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Misogyny, Mental Health, and Violence

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Senator Mark Warner is daddy to three young women. That was clear during Friday’s town hall portion of a campaign stop. Responding to a question he could not have anticipated, he answered from the heart: no clichés; no mantras; no sophomoric solutions. None apply. He’s had reason to “get it.”

The woman who asked the question does not attend college in Virginia but Anna is a Virginian. She asked the question in a city that is home to a large university with a lively social scene; it wasn’t directed at James Madison University. It is not about her school (Ferrum College) either. (She told me that the administration at Ferrum supports women’s safety.) However, it follows the events in Isla Vista that are a clarion call for a very long moment of cultural introspection. In one horrible manifestation of misogyny, the crisis in mental health care, and the propensity to violence, Elliot Rodger painted an alarming abstract with all these elements that demands our attention.

Other symptoms of these cultural cancers are renown. Senator Warner is absolutely correct that there is no law that will prevent the tragedies; particularly those that are shrouded in shame; never reported. Those cannot even be punished; in practical terms the only remedy a law provides. We must break the cycle of misogynistic abuse through an honest assessment of our culture and ourselves; all of us: men and women, girls and boys, everyone in between. Shame is a curtain of steel and despite the source of our mores, secular, religious, or otherwise, it must be pulled aside to allow sunlight to shine on relations between women and men. All the ugly must be visited even if we desperately want to pretend it doesn’t exist.

This reminds me of my own reticence to speak out about the clumsy and ineffective protestations in Congress over the treatment of women in the armed forces. My own angry immediate reaction to each report would do nothing to further the debate over how this problem should be addressed. And human relations are complicated enough without taking out a brush to paint them over with unenforceable pandering. That is what Congress gave us. There is the real shame! No, Senator Warner is exactly where he should be on the issue Anna raised and I suspect on the cultural problems that manifest in the military. I sincerely hope she follows up and that the Senator uses this as a door to help provide a glimmer of cultural leadership.