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Pre-2008 Posts

The Virginia Tech Shootings and American Masculinity


I clicked on the link to the article I’ve posted excerpts of below thinking it blamed feminism and feminists for the Virginia Tech shootings, as I’d been warned, and I certainly feared the worst when I saw that Camile Paglia was being quoted extensively — and in general, she didn’t fail me! Goddess, she is such a freaking TOOL! — but I still found the following paragraphs of the article provocative and worth talking about.

… this carefully manicured campus — home to 26,000 students who called themselves Hokies — was no place for a social misfit. Even Cho used to wear the uniform of the mini-city: an orange or maroon T-shirt or sweatshirt with a baseball cap. Paglia, who has taught in American universities for 35 years, describes America’s residential campuses as vast “islands of green and slack conformity where a strange benevolent and tyrannical paternalism has taken over. It’s like a resort atmosphere”.

Paglia believes the school Cho attended would have been no better equipped to deal with frustrated young males. “There is nothing happening educationally in these boring prisons that are fondly called suburban high schools. They are saturated with a false humanitarianism, which is especially damaging for boys.

[I think that most schools, Kindergarten through university level, are some variation of “boring prisons”, but I think they damage all the human beings institutionalized inside of them, not just boys.  Institutionalizing human beings, warehousing them, whether in schools, daycare centers, hospitals, prisons, orphanages, cubicles in office towers, wherever, is dehumanizing and debilitating.  Human beings were not created for this.  Come the revolution, things will be different. — Heart]

“Young men have enormous energy. There was a time when they could run away, hop on a freighter, go to a factory and earn money, do something with their hands. Now there is this snobbery of the upper-middle-class professional. Everyone has to be a lawyer or paper pusher.”

[Because young girls do not have this same “enormous energy.”  They are delicate flowers who need smelling salts with the least exertion.  First of all.  Second of all, at least at  one time boys COULD, with reasonable safety, run away, hop on a freighter, work in a factory.  (Wait.  Work in a factory?  Paglia thinks that was somehow exciting and preferable to going to Virginia Tech?)  Earn money.  Girls never could do any of the above, and certainly not with “reasonable safety.”  Argh.  Camille Paglia is such a tool.  –Heart]

Cho is a classic example of “someone who felt he was a loser in the cruel social rat race”, Paglia says. The pervasive hook-up culture at college, where girls are prepared to sleep with boys they barely know or fancy, can be a source of seething resentment and alienation for those who are left out.

[As though plenty, plenty, plenty of girls are not similarly often “left out.”  I wonder what Paglia figures girls do with their “seething resentment and alienation,” or whether she figures they have any! — Heart]

“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.”

The sex, Paglia argues, “is everywhere but it is not erotic”, as can be seen by the sad spectacle of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears flashing their lack of underwear during a night on the town. “It’s not even titillating. It’s banal and debasing.”

[I think what Paglia says here is true, and scary, but I think what it evidences is male entitlement, male privilege, which manifests itself in feelings of rage whenever it appears to boys or men — appears to them — as though girls and women are getting something they believed they are entitled to but are not getting, when they feel themselves to be getting the short end of the stick when, because they are men, they feel entitled to the long end.  –Heart]

…Political scientist Francis Fukuyama believes the common denominator between the terrorist suicide bomber and the suicidal mass murderer is their sexual frustration and gender. “It really is young men between 15 and 30 who are responsible for the vast majority of crimes, although it is politically incorrect to say this too loudly,” he says.

Suicide bombers and the Virginia Tech killer, Fukuyama suggests, “fall into the same demographic of young males, a lot of whom are unemployed, without a clear place in the social hierarchy. These guys have the most to gain and the least to lose by martyrdom”. And often, he adds, they are upset about girls “whose attention they can’t get”.

Fukuyama believes that Cho’s case is “fairly unique” but “the maleness is important”. In his essay Identity and Migration, published by Prospect last February, he writes that radical Islamism should be understood in the context of identity politics.

“We have seen this problem before in the extremist politics of the 20th century, among the young people who became anarchists, Bolsheviks, fascists or members of the Baader-Meinhof gang.” It is not specifically tied to radical Islam, he insists.

…The lone gunman is a familiar figure in American mythology. “In American culture you always have the rough-edged loner, the anti- establishment figure which goes all the way back to the silent films and westerns and continues through Humphrey Bogart, James Dean and Marlon Brando,” says Paglia.

In Cho’s case, there were echoes of Taxi Driver, the story of a stalker. The promiscuity that Cho saw in women was “a huge warning sign”, Paglia believes. “You want them, you want the status of being seen with them, you’re driven towards them and at the same time they are contaminated, they are dirty. That’s exactly the mentality of the stalker and assassin played by Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver. There is an apocalyptic impulse to destroy everything and to purify the world.”

In a twist to the debate on masculinity, some commentators have complained that the terrified Virginia Tech students were no Rambos when it came to defending themselves. John Derbyshire, a right-wing British writer based in America, wondered, “Why didn’t anyone rush the guy? Yes, I know it is easy to say these things, but didn’t the heroes of Flight 93 teach us anything?” — a reference to the passengers fighting back in the 9/11 hijacked plane.

The columnist Mark Steyn took up the theme with an essay on the “culture of passivity” that is overtaking America. In his view, students are becoming so infantilised that they have lost their capacity to take responsibility.

“In a horrible world, there may come moments when you have to choose between protecting yourself and others,” he believes. “It is a poor reflection on us that in those critical first seconds where one has to make a decision, only an elderly Holocaust survivor understood instinctively the obligation to act.”

Librescu, 75, forced his body against the door to prevent Cho storming his classroom, gaining time for some of his students to escape. He was shot dead. But there were younger heroes, too, such as Derek O’Dell, who was shot in the arm but managed to wedge his foot in the door and prevent Cho from re-entering the classroom.

Another student, realising that a friend was playing dead, was said to have deliberately drawn Cho’s attention to himself as the gunman searched the room for survivors — and sacrificed his own life.





13 thoughts on “The Virginia Tech Shootings and American Masculinity

  1. In his view, students are becoming so infantilised that they have lost their capacity to take responsibility.

    Snort. I would dearly love to see both of those writers’ reactions if confronted by someone randomly spraying bullets in a small confined area.

    And if the worst problem anyone ever has is being confined to a resort-like college campus where so many can’t afford to go, then they’re fortunate.

    There was a time when they could run away, hop on a freighter, go to a factory and earn money,

    They can still run away. I hear it’s a ton of fun out on the street. Darn those child labor laws, anyway, not letting kids work 12-hour-days for little money.

    And did I miss something? I’m pretty sure there are jobs. Or these disaffected young men could always ::gasp:: volunteer and try to do something meaningful with their lives.

    Hop a freighter my ass.

    Posted by Miranda | April 25, 2007, 9:05 pm
  2. Easier once again to blame women and girls rather than look at how American boys are socialised into what is often termed hegemonic masculinties. Any boy or man perceived by his male peers as failing to match up to hegemonic masculinties is ostracised as being either homosexual or an effeminate male. Either way it is males policing other males into rigid notions of what makes a so-called ‘real man.’ Paglia takes the easy option of claiming young women are ‘sexually easy’ rather than examining how young men are socialised into believing they are entitled to have sexual access to any woman. It is too much to expect Paglia to analyse how the media and society are conditioning young women and girls to be men’s sexual commodities.

    Posted by jennifer drew | April 25, 2007, 10:00 pm
  3. Fascinating post, Heart, and I enjoyed your commentary (as usual, of course).

    Posted by profacero | April 25, 2007, 11:31 pm
  4. I so identify with the description of schools and colleges as prisons.

    The difference for me was, it was a means to a goal. I got my qualifications and then got out (and took a couple of years off working in betwen those courses).
    And I’m female. Girls might appear more passive, but we can cerainly feel the boredom and oppression of institutions every bit as much as the boys do. The sort of motivation I had to get through college was unusual – I was breaking into a man’s world against all the naysayers and I had to do well.

    As for criticising the passivity of students – I’ve noticed that said around, and I really feel that no-one can criticise unless they were there or in a similar circumstance, and even then we have to acknowledge the innate difference in people’s reaction.
    My only experience of anything similar was in a school class when one of the girls started beating up another while the teacher was out of the room. Everyone froze; not a person moved to stop the fight.
    I felt guilty afterwards. Someone had to move first and I was strong enough and familiar with fighting. My closest friend admitted to feeling exactly the same guilt. I like to think that in a similar situation today I would be the one to step forward but if so, it would only be because of that former experience and knowing how people react to a crisis.
    My understanding is that this is why people go to boot camp, to train them to respond appropriately in crisis. It’s not something that comes naturally.

    Posted by Sophie | April 25, 2007, 11:42 pm
  5. How dare people criticize the students in those rooms! I’m horrified and only hope that the poor survivors somehow get sheltered from such viciousness.

    I suppose that attitude is some kind of defense mechanism that helps people believe that it couldn’t happen to them. They console themselves with the thought that, should they ever be in such a situation, they would be the hero who fought back and won.

    It’s the same “no whiners” mentality that says that if you “choose” to be a victim, it’s your own fault. It’s a pervasive in America these days, the ethos of unbridled capitalist patriarchy.

    For example, why did I have to hear Hugh Hefner on NPR yesterday and choke on my breakfast? I actually turned it off and didn’t hear his sage comments on their “Long View” series. How does such a creep get to be a voice of wisdom? He’s a winner, not a whiner, that’s why. He’s rich, and it doesn’t matter much how he got that way. Disgusting.

    Posted by roamaround | April 26, 2007, 12:30 am
  6. roamaround says: I suppose that attitude is some kind of defense mechanism that helps people believe that it couldn’t happen to them. They console themselves with the thought that, should they ever be in such a situation, they would be the hero who fought back and won.

    I think that’s a big part of it. After something like this happens, everyone is always looking for someone to blame, some way that things could have been different. Society doesn’t want to deal with the difficulties of changing the life of the killer, so they focus on what the victims should have done differently.

    Posted by gingermiss | April 26, 2007, 2:06 am
  7. Yesterday I noticed a new comment on the Cho Sueng-Hui and the Virginia Tech Massacre: These are the Sons America Has Raised entry also blaming feminists. Centurion said, “It’s too bad today’s generation of males have been emasculated from their male tendencies to protect as they have done for centuries. Thanks to women’s libbers you have made pansies out of a large part of our young males.”

    I wondered, how did this troll get through? That entry is already off the front page, so maybe the comment went unnoticed? I thought about writing a retort, but decided not to waste my time on such crap. Now I think I should have said something.

    Posted by Aletha | April 26, 2007, 6:14 am
  8. What horrifies me, and is exemplified by this article, is the EXTENT that people will go to blame women for anything no matter what. It’s the extent that people will go to FIND a way, to grasp for a way to blame women. It’s almost as if, whenever a tragedy occurs, whenever something bad happens, or simply undesirable, people scramble in their minds thinking, hoping, stretching going “Please can there be, oh let there be SOME WAY to blame women for this.”

    And so for everything bad that happens, no matter -who- did it to -whom-, somehow, somewhere, there is a woman to blame. Somehow somewhere it’s women’s fault.

    She didn’t sleep with him. She slept with him. She was too promiscuous. She wasn’t promiscuous enough. She was greedy with her sexuality. She was frigid. She was cold. She was a slut.

    Why this author wants to, so desperately wants to blame feminism for men’s violence, and specifically Cho’s violence is beyond my ability to understand.

    Why they blame feminism for Cho’s frustration and not society for constantly telling boys they have to have sex, especially sex with as many women as possible, as to solidify their “manhood.”

    Why don’t they blame that? But’s free thinking women. It’s what women are doing with their, THEIR bodies, or are not doing with THEIR bodies, that make men murder. It’s women’s fault that men can’t work in factories? This is just bizarre.

    This article is INSANE. Insane.

    Posted by Kiuku | April 26, 2007, 8:04 pm
  9. I’d be curious what the author thinks the women in the Middle East are doing wrong considering all the suicide bombings and war torn areas. They must be doing something seriously wrong. Those horrible women.

    Posted by Kiuku | April 26, 2007, 8:19 pm
  10. Hmm… Cho went off the deep end because not one ‘campus slut’ would give him a ‘mercy-boink’??? I’m caught between puking disgust and sardonic laughter. If Ms. Paglia understands his male distress so well, I think SHE should sleep with him, as in: ‘C’mon, Camile, we know you’re *hot* for misunderstood, gun-toting, murdering young maleness, so why are you being such a little tease? Oh, wait… maybe she just says what she does because she wants attention…

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. CP is on my bottomfeeders list because she does what she does willingly, and she’s got the brains to know better.

    Posted by akkarri | April 27, 2007, 7:15 am
  11. hahaha Akkarri.

    Personally I’d like to apologize to Cho on behalf of all feminists for preventing him from running away and working in a factory. We know your major was English, Cho, but what you really wanted to do was work in a factory.

    For the rest of men of whom we are depriving this innate right of yours to work in factories, can happily replace the women and children laboring in factories overseas of which there is large demand, for unskilled, uneducated, folk who like to work with their hands.

    If working in the factory, with your hands, is so male, and so glorious, exotic, and as romanticised as this author deems it, and the cure-all for male violence and terrorism, then I would hope to expect to see men making up atleast the same portion in factories now, as women do.

    Posted by Kiuku | April 28, 2007, 5:25 pm
  12. It is, you see, not payment enough that students and teachers died for merely attending class that day; they must also be pussified. Except for the lone hero, the “Holocaust survivor” – apparently we can shrug at horror and laugh at its victims but still take a moment to remember fondly the Real Men who knew what Real Problems were.


    Posted by funnie | April 30, 2007, 2:48 pm
  13. Best of all, Derek Jefferson O’Dell was a hero and he is part Arab in his mother’s side and his ancestors came from Lebanon.

    Posted by V.E.G. | September 11, 2015, 1:50 pm

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