The hatred of women is so natural that we cannot see it. So pervasive that no one seems accountable for it.
Shortly after Scott Paul Beierle opened fire at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, killing two women and wounding four others, police say the motive remains unclear. “Investigators are working around the clock to…gain clarity as to why this senseless act occurred,” the City of Tallahassee Police Department wrote in a Facebook statement a day after the attack.
While, legally, motivation for this specific incident has yet to be determined, the cause couldn’t be clearer, given the shooter’s social media trail and his arrest record.
While, legally, motivation for this specific incident has yet to be determined, the cause couldn’t be clearer.
Just as clear is how a culture of permissibility allowed Beierle’s anger at women to grow unfettered over the years, from a series of belligerent YouTube videos filled with sexist and racist diatribes to a criminal record of physically assaulting women. He targeted a predominately female space — nearly three-quarters of yoga practitioners in the U.S. are women — reportedly posing as a customer before opening fire.
It is a culture that condones violence against women. It is a culture that conflates domination with freedom. It is a culture that espouses that men’s “rights” include direct and unfettered access to women’s bodies — consent is an obstacle to overcome. “Grab ’em by the pussy,” said the man sitting in Oval Office, the person who American citizens elected to serve as leader the of the free world. “You can do anything you want.”
When violence against women is culturally permissible, it means not only that this violence is met with an air of indifference — the turning of a cheek, or a shushing of conversation at a family dinner— it also means that this violence is tacitly encouraged through the failure to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. Thus, violence against women becomes normal, or just what happens when women get out of line.
There have been countless men like Scott Paul Beierle. We just don’t remember them because there have just been too many to count. “Common” is, perhaps, the most devastating word that describes both the frequency and seeming mundanity of violence against women.
In just the past year or so, the #MeToo movement has cracked open this insidious culture: From Roger Ailes to Harvey Weinstein, Andy Rubin to Les Moonves, men violate women with impunity and get away with it. Sometimes, as in the case of former Google exec Rubin, they actually get paid after they are caught.
When the system of male supremacy — what we horrible feminists call the patriarchy — is exposed, those within the system work overtime to identify the exposed element as an outlier or a lone wolf. All the while fanatical women haters fester online, stroking their own pathology, and transforming the lone wolf into a hero.
For men like Scott Beierle, murderer Elliot Rodger has become that hero. In 2014, Rodger killed six women and injured 14 others in a homicidal rampage directed specifically toward women, who he blamed for his own sexual insecurities. “For the last eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty,” Rodger said in his final YouTube video, “I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection, and unfulfilled desires. Girls gave their affection and sex and love to other men, but never to me.” Notice the projection in the inverted syntax: “I’ve been forced to endure.” Rodger held women accountable for his emotional instability. The language places him in a position of powerlessness — to reassert his supremacy, to exact his revenge, he killed the people who he attributed with his emasculation: women.
“[N]o one is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or disdainful, than a man anxious about his own virility,” wrote Simone de Beauvoir about the misogynist consequences of the male inferiority complex in “The Second Sex.”
And Beierle was anxious. And angry. Ample proof of this exists in his series of YouTube videos in which he condemns “the American whore” and calls out the “treachery” of the “pit of vipers” who shirked his advances. In explaining the origins of his hatred of women in a video titled, “The Rebirth of my Misogyny,” Beirele concludes his invective with these foreboding words: “I believe in karma. I believe in what comes around goes around. And those that engage in treachery will ultimately be the victims of it. Hopefully there’s been justice in some comparable regard that they’ve been the recipients of….”
In his videos, Beierle speaks repeatedly of women’s treachery and betrayal — synonyms used to paint women as the abusers and himself as the victim. This paradigm shift, whereby the abuser positions himself as the abused, is a frequently employed patriarchal strategy of inversion. Indeed, it is one we witnessed just last month in Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings, whereby Kavanaugh, in his mind and in the minds of other men (like Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham), was the "victim” of character assassination.
“Bullies often conceptualize themselves as being under attack when they are the ones originating the pain,” Sarah Schulman writes in her book “Conflict is Not Abuse,” about how abusers externalize and project their trauma as a way to reinforce their supremacy. When abusers feel their dominance being threatened, or questioned, they “invok[e] the language of abuse” in order to avoid responsibility for their abusive actions.
From women being blamed for being raped to black people being blamed for police killing them, the responsibility for the act of violence is rarely shouldered by the person who commits the act itself.
This disavowal of responsibility enacted through displacement and projection is abundantly apparent in our culture, especially when it comes to violence against women and minorities. From women being blamed for being raped to black people being blamed for police killing them, the responsibility for the act of violence is rarely shouldered by the person who commits the act itself. This abdication of responsibility is how white male supremacy remains in power.
Yet we don’t see the violence exacted by those in power because it exists in the very structures of society. This violence has been naturalized, neutralized in a way that renders it invisible, woven into the very fabric of our society. Those in power maintain their moral authority by convincing society that they are never the originators of violence. Instead, capitalizing upon bigoted opinions of women and minorities, they conveniently attribute violence to those people they abuse.
It is clear that within this mindset, Beierle believed himself to be a man betrayed by women. Like all misogynists, he felt born with an inalienable right to women’s bodies. This right is translated into the language of expectation that Beierle used in his videos; language similarly found in Rodger’s last YouTube video, where he talks about the trials he has “been forced to endure.” Beierle’s betrayal amounts to women’s autonomy — their refusal to consent to this man’s unwanted advances. So consumed by his ego, by the presumption of what was rightly his, he lacked the critical introspection and self-reflection to see the boundaries between his own body and women’s bodies. For those in power, boundaries do not exist that they themselves do not construct. Everything is theirs, and they are in everything.
Misogyny kills. More than 1,800 women were murdered by men in 2016. Men who, more often than not used guns as their murder weapons (like the man who killed more than 10 people Wednesday night at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, California.) That this is a statistic of seeming inconsequence to our political leaders points to how little significance is given to addressing misogyny in our society. So does the fact that Congress has not yet renewed the Violence Against Women Act, or the fact that at least two men accused of sexual assault sit on the highest court of justice in the land, or the fact that a man accused of both sexual assault and domestic violence currently serves as president of the United States.
The police continue their investigation in Florida, but Beierle’s motive is already glaringly obvious. This is proof, at the very least, that there is no end in sight to a culture of permissibility that nurtures the hatred of women.