It is incredible to me that any person alive, let alone several women of public note, would have responded to the murder of Mollie Tibbetts by a young man illegally resident in the U.S. with comments on the order of, “Well, the man’s legal status is irrelevant. There is no issue here but toxic masculinity. Every woman runs Mollie’s risk whenever she’s with her boyfriend. More women are shot by their boyfriends every year than by illegal aliens.”
I saw similar remarks all over Twitter—where, of course, one always goes to find profound diagnosis of the day’s news. But all sneering aside—or as much of it as possible—let me take that response at face value. One concession I cannot make in my attempt to resist the sneer is using the word “boyfriend” out of quotation marks. That anybody should consider a person to be a friend of any kind who’s capable of spontaneous combustion into homicidal violence is… just let me keep my quotes, or I won’t be able to continue.
In the first place, there appear to be no statistics to arbitrate the claim. President Trump famously (or infamously) claimed that “thousands” of American citizens have been murdered by illegal aliens. The website Politifact ruled his claim “half true”, since the number of thousands and the time frame for the murders were both unspecified. The website’s operators clearly wanted to drag Trump to the woodshed for slinging about vicious accusations carelessly. In their dedication to this mission, they ironically failed to notice the broader issue: that reliable, objective figures about the criminal activity of illegal residents are seldom made available. We’re supposed to be snorting, “Well, Donald… do you mean two thousand over the past hundred years? That seems like a pretty sure bet!” But what if it’s two thousand in the past year? How do we know? If the elusive Trump isn’t going to tell us, why can’t we get that information from the Bureau of Justice Statistics?
Yet the claim, “More women die at the hands of their ‘boyfriends’ that of illegal aliens,” is surely true, if we tally bodies instead of calculating probability. How many males between the ages of 16 and 60 are illegally resident in the U.S.? Those figures, too, appear to live in the twilight. Make it five million. Now, how many of our three hundred million legal residents are females within that same age group; and of these, how many are occasionally engaged in sexual relationships with males? The figure could easily be thirty or forty million. One must assume that there’s a small contingent of psychopaths within both male groups. That condition by itself, tiny though the “psychopath subset” might be, would confirm the statement. Since the one killer in ten thousand becomes three or four thousand among legal residents, the same proportion plus a whopping number of habitual lawbreakers who break skulls for their gangs would still scarcely make a blip on the comparative graph.
In other words, we could echo Politifact by calling the statement half true—or, more accurately, labeling it an inane, mean-nothing claim couched in terms that seek the respectability of statistical evidence. It’s a stupid statement, at least as stupid as Trump’s is supposed to have been.
I’m more interested, honestly, in what makes young women hang out with men whom they suspect of having such a dark side… and then they claim that all men are of this sort! I well remember pondering the question as a young single male. Why did she leave the party with that guy? Why does she go to bars looking for a mate to share her life? Why do girls never want to see the guy again who respectfully leaves them at their front door with a light kiss? And then we hear that all men are animals! I recall getting really tired of that refrain.
In the original black-and-white version of Cape Fear, a girl that the homicidal convict (played brilliantly by Robert Mitchum) picked up in a bar says something like, “What I like about you, Max Cady, is that a girl knows she can’t sink any lower once she reaches you.” If we’re going to talk about toxic character traits related to gender, it seems like this one should make the docket.
To me, that’s the real story behind these Tweeted remarks (and some of them, too, were written in an ostensibly more reflective context, or even spoken on national television—more’s the shame and the disgrace). The claims made have nothing to do with Mollie Tibbetts, may she know eternal peace. They are, to me, yet further evidence that we have among us an “educated, thinking” class incapable of feeling the anguish of others—capable only of squinting at every reality through the fractured prism of their egocentric obsessions. For crying out loud… we’re not talking about your bad date—we’re talking about an innocent girl murdered in the park!
This kind of disconnect frightens me, frankly, in a way that a thug in the shadows doesn’t. Thugs have always lurked in the shadows: they always will, alas. That’s not the issue, though it appears to be closer to the sentiment of the Tweets. The difference is that which separates being knifed as you walk to your car and knifed as you pour another drink for the stranger who knocked at your door. We can’t protect young women from the consequences of their self-destructive judgments if they want no advice, and especially if they fight the learning curve by ascribing every brutal outcome to “toxic masculinity”. We ought to be able, however, to assure young women of a reasonable degree of safety as they traverse a parking lot, or a sidewalk, or a city park.
Instead, we who would draw such distinctions are told to shut up. We’re denied public venues to voice our opinions sometimes—particularly on college campuses and, yes, even on Facebook and Twitter—and perhaps efforts are made to vandalize our websites (as has been happening to mine for the past month). “No speech but my speech… no opinions but mine… and whatever’s in the news didn’t really happen unless it bears upon my bad day and my bad week.”
You call people “boyfriends” who might murder you on any given night—and you don’t want any advice? Really? Just what do you want? A long line of mourners at your funeral?