Alexandr pointed me towards this story of the murder of Melissa Batten, a developer for the XBox team.
According to a Seattle Times report, Batten had obtained a protection order against her estranged husband on July 21, reporting that he had called her more than 30 times over July 19 and 20 and also broken into her Microsoft workplace on July 16, where he was apprehended by security guards. But her greatest concern stemmed from his ownership of a handgun, which she discovered on June 5.
“The biggest incident which clouds all his subsequent behavior occurred on June 5. He had, unbeknownst to me, obtained a gun,” she wrote in her request for a protection order. The couple were still living together at the time of the discovery, she said, which took place when she confronted him over an extramarital affair. Batten said that her husband “brandished the gun from the back waistband of his jeans and pointed it at me.”
Her husband killed himself after he murdered her.
It is hardly unsurprising that most of the comments on the gaming sites like Kotaku would dismiss this as an act of isolated nuttiness, even as others used it as a opportunity to ask why the U.S. has such a high instance of murder-suicides. But I shouldn’t just target the gamer community, they’re only reflecting a larger public consensus to tutt-tutt and look the other way when something like this happens.
But here’s the thing about murder-suicides.
Have you ever noticed that the murdered are almost uniformly women, and the suicides are almost uniformly men? Have you noticed how, in this article, his response to being caught with his pants down was to get a gun and shoot his wife?
Domestic violence and these sorts of “murder suicides” are not just isolated acts of insanity. They happen in patterns that are quite uniform and predictable. There is no doubt that mental illness is involved, but it’s a mental illness compounded by the big scary M word: Misogyny. This man believed that women were his property, to do with and dispose of as he liked, and when she called him on his completely inappropriate behavior, his response was to pull a gun on her, because what the hell kind of property thinks it can tell you what to do?
What’s worse is, you’re just as likely to see friends, family, and co-workers of man come out to declare what a decent, quiet, loving husband he was, as if Misogyny couldn’t possibly have a veneer of respectability… and the gun just magically materialized in his hand the moment he started and argument with his wife.
Look at the timeline — when he pulled the gun on her, she had 2 months to live. The first month she tried to just get away, but he kept after her. So she filed a restraining order and two weeks later, she was dead.
For all of the DV apologists we’ve had on this site, who want to put the responsibility for stopping domestic violence on the woman, “why didn’t she just get away,” “she could have left him,” I say fuck you sideways. This woman did get away, she even got a police restraining order. He broke into her office, and yet despite the fact that this is obviously a crime (breaking and entering), he was allowed to go free. She did everything a woman in a DV situation is supposed to do, and she’s still dead.
There are some people who feel that feminists should not prosecute low-level sexism, that we shouldn’t point out small, insignificant behaviors. That the dude is just an asshole, not necessarily a misogynist. That there is no harm in showing women as objects and we should throw all our efforts into whatever Big Scary Sexism the antifeminists tell us is worth our time (usually sexism in other countries and cultures, which belies their underlying racism).
But again, we’re sure to see reports about what a nice, quiet guy Joseph Batten was. What a loving husband he was. And I’m sure there are people in his life who have their doubts, who had seen misogynist behavior out of this guy, but who just wrote it off because he wasn’t dragging women into the bushes so he was just a bit of an asshole, nothing worse.
Veneers come off pretty easily. What can be seen as low-level sexist, quasi-assholish behavior can hide a misogynist monster. That’s why it’s important to go after all sexist behavior, even if it seems minor. If we don’t tollerate it, the culture won’t reinforce it. Mental illness will always lead to tragedies, but tragedies compounded by society’s implicit reinforcement that women are worthless objects to be dominated and discarded should be exceedingly rare, and definitely not uniform.