thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

The Oikos University Shooting & The Erasure of Misogyny

In gender, news, Rebound, social justice, violence on April 13, 2012 at 9:04 am

Chelsea B.

I am a very casual consumer of news media. Mostly I find it to be boring and upsetting, and I get what I need from my Twitter and Facebook feeds without having to filter through substandard reporting or redundant articles. However, earlier this week an article that I would qualify as “news-y” stood out to me in my internet wanderings as I had yet to see the story mentioned on any of my social media. The article is titled, “What Made One Goh, the Oikos University Shooter, Snap?” and is authored by Dara Kerr of The Daily Beast.

Kerr opens the story by providing community context for the shooting and details the mourning ceremonies held for the victims. As may be common rhetorical practice in news reporting, this frame also works to establish Goh, the shooter, as an anomaly among a supportive, shocked community. What also seems to be common rhetorical practice is a complete erasure of misogyny as informing acts of violence against women.

Here is what we know:

  • Goh shot and killed, execution-style, seven students. Six of those students were female.
  • Police believe Goh planned the attack for weeks in advance.
  • Goh has said that he came to the school with one specific victim in mind (though he did not specify this to the exclusion of others) who is an administrator at the school and is also female.
  • Goh told police that said administrator “teased” him and that he felt disrespected, though news sources differ on whether they assign this disrespect coming from interactions with the female administrator or with fellow students.
  • Romie Delariman, a nursing instructor who worked with Goh as a student attributes Goh’s troubles to his displacement and isolation within a nursing program primarily populated by women. Delariman said, “He just can’t deal with women. […] I always advised him, ‘You go to school to learn, not to make friends.'”

Where does this leave us? Firstly, it is astounding that an important news story, covered by all major news outlets, would completely elide the clear misogynistic intent and tone of this attack. One Goh’s shooting spree cannot be neatly categorized as another school shooting (as seen here in the BBC’s chart of U.S. Campus Shootings) without acknowledging that violence against women–premeditated and achieved–comprises the intent behind Goh’s initiative.

I am not qualified to make suggestions about what should happen to Goh from here, but I am unsure that reacting with violence–state-sanctioned or not–will solve anything. Instead, I think it’s much more productive and beneficial to consider how we as a society can make this kind of misogynistic violence visible, demand for it to be labeled and condemned as such, and then work at preventing it.

Also, please don’t think that I am inattentive to the other structural elements of discrimination and racism at work in this event. Several news sources cite Goh as having been made fun of by other students for not speaking English well and almost every article I read notes that Goh’s personal troubles were largely financial. Some articles even suggest that not being refunded tuition money was the impetus for the attack. I do not mean to diminish these struggles and inequities, nor do I deny what many reports have stated, which is that Goh has multiple signs indicating some type of mental instability.

What frustrates me is that these injustices are noted, occasionally detailed, and published, while the calculated misogyny Goh enacted in his shootings is entirely erased. Again, Goh targeted one specific woman for disrespecting him and killed six other women and one man. Regardless of the other factors that inform the attack, this event makes plain our patriarchal culture’s constant reliance on violence against women (and, often, even just the threat of it) as integral to the ways women are surveilled, addressed, and controlled.

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