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Archive for August 17th, 2009

lafitnessI just had a debate with a friend about George Sodini.  It was prompted by an article he linked to his profile, with a caption saying “you might find this disturbing.  or thought-provoking.”  It was a short but good conversation and I hope you’ll give your take on it, and on the George Sodini incident itself.   Here’s the original article:   http://exiledonline.com/revenge-of-the-nerd-what-the-media-wont-tell-you-about-the-rampage-killer-who-attacked-a-pittsburgh-aerobics-class/

ME:  well you got the first part right. That article IS disturbing. I’m all for sympathizing with disturbed people who commit crimes and then take their own lives. but the writer seems to forget that 3 women are dead, in large part, because of Sodini’s socialized sense of entitlement to female attention. I find it odd that the writer could find the classism angle (not a bad angle) but not the sexism angle. Instead, he came to the easy, privileged conclusion that maybe if those cold-hearted women fucked this guy more, he wouldn’t be “forced” to punish 3 female strangers for it. I. Call. Bullshit.

Wow that was longer than it was supposed to be. I guess it was thought-provoking. It just provoked thoughts that made me want to vomit.

HIM:  Well, the class angle doesn’t really even make sense either when you take into account the fact that he had a pretty nice job and even got promoted instead of laid off. I don’t know though, is a net worth after debt of over 250K doing well or doing poorly? I don’t really even know what that means.

But where do you get the idea that he felt entitled to female attention? If anything, it seems as if he felt he didn’t deserve to be loved by a woman. I don’t think it’s so unhealthy to feel worthy of being loved by someone of the opposite sex, in fact I think it’s necessary for your psychological well-being. I know from experience that lack of self-confidence can cause some serious frustration and mental issues. I don’t disagree that for Sodini this led to sexist thoughts and actions, but I have a hard time finding any evidence of a sense of privilege.

ME:  Oh really? The author made it seem like he was a working class guy. I should’ve known not to take his stupid word on anything. It depends. 250K a year? or like in his life?

when a lack of success with women leads to sexist thoughts, and especially violence, against them, that is gendered entitlement in its truest form. If he really felt no hostility towards women for not having sex with him, he would’ve only shot himself.

But I’m really taking issue with the author, who said that Sodini cracked because he was out of the Darwinian competition, and that he was just honest enough to admit that sex is one of the only things that matter. And what exactly am I to make of that? If I’m to accept that premise, how does it affect my daily life? Well I better watch out the next time I want to politely reject a guy at a bar. Instead of just calling me a bitch (also a sign of entitlement) he might blow my brains out and i’ll be partly responsible. 
your move sir!

HIM: I don’t know, whatever “net worth” means.

while i don’t wish to compare the two in terms of the pain they cause or anything else like that, I think this is the kind of desperation and frustration most women can never fully understand, just like rape and sexual assault is something most men can never fully understand.

i’m sorry, but hostility towards women =/= gendered entitlement. if you can show me what specifically makes you think he feels “entitled” as you say, other than “he’s pathetic and sexist and wants to get laid” then I’d be glad to take a look.

What I see is that he thinks there must be something wrong with him, and no one will tell him what it is. He thinks women are shit, it’s true. But he thinks of himself as not even being worthy of what he thinks is shit. that’s the opposite of entitlement. that’s complete self-deprecation.

Also, I do think sex is very, very important for a happy, healthy life. Don’t you?

ME:  He refers to women as “edible” and “so beautiful as to not be human.” He was reading a book on how to get young girls if you’re over 35. Not only did he feel entitled to a woman’s attention, he felt entitled to a much younger woman’s attention. When his illusions about this were threatened, it confused him and he snapped.

To say that a less-than confident man can’t exert male entitlement is like saying that a less-than-confident white person can’t exert white privilege. Whether you’re objectifying women out of overconfidence or underconfidence, you’re still objectifying them, and they still pay the greater price, ultimately.

Dan Savage sums up my view of George Sodini pretty well in his column. You should check it out, it’s the third question:

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove?oid=2017620

And yes, sex is an awesome thing and sexual frustration is depressing for men and women. but Sodini’s frustation could have been lessened if he didn’t believe (understandably considering the world he grew up in) that “a man needs a woman for confidence.”

HIM:   alright, well that’s not the impression I got from reading his blog, but I suppose we all have different interpretations. Dan Savage does have a lot of experience, obviously, so he must have good reason to see it that way.

Maybe I’m just fucked up and influenced by society and feel gendered entitlement as well, but I never feel as confident when I’m lonely than when I’m with someone. It’s not everything, but it’s a crucial part of the puzzle, at least for me.

ME:   Well we’ll agree to disagree I guess. At some point we should mull this shit over in person…and then have a fist fight.

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This is a really long excerpt from Moroccan feminist Fatima Mernissi’s book, Beyond the Veil, first published in 1975, later edited in 1987. I read the whole thing and it gave me a better understanding of male-female dynamics in modern Muslim society.

Islam’s basically positive attitude toward sexuality is more conducive to healthy perspectives of a self-realizing sexuality, harmoniously integrated in social life, than the West’s basically negative attitude toward sexuality. Serious changes in male-female conditioning in Western countries imply revolutionary changes in society which these reformist countries are determined to avoid at any cost. Muslim societies cannot afford to be reformist; they do not have sufficient resources to be able to offer palliatives. A superficial replastering of the system is not a possible solution for them.

At a deeper level than laws and official policy, the Muslim social order views the female as a potent aggressive individual whose power can, if not tamed and curbed, corrode the social order. It is very likely than in the long run such a view will facilitate women’s integration into the networks of decision-making and power. One of the main obstacles Western women have been dealing with is their society’s view of women as passive inferior beings. The fact that generations of university-educated women in both Europe and America failed to win access to decision-making posts is due in part to this deeply ingrained image of women as inferior. The Muslim image of women as a source of power is likely to make Muslim women set higher and broader goals than just equality with men. The most recent studies on the aspirations of both men and women seem to come to the same conclusion: the goal is not to achieve equality with men. Woman have seen that what men have is not worth getting. Women’s goals are already being phrased in terms of a global rejection of established sexual patterns, frustrating for males and degrading for females. This implies a revolutionary reorgnization of the entire society, starting from its economic structure and ending with its grammar…

…The problem Arab societies face is not whether or not to change, but how fast to change. The link between women’s liberation and economic development is shown by the similarities in the conditions of the two sexes in the Third World; both sexes suffer from exploitation and deprivation. Men do not have, as in the so-called abundant Western societies, glaring advantages over women. Illiteracy and unemployment are suffered by males as well as females. This similarity of men and women as equally deprived and exploited individuals assumes enormous importance in the likely evolution of Third World family structure. George Tarabishi has pointed out the absurdity of men who argue that women should not be encouraged to get jobs in Arab society, where men suffer from unemployment. He argues that society should not waste human resources in unemployment, but systematically channel the wealth of rsources into productive tasks. The female half of human resources is more than welcome in the Arab future.

One may speculate that women’s liberation in an Arab context is likely to take a faster and more radical path than in Western countries. Women in Western liberal democracies are organizing themselves to claim their rights, but their oppressors are strong, wealthy, and reformist regimes. The dialogue takes place within the reformist framework characteristic of bourgeois democracies. In such situations, serious changes are likely to take a long time. American women will get the right to abortion but it will be a long time before they can prevent the female’s body from being exploited as a marketable product. Muslim women, on the contrary, engage in a silent but explosive dialogue with a fragile ruling class whose major task is to secure economic growth and plan a future without exploitation and deprivation. The Arab ruling classes are beginning to realize that they are charged with building a sovereign future, which necessarily revolves around the location and adequate utilization of all human and natural resources for the benefit of the entire population. The Arab wan is a central element in any sovereign future. Thoes who have not realized this fact are misleading themselves and their countries.

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