We’ll probably never know exactly what toxic mixture of emotions and beliefs led Jared Loughner to gun down Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others, killing six; there is obviously a lot going on in that shaved head of his. But did misogyny play a role in his choice of target?
It’s an important question. But it’s one the media has by and large chosen to ignore, despite a number of clues that seem pretty clearly to confirm that Loughner, the attempted assassin of a female politician, held deeply misogynist views.
As I pointed out in a previous post, Loughner made seemingly misogynist comments online, as the Wall Street Journal noted, and investigators reportedly found the phrase “Die Bitch” scrawled in Loughner’s handwriting on a letter Giffords’ office sent to him. Now, buried near the end of a long profile of Loughner in the New York Times, we hear about the impression Loughner made on the employees of a local bank:
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.
“He was considered to be short-tempered and made people at the bank very uncomfortable,” said the individual, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the matter.
If this report is true, and Loughner really feels that women should not be in positions of power, it’s hard to see how these beliefs could not have influenced his seeming obsession with a female politician, an obsession which ended in mass murder.
So why is this issue not at the center of discussion of Loughner’s actions? So far, only a handful of commenters, most notably Amanda Marcotte, have even taken up the issue. (For more on this, see Jezebel’s discussion of the misogyny discussion.)
In Slate, Tom Scocca notes the evidence suggesting that Loughner is a misogynist, and asks, quite reasonably:
Suppose the story said that Loughner “grew contemptuous of Jews” and went around “asserting that Jews should not be allowed to hold positions of power or authority,” even blurting anti-Semitic remarks to strangers. And then he went out and shot Giffords, a Jewish congressperson. Would his motives have seemed quite so incomprehensible? …
Yet as it is, there are only glancing and scattered references to Loughner’s burning hatred of the kind of person he would allegedly choose to try to assassinate.
As I’ve said before, misogyny has consequences. Unfortunately, too few in the media seem to want to even admit it’s part of the story.
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