Struggling to make sense of Elliot Rodger’s rampage at UC Santa Barbara last Friday, murdering six men and women and wounding thirteen others before killing himself, whether we blame mental illness or lax gun law enforcement, the roots of his rage were his misogynist hatred of and sense of sexual entitlement to the women he objectified, as illuminated by his chilling 137-page manifesto.
Per Amanda Hess: “Rodger hated all the women who did not provide him sex, but he also resented the men he felt had been standing in the way of his conquests…” It is too simple to dismiss Rodger as a lunatic and look away, though that may be the desired response of many.
A twitter hashtag, #NotAllMen emerged after the crimes as a reflexive male reaction, an aversion to the possibility of being grouped with a maniac. Much coverage has been devoted to the viral twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen that erupted in response, with thousands of women around the country sharing their own experiences with violence and harassment. Predictably, these messages have gotten backlash in some online communities.
Women are not blaming all men, but instead wish to enlist men; to engage and enlighten as to the daily experiences women negotiate that they would likely be exempt from if they were treated with respect. The #YesAllWomen responses have numbered over one million in the past 72 hours, and are still going strong, reflecting frustration, terror and anger boiling over at these types of events happening again and again.
Katie McDonough’s piece in Salon sums it up:
It would be irresponsible to lay this violence at the feet of the men’s rights activists with whom Rodger seemed to find support for his rage. …But it also denies reality to pretend that Rodger’s sense of masculine entitlement and views about women didn’t matter or somehow existed in a vacuum. The horror of Rodger’s alleged crimes is unique, but the distorted way he understood himself as a man and the violence with which he discussed women — the bleak and dehumanizing way he judged them — is not. Just as we examine our culture of guns once again in the wake of yet another mass shooting, we must also examine our culture of misogyny and toxic masculinity, which devalues both women’s and men’s lives and worth, and inflicts real and daily harm. We must examine the dangerous normative values that treat women as less than human, and that make them — according to Elliot Rodger — deserving of death.
Rodger’s manifesto should strike fear not only in the hearts of women, but men as well. Whatever illness he suffered, his mindset was a product of our culture, and in this case, men were collateral damage.
Rodger’s behavior was also not isolated. UC Santa Barbara reported two gang rapes in the immediate months prior to this massacre. Elsewhere in the U.S., a boy just killed a girl for refusing to go to Prom with him and another man hit a woman in the head with a bowling ball, cracking her skull, because she turned down his advances.
While the loss of the men Rodger killed are every bit as tragic as the women, violence against women remains far more common. These kinds of behaviors only emerge in a culture where women are considered trophies, property, objects, toys, dolls, sluts and cartoons.
The more media, advertisers, comedians, politicians, and social media influencers objectify and denigrate women – and the majority of men, and indeed, some women, voice no objection – the message is sent that women are not human beings.
This is not about the victimhood of women, but it is realistic to note that objections must also come from men who are still in charge of the bulk of entertainment and news media and control the narrative.
“As long as violence against women, sexual or otherwise, remains strictly and exclusively a women’s issue, it will always be an issue. We men must own this and we must recognize it as vital to our own survival. And we must help our brothers to see it as such.”
— Ben Affleck
Vital Voices Global Partnership
Women in colleges across the country are told to carry pepper spray and travel in packs for safety. The White House has even gotten involved to draw attention to an epidemic of under-reported violence against women at campuses nationwide.
From The New York Times:
On Twitter and Facebook, women voiced their own experiences with verbal and physical harassment and abuse. There were postings from some who said they wore fake wedding rings to avoid advances from men and others who said that saying no to a man “was only the start of negotiation.”
Several others wrote about being told by boyfriends and husbands that they deserved being abused. They spoke of law enforcement and school administrators ignoring pleas for help.
Hannah Goodwin, a graduate student in film studies… said, “No one ever has the right to demand access to others’ bodies, and you never owe anyone access to your body.”
As a teenager getting off the subway late at night on my way home from my summer job, I remember walking ten steps behind a woman who swung a large scissors in her hand for protection. Her defensive posture and swagger told its own story. No woman does that without reason.
If I were to put up tweets of my own they would look something like this:
My mode of dress has often been determined by fear.
I grew up with eyes in the back of my head.
My father said, “Don’t walk too near the buildings because they can pull you into an alley. Don’t walk to near the curb because they can pull you into a car. Walk fast down the street and make a mean face.”
I have been followed, flashed, grabbed, groped, insulted, catcalled and let’s not forget the truck driver who screamed at me out his window, “Sit on my face, baby.”
Thirty years of various on the job sexual harassment – especially when I worked at The New York Times.
I have had a man put his fist through a door six inches from my face. Message received.
And I’m one of the very lucky ones.
Slate reported on a New York Post cover story and photo intimating it was the fault of a childhood crush who didn’t gratify Rodger for sending him over the edge. We can deride this by saying, “consider the source” – yet there is an appreciative readership out there that likely agrees. That, too, is not isolated.
It is never a woman’s job to befriend or provide sex to someone she does not want. Period. Or who is clearly unstable and at any moment, could harm her without the slightest provocation.
The New Yorker, reported that Rodger wrote he wanted to “[O]versee a concentration camp and gleefully watch [women] all die. If I can’t have them, no one will…”
Of course it is “not all men,” but the rhetoric women read from Rodger reminded them of familiar rants they have heard elsewhere in their lives.
“If I can’t have her, then no one will.”
How many times has a man murdered his wife or girlfriend operating on that same mindset? Those chilling words are what prompted the #YesAllWomen hashtag and implore us to have a serious dialogue on how we can educate our young men.
As reported by Soraya Chemaly:
“Number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq: 6,614.
Number of women, in the same period, killed as the result of domestic violence in the US: 11,766.”
How can we enlist the good guys out there to be more outspoken in stopping the violence, vitriol and be intolerant of perpetrators?
Leo Babauta penned A Father’s Manifesto Raising Young Men to Respect Women. A few of his words:
Let’s let them read the #YesAllWomen discussion going on right now, and help them see the point of view of women who have been abused or raped, who feel degraded or unsafe, who are treated as things that must give sex to more powerful men. Let’s let them hear the stories, so they can understand, empathize.
Let’s help them open their hearts, as we try to open our own
…Because every one of us deserves to feel respected, and safe.
The truth is in sharing their experiences, women are not blaming all men, but want to empower themselves by no longer keeping silent, as well as fostering understanding that takes away the ‘us vs. them’ mentality. Unless men see women as human being and not objects, and speak out against those who do, this kind or horror and violence will continue.
As Danielle Paradis stated, while we talk of mental illness, “it buries the things we don’t like to talk about: the roles that entitlement and misogyny play in senseless acts of violence.”
*Originally published at EPIC TIMES
Anita Finlay is the bestselling author of Dirty Words on Clean Skin. Sharing the untold story of Hillary’s 2008 campaign, Dirty Words exposes media sexism in a society not as evolved as advertised. “The book tells it like it is for women aspiring to power.” #1 on Amazon’s Women in Politics books for 16 weeks.
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I think we as a nation have a problem with the concept of “evil.” We want to make sense of this man’s actions, but we never will. We can never make sense of “evil.”
No we can’t, Cindy. But the scary part is that his statements echo so many of the hateful words women hear every day. I think that’s what made the #YesAllWomen hashtag go viral. This struck a chord beyond the deeds of one madman. Thanks so much for commenting.
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