Blame the Woman

Christy Wampole
Christy Wampole
Christy Wampole joined the department as Assistant Professor of French in 2011. She received her Ph.D in both French and Italian from Stanford University in 2011 with a dissertation entitled “Late Twentieth-Century French and Italian Essayistic Fiction,” which analyzed various strands of essayistic thinking, style, and rhetorical strategies. | Photo: Biff Henderson | Christy Wampole, French, Italian, Columnist, Author,

A man goes crazy. Some people think they know why.

I have no idea why the people who commit mass shootings invariably seem to be men.

Not all men, of course. Most males don't commit a Sandy Hook or a Columbine so I don't think it's some innate homicidal tendency in my gender. What I do think is that when someone claims it's women's fault these men became killers, that says more about the speaker than the shooter.

For example, Jim Rubens, a Republican politician in New Hampshire, has been in the hot seat for a 2009 blog post "explaining" mass shootings. His theory was that in a "female-centric economy," women are finding jobs while men are becoming unemployed and insecure. No wonder they kill!

Or consider pundit Camille Paglia, who blamed the 2007 Virginia Tech campus shooting on slutty college women: "Young women now seem to want to behave like men and have sex without commitment. The signals they are giving are very confusing and rage and humiliation build up in boys who are spurned again and again." Never mind shooter Seung Hui Cho's history of mental problems, it's the women who didn't sleep with him who made him a murderer.

Or take columnist Christy Wampole last year, saying we wouldn't see these violent acts if women showed "a more deferential attitude" to men who lose out in the economy: "Can you imagine being in the shoes of the one who feels his power slipping away? Who can find nothing stable to believe in? Who feels himself becoming unnecessary?"

Rubens has tried to reframe his comments: all he meant was that men are doing worse in the current economy than women. Of course, if that's the case, why bring women up at all? Why not just point out that the economy has been tanking for most workers? Or if you have to blame someone other than the shooters, why not pick outsourcing or deregulation for their effect on the economy?

Same-old, same-old is my guess. There's still a good-sized chunk of American society that isn't comfortable with working women and sees them as "taking a man's job" (jobs belong to men by right because they're well, male). Once you start from the premise that working women are a bad thing, it's easy to blame them for whatever problem flits into your heads.

Some writers, for example, also blame working women for twenty-something guys being (supposedly) lazy. The reasoning (I use the word loosely) is that women don't need men to support them so they have sex without demanding marriage, so guys don't need money to get laid so they have no reason to get a job. If women didn't have careers, guys would have to man up.

Wampole's advice is even creepier. Telling women they should have a more deferential attitude to men, treat them with more respect, so that the men won't go crazy and kill people? This is the kind of bad advice people give to battered spouses'he wouldn't hit you if you didn't criticize him! It's up to you to control him! It's really, really, really bad advice, and a little insulting to men, too. Most of us aren't time bombs ready to explode if we don't hear the safety word

Plenty of people, of course, believe whatever a man does'rape, abuse, stalking'it's the woman's fault. It's always possible to find some way in which a woman hasn't followed the perfect path that supposedly would have made everything alright. If every woman on Virginia Tech had been chaste, Paglia would only need to rewrite her script a little: those mean bitches kept turning down Cho again and again, can you blame him for getting angry?

I don't know the solution to preventing mass violence, but it's pretty clear Rubens, Paglia and Wampole know even less.

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Updated Jul 11, 2018 1:00 AM UTC | More details


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