Andrew Wicks

School’s In: Targeting Toxic Masculinity After the Texas School Shooting

With the Texas school shooting motivated by masculinity’s inability to process rejection, the challenge is not necessarily in taking the gun out of their hands but removing the thought from their minds.

 

It has become known that the Santa Fe High School shooting was motivated by rejection. It’s a narrative that has become rather more familiar: boy meets girl, girl rejects boy, boy brings gun to school.

 

 

The last part of the story is the issue as it represents the evolution of how something can be processed in the modern age. In this instance, I’m subject to bias. As an educator, I see teenagers handling the clash of romantic expectation against reality on a daily basis. As the formative years are ones formed by disappointment and failure, it becomes easy to be swept up in this false “victimhood.” Hurt feelings should beget another, right?

Now, taking Daddy’s shotgun to school might seem an American problem, but it exists elsewhere too.

The original problem is nothing new, as I can freely share that I spent a decent chunk of my seventeenth year pursuing a girl who had no interest in me, which I misread her rejections as a prompt to try harder. Romance was conquest. Boy meets girl, the how didn’t matter. We’ll laugh about it at the wedding. Movies and music told me so.

Through the benefit of hindsight, my location also fed into my experience. I hail from a medium-sized country town. A place large enough to be impersonal and one that clung on the generally help-blokey stereotype. We men drink, work, and chase the ladies, because they love it. It’s worth mentioning that my father met my mother only at the end of a rather long one-sided pursuit. She wasn’t keen and, eventually, she was. I only ever heard those two things growing up. Not the between. Just Dad’s chase and Mom’s eventual yes. I suppose I learned that the ends justify the means as long as you get what you want. Which is why I chased that girl for months, wrote letters, turned up at her house to make sure she wasn’t dating someone else as rumored. I did it because I expected her to be mine, because it would be great, but mainly, because.

Eventually, all those small rejections led to a big public one and I reacted poorly. My mind span with lurid revenge fantasies, She would be embarrassed as I was. My plans and schemes manifested her new boyfriend bullied and bashed by my friends, I sent her an endless stream of text messages, I called her house at all hours of the night. Because. Because she deserved it.

Which should be the danger word here. Because. We should look to remove it from the romantic vernacular.

In the case of the Santa Fe High School shooting, Dimitrios Pagourtzis merely took it a step further. According to the reports around the case, one of the victims, Shana Fisher, repeatedly knocked back the advances of Pagourtzis before the usually “quiet and sweet” Dimitrios turned ugly. According to Fisher’s mother, “He (Pagourtzis) continued to get more aggressive … she finally stood up to him and embarrassed him.”

For such an alien and unacceptable act, the origins of it are identifiable. The difference between the two stories seems to be the community available up to that final act. With me, I was surrounded by my fellow stupid kids who were happy to assault someone to prove their loyalty to me. That was toxic and awful. I regret it and, I suppose, as adults, they would too.

However, if I was in the same situation today, the extreme end of that toxicity is easy to be poisoned by. I knew nothing at 17, so if some older guy on the internet enabled the worst of my revenge fantasies and told me I was right in feeling that and there’s a term and a flag to wave to boot, well, who’s to say?

The internet will always exist, so the solution does not exist there. It lies within us to teach our sons, nephews, brothers, mates, coworkers, whoever, that nothing is owed to you, you’re not entitled to anything over another, and that rejection is not the end; either of the world, or a person.

 

Andrew Wicks

Andrew Wicks is a country boy with a penchant for movies and sport. After a few years working in health, he decided he'd rather work with today's youth and studied arts and education in rural NSW. His main interests are religion, health, and lairy shirts.

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