other words, men turn against women when they think they have deceived them; but do not have a generalized hatred of them. Most of us are like Troilus who would rather not believe that we live in a world of duplicitous, untrustworthy women; and find no contradiction or irony in our outrageous personal jealousies.
Jealousy is as close to a hard-wired male trait as any; and some social anthropologists have suggested that there is an evolutionary benefit to it. David Buss writes:
Perhaps in some utopian future, we might, but that is not how the human mind is designed. Husbands in our evolutionary past who failed to care whether a wife succumbed to sex with other men and wives who remained stoic when confronted with their husband's emotional infidelity may be admirable in a certain light. Non-jealous men and women, however, are not our ancestors, having been left in the evolutionary dust by rivals with different passionate sensibilities. We all come from a long lineage of ancestors who possessed the dangerous passion.
Today’s male feminists will not make the cut.
This is all to say that the term ‘misogyny’ is thrown around far too loosely. The fact that most men are jealous and can have paroxysms of hatred for their wives if they suspect infidelity does not make them women-haters. The fact that the Santa Barbara shooter went on a video rant about how women did him in does not make him a misogynist but a nutter ready for the loony bin.
However, the war between the sexes has not abated; and if anything has heated up with the liberation of women. Many men are still befuddled by women’s rapid rise in the marketplace and feel that they have been deprived of their birthrights; and easily conflate jealous suspicion, treachery, and usurpation into a seething hatred and resentment. These men, however, are the same ones who believe that President Obama is a foreign socialist anarchist without a valid birth certificate or that fluoridation is part of a Communist plot to addle America’s brains.
The rest of us see the liberation of women as a natural part of the evolution of the market. America’s economy needs women to drive busses, work lathes, maneuver the forklift, tend to pediatric medicine, and litigate. We only bridle at unfair advantage – affirmative action that promotes the unqualified – but there are so many qualified women that this is rarely an issue.
Feminists are jumping all over the events in Santa Barbara to promote their political agenda – men are the problem in American society. They are aggressive, hormone-fueled, women-hating ignoramuses who must be called out, muzzled, and neutered.
They are misguided. The shooter was no more misogynist than any man who loses sleep thinking about his wife’s imaginary lovers, let alone Leontes or Posthumus. He was nuts, loony, wacko, around the bend crazy. Leave it at that. America does not have a misogyny problem. We have a mental health problem; and the sooner we face the fact that the real issue of mass killings is insanity – not guns or misogyny – the sooner we can anticipate and deter them.