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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

Bob Herbert: "The Barbaric Treatment Of Women And Girls Has Come To Be More Or Less Expected"

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In today's New York Times, Bob Herbert argues that "we would become much more sane, much healthier, as a society if we could bring ourselves to acknowledge that misogyny is a serious and pervasive problem." Some of his commenters disagree.

In an editorial titled "Women At Risk," Herbert touches upon the the recent gym shooting in Pennsylvania, as well as various shootings that have taken place across the country over the past few years, and notes that the media tends to brush past the obvious misogyny behind many of these crimes, noting that "we have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that the barbaric treatment of women and girls has come to be more or less expected." Acknowledging the culture of misogyny that spawns such horrific acts, Herbert argues, is the first step towards stopping them.


While many commenters on Herbert's piece thanked him for pointing this out and noted their own brushes with misogyny on a daily basis, some commenters denied that our culture is filled with misogynistic messages, choosing instead to blame "crazies" and dismissing Herbert's argument as over-the-top and ridiculous:

Cdr. John Newlin, USN (Ret.)
Vista, Calif.
August 8th, 2009
9:27 am
Sigh. We so blissfully ignore the warnings that scientists have been issuing for years now. There have been a number of studies of rats living in confined spaces. The results of these studies have been congruent. As the rat population increases and the size of the confining space remains constant, the rat-on-rat violence emerges and increases.

In a society of increasing population and social pressures, when anyone who really wants one can get a gun or even an assault weapon, such incidents are bound to happen.

We cannot decrease our population. We seem to be unable to slow the growth of the poor and impoverished. We are doomed by Darwin's truth. The more humans that inhabit our cities like rats in mazes, the more demand for food and energy. And that demand is slowly but surely is killing planet earth. And it won't be long - much sooner than even those that know that it is coming - before earth starts killing its inhabitants. And that, as Edith Ann was wont to say, is the truth.


So you see, it's not misogyny, but population control that's the problem. If only people would stop breeding! Then we wouldn't have misogynistic killing sprees at all.

Washington, DC
August 8th, 2009
9:48 am
Hmm, let's see:

According to Mr. Herbert, killing females because they are females is a sign of misogyny.

But lots more men are killed than women in the United States, and undoubtedly many if not most of these men were killed because they were males. Such violence against males must be a sign of misandry, according to Mr. Herbert's formulation.

Furthermore, following Mr. Herbert's own logic, because so many more men are killed than women, the scale of our society's misandry must be much, much greater than the scale of our society's misogyny.

Which means that Mr. Herbert should be writing many, many more columns about violence against men then he should about violence against women.

Frankly, Mr. Herbert's real mistake is to insist on viewing this matter through the prism of gender, which leads him to not only insult the entire male half of the species but also ignore the fact that females commit violence as well — the majority of violent abuse of children is committed by females, for example. (Google it.)

Perhaps Mr. Herbert should remove his ideological blinders and focus on the real issue: reducing violence, in all its permutations.


Misogyny! Blah blah blah, ladies! Let's get back to what really matters: MEN.

Nick Bourbaki
August 8th, 2009
10:03 am
This is ludicrous; if anything the culture in the US today is rife with misandry and reverse racism, but you won't see Mr. Herbert writing about that anytime soon, because the idea that someone not a woman or a minority can have it just as bad, whether it be in divorce courts or college admissions, is considered a threat to the inexorable march of Mr. Herbert and his ilk towards an America free from the oppressive white man. What is truly expected is that the descendants of those who ill-treated women or blacks genuflect at the trinity of feminism, multiculturism and affirmative action, as is evidenced by the proceedings in our courts and colleges and Obama's shortlist for the Supreme Court. All this aside, perhaps Mr. Herbert should consider that a reason why this didn't provoke wide outrage at misogyny in our culture is because most people realized that the actions of an insane lone gunman do not reflect upon all men (or misogynists, since the two seem to be interchangable), much less on our national culture. This crime didn't occur because of a culture of misogyny, it occurred because the gunman was out of his mind. Even then, what is your solution Mr. Herbert? Mr. Sodini's obsession with women was genetically hard-wired into him by millions of years of evolution, which he had no choice over, and exacerbated by his warped mind, a personal suffering, not a societal one. Would you have all men chemically castrated and subdued, that the poor women shan't suffer more?

Also, I find it highly hippocritical that those who vehemently support the freedom and legitimacy of sexual pleasure in premarital and homosexual relationships, like Mr. Herbert, despite the ire of the religious fundamentalists, now turn around and join hands with the religious against pornography, which is a different form of sexual pleasure, apparently favored by many more than Mr. Herbert might imagine, considering that there are more such sites than the rest put together. If you contest that the practice somehow abuses the actresses (again ignoring altogether the well-being of the actors, who are just as involved and vulnerable), then would you say that the suffering of the enormous number of children born out of wedlock who's fathers have no societal obligations towards them and are entirely absent from their lives, save a check every month, which cannot replace a father present in the home, are less than those of the adult actress? Surely then you ought advocate abstinence, for these children were conceived in a time rife with birth control. What about those children caught in a divorce, who suffer similarly? Then you ought advocate a ban on divorces for reasons not grave, which constitute the large majority; for it is difficult to believe that so many so abuse their spouses that there is no other choice. The children did not choose this and have no way out, but the actresses did and do. Of course you won't speak out for the children with the same vindication that you denounce pornography as misogyny, since you would have to oppose the party line of unrestricted promiscuity or the prevalence of parental conflict over their obligation to their family.



Orlando, FL
August 8th, 2009
10:03 am
"They are attacked because they are female."

There is a simple solution. Sam Colt, John Moses Browning, Gaston Glock, Smith and Wesson, the Beretta family, etc., provide the way to make women - in a physical confrontation - the same size as their potenital male attackers.

Make the price of an attack high enough, and the certainy of the negative response sure enough, and the possibility of attack diaminishes.

Gun fights are inheriently head games. For the female, the old, the outnumbered it is not how strong you are, it is how focused and under control you are that count. This might sound mad (Mutually Assured Distruction, the olde Cold War phrase), but it beats hang-wringing over events.


Look, if the ladies knew how to shoot a gun, they'd never face misogyny again. Don't have a penis? Buy a weapon instead!

Eagan, MN
August 8th, 2009
1:04 pm
Women and girls all too often don't repect themselves. As a grade school teacher, I regularly saw boys teasing girls, often in an insulting, overly sexual way. Typically the girls responded with giggles—they were flattered. The next step is the adult "boy" saying after an assault,"She wanted it!"

Girls needn't turn into little Puritans, but they do need to respect themselves enough to help boys see them as human beings, not just as dolls for their amusement. Dare I use the word "empathy"?


And, as always, it's all our fault.

Women At Risk [NYTimes]
Women At Risk: Reader's Comments [NYTimes]