The news that 22-year-old Elliot Rodger went on a shooting spree just minutes after posting a disturbing video and manifesto, detailing his outrage against the women who rejected him was undoubtedly shocking.
His violent actions have subsequently (and rightly) sparked a larger conversation about how some markers of masculinity foster misogynistic views towards women in general.
In a video he posted to YouTube before going on a killing spree near his school at Santa Barbara City College, Elliot Rodger ranted about how he had “suffered” throughout his sex-less adolescence, blaming women for his loneliness and misery. To quote his YouTube tirade:
College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. But in those years I've had to rot in loneliness. It's not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me. I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me. But I will punish you all for it. I'll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you.
For those on campus in Isla Vista, California, the tragic events of that Friday evening are a worst-case scenario, but not entirely unlike what is occurring across many (if not all) college campuses in America: Women are being endangered simply because they are women. And, unfortunately, the majority of their perpetrators are men, many of whom these women know, and some of whom they even trust.
The shootings represent an extreme and unfortunate case in which one deranged individual decided to "punish" the women he believed had deprived him of the affection he "deserved."
But the sentiments of Elliot Rodger are not necessarily the simple ramblings of an extremely troubled and mentally ill individual.
Instead, his beliefs — about how women "owe" men, about how men are entitled to women's (to quote Elliot Rodger here) "affection, and love, and sex" — are more mainstream in the male population than many might care to admit.
And, of course, not all males are misogynists with violent tendencies or skewed views about women’s place in society. Although, unfortunately, there are certainly a lot of instances in which guys have felt like the expensive three-course dinner or the sweet text exchange earlier in the day earned them a kiss at the door or the right to reach for her bra hook during a make-out session.
This attitude is exactly what constitutes male entitlement towards a woman’s body, and this is the motivation (although, of course, in a more extreme manifestation of it) Elliot Rodgers cited in the YouTube video and 137-page document he posted just minutes before his killing spree.
Elliot Rodger’s attack has initiated a much-needed dialogue about what these toxic attitudes mean for women. And as the death toll (six were fatally wounded, while 13 others were injured) indicates, the bottom line is nothing good.
When women are subjected to a male-dominated society in which men normatively discriminate against them, females will continue to be victimized — not only physically, but also through social issues, like unequal pay.
And if we continue to allow "masculine" behavior to be applauded and encouraged — as seen through guys who are patted on the back for being aggressive assh*les on the trading floor or bros who archaically believe women shouldn't be the ones to make the first move -- we'll only help to buoy the notion that male characteristics are good, while "feminine" ones make you weaker and subpar (or as it might be described in a perfect, case-in-point example: a "p*ssy").
Elliot Rodger, for example, assumed an arrogant (albeit contorted) view of a "true alpha male" and attempted to prove his manliness through the ultimate form of masculinity — physical violence that resulted in the murder of innocent people.
The popularization of the #YesAllWomen hashtag, first used on Saturday in response to these attacks, shows the plethora of women who have felt not only susceptible to some form of violence at the hands of men, but also importantly, the discrimination that they experience simply for being women.
Over 1 million users have utilized the hashtag over the last few days, highlighting harrowing stories and other frustrations relating to how society mistreats women. Another emerging hashtag, #notallmen, was created to describe how not every man was an abuser or misogynist.
But as #YesAllWomen points out, all women have (or, sadly, will) be impacted by misogyny, be shamed for certain actions or be forced to fear an outcome that might result from walking home alone at night or not watching their drink in a crowded bar.
No woman should be forced to fear her everyday actions, but every woman acknowledges that there is still a very real inequality in the world, and one that mandates that women are the ones who have to take precautions if they don’t want to become victims. But really, it’s men who should be changing their ways and thinking in order to assure that women are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.
An anti-woman website has predicted (somewhat gleefully) more Elliot Rodger-esque scenarios ending in mass murder. It's pathetic that such a platform exists, but the even sadder reality is that its patrons are probably right — attacks against women will only continue if we don’t find a way to rehabilitate the views that posit females as objects, to be owned and used, for male pleasure and purpose.
Photo via Twitter