Ten people didn’t die in Santa Fe because a girl “spurned” a boy

A screenshot of a Reuters headline reading "Spurned advances provoked Texas school shooting, victim's mother says"
Nope.

Screenshot of headline from the New Zealand Herald reading "Spurned advances from Dimitrios Pagourtzis provoked Texas shooting, says mother of girl killed"
Also nope.

Screenshot of Los Angeles Times headline reading "Texas school shooter killed girl who turned down his advances and embarrassed him in class, mother says"
Another nope.

Collage of screenshotted headlines from news outlets: from SBS News, "Spurned advances spark Texas shooting"; from WVOM, "Spurned Advances May Have Provoked Suspect in Santa Fe, Texas School Shooting"; from the National Post, "Student charged with 10 murders had been publicly rejected by his first victim before massacre"; and from KHOU, "Verify: Did Santa Fe shooting suspect target a love interest?"
Nope, fucking nope, nope, and are you kidding me with this “love interest” bullshit?

Last week’s school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, didn’t happen because a girl “spurned” Dimitrios Pagourtzis. It didn’t happen because she “humiliated” him or “embarrassed” him in front of the class. It was neither “sparked” nor “provoked.”

The headline is not that a girl rejected him. The headline is that Pagourtzis harassed her for four months before going on his killing spree.

Shana Fisher had every right to do what she is said to have done. After a reported four months of increasingly aggressive harassment, Fisher finally resorted to one of the only options left: bringing the attention of their classmates to the matter as a deterrent. Any woman who’s ever stood up in a bar and said loudly, “No, I don’t want to go anywhere with you, so stop asking” knows what that’s like and, frankly, how scary it can be.

It should be noted that the claim, made by Fisher’s mother, has not been corroborated by other students, and that Pagourtzis himself has denied it. But none of that has kept the media from framing it as the impetus for the attack. It ignores Pagourtzis’s agency in the entire thing, makes it sound like regardless of any horrendous tendencies on his part, he might have kept it together if only Fisher hadn’t “humiliated” him. And it reduces the issue to a single embarrassing event, and not a months-long history of harassment during which he had plenty of chances to understand that his advances were unwelcome.

This is why women don’t speak up. This is why we try to let guys down gently when what we really want to do is tell them to fuck directly off. This is why “we need to teach girls to say no” so very much misses the point and puts the responsibility on the victims of harassment. Whether or not Fisher’s mother is right about her daughter’s experience, it’s one that is seen over and over and over and over again. Just ask the family of Maren Sanchez, whom Christopher Plaskon stabbed to death after she turned down his prom invitation.

There is nothing a woman can do that warrants a mass shooting. There are men who feel entitled to a woman’s attention and react with anger when they don’t get it. There are men who don’t respect women enough to accept “no” when they hear it. There are men who have been taught that anger and violence are the only acceptably “manly” responses to emotions like disappointment and embarrassment. There are men with a history of violence and easy access to firearms. But there is no high-school Helen with a face that can launch a thousand bullets.

This kind of reporting is actively harmful. It conveys a message that this is the price of telling a guy “no.” It tells women that preventing violence against them is their responsibility. It tells the world that preventing violence against women is women’s responsibility. And in this case, it puts the entire shooting on Shana Fisher’s shoulders: like #WalkUpNotOut, the shooting wouldn’t have happened if she’d just been nicer.

Women standing up for ourselves doesn’t “spark” or “spur” anything, and it sure as hell doesn’t “provoke” a man to murder ten people. No one was responsible for the mass shooting at Santa Fe High School but Dimitrios Pagourtzis. Whatever his motivation, whatever and whoever enabled him to commit this crime, one girl saying “no” didn’t launch a damn thing.

Yeah, that looks better.


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3 comments for “Ten people didn’t die in Santa Fe because a girl “spurned” a boy

  1. May 23, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Excellent.. certainly words that need to be expressed and ‘fanned’…so great ful they are. Thank you. Thank you.

  2. jace robinson
    May 23, 2018 at 11:53 pm

    he has committed multiple murders, grant him speedy trail and send him to utah to face a firing squad.

  3. Benita B
    May 26, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    There can be multiple causes or a chain of causes leading up to an event.. The vast majority of deranged people don’t go on to shoot up schools. The vast majority of rejections and humiliations don’t lead to shootings. In this case a deranged kid was
    rejected and humiliated (deservedly so) and then went on a rampage.

    I don’t think anyone claimed the attack was not Pagourtzis’ but the girl’s responsibility. But if you make the connection that it’s because he was ‘taught that anger and violence are the only acceptably “manly” responses to emotions like disappointment and embarrassment’, are you not then guilty of dissipating his responsibility? Who taught him this? Is his dad responsible? Is his school responsible? Is society responsible for the shooting?

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