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Bluebeard Mass Murderer One of many males perpetrators for thousands of years continues unabated and normalized as "it happens to someone else, or someone else's daughter or son."

No Shootings Without Sexism

Categorized in these topics: Men in Collaboration Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Violence Women's Trauma Issues


We may never know why George Sodini killed three women and wounded nine others this week.

George Sodini clearly had anger and contempt for women. He objectified girls and women, seeming to see them only as potential sex partners for him. In his online blog, he called them “hoez,” “hottie” and “very edible.” He lamented that he was lonely and isolated. He posted a YouTube video about trying to date women 10 to 20 years younger than he was. He wrote about how “a man needs a woman for confidence,” and lamented that no woman would date him.

We may never know why George Sodini shot twelve women at the LA Fitness Gym outside Pittsburg on August 4th. But after reading his writings, it comes as no surprise to me.

Also on August 4, Barack Obama celebrated his 48th birthday. It was also veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas’ 89th birthday. Obama chose to celebrate his birthday by bringing cupcakes to Thomas and singing “Happy Birthday” to her, along with the rest of the White House press corps.

We may never know why Barack Obama gave that gift to Helen Thomas. But after reading his writings and hearing him speak, it comes as no surprise to me. Barack Obama clearly has respect, kindness and good humor for women. George Sodini clearly had hatred, self-pity and contempt for women.

Both men were in their late 40s. Both were surely influenced by how their parents raised them, and by their own choices. Both men took their actions based on a set of beliefs built up over their lives.

To my fellow men I ask: which man do you want to emulate?

Of course, not all men who have contempt for women end up shooting them. Every day, we men call women “hoes” and other, worse names. We men whistle at women who pass us by. We men see girls and women as objects of desire, as objects of ridicule, as objects.

We men make sexist jokes, and protest when confronted on our sexism. “Hey, it’s just a joke!”

We interrupt women in conversations, in board meetings, in our homes. We value women’s intelligence less than we do their bodies. We pay attention to what they are wearing and their body parts, not to what’s on their minds.

We pay women less than we pay other men. We stalk our ex-girlfriends and excuse our behavior because we’re still “in love.” We track our wives’ and girlfriends’ movements by texting them – we minimize and justify our behavior based on our own jealousy.

We objectify women through pornography (online and otherwise) and with sexist advertising. Again, when confronted on our consumption of these images, we blame the women for “choosing” to participate – the real blame should be on us guys for creating such a high demand for these objectified, sexualized images.

We act like victims, and paint women as perpetrators and heartbreakers. We write and sing songs about evil women and their wicked ways. We speak about sexism no longer existing - of women as being the ones in charge, with us poor guys as the new, neglected oppressed group. All the while, we make more money, have more political power and physical safety than women. We ignore the facts about violence against women, and mistake our own feelings of victimization for actual victimization.

Every twelve seconds in the United States, we abuse the woman whom we have promised to love. Every two minutes, we rape a woman – usually a woman we know, who trusts us. When confronted on our violence, we blame the victim: “she made me do it, you should see how she is at home, I could tell she was really into me.”

Of course, not everyone who tells a sexist joke will shoot women in health clubs. Not everyone who believes women are just sex objects will murder women. We may never know what caused George Sodini to do that.

But I know one thing. Without that belief system, George Sodini would never have shot those women.

What kind of man do you want to be? What kind of man do you want to teach your sons to be? Your guy friends?

We cannot bring back the lives that George Sodini took: Jody Billingsley, Betsy Gannon and an as-yet unnamed third woman. But we can hold up role models like Barack Obama, rather than men who mock and make fun of women. We can interrupt sexist jokes, and not tell them ourselves. We can listen to women – really listen. We can support women’s leadership. We can donate to domestic violence programs, rape crisis centers, state and national anti-violence groups.

Misogyny and men’s violence against women need fertile soil in which to grow. That fertile soil is sexism. By respecting women, we can dry up that soil. We can hasten the day when this kind of violence never happens again.

Until the violence stops, Ben.

Ben Atherton-Zeman, Maynard, MA USA
Actor, Comedian, Feminist and Husband
Presenting a One-Man Play: "Voices of Men," http://www.voicesofmen.org (video clips available)
For booking information, please call 978-897-3619



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