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.