The Violence of Orlando


I haven’t really talked about Orlando yet.

My husband and I have had various conversations online about gun control and the role of religion. We’ve spoken to each other about the need for Love, and the dangers of bigotry and hatred. I’ve read so many posts and articles, watched so many videos, most expressing sorrow or outrage or defiant resilience. But I’ve not really added my voice.

I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t wanted to speak. For one, words seem inadequate, particularly when they are coming from a white, straight, blonde haired, blue eyed, middle class, Christian woman – a cross section of nearly every category of privilege available in our world. For another far more disturbing reason, the most recent news has barely registered as shocking to me at all. How terrible is it that I live in a world where I can hear about dozens of people being slaughtered and my initial emotional reaction just barely moves past apathy? Mass murders seem to have become such a common occurrence that when news of one breaks, I think “again”.


As if they are all just the same old routine. As if the lives of those involved are all just the same.

Except… the lives of those involved are all just the same. Not in a disrespectful, brush them off, nothing about their story matters way. That’s the way I have come to react to them, but that’s not what they are. I mean that each human involved is infinitely valuable, totally unique, terribly precious, equally as flawed and equally as deserving of life as every other individual involved. They all had names and stories, families, friends, jobs, dreams. And hurts.

In all the reactions I have witnessed in response to this tragedy – let there be no doubt, regardless of my initial emotional reaction I do believe with all of my heart that this is an horrific tragedy – there are two that seem most prevalent. The first has been an expression of sorrow and of solidarity. I have seen so many calls to stand with our fellow humans as brothers and sisters, regardless of race, creed or orientation. I have watched thousands of people stand together weeping at vigils, weeping as a community undivided by hate or fear. As the lives of so many have been torn apart, it seems that much of the world has responded by defiantly joining together, something that is particularly powerful in the midst of an American election that seems aimed at tearing people apart. It is the right response, and it is beautiful to be witness to.

There has been a second response as well, only ever so slightly smaller than the first. As news of the massacre spread, the flames of fear and rage have spread too. Of course there is the obvious example: the rhetoric of Trump renewing his cries for a ban on Muslim immigration, blaming the actions of this U.S. citizen on Obama (who apparently traveled back in time and let the shooter’s parent’s into the country). But there are plenty of seemingly less egregious expressions of fear and rage as well. It seems only natural in the face of such an evil act to define the killer by that evil, to identify them as “other”, not human, not us. We speak out against not just their actions but against them, each of us trying to push the perpetrator as far away from any connection to us as possible. “He was a Muslim, Islam is the problem” says the Christian. “He was religious, religion is the problem” says the atheist. “He was an extremist, extremism is the problem” says the Muslim. “He had access to guns, guns are the problem” says the person who believes in gun control. “He was mentally ill, mental illness is the problem” says the mentally sound. “He was closeted, bigotry is the problem” say those who are out.

I get it. In fact, I do it. In moments of fear and anger, it seems so natural to box the evil-doer in as the other, to protect ourselves from them and to distance them from ourselves. “I would never do that” we rationalize – even when on occasion we may find ourselves identifying with some part of their thinking or some experience from their life. “They did something so evil, they have to be a monster” we tell ourselves as we look for comfort in our differences from them. “I’m sane, I’m just, I know when to get help, I have appropriate outlets for my anger, I am right”, we say. “I would never commit such violence”.

I would never commit such violence, I say to myself. But it’s a lie.

One of my favourite Christian bloggers – Rachel Held Evans – posted a poignant response to the Orlando massacre. In it, she talked about the leaders in the Christian church responding with calls to love and support the LGBTQ community in this time of tragedy. While this is absolutely the right response, she noted that many in the LGBTQ find these calls to love ring hollow. Why? Because the same people who are now calling for love and support have spent years sowing seeds of hatred, contempt and disgust for the LGBTQ community. It is their words and ideas that have propagated so much of the violence against the LGBTQ community, by fueling societal attitudes of bigotry. Their forked tongues seem to preach love and support at the same time as they continue to relegate those in the LGBTQ community to second-class citizenship, to unworthy outsiders, making clear at all times that “they” are “other”.

This is an act of violence.

With each wedge we push between ourselves and our fellow man, we contribute to the violence. I would argue that even though lack of gun control and bigotry and extremism are all contributors to the massacres we see on an almost daily basis now, they are all rooted in something that is far more pervasive and to which we all contribute in some way or another on a daily basis: The violence of disconnection. It is disconnection that leads us to believe we need to protect ourselves from our neighbours with guns, in case the need arises for us to decide between killing or being killed. As if we aren’t all in this together. It is disconnection that allows us to convince ourselves that someone’s differences are more important and more profound than the things we share. It is disconnection that pushes outsiders to search for anything and anywhere to belong, and to hold on so tightly that they will give their lives for an ideology of hate because at least inside that hate they were finally offered a sense of belonging and connection. They were allowed to funnel all of their hurt and rejection back toward those who told them – and keep telling them – that they will never be allowed on the “inside”.

While it feels natural and right to distance ourselves from those who commit these atrocities, it is far more honest – and far more difficult – to acknowledge that those committing these acts are more “us” than they are “other”. When we spend our time putting more and more distance between ourselves, we contribute to the violence that spurred these evil acts in the first place. We become part of the violence we are denouncing. Our forked tongues shout solidarity and seclusion in the same breath. And we truly believe that in doing so we are right.

It is a painful thing to acknowledge that it is not just the victims we share so much in common with. These evil-doers often have families and children, friends, jobs. They grew up in communities just like ours. And as much as it is convenient to tell ourselves that their otherness is what made it possible for them to go to such lengths – an otherness we swear we do not share – I don’t believe that’s usually the reality.

The reality is that we are all broken people in our own way. We are all violent people in our own way. We search for opportunities to tell ourselves we are better, stronger, kinder… different. And while my impact may not seem great on its own, when you combine the billions of tiny fractures we humans make in the fabric of our society each day, you start to comprehend the culmination of our violence, and the damage it does.

We are part of the problem. When we react to violence with violence, we are part of the problem. When we convince ourselves they were “other” we are part of the problem. When we contribute to the disconnection of humanity by polarizing one group against another, by separating “us” from “them” we are part of the problem.

Violence isn’t just guns in crowded bathroom stalls, or bombs in public spaces. Violence is the words and actions we use every day towards each other. And the evil we see is the culmination of that violence and that disconnection.

Until we are willing to acknowledge our part in the violence of our world, we cannot become part of the solution. As long as we are intent on putting each other into boxes, we will continue to propagate the very evil we swear we would never participate in.

But when we see it, when we call it what it is and understand that no matter how small it may seem, a billion tiny words spoken together become a deafening roar, then we can speak different words. We can speak words of connection, and love and healing.  As our voices leave, the roar of hatred and violence will grow ever weaker, and the call of us, of humanity, of one, will inevitably drown it out.

You are one small voice. Speak for peace. Speak for unity. Speak for humanity.

Speak for us all.

Choose to connect.

We are all human.

We are all in this together.


A feminist critique of hyper-feminism



noun fem·i·nism \ˈfe-mə-ˌni-zəm\

: the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities

– Merriam Webster Dictionary


I have been contemplating this post for a long time now. Many months and many conversations have gone into forming the thoughts I’m about to share. I spent a long time coming up with reasons not to post this, reasons often voiced by those in conversation with and around me: I don’t want to stir the pot on this hot topic, I don’t want to keep spreading the myth that feminism is about hating men, enough people are trying to cut feminism down – the least I can do is speak to its merits as opposed to getting caught in the seemingly endless assault on its perceived flaws. For a long time these reasons were enough to keep me from speaking up.

But something happened recently, something I’ve often witnessed at an arms length but never previously experienced so close up. Someone out there in the ether, someone with an education and a platform, someone held up by many as the ideal feminist warrior – this someone and a few of her biggest supporters launched a vicious, personal and ongoing cyber attack against my husband after he made a sarcastic joke in an effort to show his solidarity with her on a particular issue. Now, people take offense often and I have no problem with someone taking offense to Tory’s particular sense of humour. It’s remarkable it doesn’t happen more often! But this wasn’t someone taking offense. This was an explosive and vitriolic reaction to a simple attempt to communicate, followed by shaming, berating and full on cyber-bullying of the worst kind, spewing hatred not just at him for daring to be a man, but at me for daring to voice disagreement with their accounts and at our children for daring to be born.

The nice thing about such an intensely unpleasant experience is that it removed any inhibitions I had about raising my voice. I stopped being worried about how some of our friends might react and started to be far more concerned with the damage people like these are doing not just to the reputation of feminism but to real individuals who are being publicly flogged for the sin of holding a different view of the world.

In this post, I will be referring to something I have decided to call “hyper-feminism”. It should be noted that when I speak to this particular brand of “feminism”, I am not referring to what was described in the definition provided at the top of this post. I am not referring to the millions of people engaged in meaningful discussions and meaningful work focused on gender equality and on allowing women to have the same access to opportunity as men. I am not denying that the world we currently live in is an uneven playing field, and that because of that women have more ground to cover in order for equal opportunity to be realized. I am not denying the reality that to this day there are undertones in our society that work against women and for men, and that these undertones still have a huge impact on how we choose to live our lives. I do not believe feminism is unnecessary, I do not believe it is outdated and I do not believe there is a simple fix to the huge array of issues that feminism works so hard to unearth and address.

“So then why call it feminism at all?” I will still use feminism to label this worldview (at least in part) because 1. There is a large – though not majority – faction of people who loudly proclaim themselves to be part of the feminist movement who hold this worldview and 2. Because we don’t get anywhere by trying to minimize real issues. Pretending this isn’t a hijacked and twisted version of feminism but simply some other entity altogether diminishes the dangerous crossover this movement shares with feminism in its true form, and the reality that this movement is rooted in and uses to its advantage the basic premises of feminism before perverting them so completely to serve their own purposes. Evil perpetuated in the name of a worldview needs to be called out for what it is so that it can be extracted from the worldview it purports to support. If we as feminists refuse to acknowledge what is being done in our name, it will continue to infect the entirety of the movement.

Maybe you think I’m being a little dramatic. Maybe you think this isn’t a real issue, this is just first world problems. Who cares about what a stranger on the internet says. My response is this: First world problems often have a trickle down effect on the rest of the world, and in order for feminism to continue to be the incredibly positive and powerful force it is in EVERY world, the ever-louder voices destroying it from the inside out need to be answered and called out for what they really are. Hatred can destroy even the strongest of things. And I care about strangers on the internet when so much of our world today is lived out in social media, and social media happens to offer just the right amount of distance to allow people to say the most horrible thing under the illusion of immunity, words that don’t just hurt feelings but can cost lives and destroy decades of good work.

Hyper-feminism has been growing ever louder over the past half a decade or so, at least that I’ve noticed. It’s gone from being a small faction barely recognized by those either inside or outside of feminism, to finding a voice in the development of feminist literature and theory, and most of all within the media. In the last few years I’ve not taken a single course that involved feminist theory that didn’t in some small way touch on some of the ideas held by hyper-feminism. The media has exploded with the content of the hyper-feminist movement – essays abound on the subjects near and dear to their hearts and newspapers and magazines seem afraid to speak out too loudly against these opinions, probably because they know they will immediately be branded as misogynistic and morally backwards. The only voices that loudly oppose hyper-feminism are those on the right – but unfortunately they are so far right they provide nothing constructive to counteract the arguments, instead reinforcing patriarchal norms. So the world sees two sides to choose from and while being bashed by the right for your views just reinforces for moderates and liberals that they are on the right track, because of the speed and severity of the condemnation of the hyper-feminists, speaking out against them runs the risk of political and social suicide. So, cowering in the fear of the potential consequences, the majority decide to keep their heads low while the hyper-feminists grow ever louder.

“What is it that you think ‘hyper-feminism’ is and why do you disagree so strongly with their views”? Hyper-feminism has taken the fight for women’s rights, and turned it into “only women have rights” – while also saying that women should have no responsibility. Hyper-feminism has decided that because men have had and continue to have more power and advantage in the world, male experiences are not valid. Hyper-feminism has twisted the acknowledgment that women deserve equality into the proclamation that men don’t have a place in the world other than to worship and agree with anything a woman says. Except if that woman doesn’t agree with hyper-feminism in which case that women is a whore who has sold herself to patriarchy and is too ugly and stupid to have valid thoughts either. Hyper-feminism has stripped the world of intelligent, compassionate dialogue and replaced it with screaming so loud and unending that there is no room for another voice to interject. And any society that only allows one voice to speak is doomed.

The thing that bothers me most about hyper-feminism is the utter hypocrisy demonstrated each and every day by those I see yelling most loudly in support of the movement. They often claim to support the tenets of feminism, but their actions betray their true beliefs. You can see it easily of you know what to look for – a woman “stands up for herself” by cutting down a man who disagrees with her, calling him horrible and degrading names, attacking his looks, his intelligence and his value as a human being (‘neckbeards anyone?). She is heralded as a goddess by her fellow hyper-feminists and lauded for putting him in his place. But, if a man does any of these things he is the worst kind of misogynist. If a man dares to mention a woman’s career when expressing surprise that she didn’t know how to communicate better then clearly he’s a misogynist neckbeard whose children are not children but “spawn” because he and his offspring don’t even qualify as human. But wait – isn’t that what you are mad at men for? For reducing you to less than human, for attacking your fuckability as if your only worth lies in your looks, for assuming because you have an opinion that’s different from theirs you don’t have the ability to form an intelligent opinion at all?

Men are not right for doing these things. Neither are you.

Or what about this – women are encouraged to “be strong” and “be powerful” – women who kick butt and take control are immortalized in comic books and turned into children’s stories about girl power that can be read to our daughters. But if a man so much as dares to open a car door, hyper-feminists say he is undercutting and infantilizing them, and should be beaten in the streets for this unfathomable crime. If a man appears to live up to the traditional stereotypes of being macho and manly, of being strong and taking charge – then he is perpetuating patriarchy and is called a pig.

Hyper-feminisim is presumptuous, condescending, arrogant and abusive. Hyper-feminists assume their opinion is so far superior that anyone who disagrees with them is not even worthy of breathing the same air as them. Hyper-feminists assume they are mind readers, and believe they not only know every persons thoughts but also all of their underlying motivations. Hyper-feminists assume it is their God-given right by virtue of their superiority to be judge and jury for the entire world. Hyper-feminism assumes all men are misogynists and predators – only those who have submitted completely and claim no right to have an opinion are allowed to exist without condemnation. It assumes that because of their maleness all men’s motivations are pre-determined, and those motivations are to gain power and dominate women.

Hyper-feminism argues that because women suffer more greatly from inequality, nothing a man suffers ever matters. It’s like arguing that because a child in Africa is starving and lost his parents to AIDS, I don’t get to be sad when my own father dies because I’m not starving and he didn’t have AIDS. That women face more hardships doesn’t mean that the hardships of men are any less real, and acknowledging the greater position men hold in our society doesn’t mean they aren’t still subject to discrimination or hatred too. Using the logic of the hyper-feminists, when a woman in North America experiences catcalling it may never be empathized with because there are women in other parts of the world who live in countries where rape is still legal. So because a woman here doesn’t have to face that much greater trial, any trials she does face aren’t valid.

And it’s not just men that hyper-feminists are so willing to attack. Remember the speech Emma Watson gave about inviting men to the table of feminism to be part of the discussion? Do you want to know where the worst attacks on her came from? They came from within feminism – from hyper-feminists who could not believe her gall at acknowledging the value of the male voice. They destroyed her. They ripped her apart. She didn’t share their views so therefore she was a traitor, and not worth treating as a human. Hyper-feminism is so quick to dispose of the humanity of anyone they disagree with – almost as speedily as they raise as goddesses those who yell along with them the loudest.

Many people argue with me that because men have the greater power, we shouldn’t be spending time talking about their voices or concerns or needs. I disagree. Why? Because if we forget about their voices then we lose the balance that true feminism is really after in our world. True feminism is about creating a space where men and women come together as equals, with equal access to all the opportunities life has to offer. Hyper-feminism is not concerned with this equality, but with silencing men altogether. Female empowerment is important – it NEEDS to happen. But hyper-feminism seeks to simply build a mirror image of the world we’ve been fighting so hard to change.

This is not a post about men’s rights. Men DO still have more power, and they don’t need the same amount of support that women do in order to get our world to equality. But the whole point of feminism is not to build women up and cut men down, the point is to find a balance – where no one has too much or too little power in the world. And the whole point of hyper-feminism is to teach the world to hate everything they have decided men encapsulate. Men aren’t people, at least not ones that deserve equal voices. And if a woman believes in the value men offer, she’s just as worthless as men are.

Hyper-feminists, you are not goddesses – you are humans. Fallible, imperfect humans. You cannot imply intention. You cannot know without discussing. You are teaching the world to hate. Feminism gave you the platform you stand on today and I, for one, will not just stand by and let you ruin the good name of feminism.