On Santa Barbara

I will at some point do an entry on dating and aspies, probably a series, but let me pause here to give my voice on what happened on Santa Barbara. Because this touches on a feeling I see a lot in the community.*   This entry does touch on some cultural analysis which is why I’m putting it behind a jump for those disinterested in hearing such material.

The sad part was, I had hoped this was, if not off topic, at an angle from on topic. And it’s all too on topic.

What happened was, to say the least, tragic. A disgusting act carried out by a mentally diseased soul. What do you take away from actions far outside the norm of what the average person is capable of? I mean, I know nobody reading this is capable of doing what he (1) did. At least I hope not. But I know this, the thoughts he expressed, his reasoning? That sadly I’m not as sure of.

Let me begin with a tangent.  Growing up in America. We’re taught that we are all special and destined for greatness. I’m not a fan of this message because it creates entitlement. We deserve to be popular, rich, famous. We lose sight of the fact that we aren’t special. There’s 7 billion of us out there. What’s special is life itself. That’s an amazing experience. We should as a society be focusing on the goal of fulfillment but because of this broken belief in exceptionalism, we’re never happy.

And then there’s another sad facet of Western society. Misogyny is an issue in our society that sadly hasn’t been taken as seriously as it should. It gets overlooked in this male dominated society or brushed off. At least that’s at best. At worst it pervades our culture. Women are almost always treated as props in popular culture, prizes to be won or victims to spur on the male hero. (2) Often they’re just treated as something to look at. Dehumanized. And we’re ok with this. Because that’s how it works.

Look at our art. There is a running theme of the goofy guy gets the implausible girl. The inverse is never true. When Rebel Wilson played a love interest for Anthony Mackie in (the admittedly quite good) Pain & Gain, it was a joke. Melissa McCarthy, a superb talent, will never be in a conventional romance the way Seth Rogen has throughout his career. (3)  And those are the adult movies! Look at the movies aimed at teenagers which really hammer in this image and warp our views!  Year in, year out, we are bombarded with these images and they create a concept in our mind that if you’re a guy and you want something hard enough, you can get it.

From these warped values, inevitably dysfunction arises. We’re taught by our media that if you’re attracted to a girl, it will always work out unless you’re a bad guy. I’m staring my brain to think of movies that present a story where the guy realizes it’s ok that the woman he loves isn’t attracted to him. All About Steve is the closest thing I’m hitting on and that movie is a sick outing. Just a reminder: I have an encyclopedic knowledge of movies. And I’m stuck.

No, the theme we’re hit with is this moralism. It ignores that falling in love is a complex thing. That what attracts us is far from simple. That sometimes sheer fate makes a situation untenable. That timing can play a role. And most importantly: it ignores the role the woman plays in things. That’s kind of the big one. Because women do think independently, y’know. (4)

With these pieces in play, something happens and it’s difficult. It doesn’t make sense after all. The woman is the object of the guy’s affections. But she’s with another guy. Cognitive dissonance sets in. “He must be a jerk, because I’m a nice guy.” I mean, that’s the only answer that can work to the rejected young man. Not that there’s no spark between them. Not that she’s not attracted to him. It certainly can’t be that he’s not actually appealing. No, she’s attracted to a jerk.

And then the pattern starts to form. The other guys are often put into contrast to him. They’re nothing like him and their interests are so different, I mean they’d never get along. Never mind that this should be a sign that the relationship would never work since clearly it reflects on her interests. (5)  No, a pattern forms. All women are attracted to jerks, not nice guys like him.

And this is a tremendous error in thinking. It’s ignorant. I have known people in truly abusive relationships and they rarely resemble these supposed jerk ones. No, you know an abusive relationship and it’s a terrible thing to experience. The reality is many of these relationships the “nice guy” disdains are perfectly normal ones with their standard issues which he magnifies to salve his own wounded pride.

If he’s lucky, the nice guy grows up. He sees the ignorance of his ways. He realizes what a real relationship is. I dabbled in that thought process. I think we all do. Then I realized I was being passive and took the steps that led me to here. I’m in a wonderful, sustaining relationship now with a woman who challenges me mentally. That’s how a real relationship is. You grow.

The problem is the internet has provided a different view. No, this guy is right. He’s right to get mad at women. They’re intellectually inferior after all! (6) And he falls into the world of organized misogyny. And eventually, he becomes an embittered, broken creature.

The individual who committed these acts was 22 years old and complained of being a virgin. Just 22 years old. And from reading his words, he appears to be mentally ill. But I knew that pressure. I knew that insecurity. We live in a culture that forces it upon us. But it’s a terrible way of viewing the world. And it can’t go on. I’ve done a lot of reading about people like this. I admit I found it laughable.

But tonight I don’t.

Tonight, I think I see clearly what happened. These events reflect something sadly inevitable in this culture. Hatred of women is no different than any other form of hate except having the largest base possible to hate short of outright misanthropy. But it’s been shrugged off. And it’s not ok.


*EDIT TO UPDATE: When this was written, it wasn’t clear the killer was an AS case. As it does appear to be true, and sadly I was kind of expecting it, I have edited the entry.

(1) As per my rule, I never name the perpetrator. Unless it’s like Chris Brown, in which case the continued adulation he receives deserves to be contrasted with reminders of how awful he is. But in these cases, the individuals don’t deserve the attention.

(2) Look up Women in Refrigerators. This is so common fridge is used as a verb in the comics community.

(3)Disclaimer: The works of Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, and their cohorts are actually the opposite of the problem, frequently featuring nuanced female characters and well written adult relationships. I’m a serious fan.

(4) Happily I can think of many solid films with a balanced view of love.

(5) I know many of my wife’s friends. We get along great! They’re good people.

(6) No they are not. Hoo boy, they are not. Just want to stress that I absolutely HATE this idea. But it’s the perspective I see.

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