Why Respect Is More Important For Men

I learned quickly that boys were very, very fragile. And that the slightest misstep could get me followed, called a cunt, or get a car door slammed on my leg.

The Santa Fe shooter’s father has come out with a statement about his son, claiming he’s a victim:

“My son, to me, is not a criminal, he’s a victim,” said Antonios Pagourtzi. “Something must have happened now, this last week.”

While I understand Mr. Pagourtzi’s need to make sense of such a horrific situation – and while I can in no way relate to what he is going through as a father of a child who just murdered 10 people – I’m cautious about the rush to portray yet another young white male killer as a victim of … what? Mean kids? Stuck-up too-good girls?

“Somebody probably came and hurt him, and since he was a solid boy, I don’t know what could have happened. I can’t say what happened. All I can say is what I suspect as a father.”

It’s understandable for a grieving father who’s probably in shock to try to make sense out of his son’s seemingly indiscriminate violence. For a boy to do such a horrible thing there must have been some sort of equally horrible inciting incident.

But there wasn’t.

Was Dimitrios Pagourtzis bullied? Maybe. Was he rejected by girls? Maybe. But none of this justifies or even explains why a 17-year-old boy would premeditate the mass slaughter of nine of his classmates.

This is the insanity that America is trying to grapple with. And we’re failing miserably.

After the Parkland shooting, social media was filled with people suggesting that maybe, just maybe if the Parkland kids had been nicer to their soon-to-be murderer, maybe things wouldn’t have turned out the way they did. A girl I went to high school with in North Idaho shared her support for the “Walk Up, Not Out” campaign started by sixth-grade teacher Jodie Katsetos.

“I am adamant about it staying positive,” Katsetos told ABC News. “[It’s an] everyday reminder to include others and be considerate, which is something that I talk about with students each day.”

As so many folks pointed out, Katsetos’s seemingly compassionate response to the Parkland shooting and the resulting nationwide school walk outs was anything but. The idea that if victims would just be “nicer” to their perpetrators they wouldn’t be victims is textbook victim blaming. And nobody knows this better than women and girls.

Which brings us back to Pagourtzi and his father’s insistence that his son must have been a victim.

I was physically assaulted not once, not twice, but three times by boys in high school (thank god I was homeschooled in middle school). I attended an unaccredited Christian school in a small town in North Idaho where student “Walk Outs” were met with hundreds of counter-protestors packing heat. Most of my classmates had either never attended public school or, like me, were previously homeschooled.

Point being that the boys I went to school with were “good Christian boys” who attended chapel once a week and rocked purity rings. These weren’t boys from broken homes or the trailer park – these were boys you went to church with. Boys your mom hoped you’d marry.

And yet somehow, they too got the message that they were entitled to girls’ bodies. That being male meant to never let a bitch disrespect you.

The first time I got hit, I said something smart to one of the boys I was playing co-ed football with. He was a year older than me and at least a foot taller. And when I say “hit,” I mean hit up side the head with a blow that knocked me both silly and speechless. I remember looking around, hand on head, mouth open, waiting for someone to say something.

Same thing happened the second time. Nothing.

The third time, an adult finally stepped in. My male P.E. teacher, wise ruler that he was, decided that because I said “shit” after getting punched in the gut, that both me and my assailant would receive the same punishmenti.e., writing “I’m sorry for ______” (in my case, “saying shit,” in his, “punching Jessica”) 100 times on a piece of paper and turning it in to him.

Each time I was assaulted, I had said or done something that embarrassed the boy. Not hurt, but embarrassed. I said something smart. I intercepted a pass meant for them. I rejected their advances. Each time, it was like something snapped inside of them – their faces turning from bright pink to red in under five.

I learned quickly that boys were very, very fragile. And that the slightest misstep could get me followed, called a cunt, or get a car door slammed on my leg.

Perhaps Jordan Peterson is right and monogamy is necessary because men can’t handle rejection: “Texas school shooter killed girl who turned down his advances and embarrassed him in class,” read a headline in the L.A. Times two days ago.

Come to think of it, Mr. Pagourtzis is right to assume his son was a victim. Somebody did “come and hurt him” and that somebody was probably his father. It was probably his mother. His peers and his teachers. That somebody was probably the years of messaging he received from movies, commercials, and his church telling him that he was special and deserving of women’s time and attention. That he, he was a MAN and the most important thing for him to get was respect – even if it meant taking it at the barrel of a gun.

People argue about what all these mass shootings have in common. But two things we know for sure: Every shooter has been a man or boy and every shooter has felt disrespected.

My father used to tell me that “respect is just more important for men.” He was right.

Jessica Schreindl is a nonprofit manager and freelance writer in Seattle, Washington. Her work has been featured by The Establishment, Medium, Mic, Ravishly, HuffPost, and Feministing. She graduated with her M.A. from Syracuse University where she studied film history and documentary filmmaking.

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