Josh Haas's Web Log

Responding to hate

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So a writer at Jezebel collected a day’s worth of transcripts from a PUAHate chat group, which is the community that helped develop / reinforce the worldview of the UCSB shooter.

I really dislike this piece of reporting. I think it’s valuable to shed light on dark corners of the internet like that, but when the writer says things like “From an observer’s perspective, PUAHate is a group of self-pitying babies who believe they’re entitled to women who are much more attractive than they are,” she is saying exactly what all of these guys would expect, in their distorted world view, that she would say.

The kind of hate on display by these guys comes from a place of deep lack of self-worth, which they then protect themselves from by inventing them-against-the-world stories. No one is on that forum because they’re happy and successful. Many of them apparently identify as “incelebs”, “involuntarily celibate”: they define themselves around not having what they feel they need (however incorrect that belief is) to be valuable, complete humans.

So when she calls them “babies” and “fuckers” and “screaming infants”, she’s agreeing with their (perhaps unacknowledged) self-perception. The point of difference is that she empathizes with the women that their attitudes and behaviors harm, so she finds their entitlement disgusting:

It sort of boggles my mind, at this point, that most women go through life simply hoping to have control over their own bodies, and that these fuckers feel entitled to not only themselves, but to other people. To an audience. To a platform. They exist, therefore we must all pay attention to them, like screaming infants.

Maybe the guys in this chat room are worthless. Maybe they are so far gone that there is no way that they will ever grow into people who can make a positive contribution to the people around them. (I’m guessing the average age in there is less than 21)

But even if they’re worthless, as the writer points out, “Elliot Rodger and company aren’t the mentally ill outliers that the media (and the NRA) depicts them as.” Rather, they represent extreme cases of attitudes that are prevalent in society.

So what would you say to someone who’s been told that he’s worthless, because only people who are having lots of sex are worthwhile? Someone who isn’t as far gone as those guys, who you think you could bring back from the edge of hate and convert to having caring, empathetic attitudes towards women?

What I would say, personally, is that they’re wrong: they are worthwhile, and it has nothing to do with how many women sleep with them. That conversation path might actually work. I say this, because there’s been points in my life where I’ve felt the same way. So I can empathize, and imagine an approach based on compassion that might turn around, maybe not everyone, but maybe more people than you’d expect.

I understand, though, why this piece went down the path of calling them entitled, fuckers, infants. Compassion is really hard, especially when you feel threatened yourself, as the writer clearly does:

Part of being a woman is the slow realization that some men, for no discernible reason, are always going to hate you. And you have no way of knowing who they are until they open their mouths, or open fire. Or sit as a fly on a wall in a chat room, invisible, female, and hated.

There’s been a quote by Margaret Atwood making the rounds since the shooting: “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” This observation is 100% true. The stakes for women are higher.

So, if you feel outraged at the idea of having empathy for guys like these, I get that. I get the voice (because I’ve felt it, in other circumstances), that says “Why should I empathize with these guys? Why is it my job to show compassion? Shouldn’t they know better? Isn’t the hurt that I’ve suffered, the shit I have to go through every day, worse than theirs?”

I don’t think those questions are wrong. They should know better. It isn’t your job. You have a harder path than they do. I can’t argue with any of that. All I can say in defense of compassion is:

It might actually work. It might actually lessen the amount of misogyny in the world.

And isn’t that, at the end of the day, what you want?

Written by jphaas

May 30th, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Uncategorized