My first thought upon hearing about the Virginia Tech massacre: Marc Lepine.

My second thought: Some girl dumped him.

It’s sounding like my second thought was correct. And now I realize how much I didn’t want it to be.

Because a zillion other people had kneejerk reactions in keeping with their pet causes yesterday. Lots of them thought I bet he’s a foreigner and were right, and will undoubtedly not be persuaded by the argument that that has jack shit to do with it. Lots thought, this is why regular people should arm themselves, while lots of others thought, this is why all guns should be illegal, and both groups can and will use this tragedy in service of endless arguments for their positions. Lots of people thought, 32 dead is a good day in Iraq, why aren’t we talking about that? Et cetera.

And when I hear all those arguments, I feel comfortable dismissing them as inappropriate or irrelevant, even the ones I basically agree with. Yet I still can’t shake the urge to rant about how frighteningly many men in this culture respond to romantic rejection by killing people, as if that’s the only real issue here, and everything else is a distraction.

And the worst part is, I can’t even tell yet–and might never be able to, depending on what specifics we learn over the next few days–whether my pet cause really is relevant here, or if it’s just… my pet cause. Because you know what? Thinking “Marc Lepine” the second I heard about this was pretty over-the-top. I mean, I can be forgiven for hearing someone shot up an engineering school and immediately thinking of the Ecole Polytechnique massacre, but that wasn’t all of it; I also thought, instantly, “It’s because he hates women.” And I’m really not sure how to feel about that being my kneejerk response.

On the one hand, if it turns out to be true that this started with him looking for an ex-girlfriend, that response wasn’t way off base. On the other hand, how fucked up is it that I didn’t immediately think, “He’s a sociopath,” or “He must have been having a psychotic episode” or simply, “CRAZY”–all more obvious explanations than “misogynist”? Was there actually something in the barest facts of the case that led me subconsciously to that conclusion? Was it just the “guy shoots up engineering school” connection? Or am I becoming one of those feminists–who aren’t nearly as common as anti-feminists insist they are but do indeed exist–the kind so consumed by their outrage over misogyny, they start to see it even when it’s not there?

I don’t know. And the problem with this being even partially about a girl is, I’ll never know. ‘Cause it was there.

If it were about anything else–the shooter’s religion, his grades, his shitty childhood–I could have just told myself, “Okay, Katy, you’re losing it. Take a break from the feminist blogs and go look at Cute Overload for a while.” But as far as we know right now, it wasn’t. It was about a fucking girl. He may not have singled out women or screamed about hating feminists, but it was about a fucking girl.

Which means now I have to talk about it that way, and read about it that way, and feel like crying or punching a wall every time someone says the girl factor is irrelevant, and we should be talking about gun control or immigration… or Iraq.

I almost feel grateful to Marc Lepine for his perfect clarity on the matter. At least there’s no way the usual suspects can argue that wasn’t about the hatred of women. But this one, you can discuss from just about any damn angle that floats your boat, which means people like me are going to keep saying, “Let’s talk about how this culture encourages sexism and a sense of male entitlement that, when coupled with a personality disorder or a psychotic episode, lead to mass murder a little too often” and a bunch of other people are going to say, “Oh, you fucking feminists need to get off it. This has nothing to do with your pet cause.”

And I’m going to have to keep saying it anyway, because it does have something to do with my pet cause. Not everything, but something. Something important.

This one’s gonna be tiring.

I really wish I’d been wrong.

Update from The Trib: “Cho had shown recent signs of violent, aberrant behavior, according to an investigative source, including setting a fire in a dorm room and allegedly stalking some women.”

Update 2, from the AP: “Authorities said he left a rambling note raging against women and rich kids.”

Update 3, from CNN via Shakesville, Cho’s roommate: “All the instance with the girls, I think, are the big warning signs. Like, none of them ever came to, like, charges or anything, because I’m sure those girls weren’t trying to cause trouble. But, if any of them had, it may have stopped things then. But those are definite warning signs of someone that had some social problems.” [emphasis mine]

Update 4, from the AP: “More than a year before the Virginia Tech massacre, Cho Seung-Hui was accused of stalking two female students…”

Update 5, from the NYT via Feministe: They didn’t warn anyone after the first two shootings, because they assumed it was the girl’s actual boyfriend. Because that’s the most likely suspect in the murder of a young female, and that’s so goddamned routine, it didn’t occur to them that the shooter might still be out there. 

4 thoughts on “Kneejerk

  1. We all interpret these things through our own personal lense. A Kind Asian friend emailed today fretting that the incident reinforces the stereotype of hyper-stressed Asians … I said it didn’t sound like a case of “stressed over exams/went off the deep end.” It sounded like he was a stone cold killer hell bent on inflicting mass carnage, a sociopath. Sociopaths come in all ethnicities and races. Notably, though, they’re almost always men. When’s the last time a woman went bezerk and killed a bunch of innocents? I was feeling all smug until remembered about that female suicide bomber who killed 17 people in Iraq last week.

  2. I think you can still afford to feel smug if you can only think of one woman, and it takes you a while. A female suicide bomber is, after all, only news in the man-bites-dog sense.

    That said, you’re totally right. At the end of the day, the root problem is this guy’s brain. And I really do feel for Asians and immigrants of all stripes right now, because lord knows the “Keep ’em out!” shit is about to start flying, thanks to people whose pet cause that is.

  3. UJ, I’m tempted to just say “Good point,” but then, the scary thing about extreme misogynists (and sociopaths) is that most are technically sane.

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