Why do Men’s Rights Activists hate the heroes of the Aurora theater shooting?

Our old nemesis The Pigman — the MRA blogger and one half of the cartooning team responsible for atrocities like this — has some thoughts on the Aurora shootings, specifically on the men who lost their lives to protect their girlfriends from gunfire. Their heroism makes him angry, much like the fellows on The Spearhead we looked at the other day. Here’s his complaint:

How’s that for inequity? How’s that for disposability? These guys appear to have sacrificed themselves for these people primarily because of their sex.

Well, no, I think they sacrificed themselves for their girlfriends because they loved their girlfriends.

After all, where are the guys who jumped in front of their best mate, or their dad or brother? And above all, where are the women who died saving their boyfriends?

There were many heroes in the Aurora shooting. Jonathan Blunk, Matt McQuinn, and Alex Teves died protecting their girlfriends. Stephanie Davies risked her life to keep a friend shot in the neck from bleeding to death. Other acts of heroism had less storybook endings: Marcus Weaver tried to shield a female friend. He was wounded but lived; she died. Jennifer Seeger tried to drag a wounded victim to safety, but fled when the shooter returned.

But the Pigman is interested in none of this:

This isn’t heroism, this is male disposability at its worst and by praising it society is encouraging it.
Cheering these men’s actions is as reprehensible as it is stupid and discriminatory.

The heroes in Aurora acted quickly, and on instinct; they didn’t have time to stop to think. Is it possible that, in the cases of those men who tried to shield the women with them, gender socialization had something to do with what their instincts told them to do? Almost certainly.

But “male disposability” has nothing to do with it. We live in a society in which heroism, as an idea and as a cultural ideal, has been gendered male for thousands of years. In the stories we tell ourselves, the video games we play, the movies we watch (including The Dark Knight Rises) , the “hero with a thousand faces” is almost always male, and the damsel in distress is, well, almost always a damsel.

The Pigman ignores all this, instead attacking the three dead men as

foolish enough and unfortunate enough to fall for a lifetime of anti-male propaganda telling them to die for the nearest woman whenever the shit hits the fan.
Vaguely aware that he may have crossed a line here, the Pigman pauses for a moment:

I have no doubt that many are concerned with the feelings of the dead men’s survivors and wish I would just shut up.

But then he barrels ahead anyway:

But this is a simple case of “What you praise, you encourage,” and I for one think calling out those who encourage  men to waste their lives for people worth no more than themselves is more important than being “sensitive”. Die for a child if you must, die for some guy on the verge of finding a cure for cancer if you must – die for someone no better than you simply because you have been taught to and you are a fool.

Had these men died protecting male buddies, would The Pigman have applied this calculus of worthiness to the beneficiaries of their heroism? Would he have suggested that the dead men thought they were worth less than their friends? Of course not.

The three men didn’t do what they did because they thought they were worthless or disposable. They did what they did because they wanted to protect those they loved. Others in the theater, like Stephanie Davies, risked their lives for friends, or people they didn’t even know. There’s nothing foolish or “wasteful” about putting yourself on the line to protect others. In every major disaster, whether natural, or like this one man-made, ordinary people emerge as heroes precisely because they are willing to put the lives and safety of other people ahead of their own.

Do these real-life stories of heroism play out in gendered ways? Often times they do. Men may be more willing to risk their lives to protect their wives or girlfriends; mothers may be more willing to risk their lives to protect their children.

In real life crises, it’s hardly surprising that people sometimes act like characters in these stories we tell ourselves. If you want to change how people act, you need to change these stories.

MRAs like to pretend that men are the “disposable sex” but in their hearts they know that’s not true. They’re well aware, as are we all, that  our cultural narratives of heroism privilege and glorify men and put them at the center of almost every story. MRAs like The Pigman aren’t  interested in expan ding our cultural narratives of heroism to include female heroes — nor are they willing to even acknowledge that there are such things as female heroes in the real world. They certainly don’t want more stories, more games, more films featuring female protagonists.

Instead they’d rather wrap themselves in the mantle of victimhood, and attack real heroes like Jonathan Blunk, Matt McQuinn, and Alex Teves as “white knights” or “fools.”

How people react in a crises reveals a lot about them. How MRAs like The Pigman, and like the Spearhead commenters I quoted the other day reacted to the Aurora shootings has certainly revealed a lot about them, none of it good.

Unfortunately, attitudes like theirs aren’t confined to the fringe that is the manosphere.

After hearing the stories of Blunk, McQuinn, and Teves, the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto tweeted “I hope the girls whose boyfriends died to save them were worthy of the sacrifice.”

After numerous readers responded to his remarks with outrage, Taranto offered an apology of sorts, along with an explanation that suggested he really didn’t understand why people were angry in the first place. When someone does something noble and heroic out of love, it’s not up to you to second guess their actions or their love. Taranto’s words not only dishonored “the the girls whose boyfriends died to save them;” it dishonored the heroes as well.

Like The Pigman, like the Spearhead commenters, Taranto has failed this test of his humanity.

About David Futrelle

I run the blog We Hunted the Mammoth, which tracks (and mocks) online misogyny. My writing has appeared in a wide variety of places, including Salon, Time.com, the Washington Post, the New York Times Book Review and Money magazine. I like cats.

Posted on July 26, 2012, in misogyny, MRA, oppressed men, patriarchy, white knights. Bookmark the permalink. 856 Comments.

  1. Not only do I lie and maniuplate to get what I want, I’ve told women I’m a feminist.

    Woah for realz? I’m sure they totally fell for it too


  2. Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III

    I’ve told women I’m a feminist.

    “Who’s my favourite feminist author? Uh… Valerie Solanas? Hey, where are you going? I meant Sharon Osborn!”

  3. Women who pretend to be nice to men to marry them, pretend to like sex, keep the weight off, and then when they get married they become fat, nagging, and stop putting out. No, not creepy. Not only do I lie and maniuplate to get what I want, I’ve told women I’m a feminist.

    So basically you’re just here to whine about women. Okay, I guess. I mean, if I couldn’t get any men to pay attention to me I might go around trolling blogs about basketball or something.

    Carry on.

  4. You’ve told them you were a feminist… I’m suuuuuure you were very convincing.

    It’s funny that idiots like this will say they either tell women they’re feminists, or say they screen for feminists, but I call utter bullshit on that. It’s not like we all have a tattoo that gives us away.

  5. thebionicmommy

    But women lying about their appearance with fake boobs, colouring their hair and getting guys to buy them drinks, no, not creepy. Same deal. Women lie and manipulate all of the time, I’m just willing to admit it.

    You’re on to me. I wear eyeshadow because I want to fool men into thinking I have purple eyelids. I can’t get anything past you. /eyeroll

    Coloring your hair =/= taking advantage of women’s sympathy for a widower to get laid

    Women who pretend to be nice to men to marry them, pretend to like sex, keep the weight off, and then when they get married they become fat, nagging, and stop putting out.

    Sometimes women gain weight after marriage because they have a few pregnancies ,and then menopause hits. Men can get middle age spread, too. So stop fat shaming people and deal with the fact that not everyone can be thin forever.

    Sometimes women nag because they have partners who refuse to do their fair share of housework or childcare. I’m not going to lose any sleep over the problem of nagging until caregiving and housework are considered 50/50 responsibilities for hetero couples, at least in cases where both partners work full time outside the home.

    Men and women lie and maniuplate to get what they want, call it creepy if you want.

    No, it’s not creepy for women to dye their gray hair away. It is creepy for men to use the deaths of their girlfriends to manipulate sympathetic women into having sex.

    Just because you want to save your own ass in a crisis doesn’t mean everyone else does. So stop making false equivalencies between your own selfishness and women changing their hair color.

  6. Mike: If you’re looking for cookies for being a disgusting asshat and general waste of space, this is NOT the place to get them.

  7. Women who pretend to be nice to men to marry them, pretend to like sex, keep the weight off, and then when they get married they become fat, nagging, and stop putting out. No, not creepy. Not only do I lie and maniuplate to get what I want, I’ve told women I’m a feminist.

    Men and women lie and maniuplate to get what they want, call it creepy if you want.

    so, you are stupid?

  8. thebionicmommy

    This is what I’ve learned so far from Mike:

    1. It is “misandry” to praise male heroes that die to save their loved ones.
    2. Women that die to save their children in crises don’t count, because they’re not dying for men (so all children are girls, and none are boys that will grow up to be men)
    3. Men who lose girlfriends should use their deaths to get pity sex from other women.
    4. Women that dye their hair are creepy manipulators.

    Mike, please enlighten us some more.

  9. I’ve said this before here, but if any men in London back in the 90s were fooled by my use of lots of Manic Panic into thinking that I had naturally purple and/or wine red hair, I apologize for the confusion. I had assumed that it would be obvious that hair colors not found in nature are, you know, not natural, but if anyone saw me and thought he’d found the anime alien elf girl of his dreams for a few seconds only to have that dream crushed by my lack of pointy ears, I do apologize.

  10. Compare and conrast:

    I’m not pissed at these guys for saving women

    After this:

    These guys are not heroes, they are the enemy What they have done has offended me.. and They have demeaned me as a person.

    I’d think it pretty stupid to not be pissed off at people who are your enemies and demeaned you as a person.

    If you are pissed off at them (and you are) own it. Be brave enough to take the heat that may generate, rather than caviling about abstractions; while insulting the survivors for being women, and not entering a convent because someone loved them; and died.

    And saying it’s awful that they did this, because it was for women… that’s hating women. You’d give a woman a pass on the hate, but only if she plainly did it for a man, and no one else.

    Men are fixated on this idea

    Speak for yourself boyo. I’m not fixated on it at all. Doesn’t bother me one way, or the other. I figure they did what they wanted to do. I’m not gonna judge them (the way you are doing). I can’t know what their motives are. You pretend you do, because it gives you a stick to beat women.

    I’m not saying anything

    If that’s the case you are using a lot of words to say nothing (a statement with which I agree, BTW).

    Yes yes yes, it’s creepy. Lying and maniuplating is an integral part of getting laid for guys.

    News to me. I suspect that it is true, for creeps and assholes.

  11. Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III

    It just occurred to me – I shave every day. I have been deceiving people into believing that I have a naturally hairless lower face.

  12. That’s nothin’. I’ve successfully convinced the world that my feet are made of leather welded to rubber.

  13. I don’t get the, “false advertising”. If a woman has her breasts enlarged, what you see is what you get. Are large breasts supposed to be indicative of something? Something which is directly connected to them being “real”? What about red-hair?

    I also notice he’s not all up in arms about hair-replacement, nor appalled at Viagra and Cialis.

  14. I shave both my armpits and my legs. Is that false advertising designed to fool random dudes into thinking that my legs are naturally hairless? Should I stop doing it so as not to inadvertently deceive men so hapless that they think women’s legs just naturally come that way?

  15. Oh, I had this one explained to me (by somebody I no longer talk to…)

    Big breasts and long shiny hair are symbols of womanhood and femininity which is of course what men want because fertility!
    Women who have surgery to look good, like breast/butt enlargement or botox, or who dye their hair, or wear a lot of makeup, they might look good but it is all fake. They are faking their femininity to trap men into thinking they will be good healthy breeding partners when really they are just average or worse under the surgery/cosmetics. /gross.

    Shaving/waxing etc is of course, exempt from this for some reason.

  16. I’d argue males are definitely the disposable sex in our culture, but it’s more nuanced than just that.
    Our sexist stereotypes are intertwined, reliant on each other and in opposition to each other, everything a woman is, a man must be the opposite, and vice versa.
    Male disposability will not be abolished until we abolish female objectification, and indeed, vice versa.

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