Jan 172011

Last week I raised the question of whether misogyny was involved in Jared Loughner’s targeting of Cong. Giffords.  An excerpt from a lengthy New York Times profile of Loughner suggests that he definitely had some deeply misogynist beliefs,

At a small local branch of a major bank, for example, the tellers would have their fingers on the alarm button whenever they saw him approaching.

It was not just his appearance — the pale shaved head and eyebrows — that unnerved them. It was also the aggressive, often sexist things that he said, including asserting that women should not be allowed to hold positions of power or authority.

One individual with knowledge of the situation said Mr. Loughner once got into a dispute with a female branch employee after she told him that a request of his would violate bank policy. He brusquely challenged the woman, telling her that she should not have any power.

From what has been reported, misogyny was not the only factor in why Loughner went after Giffords, but it is pretty clear that indeed he did harbor a deep disregard for women, so it is not only reasonable but necessary to fully examine that aspect of his motivation in our efforts to understand this horrific event.

(h/t to Ariel Dougherty of the Media Equity Collaborative for bringing this to my attention.)


Addenda:  And then there is this,

Federal investigators found the words “Die Cops” and “Die Bitch” scrawled on a letter from U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’s office in the home of the shooting suspect, a sheriff’s department official said Tuesday night.

Notably, the above was in the Wall Street Journal last week, and on 60 Minutes last night. So even though these indications that there was an element of misogyny involved have been reported, the documented woman-hatred is being almost entirely ignored in the analysis that has, for the most part focused on mental health and the damaging impact of violent rhetoric. Both are valid parts of this story, but the misogyny that is clearly a part of what happened is being left in large measure unexamined.

Again h/t to Ariel Dougherty for pointing this out as well, I was not able to spend much time on this last week and would not have seen these reports otherwise, always grateful for the assist.

 January 17, 2011  Posted by on January 17, 2011

  9 Responses to “Loughner Didn’t Think Women Should Hold Positions Of Authority Or Power”

  1. Please keep in mind that I’m neither trying to excuse nor explain away any of this terrible tragedy, but I have to ask: Is Loughner mentally ill or not? If he is, it seems to me that all of the commentary is irrelevant; if he is not, then he is 100% accountable.

  2. Good question–Given what we know, I’d say he is mentally ill. But I’d also say that anyone who kills (except in self defense) is mentally ill, who knows where the court will draw the line on this one. That said, we need to acknowledge that woman-hatred was a significant part of what was going on here and examine where that hatred came from, no matter how sick he was. Too often we ignore that women were specifically targeted in crimes like this, and discount the misogyny that is right in front of our faces when we look at root causes. Regardless of his mental health, we need to confront this and make it part of the narrative.

  3. I don’t think mental illness is an adequate explanation for this kind of violence. Most people who are mentally ill don’t commit mass murder. I do think there is something to the question of violent rhetoric, and that includes the kind of mysoginist rhetoric that pervades our culture in the form of pornography and the like. I think one of the things that is missed time and again when this kind of violence occurs is that the perpetrators are almost universally male. There’s some deep seated problem there that can’t be easily explained away by mental illness.

  4. Mental illness is often shaped by social toxins, so these are far from irrelevant. In a society where misogyny is pervasive, it is common to see mentally ill men channel that in their actions. Case in point. If he had been obsessed by ants or playing cards, that would be something else, but he was clearly consumed with issues that are sociopolitically charged. Die bitch fits right in with the larger pattern of contempt for and violence against women.

  5. If you consider misogyny, hatred of women, mental illness, then Jared Loughner is mentally ill along with those who batter and abuse and rape women, deny them the right to control their own bodies through abortion,. It may be comforting to think of heinous acts of misogyny as mental illness, but it doesn’t help the perpetrator as psychology and psychiatry have found little success in trying to treat anti-social personality disorders. The feminist lesson over generations that the personal is political, whether or not it comes via a psychological disorder is essential to keep from covering up the reason for the violence. See my discussion of sociopaths in Unmaking War, Remaking Men http://www.kathleenbarry.net.

  6. Whether or not he is mentally ill (I believe he is), he still displayed misogyny, and it was derived from patriatchal concepts taught in our religions every day. Those same concepts permeate most every aspect of our culture. Perhaps because he was mentally ill, he was more directly vocal about it in public, but other than that, there is no difference.

    I’m seeding this article at Uncommon Scold. I get a lot of traffic from people who aren’t feminists. Some of them show up just to argue how terrible feminists are. Doesn’t matter. They need to have this raised to a conscious level, even if they disagree.

  7. Lore, thank you–links are always appreciated!

  8. It is interesting and not very seldom to find that young man cary symptoms of personal illness combined with symtoms of the collective illness.

    Im working in this field as homeopath and must say that it is found quite often that young men suffering juvenile maniac states
    are cought up in mysogine violent ideas
    -also in getting lost in the male role expectations that society puts them into, while not coming to terms with the task to integrate emotional needs and sexuality –

    It is still a matter to define, where the line beween the collective and the personal aspect of madnes is to be drawn.

    In the third reich e.g. normal people believed a collective delusion about something like a “nation-body” . And they were told to defend its health, when they comitted mass murder.
    Such beliefs were then underpined by false racist beliefs that were shared by much of the scientific world of the time.

    patriarchy is a kind of very unballanced rule and as such not mentaly healthy.
    That is why it should be outgrown soon enought.

    Greetings from Berlin

  9. Current research into brain chemistry disorders confirms the interactive process by which genes, perigenes, and experiences combine to produce “mental illness.” It is not an either/or dichotomy. Time magazine 1/17/11 summarized a survey article in the Archives of Gen. Psychiatry: “In multiple studies, scientists found that people with one form of a protein that ferries serotonin, a mood-related neurotransmitter, are especially prone to depression when faced with traumatic events, such as being diagnosed with a medical illness or being a victim of childhood abuse. The version of the gene that these individuals carry prevents nerve cells in the brain from reabsorbing serotonin, which leads to feelings of sadness and negative mood, and may make it harder for them to recover emotionally from a crisis.”

    While Loughner’s disorder is obviously worse than simple depression (psychosis), it is probable that the brain chemistry underlying his disorder was indeed aggravated by his experiences, including the media-pumped culture of violence and misogyny in which we live. Hundreds of studies also confirm that most people are influenced by exposure to violent images, and their behavior in the short term becomes more aggressive. In some mentally ill people, this effect would be magnified.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.