[UPDATE 13:50 BST: The post below was written before the Metro changed their awful headline. It seems to have happened about an hour ago, judging from the comments on Feministe. I'm glad. I just wish that the bigotry behind it was as easily redacted]
I wasn't going to blog on the incomprehensible murders at Virginia Tech, or at least not yet. In a week or so I planned to review the posts on the various academic blogs that I look at . After all, what do academics manufacture, if not understanding? Maybe between them all they could explain why what had happened, happened. But my hand has been tipped by two emails I received today.
I know that 1,000 times this number of people are killed in the US by guns each year. Each one of those deaths is a tragedy. How many of those deaths would still have occurred, had the gun not been readily available? I suspect it's much fewer. I honestly don't know.
Why do I personally find these thirty-some deaths so shocking? Because they happened on a university campus. I still have a naive hope that university campuses are places that young people go to discover life, widen their boundaries, and learn responsibility. When it turns out that all is not well in the Ivory Tower, it feels like the carriage I'm in just gave a sickening lurch.
I am incensed, if there is any truth to the reports, that the teachers of the young man responsible were ignored when they voiced their concerns.
The reason I'm blogging now is this: I received, one after the other, two emails that dealt with the aftermath of the incident. The first one was a press roundup, that covered how the shooting had been dealt with in the British media. Our tabloids have a penchant for the scarlet lady, the vile temptress, the fallen woman . It seems they've found another one. The most nauseating of their endless, masturbatory speculation seems to have fixated on the young woman who was the first victim. Headlines include this from the Metro - a paper so bad they give it away for free:
I'm physically shaking as I type this. I am so damn angry. This is but one headline, typical of the tabloid press today, particularly those owned by the D**ly M*il. The sneering implication behind all of them is that this "vibrant girl with an engaging personality" had brought this horror down on all the victims, by rejecting the romantic/sexual advances of the murderer. This is the overwhelming message spun by the our gutter press in the UK.
I'm appalled. I'm ashamed.
On to the second email. It was left to a (male) cartoonist to describe, so insightfully, the feeling of many young women on campus:
(Image copyright Jorge Cham.)
I remember my own undergrad days with more clarity now. I was lucky - I've always been defensive and prickly. Those female friends of mine who made the mistake of being "vibrant girls with engaging personalities" ended up in some awful situations. I know at least one victim of rape, and two who had to endure months of terrifying and sometimes violent stalking. I'm reminded too of the Ecole Polytechnique gynocyde  in 1989. I'm forced to confront the fact that my naive view of the halcyon days of campus life are far removed from the truth for many students. Blaming the victims is sick.
 There is a useful roundup already on Cognitive Daily.
 q.v the current treatment of Heather Mills-McCartney, and Princess Di, pre-sainthood.
 "[The gunman] asked the women whether they knew why they were there, and when one student replied “no,” he answered: 'I am fighting feminism... You're women, you're going to be engineers. You're all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists.' Lépine then opened fire on the students from left to right, killing six and wounding three others." From Wikipedia