What motives for violence are we prepared to acknowledge and what do we avoid?
- 7 October US (Detroit) Shooting: 1 dead, 5 injured, 2 critically
- 22 October Canada (Ottawa) Shooting: 2 dead
- 25 October US (Seattle) Shooting: 2 dead, 4 injured, 3 critically (all teens)
I would bet that you know all about the Canada shooting, in part of course this may arise from the fact that there have been relatively few shootings in Canada in recent years.
The Canadian one that is seared on my mind, of course, is 1989 in Montreal when a gunman, who had failed to obtain a place in engineering at the Ecole Polytechnique, burst into the engineering class, told the men to leave and shot 14 women. As he did so he was shouting, “You’re all a bunch of feminists and I hate feminists.” This event led to stricter gun controls in Canada and also inspired some men to launch the “White Ribbon Campaign” to challenge male violence against women.
Again it may be the fact that Canada has not to date been pulled too deeply into conflict issues relating to Syria/Iraq etc, yet has had two such incidents in the one week, which may have elicited such attention on this shooting which may appear to signal a change in that dynamic.
Indeed, most of the coverage relating to this shooting incident has highlighted that the victim was a soldier guarding the war memorial and the perpetrator, who may have some mental health issues, seems at least partially motivated by his version of so-called Islamic extremism.
You may have heard of either of the other two incidents but they don’t appear to have entered public consciousness in the same way despite the large numbers of injured and in one case the youth of those involved.
For those of you not aware of the other incidents, I summarise them here. On 7 October, 27 year old mum of three, Mary “Unique” Spears was shot dead after refusing to give her phone number to a man who harassed her all evening. A further five people, two men aged 28 and 30 and three women, aged 23, 32, 41 were shot before the man was arrested.
Jaylen Fryberg 15 a “homecoming prince” invited friends Zoe 14, Gia 14 , Andrew15, Nate 14 and Shaylee 14 to eat with him at the cafeteria. He then shot and killed Zoe and shot the other two girls and two boys and all but one are still critical. A female teacher, Megan Silberberger rushed to the scene to try to intervene. He then shot himself. There are some comments that the young man who comes from the Native American Tulalip tribe had been offended at some racist remarks earlier in the month. In fact most of the reports, indicate that he was furious that a couple of days previously Zoe had refused his advances and gone out with Andrew. Much of the media coverage of this case continually posits the question in stunned amazement “Why”?
In mass shootings from Norway to Seattle to Montreal there are of course several factors at play. In most cases of course it is fair to point out that the perpetrator is male. It is also fair to acknowledge that the perpetrator must have been depressed or suffering some degree of mental illness. We can also point out the availability of weapons. In all cases the perpetrator feels slighted, insulted, hard done by, alienated or angry for one reason or another.
However, in a very significant proportion of cases we find that among the perpetrator’s pseudo motivations and ramblings behind his actions, one fact is anger at women. Anger that women are taking up male space, anger that women are feminists, anger that women are not conforming to their idea of appropriate female behaviour, anger that women do not accept that they are entitled to access their bodies etc etc. Often the media coverage does not probe or highlight this aspect, indeed often it seems to go out of its way to find any excuse but naming male attitudes to women but a careful reading of the cases usually throws up some element of anger at women as part of the picture. “Davina Squirrel” catalogues school shootings and asks these gender questions at her blog.
The coverage of these shootings and other male violence against women would tend to suggest that we are bored of men killing women and not prepared to name it when we see it even though it is happening on an epidemic scale. When the man kills his children and sometimes his wife and maybe then himself – it’s reported as a tragic, isolated, unpredictable one-off incident despite repeated common patterns in all these cases too. In contrast, we are quick, possibly too quick, to name and endlessly mull over and mourn so-called “terrorist” violence, as indeed we should, but so should we for male violence against women and that’s not happening.