In social media arguments, accusations go too far
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I DON’T LIKE Ross Cimagala’s article, but Ross wrote an article about the treatment and generalizations made about the male students at Townsend Harris; he did not write a misogynistic article or express murderous tendencies. Despite this, numerous commenters on social media have compared Ross’ statements to those of Elliot Rodgers, the 22-year-old who recently murdered six people in Santa Barbara, California. Rodgers was motivated by women sexually shunning him, which he expressed in a 140-page manifesto and videos uploaded to YouTube.
One response to Ross’ column noticed a strong connection between Ross’ ideas and those of Rodgers. Yes, Elliot Rodgers did say, “Girls gave their affection and love and sex to other men, but never to me. I don’t know what you don’t see in me, I’m the perfect guy… and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious guys. I don’t know why, I’m the perfect gentleman.” Admittedly, this does sound a lot like Ross’ article. Compare what Rodgers said to what Ross wrote: “Apparently the guys who walk their crushes to their next class aren’t good enough. Neither are the guys willing to leave stuffed animals and chocolates in lockers on Valentine’s Day. It baffles me why a girl would return a gift, let alone free food.”
On the surface, the comparison is chilling, but this is shameful cherry-picking. Rodgers also said,–amongst many other hateful and violent things–“Those girls deserved to be dumped in boiling water for the crime of not giving me the attention and adoration I so rightly deserve!”
Another piece concluded that Ross’ article shares “the kind of opinion that got four men and two women shot in Santa Barbara this past weekend.” Nothing even remotely close to the numerous violent and openly misogynistic comments Rodgers made is even hinted at in Ross’ article. I agree, Ross’s article and Rodgers’ statements exist in the same spectrum, but on opposite ends. Elliot Rodgers’ case was one of extreme misogyny. Suggesting that Ross will become a mass murderer because of his article presents an extreme case of illogicality; in fact, there’s a logical fallacy devoted to such statements. Known as the “slippery slope,” it avoids engaging with the issue at hand, and instead shifts attention to extreme hypotheticals. More than being illogical, accusations such as these are far more ridiculous than anything Ross said in his article.
I disagree with Ross suggesting that the females of THHS owe the men who pursue them some kind of explanation, but I think we can have a more productive conversation.
For instance, Ross begins his article stating, “Although I’ve always thought [nice guys finish last] to be an untrue, clichéd statement, lately I’ve noticed it is a truth.” He continues to express that he doesn’t want to feel like a candy bar, but that’s exactly what females everywhere feel like anywhere in the world. Perhaps because he is now in a female-dominated school, it’s a bit of a shock for him to be in the position that women everywhere are in on a daily basis.
As a female, being whistled at like a mutt, hit on, and flirted with while walking down the street is the norm. Being treated like I am being picked from a selection, like a candy bar, is degrading and uncomfortable.
The unique thing about Townsend Harris is that we are now in a setting where we can evaluate these problems from a different perspective. Now the male students of our school may experience some form of treatment typical for females outside of school. Sure, I don’t think the boys of THHS have yet experienced the full extent of this objectification. I highly doubt that any of the male students in our school had their butt smacked or were harassed for their number on their way to class. Yet it is genuinely interesting that because of their minority status, the boys here do have to deal with a sense of constantly being on display.
The problem I have with Ross’s argument is that he sees this potential objectification of males as cause for accusations, but I see his experience as reason to find common ground: it’s obvious that no one wants to be treated this way, no matter your gender or orientation. No one should be treated like they are picked from a herd or a litter, no one should be objectified, and no one owes anyone anything.
The problem I have with how our student body responded to Ross’s article is that those calling for responsibility in public discourse forgot to take any care to show some themselves. It is each of our individual responsibilities to look at each other as human beings and to treat each other with respect. Period. The wider world may always have to turn every little disagreement into a vicious hate-filled debate, but we should be able to show that we can disagree in a way that builds up rather than tears down.