Gunman George Sodini may have entered a Pittsburgh gym alone on Tuesday night. But he was part of a string of mass murderers of women — and a loose-knit group of misogynists who encourage manipulation and hatred.
Jennifer Pozner of WIMN"s Voices connects Sodini's crimes with previous mass killings. She writes,
Perhaps it takes this level of hit-us-over-the-head bluntness for media to notice that a mass murder is also a hate crime, when the victims of that crime are solely women. In contrast to many other shootings in which similar motivations have gone unreported over the past two decades, the AP [...] have chosen to discuss the extremely relevant role of misogyny as the root cause of the bloody tragedy in Collier County.
The "bluntness" Pozner mentions — Sodini left behind a website detailing his hatred for and desire to kill women — may be the reason that the misogyny angle is getting some play in mainstream reports of the crime. But it wasn't even the bluntest misogynist killing in recent memory. That would be the Montreal Massacre of 1989, in which 25-year-old Marc Lépine shot 28 people and himself at Montreal's École Polytechnique, claiming he was "fighting feminism." He told a group of women "You're women, you're going to be engineers. You're all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists," before shooting them, and wrote in his suicide note, "I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker."
As Pozner (and Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon) point out, though, the Montréal Massacre is not the only recent example of misogynist mass murder. In 2006, Charles Roberts IV killed five girls in an Amish schoolhouse after allowing male students to leave. He may have been motivated by guilt over molesting girls many years earlier, and by a desire to molest again. Also in 2006, Duane Roger Morrison took six girls hostage at Platte Canyon High School, sexually assaulted them, and shot one. And Cho Seung-Hui, the Virginia Tech killer, had been accused of stalking female students before his deadly rampage.
In a 2007 post, Pozner wrote,
Journalists could be doing a real service to the culture by focusing on the often-gendered nature of mass violence in America, and by seeking out anti-violence experts who could contextualize these crimes and could offer solutions and strategies for eradicating (or, at least, reducing) this kind of grave violence.
Perhaps now that clearly gender-based murders have occurred, they will. However, it's tragic that no one alerted police to Sodini's website (assuming that it was, indeed, online before the killings), or made the connection between a culture of misogyny and the actual mass murder of women. Marcotte writes that "these crimes don't happen in a vacuum," and nothing shows this more disturbingly than the True Forced Loneliness movement. BuzzFeed's Eliot Glazer calls TFL "a YouTube phenomenon in which men [...] blame women for forcing them into lives of solitude." Bill, an unofficial spokeman for the movement, has this rambling and scary video response to the gym murders:
The AP's Jocelyn Noveck writes that "Sodini certainly had an online trail. But it was on a personal Web page, not on a social network, and that makes a big difference." Actually, Sodini did post on a social network — like Bill, he was on YouTube. But instead of rants about "the game" and "treating other people like shit," he posted a tour of his house (including a close-up of a book called How to Date Young Women: For Men Over 35) and an odd speech about learning to express his emotions better. He also appears to have posted on Is It Normal?, asking "how you would react (if at all) seeing a clean cut older man with a very young girl in public." 26% of visitors voted this situation "normal," and one commenter said, "If I saw an man near 50 with a young girl I`d think he`s a lucky b*s***d...it`s amoral but so what, nowadays this is the world we live in. [...] Enjoy ruining the innocence of a young girl."
Only Sodini's personal website reveals his murderous intent. However, he was far from a lone crazy with no connections to others. In fact, he was part of a group of men — a loosely knit and virtual group, but a group all the same — that believes in blaming women for sexual frustrations and encourages manipulation. From R. Don Steele, author of How To Date Young Women (Tony Ortega of the Village Voice points out that Sodini not only bought Steele's book, but can be seen on video at one of his lectures), to Roissy, to the men of TFL, a number of people encouraged perhaps not Sodini himself, but a mindset in which women were objects to be targeted and manipulated or, failing that, reviled. Sodini was asking, "am I normal?" and at least some people were saying yes.
Bill of TFL hasn't killed anyone, and "Game" is not a crime. At the same time, when Pittsburgh police say "no one was going to stop" Sodini, they let themselves off the hook a little too easily. They, and the media, could have been "focusing on the often-gendered nature of mass violence in America" after the Amish school shooting, after Platte Canyon, after Virginia Tech. We could all have been more aware of the rise of grievance misogyny on the Internet and its potential effects on depressed or psychotic men. Maybe no one could have predicted Sodini's crime, but now that it's happened, it's time to start acknowledging its many roots throughout American culture, and take steps to combat them.
Once More With Feeling: Media Must Report Gender Motivation For Mass Shootings [WIMN's Voices]
More On The Misogynist Shooting In Pennsylvania [Feministe]
These Crimes Don't Happen In A Vacuum [Pandagon]
Pennsylvania Gym Shooter Struggled With Anger Toward Women [LA Times]
Shooter's Online Rants Were Like Trees In Forest [AP]
From Jonesboro To Virginia Tech - Sexism Is Fatal, But Media Miss The Story [WIMN's Voices]
Bill1224602's Channel [YouTube]
True Forced Loneliness [BuzzFeed]
Pittsburgh Shooter And His "Dating Young Women" Guru: R. Don Steele [Village Voice]
MOSB46PGH's Channel [YouTube]