Over on the Men’s Rights subreddit, the regulars are discussing the case of a Japanese man who set himself and his nine-year-old son on fire on a playground in an attempted murder-suicide; the man died, but his son, while severely burned, managed to survive.
The discussion amongst the Men’s Rightsers is actually less awful than one might expect, with only a few commenters making excuses for the man, or blaming his ex-wife. Many of the regulars are actually condemning his actions straightforwardly.
And then there’s TyphonBlue, the highly inventive female Men’s Rights activist who is one of A Voice for Men’s self-proclaimed “Honey Badgers.” She thinks the fact that the man tried to kill himself along with his son is a point in his favor and, more than that, a sign that men are better than women.
No, really. She blames “pedestalization” for it all.
You see, if you didn’t put women on a pedestal, they’d kill themselves along with their kids, and all would be well in the world. I guess? I really don’t see why this would be better.
Later in the thread, TB tries to explain her peculiar logic further:
I think it’s time to pull out the old Don Draper “what?!” gif again.
I will grant her one point: she’s correct that, while fathers and mothers are roughly equally likely to kill their children, men are much more likely to kill themselves as well. Why this would be a sign of moral superiority I don’t know.
I should also note that this doesn’t mean that the men and women kill children equally: while 57 percent of those who kill children under 5 are parents, the non-parents who kill children are mostly men.
In any case, “pedestalization” has pretty much nothing to do with it — unless you’re talking about the tendency of fathers who kill themseves and their children to overrate their own indispensablility.
So why do parents kill their children? Not surprisingly, mothers and fathers tend to have wildly different motivations. In Slate, Dahlia Lithwick summarizes what we know:
Researchers, building on the work of Phillip Resnick, have shown that women tend to kill their own offspring for one of several reasons: because the child is unwanted; out of mercy; as a result of some mental illness in the mother; in retaliation against a spouse; as a result of abuse.
It may be hard to understand how a mother can come to believe that killing her children would be an act of mercy, but that’s what postpartum psychosis can do to your brain.
The motivations for fathers tend to be rather different:
Most frequently … they kill because they feel they have lost control over their finances, or their families, or the relationship, or out of revenge for a perceived slight or infidelity. … more often than not, men kill their children to get back at a woman—to take away what she most cherishes.
As Charles Patrick Ewing, a University of Buffalo law professor and psychologist, told Elizabeth Fernandez of the San Francisco Chronicle
“These are narcissistic, self-centered guys who see themselves as the glue of the family. They feel they have to take their own life, but first, they have to kill the children. To them, it seems rational. They think they can’t manage and the family can’t manage without them.”
It’s also worth pointing out that when you look at murder-suicide in general — and not just when children are among the victims — it is almost exclusively (roughly 90%) a male crime, with the victims almost always female, generally the man’s wife, girlfriend, or ex. Not surprisingly, disproportionate number of those responsible for murder-suicides involving intimate partners were also domestic abusers. (As was, reportedly, the Japanese man who set himself and his son ablaze.)
The only heartening thing here is that TyphonBlue actually got downvoted in the Men’s Rights subreddit for spouting her toxic nonsense.
EDITED TO ADD, 12/30/13: The son, who had been in critical condition since the incident, has now died.