The Romanticization of Writer’s Depression (ADD, OCD, Anxiety, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Autism, etc.)

…Why It Should Terrify Us and Why It Will Kill Usscream

(My face when I forget to take my Depression, ADD, Anxiety, medication Etc.)

This blog is meant to speak to writers and non writers alike. It is in no way meant to dismiss those who have taken their life or anyone having those feelings. If you do have those types of feelings, please call 1-800-273-8255 to speak about your crisis. Enjoy.

Ae Padilla

On any given day, via the internet, I might find myself reading a “Top 10 Amazing Writers Who Killed Themselves” list – recommended to me from a writing forum I frequently visit or a “suggested” post on Facebook.

Don’t worry. Don’t call me freaking out. Don’t send me to see a therapist (I already have a very lovely one!) I’m good. It’s not like that.

Just realize all writers do this. They revel in, swim in the idea of great artists who have come before them and paid the ultimate price for their work – their lives. If you don’t get it, if you don’t understand what I already mean by these first couple of sentences, then you never truly will. You aren’t a part of the club. You don’t have that shiny marquee above you with sparkling words which reads: “I’m depressed but at least I’ve got a good piece out of it.” And guess what? This is a club you don’t want to be a part of. This is the worst club of all clubs.

But if you do understand, if you are a writer (or an artist) who gets just as smug as you might get sad about that oh so inclusionary group of people, then you my dear are part of the problem. I know because I was part of that problem for a long time, still am, and I fight that urge every day to retreat into its devastating membership.

To be fair, if that’s what I want to call it, the umbrella of innovative depression (?) falls not only onto groups of people who self-identify as writers (novelists, screenwriters, poets) but also to anyone who views themselves as a performer. Actors, sculptors, painters, comedians, dancers, hell every bartender that ever lived probably fits somewhere in this creative realm.

Artists, those who flock to creative fields, are proven to have higher levels of mental disorders. They are more likely to suffer from anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, anorexia, and autism. And writers while being 121% more likely to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder are also nearly 50% more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

But the madness follows the gifted, from Kurt Cobain to Hunter S. Thompson to Robin Williams to Jack London to Virginia Woolf to David Foster Wallace to Anne Sexton to Norwegian artist Edvard Munch’s, who painted one of the most recognizable and haunting masterpieces “The Scream.” All of these talented creators worked their depression into their songs, their sets, and their sonnets but it is Munch who captured the internal mental threat in its simplicity.

Authors, like Sylvia Plath wrote extensively on the perils of depression and what it does to the human psyche but it can sometimes be a struggle to search for the meaning behind the words; like a needle in a haystack the reward is monumental but difficult to come by. Munch offers a brief paragraph on what inspired “The Scream” and how it played into his mental health.

The inspiration came to him when both he and his friend took a walk along the countryside to stare out onto a sunset.

“The sun began to set – suddenly the sky turned blood red. I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an endless scream passing through nature.”

It’s a beautiful sentence, and a beautiful painting. Honed as being the honest portrayal of a modern man overcome with angst, it is supposed to be identifiable to all. That’s what makes it so great.

Except that it isn’t. Because angst, sadness, I choose these words as carefully as can be, are not depression.

Munch, was not the representation of a normal worker. He was an artist who considered his paintings “his children.” Overcome by depression and hallucinations regularly, he participated in electroshock therapy. He wrote in his journals about his existence and work: “My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art.”

This is not the everyday man, but this could be the everyday life of an artist or writer who sees suffering as the only valuable way to achieve some form of success. For it is the writer that often feels a kinship to their mental disorder, loathing it one day but proclaiming it as the ace in their back pocket the next, indebted to it at all times.

But how does it get this way? Is it the chicken or the egg? Did a writer want to write because they were depressed? Or are they depressed because they are writing?

Writing certainly accommodates for an unhealthy lifestyle. Fluctuating work hours and inconsistent pay checks, mixed with utter seclusion, unless you count the characters you create for days at a time can pretty much solidify that E.L Doctorow got it perfectly when he said “writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.”

But writing can stem from the mental disorder too, all before kids can form thoughts on why it is they want to pick up a pen. For many adults writing serves as a form of therapy. For children though, there are hardly as many reasons to point to. Most writers I know, myself included, never used writing as a way to document a terrible moment in our lives, we used it as a way to document our thoughts on it. Everything else came after, once puberty set in. It’s my experience that most writers have been writers for as long as they can remember.

Perhaps writing and mental health dance around each other unforgivingly as writing becomes the desire to make sense of a senseless world.

For it is through writing that purpose can be found, as often the page for authors is the voice they feel they do not have in their own life. It is my own feeling, confirmed by other writers, that writing has the power to make a writer feel wanted, accepted, and special…all of which are as life sustaining as air itself to those fighting a disease which often tells them they are exactly the opposite: a worthless dirty burden to everyone and everything. It is through writing, a love of beautifully strung together sentences, that writers get their high.

But what are they willing to do to get it? As Munch said, and I reiterated, are depression and writing interlinked, one able to live without the other? Or are writers willing to foster their depression in order to produce beautiful works for others at the expense of themselves?

It was Sylvia Plath who stated “I desire the things that will destroy me in the end.” In her work The Bell Jar depression is the seam which held her existence together. It is as if she is not quite sure what she would be without it, or rather what her work would be without it.

Other writers share this same question. What would their work be without the complication of feigned mental health? Would it help or hinder them? The question of whether or not they use their disease as a writing crutch becomes apparent.

Not all perhaps, but most (at one point including myself) have thought of it (“it” being anxiety, add, depression, compulsion, etc.) as a necessary evil. Our work would not be as authentic if we did not deal with the turmoil we feel and let it metamorphosize into words on a page.

If romance novels, children or commercial literature are not our forte then the only way to get the work we envision is to live through it. Similar to method acting this creates a very concerning course an author will take to channel a character or mood of a book.

I know, I’ve gone through it before, most recently with Ekland The Journal of Grayson Tyler Mitchell. The book was not light, the book forced me to take a mass murderers suicidal hand and follow him into the dark. If you think that you can write a book like that without being a little fucked up you are wrong. And to write that book well, you have to accept that you will get even more fucked up researching, writing, and ultimately editing the thing. Secluding yourself, as I did, is a giveaway.

If you had come to my apartment those two weeks of creating you would have found a stack of fast food piled high on my kitchen counter, not close to being taken out. There would have clothes thrown in every room, and me sitting at my dining room table, calling it a lucky day if I got to the shower. On any of those fourteen days I was spending up to twelve hours on the internet a day researching autopsy reports and suicide posts.

That might sound simply like the work of a dedicated novelist, and believe me it was. But I worry about other authors who hear this, who will shake their head and give me an impressed look like I reached gold club status. The rest of the population won’t get it or think it’s stupid, but neither of these reactions are correct.

To engulf yourself as a writer is one thing, to romanticize a living situation that breeds depression is another. It can be tempting to surrender yourself to the downward spiral for art but this does nothing but push yourself into an unhappier place while re-establishing that those other authors who “write happy” are inauthentic, they are part of those who developed talent and did not inherit it (which in the writer’s world is kind of saying that you might be OK but you can never be as good as us. So yeah don’t sit with us.)

See in the writing community, suffering is a currency of talent. It’s as if our characters sadness are only as authentic as our own. And this presents itself to be even more terrible when we look to our idols as our inspiration.

Not every creative person kills themselves. Not every creative person has mental health problems. But often us writers focus on the big picture, the people who make every tick of a keyboard (or typewriter) worth it, the end game so to speak if by some miracle we become as lucky as we are talented. And the majority of these people we praise had mental health problems and committed suicide.

Writers like anyone in a profession look up to the people who achieved the ultimate success. Pulitzer, a Newbery Medal, an Oscar. Great engineers look up to great engineers. Great physicians look up to great physicians. I’m not going to name any of those esteemed professionals because I don’t want to embarrass myself, but ask yourself: what does this do for our psyches if the people we hold in such high esteem, our mentors, take their own life?

There is no shame in suicide, but when you as a writer consider that your favorite novelist accepted his Nobel Prize in Literature and then decided to kill himself only a few years later with his “favorite shotgun” you have to wonder what attributes you really want to take away from that person.

Is any work worth the emotional turmoil that a writer possesses as they write it? The only way to answer that question is if you revel in the disease for the sake of the work itself, which unfortunately many do.

Otherwise I will say what every writer might hate me for.

There is no work good enough to ruin your mental health for. One more time. This has taken me years to accept. There is no masterpiece that is worth the lowest quality of your life. I say this as someone who would give up almost everything for my work except my mental health.

Too often we writers believe that anti-depressants, mood stabilizers are the death of our stories. In my case it started off with ADD medication. When I was first prescribed my pills at the age of eleven, I had two aversions to them. Their size. And their effects on my creativity. I caught myself thinking, in middle school, “what if I can’t write as well on them? What if I am not myself anymore and it effects my novels?” (never mind I would not finish a novel until eight years later.)

BUT ALL WRITERS DO THIS. We speak about how pills will ruin our characters, how it will lead us to a lack of depth and understanding needed to get our work published. We refuse assistance. We deny reports of people who claim that SSRIs have helped them. We focus on Reddit users who claim their writing has faltered with prescriptions. It doesn’t have that same “spark” they say, and we run up to everyone and say “see?” because we know exactly what they are talking about. With one post we feel vindicated in our paranoia.

Perhaps they may be right, maybe some medications will stifle whatever we all have that makes us artists. The X factor. But the willingness to not talk about medication at all with the right person or doctor – even to start that conversation on the bare level of asking “could it help me” is irresponsible.

This isn’t to say that all depressed writers should get on a prescription, but this is to say that we all need to stop announcing how wonderful it is when we see another writer cripple themselves in poverty for ten years before they get published, and applaud it as “part of the steps to success,” because yes the average age a novelist sells their first book to a publisher is a few years above thirty.

Speaking and writing about writers who took their own lives gives us a way to understand the trouble similar writers might be having toady, viewing photos of modern day women sticking their head in an oven and photo-shopping it with a black and white filter does not.

Our depression is not a quirky personality traits we can nod in agreement to when people victimize us for acting out the script of an over-emotional troubled person.

And worse, we cannot as writers do it to ourselves. By fawning over the dead in unhealthy ways it perpetuates, not the last by any means, but a huge other problem…needing to rid the world of ourselves if our work does not sell or if we do not believe we can ever achieve the level of success we are comfortable with.

Writing is the only profession where it is perfectly acceptable to say a comment like “well at least I might be good at my job when I am dead.”

Can you imagine saying that in regards towards any other profession? “I’m working my ass off over here, the reward might not come when I am alive but maybe one hundred years from now when I am dead in the ground people will proclaim how great my work was back then, and somehow someway I might be able to know that.”

No wonder writers are prone to depression! The very essence of who they are, how and what they write, is a constant shot in the dark which might not even get slightly recognized.

But other writers understand that, and it is the strength to accept the mental disorders and depression for “the craft” that we need for ourselves. And that’s not easy. Just as pin pointing the disease is not easy.

Writing about anxiety, depression, is what we do. It’s natural for us. Everything from its “living hell” to the following are my own thoughts about the whirlwind of emotions that constantly plague us…

‘I felt as if the world lost color the more I lived in it. As if the flowers, the trees, the sky itself had become as equally as drained of life as my mind had. I often found myself wondering if people were better at lying than I was. Or if they were living in a happier more colorful place. Momentary joy for me was just that – momentary. A beautiful person. A beautiful conversation. It was ships passing in the night, a dark void I could not hold onto. And it was my responsibility, in secret of course, to try to hold onto these instances – to store them in a glass bottle for the day I would need them, when that world was once again a monochromatic existence of my own doing.’

But I suppose the words in this case don’t mean everything, they don’t even mean anything. The steps to stop romanticizing depression start at the center from fellow writers who talk about the problem as effecting the person and not the work, and who pay tribute to writers who have been lost with solidarity not camaraderie. It stops with those who question “lists of writers who have committed suicide” when those lists fail to provide a safe place for artists in need of people to reach out to.

Progress starts with open discussions, being there for another storyteller when they are not just in that terrible halfway point of their manuscript but also when they feel like they lost something once they are done with it, after all it was Truman Capote who said: “finishing a book is just like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.” Because finishing a project can be a wonderful moment for a creator but it can also be a devastating one.

And so there is nothingness in depression and despair in suicide. But there are no pretty corpses. Nooses are not necklaces.

What They Don’t Talk About on the Bell Tower Tour

 

bell tower shooting

(“Yes, kids I did go here when you could only carry around Nerf Guns.”)

Margaret Whitman, Kathy Whitman, Edna Townsley, Marguerite Lamport, Mark Gabour, Claire Wilson, Thomas Eckman, Dr. Robert Boyer, Thomas Ashton, Thomas Karr, Billy Speed, Harry Walchuk, Paul Sonntag, Claudia Rutt, Roy Schmidt, Karen Griffith, David Gunby, RIP.

Ae Padilla

 

I’ll get right to it. I love The Bell Tower. What UT student/alumnus doesn’t? For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by its architecture, its carillons, and the way it stands as an iconic symbol for both this campus and city.

The Tower provides us with so much. It lets us know when our horns win. It gives us chimes to listen to when we walk to class. It has the most beautiful life science library inside of it – something straight out of Hogwarts. Many events have happened in and around out it since construction first began on it in 1934 including, of course, the infamous 1966 shooting.

So it came as a surprise to me when, on my tour of The Tower in my last semester at Texas, I asked one of the tour guides if the rails and extra security on the observation deck were because of the shooting. Their response was that they were not allowed to talk about it.

To say I was perplexed and angered would be an understatement.

I understand how it could be morbid and uncomfortable discussing the 15 deaths committed by Charles Whitman from the observation deck and 2 elsewhere. I understand how the conversation could be considered offensive and might put a damper on the otherwise beautiful view you are greeted to as you stand on the 28th floor looking out onto the Austin skyline. I get that even after 50 years it’s still a very sensitive issue thinking that one of our students committed a horrendous act against his fellow longhorns.

But guess what? It happened.

And not speaking about it makes it seem like those that died are never remembered because we as a University do not like acknowledging that it indeed happened.

As a student I knew about the incident before I decided to take the tour. I had read about it, discussed it with others, and even wrote about it for a paper on school shootings – a subject I have researched thoroughly. But others on the tour, many who were from different countries and spoke various languages, were blissfully unaware of what happened on that observation deck many years ago. Unlike me, they had no idea who Houston McCoy or Billy Speed were. They had no idea that The Tower was closed for years following the tragedy.

Some might say it’s a good thing to not draw negative attention to the University; after all, the murders did occur more than half a century ago and bringing it up certainly reminds us of the ever growing number of shootings that have become almost normal in our country. People might be scared that recalling this particular event is in some twisted way a glorification of the act itself and that we should all just move on with our lives.

But to be quite honest not talking about the massacre is actually the worst thing we as a University can do.

We must acknowledge our former classmates, professors, and Austinites. We must acknowledge the victims of the senseless crime, and we must do it even if it makes us extremely uncomfortable.

While it’s important to mention The Main Building does have a memorial garden which hosts a plaque honoring those killed, it does not have one from where the massacre occurred. This one plaque The Tower does have, displayed where few people visit and placed as recently as 1999, is not enough.

I do not suggest the whole tour of The Tower focus solely on the mass shooting.  A simple line stating what happened might be enough or even a moment of silence might commemorate the lives that were ended too shortly. Perhaps another plaque in the lobby with the victims’ names will provide more awareness. All these things would be more fitting than giving these sixteen individuals no recognition at all. (At the time of publishing this article I have been made aware of a new plaque near “Turtle Pond” only recently erected.)

At the end of the tour walking back to my apartment I had a few questions formulating in my head.

Why does UT think they can eradicate an important part of history? Why do they want to? Have we learned nothing about the horrors of ignoring the truth about sensitive but important information? Why does it take filmmakers and authors who are not a part of the Longhorn family to bring attention to this?

Throughout my four years of education at the University of Texas at Austin I learned that the most important lesson is what coincidentally is printed on The Main Building itself: Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.

By us acknowledging the truth of what happened from atop The Tower we let go of some of the mystery and the shame that still lingers within us. We accept that it happened and pay recognition to those who helped that day without glorifying the act itself. And we also become open about the mental problems the perpetrator did face as we vow to help others who might be in that position.

We become a University that is proud of so many successes The Tower represents but we also realize that every piece of history has a dark side to it. We continue to be the amazing progressive school that we have always been.

Especially now with campus carry taking effect, ironically on the anniversary of the shooting, do we want our legacy as that great school to be one of rather denial, hatred, and more guns? Are those the answer to the problems we have realized are evident but still have not fully discussed?

I don’t know about you but I think it’s time we pay our respects to the victims and reclaim our Tower.

 

This article was rejected from appearing in The Daily Texan in 2014 and was partially edited in spring and summer of 2016

 

Do the Gilmore Girls Get Their Periods? (or Do They Just Never Talk About It?)

gilmore-girls

(Above: “I can’t remember if I took out my tampon before I put the new one in.” “Mom…”)

THANK YOU Amy Sherman-Palladino for giving me these amazing characters I like to pretend I am exactly like. Also, trigger warning for dumb-asses who can’t read about periods. Copper Boom!

Ae Padilla

For a show that revolves completely around women, you think that there would be talk about the one shitty thing all women can unite over. Periods. Code Red. Aunt Flo. That time of the month. Sharkweek baby (and I’m not talking about the Discovery Channel segment.)

But in the entire seven seasons that make up Amy Sherman-Palladino’s Gilmore Girls, a one hour dramedy that takes place in the fictional town of Stars Hollow and follows the lives of “freakishly close” mother and daughter, Lorelai and Rory Gilmore (the protagonists of this wonderfully fast-talking show) never talk about bleeding from their vaginas. In all 153 episodes never a joke or reference has been made from or about the Gilmore Girls needing a tampon or craving even crappier food than they normally eat, all because of those weirdly specific monthly troubles every female has.

And it’s a damn shame because Gilmore Girls (and Sherman-Palladino with her no-nonsense blunt bad-assery attitude) would be just the type of show to rightfully address this.

Originally airing on the WB and in its final season the CW, Gilmore Girls does not equate modesty with womanhood. It does not pander to a certain audience that believes womanhood must be discreetly discussed. Gilmore Girls never shies away from virginity, sex, birth, and even death all involving women characters who have different experiences and opinions on these issues. For a show that has been described as truly feminist on a network which to my knowledge is not crazy controlling about any topic regarding a female’s body, it is strange then that there is never even one throw-away line about periods.

Nope, periods are never mentioned amid other female bodily discussions in this show. Nor are they brought up as a plot device or simply as a way of life. Gilmore Girls may get credit for being feminist and voicing “the real,” yet the reality of periods is not presented in this series (with hardly a credible reason for its elimination, unless we are supposed to believe that the WB or CW did not ‘ok’ a “surfing the crimson wave” reference.)

In this case, the case of mentioning Lorelai and Rory’s periods, the benefits would undoubtedly outweigh the cons, as the cons would probably only result in losing the seventeen male viewers the show originally had (I’m of course kidding but in reality if a man is already watching Gilmore Girls I doubt he will be disgusted by the mere mention of a menstrual cycle.)

The first reason for talking about it? The entertainment on pure face value.

When I am bored, watching TV, captivated by a particularly annoying Kotex commercial, I wonder what the Gilmore Girls would talk about if they were, at that moment, right next to me eating mac and cheese. Would Lorelai, as Lorelai always does bust out the line “Are we really supposed to believe that it’s blue? What man out there said ‘hey all the red food coloring got used for Evil Dead so let’s just sprinkle in a few drops of water?’” Or maybe we would get a quip from Rory herself, walking out of the bathroom we only see two times in the entire series (for those Gilmore Girls fanatics out there I’ve narrowed it down to when Paris borrows Lorelei’s clothes for a date with Tristan,when Rory is crying over douche-bag Logan, and when a fish is swimming around in the tub – if there are other times please dispute me but not about the fact that I called Logan an asshole.) She (Rory) would be mumbling to herself, towel in hand, “do you ever think the girl in Psycho didn’t actually die and it was just a really bad time of the month?”

Can you imagine, as I frequently do, Lorelai taking over Luke’s apartment with her decorations and collection of must-have CDs, but also occupying his bathroom with Tampax boxes? Can you imagine her walking through Doose’s Market trying to describe in detail the ins and outs of all things period to her backwards baseseball cap wearing diner-owner? Or perhaps interaction about periods would mostly be with Rory who would be unable to decide what device to use in an episode opening – all the while Lorelai creating voices for said tampon and pad, both fighting each other about who can catch the most blood. My god, do we not all want to know her opinions on the DivaCup come Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life?  I cannot be the only one hoping for that specific niche of comedic genius!

All humor aside, the best thing about Gilmore Girls is the different opinions we have via intellectual, charming, and witty women. What would occur when Lorelai and Rory talk about their periods is the immediate understanding of the series as a whole, which is that the show does not cater to the male demographic as most network television programs do; the normal monthly occurrence of a period in virtually any woman of a certain age is not going to be ignored because it might make some ignorant people “uncomfortable.”

Sure TV programs, since their origin, have held entire episodes regarding the issue of a woman getting her period, including one of my favorite episodes of The Cosby Show “The Infantry Has Landed (And They’ve Fallen Off The Roof)” where Rudy Huxtable gets her period while at school and is sent home to join her mother, who is excited to discuss Rudy’s changing body and celebrate with her in a “woman’s day.” But all instances of comedy (a few jokes about pads being the sizes of mattresses) is glossed over with an important message. The important message is that a period is something that might be a “curse” but it is also special. It signifies that you are now about to enter a different part of your life and one day, if you choose, you will have the option of having children. It is a vital lesson to learn for any young girl entering puberty that this particular show covered tastefully.

But Gilmore Girls, as it hopefully does elsewhere in other areas of the series, would be able to shed a funnier truth on “parting the red sea” (give me a break here I am running out of euphemisms), serving as a new narrative for women at a different point in their lives who are able to not only realize what a period means to growing up but also what it means to their daily existence (such as dating, going on vacation, or even wearing white pants.) If Gilmore Girls is a show that both mothers and daughters bond over watching together how can this not be something that would realistically come up? And isn’t Gilmore Girls almost doing us a disservice by not talking about how special a period can be but also, more importantly, how annoying it can be too? And how bonds of mother and daughter may even be strained by the awkwardness of this inevitable talk (AKA Emily Gilmore totally gave her maid a book to give to Lorelai about what she could expect from her cycle.)

Of course I was not in the writer’s room (although if Netflix does continue this revival, I am here half-finished spec in hand.) Again, perhaps potential period jokes were censored. However I have a bit of a hard time believing that if Sherman-Palladino could manage to get jokes about slaves and prostitution on the air this would not be any more difficult. Is the answer for the question of why there is no talk about periods simply that Sherman-Palladino did not deem it necessary or did simply not want it?

If it indeed was the latter would it not be better to have a humorous bit not made for a laugh track or even for the simplicity of grossing a guy out, but as a way for woman to bond over shitty days and stained underwear? Or even as stated before, different women’s opinions on say what they do to take away cramps? I would even settle for the alienating opinion of “it’s not that bad if you have sex on it” by Miss Patty. This is a show that talks openly and candidly about sex and the pill (in its first season mind you) but the only mention we get of a period is Lorelai’s lack of possibly having one and wondering whether she may be pregnant due to the fact she is craving an apple (yes, an apple) after her and Luke have drunken unprotected sex.

Perhaps this can all be answered with a viewpoint from one of my very good friends: the Gilmore Girls do not simply ever have their period. They are aliens sent to us with their gorgeous eyes, carousel of hot men, Rolodex of pop-culture references, and their status as rulers of the town of Stars Hollow all without ever worrying about going up to another woman and asking them discreetly to check their jeans on a particularly heavy day.

Lorelai Gilmore has never stained a pair of white pants. Just when I couldn’t love/hate you more. DAMN YOU LORELAI.

*Once again I give all of my respect to Sherman-Palladino and look forward to her next creation. On another note, I do not in any way condone or brush off Bill Cosby and his sexual assaults on women. I am simply referencing an episode of The Cosby Show.

Too Many Questions. One Answer. What We Can Learn From the Murder of Haruka Weiser.

HARUKA WEISER  weiser

(Pictured above on the right: Haruka Weiser. Age 18. Left: Weiser at Age 15 performing in the Portland Ballet.)

I give all of my condolences and respect to the Weiser family and to those who were close to Haruka.

Ae Padilla

Two weeks ago a woman was brutally murdered on the campus that I attended college at, at the place that I used to write at well into the night.

She had just finished leaving a dance class/rehearsal sometime close to 9:30 pm when a man she had never met followed her on her walk back to her dorm and ended her life. She was found two days later in a creek that runs through The University of Texas at Austin after her roommate had reported her missing.

Waller Creek, the scene of this unfathomable crime, was a place I used to walk by periodically on my way to study groups and Longhorn football games.

I know it’s wrong, to relate every single action of hers that night, and where she was found, to myself. I did not personally know this woman or experience violence as she did. But I am a woman who walked her same path when I too was a student. I am a woman whose greatest fear is what she lived through.

Since the murder of Haruka Weiser, 18, Wieser’s name has entered many a conversation in the Austin area. Law enforcement, friends, family, members from the community have reacted in disbelief that this could happen in a close knit environment like UT. The University of Texas might have a population of fifty thousand students but the campus feels very much like a home on the cozy forty acres, and as such people had a lot to say about the devastating situation.

“Weiser was a beautiful and compassionate person. A beautiful woman like that did not deserve to get murdered.” I heard this statement a lot from many different people closely and distantly related to Weiser. I heard this alongside words such as: tragic, disturbing, and heartbreaking.

All saying this mean well. There is no denying that Haruka Weiser was an attractive talented woman. She had gifts not seen in many people her age, and a spirit that shines through her pictures with her love for dance and life. The world was robbed of a very special person for absolutely no reason.

But the world was also robbed of a person, first and foremost. And whether she was perceived as physically beautiful should not matter in the slightest as to how we react to her worth as a person.

Weiser’s life should not be confined to her skills as a ballerina or as her status as a former Texas student.

To remember her and pay her tribute in this way is understandable, especially to those of us who were not fortunate enough to know all the facets of this individual. Her life, unfortunately by default, becomes a number of small points we have to refer to – fast descriptors placed above the fold.

But in describing her as such and not taking the time to discover more about her, rather speaking more of her talent than her beauty, we commit our first mistake. We as a society focus on the physicality of this victim as we often do with good-looking women who are victims of violent murders in the United States.

When we say comments like “Weiser did not deserve to be murdered” we state by default that other people’s lives are worth less – including people who are unattractive, untalented, or not fortunate enough to have a caring family like Weiser. We maintain the narrative of the Missing White Woman Syndrome – a phrase coined by social scientists given to the extensive media coverage of missing attractive females as compared to men and people of color.

Although Weiser, a Japanese-American native from Portland, Oregon has received media attention because of the nature and location of the crime, she can still act as a catalyst of questions we should be asking in the weeks to follow that play into this theory.

For those unware, the suspect in custody for Weiser’s murder is a homeless seventeen-year-old black male named Meechaiel Criner, who was arrested by the Austin Police Department after he was recognized on security footage taken from the night of the murder near Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium. Caught with Weiser’s laptop and personal belongings his bond is set at 1 million dollars.

Following the arrest of the suspect, comment boards and Reddit forums filled up with divisive comments such as “how about black lives matter now?” But taxing as it is, talking about the alleged killer as being homeless, at the very least, is what might help us prevent future horrendous attacks. This is not to imply that I believe Criner committed this act because of his questionable upbringing and turning to the streets as much as I condone the violent act itself, but to turn the crime into discussion is better than what we inevitably will do with it.

In much the same way that the argument of gun control is ignited by shootings so should the topic of race represented in the media and violence against woman by the murder of Haruka Weiser. This should not be confused as capitalizing on a family’s pain for an agenda but rather implementing what the Weiser family themselves have asked for.

Following the painful task of identifying their daughter, Haruka Weiser’s parents (family) released a press statement with the following: “Although Haruka loved to perform on stage she never sought the spotlight in her daily life. Perhaps the last thing she would want is to be the poster child for any cause. And yet, as we struggle to understand why she was killed, if her death can somehow make it safer for a young woman to walk home, if it will prevent another assault or murder, then at least we could find some meaning behind an otherwise senseless and tragic death.”

With this incredibly passionate and sensitive speech comes a declaration of productivity and not complacency, the key component in how we can make sense of this atrocious act.

It is a fine line to tell people how to mourn. But if the Weiser family can garner the strength so then should the community, creating a call to action that includes not just asking questions simply for the sake of reaffirming the dialogue that surrounds our nation but asking them in hopes that it is the step for a movement.

The first being the issue of race. Weiser, without her consent, has actually become the poster child for brutal crimes committed against white women, at least temporarily. But what if we pose the question of whether or not Weiser would receive as much attention if she was black or if she herself was homeless? Do we denounce homeless people in this country as not being worthy of our nightly news when they are indeed killed at staggering rates? Do we struggle to have the same empathy for an unattractive person or a person of color as we would for a beautiful woman society as least perceives to be white?

In that same regard we are already classifying people in their murder based on their talents rather than the fact that they are simply humans. But we shouldn’t be surprised at this. We do this also in terms of what sex is targeted in an attack such as Weiser’s.

The missing white women syndrome could be a misrepresentation of those unaware of the fear that woman feel every time they walk alone at night. Because the facts point to that assaulted women are not overrepresented in the media, they are underrepresented. They are simply not discussed enough because their case is not as public as Weiser’s. Although it may be against social conventions to discuss the confirmed sexual assault of the victim it poses a significance that Weiser was targeted for many reasons – but the most important being that she was seen as a defenseless woman at night, particularly on the night of Sunday, April 4th.

To those, and there are many, saying that all people should be more vigilant, I raise the question of whether Criner would have attacked a man of similar stature to Weiser? The answer of course is no. Weiser was attacked and assaulted because of the perceived power that Criner felt he had when he saw her alone and distracted by her phone. Surveillance cameras show him waiting for hours for what he felt was the “perfect” victim. The perfect victim was a woman first and foremost. And Weiser’s family make a reference to this in their statement about women, not men’s safety, in particular.

But what if Weiser survived? In a more just-filled world this would happen, but the significance of the crime would have been diminished to nothing more than a campus email about an assault that happened near San Jacinto Street. As devastating as Weiser’s death is, it shines a light to where many sensitive issues can be discussed. Beauty as inherently a more devastating loss, race, a lack of disregard towards homeless sexual assault victims, and also how we deal with assault that does not end in the taking of a life. Weiser’s death can then act as a representation of the struggles that women face daily, and the dismissal of inflicted violence on them if it does not indeed reach the peril of “nightly news.”

It’s not enough to state that this is a random act that can happen anywhere and anytime, two contrasting lives that intersected as a result of nothing more than chance. Criner (allegedly) killed Wesier because of her accessibility in being a woman. Not because she was drinking too much, because she wore provocative clothing, or even because she was beautiful. And that is not chance, it is choice.

Is that why this case lingers in the air? Is that why it terrifies us? Because no matter what, we as women can’t be “blamed” at all as rape culture states they should? Even if you do not believe it there are people who highlight the idea that she should not have been glancing down at her phone, who scoff at the idea that she walked through a wooded area with less lighting when there was an alternate but longer path back to her dorm with brighter lighting. These people who say this are terrible humans, there is hardly a better insult that would not end up with me writing explicates, but they still pose the idea of change – an idea of productivity as stated rather than complacency.

Because mourning, being sad, not wanting to talk about it is complacency for the idea that women need to protect themselves more, or worse accept that in all protection these things simply just…happen.

My first thought after hearing the initial news about the missing girl who would later be identified as Weiser was “This is disgusting. This is terrible. This breaks my heart. I need to take even more precautions about going out late because you never who might be around. I need to stop looking at my phone. Guess I am not writing at UT anymore.” My feelings were genuine and my intentions were in the right place to think of Haruka’s autonomy being violated even if I focused on myself as well, but in relation to me vigilance is never enough, and unfortunately sadness in reflecting on this is fleeting. And comments that I made and others made are often lazy. We can honor a life, and fight back without violence to the suspect and to people who commit these crimes by speaking passionately about the victim. But we have to learn to fight back in our own way. In a productive way.

And we need to do this by maintaining our anger, because it is the anger towards the injustice in this case that will demand action. An eighteen-year-old woman with a talented spirit that could help the world was brutally murdered on a college campus walking back to her dorm. A .3 mile walk at 9:30 pm. She was overpowered by a knife, sexually assaulted, and then thrown into a creek like she was a piece of trash. As a result her parents will never spend another day with her. Her brother and sister will never have another conversation with her. Why is that not making us livid?

Disregard the need to say that she was someone’s sister, daughter, or girlfriend when the context makes you feel more for her because she might be your daughter, sister, or girlfriend. Consider her a person of the world instead, and realize that being sad is never good enough.

I’ve come across a few options in the recent days of how to better preserve Haruka Weiser’s memory. The first is a suggestion to create a program called Weiser Walk, in which alumni donate to make a free program for students who need an escort to walk with at any time of the day. This is empowering rather than giving into fear, as we make it a part of a campus lifestyle not just temporary emphasized because of what happened. This is something I would donate to in a heartbeat.

We create programs that educate people on the assaults that happen that do not get as much coverage given that victims are willing to speak about them. And then we have programs geared particularly towards men that focus on stopping rape culture in small ways (jokes at a women’s expense and acknowledging their privilege) to big ways (stopping an assault even if he believes he might see a sexual activity of two other drunk people as not his problem.)

These may or not have helped Haruka Weiser that night but they establish a world that Haruka Weiser should have lived in and that the rest of women should live in.

We can retain lessons beyond lessons from the murder of Haruka Weiser. And we can turn once again to her parents, who created a scholarship in her name for dancers who want to be further trained in her hometown of Portland. They are exemplifying what we should do. They were more effected than we could ever think to be; they are doing something about it though.

They are not simply releasing a press statement flourished in the word “beautiful” or speaking of the prayers they seek.

See, I’ll say it even if you mean the best.

Your sadness is wasted if it never morphs into anything else.

 

Rest in peace Haruka Weiser. Dance in heaven.

Why I Wrote Ekland

Zero-Day

(From the movie Zero Day, by Ben Coccio. Don’t go down the rabbit hole of googling pipe bomb instructions)

This was written one day before Christopher Harper-Mercer opened fire in a classroom at a community college in Roseburg Oregon.

Ae Padilla

One of the first memories I have in my life is of watching television, the program was something similar to 20/20, and the highlighted real was of a fuzzy home video. Two boys live in an affluent neighborhood and drive by this woman on a bike with paintballs and shoot at her multiple times, then yell at each other asking if she is dead.

She was.

The thing is they didn’t know her, they had no reason to shoot at her, it was simply something fun to do — and that was what was traumatizing to me. This is called “sport killings.”

Since then (and perhaps too just as a defining personality trait) I have always been someone who absolutely detests violence. It makes me uncomfortable. Sure injustice as well but it is violence that packs a different – for lack of a better metaphor –punch. And I’m not talking about Batman and Robin action sequences, gladiator stories, or Saw films (I’ve actually watched all the Saw films 5 times each.) I’m talking about real senseless violence. Those stories where a seemingly normal couple in a subdivision is really holding a 16 year old girl captive in their basement and raping her. The story about someone leaving their dog tied up for hours without water in 100 degree weather and then beating it when it cries. Of course I also (who doesn’t?) can’t fathom or stand random senseless killings, most often associated in our culture now as mass killing sprees.

So of course, because writing is tapping into the scary and the interesting, and make no mistake about it what I am scared of I almost always am also fascinated by too, I decided to focus my third novel EKLAND The Journal of Grayson Tyler Mitchell exactly on that.

Ekland, at 48,500 words, is based loosely off the Columbine High School massacre, another event I am nearly obsessed with and have been since I decided to dig into it fully during high school for a school violence article in my journalism class.

Spurning all of this is the novel that I wrote because of that fascination.

The novel like anything started as a thought.

And my thought, like almost everyone I know after reading all about Columbine was WHY?

Sure I could have researched more to satisfy that need (I did). I could have bought the theory of those writing dissertations, of those newscasters on CNN, of groups of concerned parents. To me what wasn’t enough, to me that wasn’t going to tell me the WHY. That was going to tell me the HOW. And the HOW is never as interesting.

Why does anyone have the drive to kill someone? Why does anyone have the drive to kill multiple people? And then let’s take it a little further and let’s focus on this particular massacre again. Why did Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold want to do it? Why did no one see this coming? Why did they find and trust each other? Why did they want to commit suicide? Why did they commit suicide? Why did they go to prom one week before they planned to blow up their school? Why did they listen to the music they did? Why did that matter? Why did they film it all? And was there a moment when they were looking to be saved?

The thing is I don’t have these questions about other killers, about people who go and stab their wife when they find them with a new lover, I can be disgusted by that but I can get that. That’s revenge. But not with Aurora, not with Virginia Tech, and not with Columbine.

Is revenge a part of it? Of course. But is it all of it? No.

If we can buy the fact that these humans are human enough to put on death row than we have to realize they are human in every aspect. They are multi-faceted individuals. They are more than the last thing they did although they will be defined by it forever. They are not worth studying and writing about for glorification but for understanding.

And I write to understand. I wrote the Brigades of Aldo as a true piece of adolescents preserved, the struggles of growing up, the personification of love, why I was the way I was senior year before college. I wrote Across Eight States to understand why someone in my life acted the way he did, how he treated me, and found that I stumbled upon a story about family, racism, and poverty. I wrote Ekland because I needed to know why Klebold and Harris did what they did, but in my head I took it a step further. I wanted to see the world from their eyes and I wanted to tell the rest of the world what they were thinking. Because if it was intriguing me this much it must mean something. (For the record, this idea has been rolling around in my head for give or take two and a half years.)

As a result of those thoughts came research and research and more research. I was grateful that I had already done that research for “fun” but now I needed to do more. I needed to pour over Klebold and Harris’ journals. I needed to watch all their homemade videos, because I couldn’t write a story in good conscious about the people who did this without connecting and understanding my protagonist. And I needed to do this fast because the book demanded it. As with any tough situation, pulling the Band-Aid off was the best thing that I could do.

I spent two weeks writing this novel, more editing it than writing, and in those two weeks I entered a world that was gritty, disturbing, and void of any type of hope. Six hours a day of writing did this to me, leaving me feeling physically exhausted. I’ve spent my life at a desk…and this was different.

It was the result of getting so close to a fire but not actually touching it — it was becoming a part of Klebold and seeing himself in me.

I don’t mean that in the way people fear that others will, rather that I began to understand more of the why rather than the how.

With the dismissal of what I’m saying as trivial or egotistical, the ordinary person cannot write a book like Ekland. Or cannot write it convincingly. Because relating to at least some part of your characters is needed, at least of course for an author like me. And writing a first person book is not omniscient, it’s going straight into the battle field of morbidity. It’s telling the world the bold face lie. This is some, if not all, of what he was thinking. It is taking away how other people view these people and instead focusing on how they view themselves.

Ekland for me really was about the mental health issues, the idea that 80 percent of those who wanted to commit attacks like this at one point wanted to kill themselves. 80 percent, that’s not revenge on someone else. That’s revenge on yourself. That’s allowing the power of the thoughts and brain to control you. And that’s what I could bring to Ekland and more importantly what I thought was important to bring to it.

Destruction of others can only come when you destroy yourself first, and with Tyler that came from thoughts, crippling thoughts of suicide.

I wrote Tyler as a male because that was the only way he would be taken seriously. Because he lived in entitlement. It was the same way I wrote him rich and from suburbia. I wrote him depressed for this reason too and I felt that I could do him and Klebold justice with this.

Like Klebold, at one point I lived in a world with such tunnel vision that I could never see real happiness and empathy for myself. I lived for moments of peace as rare as they were. Finding joy in my life, permanent joy, did not come from my amazing surroundings (and I did have great surroundings like Tyler) It came from me inside. And the me inside was unknowingly self-sabotaging. But like anyone with some mental problems my brain was talking to me and lying to me and saying I was worthless.

Through my own mental battle and personal journal entries, I gave some to Tyler in hopes that it would make him a more relatable person and bring about more sympathy and more concern. And because of course the Columbine killers, particularly Klebold, thought these things themselves. If the novel had ended after part one I like to believe viewer would feel bad for this individual, would really see –excuse the vulgarity – how fucked up he is. But because of part two we don’t feel bad for him.

My hope is that we catch people at part one of their story and not at part three.

Of course Ekland brought and brings me concern, I sent it out to agents in hope of a pull but I still have a responsibility. I created this work and I know how art in any form can be influential. But I’m also selfish, and if you can bear with me here unselfish as well.

I wrote something that scares me, that is not me, and I hope that is at the very least real. I don’t want people to say I wrote a good male as a female. I want people to say I wrote a messed up good male period. So that means wanting to make a work I’m proud of in public, to garner that attention on the level of “it’s just about me and my career and showing that I can truly write.” This might have come after Brigades and Across Eight States and it might be about teenagers but I have versatility. I am not one note and this not West Texas or Route 66. I can do gritty, I can do it very well. I’m capable of having the privilege of a unisex brain.

But in all honesty I’m unselfish too in my hopes. I want to start a dialogue about killers that is not about gun control and the left and right. I want to tackle mental health and I do want to tackle the infamy and the blasé.

Because if the reiterated point is anything it’s this. We dismiss these people. We want to hate them for hating others but we dare not hate them for hating themselves. If the battle is in your head, “they” say, then fix it and don’t involve me. But if it’s involves someone else…then I’ll care.

We think the bombers, gunmen, don’t have thoughts like this, the ones I wrote about, but they do. Many might not be this eloquent or this dark or extensive but again, most of the time there is something.

Understanding, as what I did and hopefully the reader does, is not condoning. Nor is it saying that understanding on some level means that it will never happen again. If we just do a, b, and c we are good. Because it will happen again. A lack of reaching out in time is just as vital as wanting to be reached out to. And some people, it’s taken me a while to say this, are just psychopaths. They will kill because they were born that way. They want the fame and they get off on destroying. And no therapist or God can help them, they’re like a bad dog that needs to be put down for society. Yes it’s hard writing that, which is why I didn’t write that! I wrote a real human. A real human who wanted to be understood and involved and cured. He was on the line of countless of problems but I like to believe there was a cure to them. To bring back my point I think of Marilyn Manson (a man solely responsible for Columbine if you can believe it because the killers listened to his songs) who was asked what he would tell the Columbine killers if they were here today. His response? “I wouldn’t say a thing I would listen to them which no one ever did.”

Tyler has traits of a psychopath but in the end he has thoughts about love and he has some bit of remorse and he kills people in cold blood anyway, which to be honest is worse, and I wrote it for that “worseness”. Because the excuse is not there and the sentiment to him is real. He is going to kill people as a person with a lot of mental problems but not without lack of a conscious. Again, isn’t that the person we actually want to read about?

What did I get out of Ekland? I empathized a little more, and weirdly enough after a while I was desensitized, there was a time when I couldn’t look at Dylan and Eric’s suicide photo in the library. Now, minus the fact that it’s insensitive to any human, it can sit right there on a tab open up next to Twitter and whatever YouTube video is relevant that day. Again terrible, but the truth is usually terrible.

I learned that they deserve forgiveness too, and that their families need more support than just about anyone. I learned that saying their names might lead to contagion, something which again makes me nervous about releasing something like this to the world. But that’s my truth and I must state my truth and I hope people see my intentions are truly the best. I want parents and peers to look at this as the most honest wakeup call.

I learned young minds are impressionable but I did not write this book for young minds, this by no means is young adult. I wrote it for people who are older, who know that back when you’re 17 you don’t have it all figured out, and that despite not having depression, tunnel vision exists in high school. Everything is the end of the world and in this case according to Grayson Tyler Mitchell it should be.

I learned that they harbored a level of rage that I can never understand. That on that day they put on a show and became who they wanted the world to see them as. Everything from their attire, to their weapons of choice, to their name. Would Tyler want to be seen as Grayson? Of course not. He would want to be seen as Anarchy, because Anarchy demands respect.

I learned even that they, Klebold and Harris, Reb and vodka might want me saying this twenty years later, mulling over motivation.

I learned that we need to get better about gun control, we need to ban the sale of assault weapons and make it as difficult to get guns as it unfortunately is right now to get mental help. We need to talk to our kids. We need to worry about video games and movies that makes violence so acceptable. We need to let men show their emotions, encourage their fluidity and stop their seemingly normal violent tendencies. We need to stop bullying and look at it as a legitimate concern not “kids will be kids.”

I learned all of this and the worst part is I am still left with questions. Because for every question I do answer another one pops up, and none of them will actually get answered.

I have my thoughts about helping but that’s not what this is about. I wrote Ekland for the questions and answers yes but as always I wrote it for me. To conquer that little bit of obsession and fascination. To reaffirm that sometimes it is about being at the wrong place at the wrong time. To show and preserve a part of our culture — one people don’t like to think exists and is ignored after it happens.

But it does exist doesn’t it?

Ekland answers some of the questions sure but it doesn’t live in our present time and it is that which makes it special.

It is truly a book about the cusp of the millennium and make no mistake about it that’s important. Ekland, Columbine, is the start of acceptable school violence and in this case it is more apparent with valid reasons, it transcends the wanting of fame and the social media craze a killer might know will follow his actions today. In this case Klebold and Harris wanted revenge on the school as a building and whole because that is what drove them to do what they did. Sometimes it is more than we would like to admit. And sometimes supporting free mental healthcare, not a movement for socialization (although we can come close) is looked at supporting a crazy mindset.

Is Ekland writing about the human condition? I certainly hope so. As always I will write detailed blogs about gun control and the infamy others now crave because of our multimedia generation. Again, this is not that.

I wrote Ekland to be first and foremost why someone would commit that type of crime as a teenager on a place that means something to them, a place seen as a threat — everything else is secondary.

I wrote Ekland because like most writers I was given a muse, a story outside of myself that I feel I was able to really tell, a point I mention in my author note I tried to do with as much authenticity and tact as I possibly could. I don’t think I could write Ekland as well today as I could months ago, despite becoming (hopefully) a better writer. Ekland was a story that scared the shit out of me.

And if you are scared of that story too, if it gets under your skin, it’s because you know that it’s real. And like my character said you should be scared.

These things happen and we need to fix them. Because the most valuable thing is at play here… our lives.

Ae not Alyssa. Am I Abandoning My Gender?

ae writing

(If a writer doesn’t write about writing are they a writer?)

This is meant to examine the personal struggles of being a female novelist at my age with my experiences. For more information, and less words, google “women can’t write” and weep for the future. All opinions, as always.

Ae Padilla

The life of a writer is a difficult one. It always has been and it will continue to be, no matter how many fellow novelists or journalists find each other on Twitter, strike up friendships over books, pop culture, and whatever else they can to avoid their work.

The life of a writer is not glamorous. It is in fact the exact opposite of how it is portrayed. We do not stare idly out of the window at coffee shops only to jot something down on a notepad when inspiration strikes. We sit with our computer in our lap on the couch in pajamas wrestling carpel tunnel and writer’s block. We do not finish off our day of productivity with a fine glass of whiskey as a nightcap. We drink the third and final Lone Star we can find in the back of the fridge and wonder whether we over did it tonight. We do not believe we are producing great work as a result of the creative manic genius that occupies our head periodically. We struggle with self-doubt constantly and the depression does little to ease those worries.

Really I could go on. But I think I set the scene up for you.

And I would never pick any of these things, everything I just mentioned, for myself. Except that I had no control over it. Like any other calling, it did not care about what I wanted. It picked me, and I was utterly powerless to its grasp.

Being a writer is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to consistently do all my life. But my God do I wish I had been given an easier passion.

Because being a writer is troublesome enough on its own but being a female writer makes it seem like an even more impossible task.

It’s not too often I bring up my gender as what the world would deem a deficiency. I hardly highlight this or my race and anything else that has held me back from this often too homogeneous world.  But in the context of writing it is given as a label to me whether I like it or not, and I must acknowledge that and speak about it, give it a voice so that it does not continue hiding under the surface of my aspirations as the pink suede elephant we all do not speak of.

Being a female writer is not just professionally stifling but personally constraining. As a title it secludes an already marginalized group of creative people (and probably raises me a solid 10mg on the medication.)

In the world of writers, one I am finally beginning to tap into with legitimacy, I discuss how sexism is rampant but hides behind, as sexism always does, the few model women publishers can point to. This is not unlike the way colleges point to the pictures of minorities they Photoshop into their pamphlets as proof of their “thriving racial demographic.”

As a woman I close in also on the idea of writing “women” fiction and then writing as a man, an actual man via my characters, and for men. Of course I speak also how the writer as a woman feels as if she is at a fork in the road quite early in her professional (and probably personal) life. Which is: do I stick to writing as a self-identified woman and everything that this offers? Or do I hide myself via my name and become known as simply “a writer”? This is a trick question of course, because the patriarchy will find you whichever road you take ladies.

It’s quite easy to dismiss sexism in the publishing industry when so many people point to how many famous female authors there are writing wildly successful books which span wildly successfully franchises. Just a few of these authors (hold the groans for later) are E.L. James and Stephanie Meyer, whose books focus on romance, sex, and relationships in adolescents and 20 somethings. We also have Suzanne Collins and J.K. Rowling respectively, who have captivated the world with their stories of adventure and bravery and subsequently have earned millions of dollars off not just publishing their works but off movies, plays, and even theme parks!

Just these names and books alone, pop culture symbols of our time, should prove that women are represented very well in the publishing industry – and that whatever problems we had years ago have been eradicated by female authors like these.

Yet women are disproportionately outnumbered in the publishing industry in the reviews they provide and literary criticism they receive. Works by women are rarely taught as anything other than women literature, and this term itself blurs uncomfortably with “chick lit.”

But is there an obligation to make this discrepancy smaller? And am I part of that sweeping discrepancy by not speaking more about it?

I can only begin to ask these questions by solidifying the problem at hand, in establishing it as a troubling situation first and foremost.

VIDA (Women in Literary Arts) sought to face this theory head on with their study of books published by women writers in comparison to men and likewise books reviewed in various influential texts. A small consensus was the following from that yearlong study. ‘At Harper’s, there were 27 male book reviewers and six female; about 69 percent of the books reviewed were by male authors. In comparison with other prominent and critically acclaimed publishers is The London Review of Books – it was here where men wrote 78 percent of the reviews and 74 percent of the books reviewed. Then we have the most startling figure, men made up 84 percent of the reviewers for The New York Review of Books and authored 83 percent of the books reviewed.’

To wrap it up, men are disproportionately reviewing books and being reviewed, but are they disproportionately being represented in their published books compared to how many women submit their novels for publication? The numbers on a separate study would point to “yes” too.

And it’s not that men write better publishable books, although many people believe so. Case in point is this guy named VS Naipaul who received the Nobel for literature in 2011 or something before blasting out this great little line of wisdom in reference to the suppression of female writers:  “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me.”

Yes, this was said in the 21st century!

It’s an unshakable bias any female author faces with a little less zeal, but equal truth, as she queries to agencies (for the ill-informed or perhaps the lucky, this is sending a one letter summary of your novel, part of your manuscript, and your opinion on why it would sell.)

Even if she is unaware of what is happening in the minds of those agents, she should know now that men receive more attention for their work and ideas — they receive the benefit of the doubt.

And author Catherine Nichols reinforces this idea perfectly with her experiment she chronicled for Jezebel. Nichols sent her novel, which was receiving little to no attention in queries, under a different name – a male one. “George Leyer.” It was her hope that this would make a difference in whether or not she received responses.

It was a bold move. With her small feedback from it under her given birth name, she could have assumed like most people that it was not a good enough manuscript. It was not what the publisher was looking for at that time. Whether she was a man or woman, the work needed work. But she had a hunch she went on, and the hunch panned out in her hypothesis’ favor.

Nichols stated in the full article her results about Leyer: “He is eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book. Fully a third of the agents who saw his query wanted to see more, where my numbers never did shift from one in 25.”

To summarize: Everyone seemed to like her fictional male pen name’s manuscript more than they liked her.

After accepting, what I call modern tragedy, and reclaiming her original name, she set out to ask the other publishers who had denied her based on her female name why they did not get back to her with their interest the first time around. If you can believe it someone actually answered along the lines of: It was good, but as a first time novelist I did not think that you could keep this going.

Consequently with her name on the work, she was placed on an invisible scale each one of us gets placed on. If you are a man, the person reading your draft starts off with the perception that this could or will be great, and then for every comma splice, overused preposition, or fluffy prose that would make Hemingway cry, you lose points. For a woman it is the exact opposite. She starts with already not being perceive as talented, and she was must instead earn that talent. Which is why if there is one mistake or misprint in that query, it is practically effortless to discard.

Some of the publishing world is aware of their faults, others have no idea what they are doing even while doing it. None the less — it effects the female writer.

As it is not just “the little names” who endure this. It has, the hierarchy of the male publishing world, been placed on those great female novelists I mentioned before.

My favorite example (did we really expect anything less?) is J.K. Rowling, or rather Joanne Rowling. It was her agent who suggested a possible pen-name in 1997 for her series, because given the genre she was writing (fantasy) and the fact that her main character was an eleven year old boy, her agent worried about her appeal to this gender if they knew she was a female novelist.

Young boys are statistically less likely to read a novel by a female if given the chance between both a male and female author.

And so she became J.K. and received her first ever fan mail addressed as “Dear Sir.”

This still happens today. Magnus Flyte is a pseudonym for the writing duo of Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch, who wrote The City of Dark Magic series, a commercial fiction bestseller. And before you are wondering, if you were wondering at all, whether or not males write as females, sometimes men do publish under female names for the purpose of selling more romance (a woman dominated genre) novels. But this seems to be the only genre they change their identity for, which makes a perplexing point that romance is “women’s work” but every other genre is by default, left for the boys.

But the pen-name lives on. From the Bronte Sisters (Wuthering Heights) to Harper lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) to SE Hinton (The Outsiders) to even me.

And it’s important I stick myself in that list, not because it might be the only time my name will appear to next to authors of the great American novels but because I too have a pen-name. Ae Padilla, author of The Brigades of Aldo, Across Eight States, Ekland The Journal of Grayson Tyler Mitchell, a lot of articles and too many abandoned blogs floating around the internet.

The story of my own fictional pseudonym has its birth, I assume, in the same roots as some of the women writers who have come before me. As I have mentioned once or twice before, I wanted to be a writer since I was five. I have been writing since I was five. I remember clearly the first couple of books I wrote on copy paper, illustrated with crayons, and stapled together with pride as a child. As the years went by I started working on my first “real novel” and I decided then that I would probably have to wonder what to call myself.

I’ll start with the logistics. I was given, what to at least me was, a very difficult name. Alyssa? I know what you are thinking, it can’t be that difficult to pronounce. But again for me, being given it by a Mexican mom meant that it definitely was pronounced well “Mexican.” I never considered myself what my mother called me. But I also never accepted “ah-liss-uh” either. Thanks to my reluctance to that “white version of a girl who I did not see as me” and the hope for a happy medium…I found “Uh-lee-suh.”

As you can see, that was a bit of a clusterfuck of pronunciations for such a basic name. So I figured most people just thought I renamed myself for this reason. Or because my pen-name was eerily mysterious and sounded more like an author, a pen-name that demanded stories as interesting as its identity. (In reality though I do think about people with such “unique names” like Samuel Langhorn Clemens who switch it to something like Mark Twain – I mean it’s cool I suppose, but why Twain, why? Alas, a subject for another article.)

To me though there was so much more to picking a name than its purely functional purpose of being able to be said properly, and this is extremely ironic because people ask me whether it is A.E. or Ae and sometimes to this day I still shrug.

I researched when I was a teenager people like J.K. Rowling. I knew that I was writing a young adult book in first person through the eyes of a seventeen year old male. I remembered that saying: “men won’t be as likely to buy it.” I remembered that a lot. I could already see potential readers skeptical of a female writer writing about a male with authority. The fact that it was first person did not help. “She will get it wrong” I could also already hear; “it won’t be authentic.” And this, being the straw that broke the camel’s back, pushed me over the edge and there became Ae. The E for no reason other than that it balanced out my surname well. It looked and sounded right.

I said to myself, I have no one. I have no “in.” I don’t know anyone in the publishing world. I don’t have anyone who has published a book on my speed dial who will actually help me. I don’t know the first thing about this crazy world full of sometimes part equal work and luck, why am I going to hurt myself more and make my chances of success even smaller when they are already small to begin with? Something like 700 thousand – 1 million books a year get printed so why would I voluntarily tie another weight to my leg by being known as a woman?

But did I have a duty to female writers? Do I have a duty? Do I ever feel guilty for not embracing my call as a female author? Is that even a legitimate question?

I guess that would be if I consider myself a female author, something I think about more than anyone would expect. Which is honestly unfortunate as I never expect a male writer would sit down and ask with candidness: “am I a male writer?” That’s ridiculous, he would just be a writer.

And that’s how I used to think of myself as too (and still do.) Just a writer, looking to make her mark. Looking to be captivating, looking to tell stories that have not been told yet. But unfortunately that is not how most of society sees me, and in a profession where society dictates how much you make based on much your books sell, or how much praise you get for how much reviews you also get, what they think does actually matter. Because this is not a hobby to me, this is my career.

Which is why yes, I go back and forth on whether or not I have a duty to fellow women or whether or not I don’t. It’s not because I don’t think I have a moral duty to help out female writers who might need it, if I ever get in that position to help out fellow authors. Because I will, I will always make that a priority.

I struggle with the obligation because I do not even know myself whether I consider myself a female. At least in the writing sense.

Now let me back up here. I don’t identify as transgender in sexuality, but I do consider myself in my writing to be androgynous at times, not simply because I write males but because I can see and feel the presence of males as part of my own being when writing them – which might extend further beyond the ability to tap into a character. This is not to denounce my femaleness, or this is not to even claim that some writing is inherently female or male (although some scholars argue that there is a difference in reminiscent nostalgia among the work of women). This is to say and quote Virginia Wolfe on the essay “A Room of One’s Own” in which she states the androgynous brain might be the best one.

“But the sight of the two people getting into the taxi and the satisfaction it gave me made me also ask whether there are two sexes in the mind corresponding to the two sexes in the body, and whether they also require to be united in order to get complete satisfaction and happiness?”

It is not that the androgynous mind favors females but rather that it is inherently creative and undivided, not masked by a taught masculinity or stifled by the suppression women have endured.

And I get this, I understand it completely. If this can point to the reason why I feel I write men with ease then let that be that.

But again, do I feel shame for writing under a pen-name (notice I did not say male pseudonym)? Do I feel shame writing about men? To not dance around the questions any longer: sometimes yes.

In denying that I am female completely, but not wanting to be male either, I do not give up all femininity or what I love about being a woman with that new name, although the community would say that I am. I instead surrender myself to the idea that as a woman I have to do what I have to do to get ahead with my books, to help break or even crack the glass ceiling. But there comes the doubting voice that I also do not add to the amount of women saying “my name is good enough. And I will not surrender to the patriarchy.” The truth (and sometimes I wonder if it is a lie) that I tell to myself is that we can only have proof of just how much we can contribute if the novels get published in the first place. If there is something to direct our attention to, a physical outlet of what women can do even under male names, then we can call bullshit on the fact that they needed those male names in the first place to get there. But of course I wonder if that is fighting indirectly rather than fighting head on.

There are ways of course to fight head on, which can border on what I used to call “the extreme.” A year of only publishing female authors, as Small Press And Other Stories is doing in 2018, as a response to the call of having more female authors. Some, men and women alike, will point to how “unfair” this is. But most will not point to how unfairly women have been misrepresented in publishing thus far.

It presents itself to me like the case of affirmative action. The idea, only as an idea first. Do I want this to be done? No. But the truth is indisputable that affirmative action helped (helps) Blacks graduate from college in our country where they never would have before, because of the system that they were forced under. And this is the same. This will help woman get published, period. It doesn’t matter if we do not like that this has to get done, just that it does need to get done.

And it needs to be done not just for “fairness”. Because as much as writers can form a collective unit of experiences related to writing, they still somehow vary. Those who self-identify as women, even those with the androgynous mind, are still experiencing different life events because of their culture, family, job, but also because they are women. Like any group of people they bring new reference points, not to be confused with just one reference point we can encapsulate if we only publish five percent more female authors a year. One woman cannot speak for all women. But more women can embody more of their struggles, their acceptance, their flaws, and their power – them [us] as “womanhood.”

Like any group that is not the majority, the fight to be “the best” of that minority comes out frequently. I do it all the time. I catch myself needing to be the unparalleled female author because I know how coveted the spot at the top is, how there is only room for one, and how disheartened I get if someone else has written something similar to me and they are a woman. Because just like that, I think to myself, the spot was filled. It’s not right, but it is reality.

And I think about the duties, as said before. Because what about those male characters? Should I defend the ones I write or should I not care?

In my three novels I have written, all my protagonists are males. I didn’t intend for that in the beginning, the stories just demanded male characters. I wanted Christian Lozano (my protagonist from Brigades of Aldo) to be dealing with the emotional farewell of his brother, I wanted that to be very apparent in his story along with his heterosexual love for Avania, which meant simply he needed to be male. Sonny Crosson (from Across Eight States) was modeled closely after a romantic partner of mine. The whole book was a loose interpretation of why he ended up the way he did. Because of that, everything had to be as realistic as it could be, which of course included gender. And with Ekland it was about a school shooter. Because most school shooters are male and this is based off Columbine and the gunmen who were male, I again needed to make him, Grayson Tyler Mitchell, true to his sex.

You don’t have many males defending their choice of their male characters, but I feel as if I partly have to sometimes because I see the way that female characters are written about, how they act (yes this is a generalization) as nothing more than an accessory to a male plot. That their thoughts are shallow at best and that they usually are caricatures of a real person. My argument (funnily enough to myself probably) is not that I need to make my male characters female, but that I want to write more female characters –because they are not represented enough truly as the multi-faceted individuals they [we] are. Also, because I do sincerly feel as if the stories I write in the future will eventually call for it. The fact that I feel a tiny bit guilty though, unwarranted, means something. The pressure to walk the tightrope is there always.

Furthermore I worry of course about what I hope becomes a problem in life, the self-identifying as a female author if I ever do get acclaim for my work. Do I accept it? Or do I mimic Nathalie Sarrauteand and say that I am simply just an author? That by agreeing to that title of “female author” I am expressing women are second rate citizens of the world of literature, and that yes the female experience carries less value than the males.

Perhaps it comes back to, as every argument comes back to one point, whether or not I accept myself as that female author. I love being a woman, and consider myself one. I love being a writer, and consider myself one. But when I say I am a woman writer does that mean I am clumped with all the other female writers who, if you can believe it, have their own Wikipedia page because simply being an author is not sufficiently exclusionary? Am I then, by standing up for my gender, again labeling us into a confined space? I think in this situation, no. I hope instead that the receiving of this fictitious award in my head acts as a symbol of how far we are coming and still how far we need to go. The truth is some of these prizes would be gone if everyone was equally represented and equally critiqued. (Not all, because again women can share bonds as different groups do which only they understand and can commemorate.)

And yet where does that leave me then going forward? Even in the vacuum of the internet, where I post articles and blogs frequently, it is easy to get bombarded as a female writer. To be honest, I don’t even consider someone a true female writer unless they get verbally attacked for a comment meant to spark discussion but which will only result in attempted violence. As a female writer I have been called a bitch, a shallow whore, an ugly feminist, and have been told “you need to get fucked.” I have also been the attack of one threat of physical force, because as a woman on the internet and in particular being a woman writer, my physical body is always demoralized before my opinion and my work.

This might be the one profession in which being moderately attractive does not help me at all, it is in fact holding me back. I can never be taken seriously because I am just some “cute small woman writer”. I am not the face that people think of when they think of a novelist or a poet. I am not Allen Ginsberg holding a cigarette. I am not brooding enough in the male world. I must pick that author photograph with as much consideration as I almost do with my first sentence of my debut. Too pretty and too headshot like and I will be labeled “talentless teenage drabbles”, too serious and I will be labeled “uptight prude who thinks she is better than she is”. Again, it is a lose-lose situation if the internet comments mean anything. But that of course is the internet.

But what about what I consider my true work in the future? I plan, if no publishing agents contact me by the end of the year, to self-publish Ekland.

I think, every time I get a rejection letter, it could be something to do with the fact that I have been looked up and that they are well aware I am a woman. Not to say that the rejections are not because the story is controversial or even amateur, that does cross my mind too! Still, I think about changing Ae to Alex. I know that I will put my name on only the spine of the book, for aesthetics but also because I don’t want anyone Googling. I know I will not place a picture of myself in the inside of the book because I will be praying that no one knows I am a female before they buy it. “She won’t get it right,” they say. I know they are saying that and will say it. Believe me, I know.

So maybe if I had to lump myself into one category, I did pick the road where I would rather get acclaim and then do something after instead of writing under my own name and making it even more laborious in how I do get that acclaim.

I tell myself, with all sincerity backing this statement up, that being a female is one of the most beautiful gifts given to me along with my Hispanic heritage, although there is a whole other post about if racism exists in publishing (it does.) But Ae was first and foremost about a different identity. One of not the female or male. The one that was me as a writer. As Alyssa I am spontaneous, outgoing, stubborn, opinionated, warm, a little depressed, a little happy, and a whole lot of ADD. As Ae, I am my work, and that work should speak for itself on how much I put into it, how enthusiastically hardworking I am towards that passion.

I always said I was a writer first and a person second. If you are a writer, you get what that means.

I think to myself one last thought concerning all of this, which is that when I do “make it”, a term that means something much different to me than it does to you, I will stand there a little smug and say “ha, I not only defied the odds of being a writer but I did it as a woman. A Hispanic woman.”

But maybe that’s the whole point right there. Being a writer is hard enough. Writers are 121% more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder than the general population. Moreover, 38% more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Rates of alcoholism, drug addiction, and poverty are higher than the normal folk. Writers are also twice as likely to kill themselves. And damn that carpel tunnel right?

So why do I need to add any other struggles, along with that, to make myself feel like I accomplished something? Why do I need to add “female” to the list of trials and tribulations? I don’t. I shouldn’t.

But here’s to hoping it’s not there, even invisibly on that list, one day…for the next “Ae” or “Alyssa.”

Men: Put Down Your Guns

Tuscon shooting rampage suspect Jared Lee Loughner is pictured in this undated booking photograph released by the U.S. Marshals Service on February 22, 2011. REUTERS/U.S. Marshals Service/Handout

(The above people all have something in common. Let me give you a hint, they can pee standing up.)

As too often I have had to say this I say it again. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those involved in any senseless murders. I write to understand and to give more insight into how we can fix this troubling trend in our country.

Ae Padilla

Let’s regulate guns and let’s focus on mental health. Good, I got that out of the way quickly. Because I refuse to be (at least for now) one of the countless of Google results for the left and right argument about how to stop these seemingly normal killing sprees in our country. It’s not that I don’t think those articles are relevant, or that they don’t start a dialogue that should have been started a long time ago, because I do. I just think for the sake of a different opinion, and one of course I fully agree with, we need to discuss something that is not often discussed enough.

Because we do discuss these shootings, we discuss them frequently and it is usually perpetuated by the recent mass killing event like the one in Oregon at Umpqua Community College on October 1st 2015. We see them trending on twitter next to funny hashtags like #Imhappywhen (fill in the blank here.) We see them satirized on The Daily Show. We see them scrolling on the bottom of our breaking news bar. But we still never talk about the one fact that is staring us straight in the face.

How “American” of us to ignore the fact that 98 percent of those who commit mass murders are men. That all of these violent crimes, in what we deem one of the most civilized countries on Earth, are done by males and those who self-identify as males.

Now I know what you are thinking, an influx of thoughts I hope to hit spot on with my argument following this. The first being that I am a woman, which lends itself to the idea that I am man hating or man blaming. Yes, I am a woman. And yes, I am blaming men among other people. But hopefully you realize that is because we need to.

In a situation as pivotal as innocent lives being taken (and hopefully being saved) I have to follow statistics, because statistics never lie. The fact provided to us is that again 98 percent of those who go on mass killing sprees (a figure reinvented to shooting at least four people without a “cooling off” period) are men. With this declaration we have the “who” of our puzzle figured out automatically. Who does this? Males, more specifically males between the ages of 18-25. We have the where (spin the wheel ladies and gentlemen and pick between church, mall, school.) And we have the when (now every single day in the United States- as I write this two different shootings have occurred in two separate universities just in the past ten hours.)

But still there is that pesky little why. We all look for the why. We long for the why as a society. I wrote a whole book (Ekland) based on the why, why someone would commit the worst legal and moral crime a human can commit on a fellow human. But maybe what we should all be asking is not why. But why are men committing these crimes? Because maybe some more important answers will follow if we ask that question instead.

Let me instead make declarative statements than ask questions simply for the sake of asking questions. Men commit these massacres, unlike women, because they live in a society which fosters their entitlement to commit these acts. They live in a world which demands they have one hyper extended view on what masculinity means to them. Although a combination of biological urges, I would go as far as to say testosterone and innate aggression as do most scientists, contribute to these rampages, it is as I believe most things are — nurture over nature. We as a society accept the violence in males, denounce their violence too, and by doing so glorify that same extreme violence. In this case world, maybe you don’t need to pull the trigger to have a part you play in the murder of innocent people.

To start this off is to start off in childhood, before any male would ever be able to know what a mass shooting is, in the developmental years we didn’t know were so crucial until mom and dad blogs started popping up across the web. We’ve heard it before, and it resonates with us, because it rings true.

Boys are more likely to be hyper active and destructive when they are younger than girls because they are “hardwired” that way, because evolution over thousands of years has not changed from the days in which men had to be the dominating force in the family. This was and is due usually to external pressure from outside harm — basically men needed to be the protector, and the violence was warranted and justified. Women were (and are still) seen as the more nurturing types, hold any kitchen jokes.

In reality there is little research to prove this theory, and if part of that science does hold true then the actions behind what evolution would say are not.

In reality we are all a product of our society, (yes even you hipsters.) Because most likely we grew up, subconsciously or not, from an authoritative influence being told certain “truths.” Girls need to behave themselves and learn to communicate over tea cups. Boys can play around and hurt each other because my favorite: “boys will be boys.” That’s not to say that girls shouldn’t want to play house while boys should not want to roll around in the mud or vise versa, that is only to say that before kids are even aware of what gender differences mean they are being forced into them – and boys aggression, which can easily be turned to violence, is overlooked as something fun.

And we are ok with this “fun” because we realize that it is “make believe,” if only for the moment. If you aren’t buying it then you aren’t hanging around enough 5-7 year old boys. My own personal example, available to anyway who has been in a classroom, is the seemingly normal way that boys pretend to shoot each other when they play games. They raise their hand into a fake gun position, we’ve all done it, and then point it at another kid and yell “you’re dead, you’re dead.” They will probably laugh afterward, and really that’s the end of it.

Oh look at our acceptability of this so early on.

Lets be honest, no one pops out of the womb knowing what a hatchet, machete, or a gun is. Unless the republicans are reading the second amendment to their stomach, knowing your rights is not an option here. Where boys at such an early age get this idea of  normal gun violence is from you guessed it – the media.

Whether it be books, movies, or video games, firearms particularly the American handgun is rooted as being the intrinsic sign of male power. And boys pick up on this soon. Guns are given to sons as early gifts and fathers take their sons to gun shows before they can see over the counter. It’s not that I have any problem with the concept of a firearm, that I do not understand its purpose. I might lean to the left on a lot of issues, but with most of them I can see the middle. My problem with “the gun” is that we have placed it in the hands of young boys, who see it as a rite of passage too often and the only way to attain power. And that the more guns you have, the more people you kill on video games equals the more respect you have not even from others, and listen this is important here, but from yourself.

Let’s take the example of Vito Corelone, everyone’s favorite Italian from The Godfather. One of the main character as the “alpha” male for lack of a better term. His gun of choice? A Smith & Wesson Model 27 Snub nosed revolver with 3.5″ barrel – .357 magnum. Not to dismiss that there were no double barrel shotguns used in this film at all, but what is so striking about his firearm is how “small” it would be by today standards. A gun like that, in a figure we deem a hero in an action movie nowadays, wouldn’t be enough for us. That’s why it only took about twenty five years give or take for Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss to use semi-automatic guns in the Matrix.

You might be thinking, well there is a female right there, using a gun as a male would! Clearly this is not just a male issue. Yes females use guns, but in the context of popular culture they use it as an accessory to their attractiveness, not all that different from how a female in modern times might be found more desirable because she goes to the range. With males in the media, the more guns they have and more importantly the bigger their guns or weapon of choice (think The Terminator here) is the more power they have. The direct relation cannot be argued, and more importantly the idea of guns being “womanized” proves this point also. How many times, I am speaking to the women who have bought a gun, have you been directed toward a pink gun to buy? I know I have.

Now there is nothing wrong with buying a pink gun, they look pretty cute if guns can be cute, but what happens when one is offered to you is a display of the niche market that gun makers are catering towards – women. Men are the ones who own the most firearms and they are the ones who control first and foremost how they look and how they are branded.

To summarize: boys are able to realize that guns kill and that guns are commanding, two deadly combination early in life. And when you add into the mix entitlement it only gets worse.

Unless you fail to acknowledge any type of history, please disregard Texas History books as actual history, then you know that men, particularly White Christian men, have always been the most privileged people in this country. They are the only group of people that have never been denied their unalienable rights. They were always allowed to vote. They were always allowed to own firearms. With privilege comes, unless actively worked against it, entitlement. This is the idea that White men feel as if they are owed everything because they once were given it before…usually at the expense of others.

Never for a second believe that entitlement does not lead men to formulate these mass killings we see today, because it does. Entitlement from the male shooter can come from the threat of his religion or race, the religion or race he feels all “alpha” males should have. It can come from the belief that he should have gotten a raise at a job (because losing a job to men has been statistically seen as a harder emotional burden to carry) or it can come from the simple rejection from women.

Case in point for these observations is first, Dylan Roof. “I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. … We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the Internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.” Roof, writing his manifesto, focused on the duty he felt that he had to rid the world of Black people because they were posting a threat to how he perceived America (a place of the superior White Christian man.) Killing nine churchgoers in Charleston was his way of reaffirming his entitlement in this country.

Or Elliot Rodger of the 2014 Isla Vista Killings in California who according to Wikipedia “ described his childhood, family conflicts, frustration over not being able to find a girlfriend, his hatred of women, his contempt for racial minorities and interracial couples, and his plans for what he described as “retribution”” in his own manifesto. Targeting women in a sorority as he drove by shooting at them, he displayed what too many of these killers have in common: everyone else, including women, are the problem.

This is not to say that every killer is White, and that this race is the downfall of all of these murderers. Seung-Hui Cho, the man responsible for the deadliest violent gun act on this country at Virginia Tech was South Korean. But Seung-Hui Cho, like countless others, complained often about the women who had rejected him, the hope for a girlfriend, and the disappointment that he was still a virgin. In fact many of these men die virgins including the Columbine Killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who rant in their journals about their sexual shortcomings. Harris himself in 1999 said: “If people would give me more compliments all of this [the attack] might still be avoidable…. You know what, maybe I just need to get laid. Maybe that’ll just change some shit around.” He goes onto write his “hit list” which include women who have rejected him (this is extremely common with all killers.)

Because in a world that we live in the rejection from women is not just a personal blow, but one that can snowball into wanting to kill the women who reject them. It does not matter if they actually end up killing those particularly women, just that this is seen as an acceptable thought pattern for them.

In the case with race among men who attack people, there have been an increasing number of minorities who commit mass murders. In direction proportion of killers to the general population White men still outnumber by just a small fraction, but they do. White men seem to kill people on a larger scale but Black men are disproportionately likely to commit homicides and be the victims. My argument is that men in general, and the increasing number of minority men who do kill on a mass level are remembering their status quo or buying into their new one – they deserve to kill because they are better than everyone in the classroom or public space they kill. Isn’t it easier to walk into a place and start firing when you feel as if you are better than everyone in that place? When the world has been telling you that since you were born?

It’s easy of course to point to mass killings as our basis in all facts about men killing, but most of the gun violence in our country happens domestically. 70 percent of mass shootings actually happen inside a house, and most of them are perpetuated by men. The victims are often women and children and those men that are killing them most likely know them. Usually a revenge killing by an ex-boyfriend or by someone who was been “wronged” by a women is what triggers these acts. These aren’t discussed enough, and most likely will continue not to be, because it is often looked at as a personal issue and not sensational enough to be on the news. But here again is men for the most part in the roll of killer.

And that roll is not just on other people, it is often on themselves too. There will be others who jump on the idea that I am waving a pitchfork hoping to bring down the entirety of the male species, that is not the case at all. Often I speak about the trouble that men go through with gun violence, inflected on them by the help they do not or rather cannot seek. Millions of men a year commit suicide, but like domestic abuse, it is rarely talked about. For a few reasons this holds true: the idea that committing suicide is an act we wish as a society never happened. Because of course, it garners no clicks on articles, and because it would remind us that that we are not doing enough to help the men who do this.

While women are more likely to attempt suicide it is men unfortunately who go through with the act more, because men often assist the help of firearms to kill themselves as opposed to pills or other methods which are capable of being stopped. While women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, it is men that are unable to take the steps to help themselves with depression and suicidal thoughts.

In a society which demands that men “man up” a male talking about their problems is simply the last thing he wants to do, he would rather instead take out his anger on a group of people and get killed or commit suicide in the process. Which begs the question, are some mass murderers killing people simply because they can’t say I need help?

That may seem like pushing the boundary but I don’t think it is at all. Countless reports across college campuses and from psychiatrists state that men are less likely to seek help and less likely to go therapy, a choice which could ultimately save their lives. And they don’t do this because they have been brought into a world which states that having depression is a “woman problem.” And that if you are sad, the only word acceptable to use because how dare you use depressed, than talking is not the way to alleviate yourself of feeling this way. That is why often after the death of people, or after divorces, men find their outlet for depression as being more active. This can be anything from running to fixing cars to playing video games. But most of the time they try to brush it off, even taking care of others before taking care of themselves.

But what does this have to do with shooters? It has a great deal to do with them actually, considering that a reports puts those who go on rampages as usually being suicidal first. The number is somewhere around 70 percent and that should hopefully wake up America’s shrugging attitude of indifference. (By the way, when I heard that Christopher Harper-Mercer was apparently discharged from the army for a suicide attempt I was not surprised, it actually made more sense.)

It does not matter how we can help innocent victims if we do not help the victims before they become the perpetrators, which is why it was very important to me to write a line in Ekland which deals with this idea (I swear I can’t plug my book if it is not even on shelves.) “They would only care about us because we were a threat to others never because we were a threat to ourselves.” In all honesty, sad but true, how often do people say “why didn’t he just kill himself?” after the events we have read about too often on the news. Shame on us for even thinking that in context to not saving innocent lives but dismissing someone elses.

Can we make our world a place where the actions to help men’s self aren’t physical? I hope so. But they come from women and from men alike. It’s not enough to hear the funny dismissive words of men saying that women will never go on rampages because women are too nice and not crazy enough to do anything like that. That is not complimenting a women it is not taking accountability as men.

Before anything else is thrown this blog’s way, violence in women is slowly but steadily on the rise too, and it has been apparent before. 16 year old Brenda Spencer in 1979 shot at an elementary school injuring eight students before answering to cops why she did it simply with “I don’t like Mondays.” Then we have a foiled plan in 2015 from a woman who wanted to commit mass murder with her friend on Valentine’s Day. She hoped to be “The first female shooter” – proving that maybe the only way we will start remembering the names of the people who do this now is if the names are female.

We talk about statistics, we talk about what we could do to curb these horrifying heinous acts. If 98 percent of people who did this were White, Black, Hispanic, Asian we would talk about it. If 98 percent of people who did this resided in the south we would talk about this. Hell if 98 percent of people who did this were obsessed with one certain movie we would talk about it. We would dissect it that much.

But we won’t talk about this. Why is that? Is that because after everything this is the most politically incorrect thing to say? You tell me.

But the statement stands true. Men, put down your guns.