Men Must Learn From the California Mass Murder

05/24/2014 06:36 EDT | Updated 07/24/2014 05:59 EDT

A man killed six people in a drive by shooting on Friday night in California (and ultimately ended up dead himself). On Thursday night the apparent shooter made a video explaining why he was going to embark on the murderous rampage. In this video the man stated that he was a 22-year-old virgin who couldn't attract women. He explained that women made his life an "existence of loneliness, rejection, and unfulfilled desires" by not loving or sleeping with him. As such, he stated that he would seek "retribution" against women for this supposed crime. His plan was to enter a sorority house and kill all of the women inside.

Men will react to this horrifying story in many ways. Most men will probably be disturbed, and condemn the murderer for his actions. Some will call the murderer a "mad-man," who was in need of "desperate help." Others will crack jokes about the apparent murderer's inability to pickup women, and scoff at how pathetic he appears.

I want to call on men to react in a different way. The shooter should undoubtedly be condemned for his actions, but doing so is not enough. Instead, men need to do much more when thinking about this disturbing event.

We should not think of the murderer as an alien with no similarities to the average man. Yes, most men won't take part in shootings targeting women. Regardless, if you cut out the murderer's claim to be a deity, and creepy Batman-villain like tone, a lot of what he said is part of a pretty normal trope that can be found in male discourse everywhere. I call it the 'Nice Guy' trope. A sizeable chunk of men claim that women always pick the "assholes" instead of the "nice guys." The implication here is that women aren't smart enough to make their own choices, and that they're doing an evil deed by withholding something these "wronged" men supposedly deserve. As such, we should realize the apparent murderer's narrative is quite prevalent among men, and understand why it is misogynistic and dangerous.

We should avoid reducing the murderer to a crazed individual whose actions can be explained solely by his mental state. Instead, we should analyze how the misogynistic societies we live in enabled the murderer's killing spree. Our society tells us that it's OK to see women's bodies as objects, to see women as creatures requiring our guidance, to see women as owing us their bodies, their conversation, and their smiles. The murderer's mental state may have pushed him over the edge, but our society brought him there.

We need to think about how our actions hurt women, and never repeat these actions again. We need to stop harassing women. If you do approach a woman, and she isn't interested, respect her decision and move on. Don't swear at her, insult her, or make her feel like continuing to talk to you is safer than the consequences of rejecting you. Don't let it slide when your friends do any of these things. Call them out on it, even if they get pissed off; especially if they do.

We can't rely on society to encourage, or help us, change the problematic ways we treat women. There are nowhere near enough forces in our society dedicated to challenging the misogynistic views and actions that lead to these sorts of mass murders. For example, the media covering this story will probably focus on the murderer's potential mental health problems instead of the root causes of his behaviour. This is often the case when white men engage in mass murders.

We can't use this an excuse to keep acting the ways we have. There is never an excuse. We need to do our best to stop making the world an unsafe place for women. We need to do it now.