Right. Elliot Rodger and the Isla Vista shootings. Within hours of the story breaking, a number of friends and readers got in touch asking if I was going to write a reaction piece. After five minutes on my newsfeed and on Twitter, I was overwhelmed by exhaustion. That was my dominant emotion. Not anger, not frustration, not sorrow. Just numbing here-we-go-again exhaustion. After half an hour, I did not want to write about this. And watching the conversations pick up speed and the comments roll in – the justifications, the derails, the rationalizations, the outright defenses – made it all feel even more hopeless.
But then I spoke to my sister, who reminded me why it’s important to keep writing and that even if it feels repetitive, these things can’t be said too many times. So thanks, Lars. Also, many of these points are hers or riffing on hers.
And now, in no particular order, my thoughts:
1. There exists a sub-section of men who literally cannot sit through a discussion of structural misogyny without receiving constant and emphatic reassurance that no one is accusing them personally of being a misogynist. This is a derail and an attempt to shut down debate. Because, to quote Sometimes, it’s just a cigar:
“Suppose you disagree with women about whether rape is part of the structure of our society, used to reinforce patriarchy. Do you make that debate possible by standing on your wounded pride, and just insisting that the debate must start with a disclaimer that says you’re not a rapist? Forgive me, but that’s nothing more than narcissism.”
The conviction that you have never participated or been complicit in structural misogyny is dubious to say the least, no matter what your gender. But even if you are resolute that you, personally, have managed to transcend the system you were born and raised in and now stand as a shining beacon of gender equity outside the mire of patriarchy? Good for you, but structural misogyny still exists and we still need to have a conversation about it. If you think you have nothing to learn, go play elsewhere on the internet.
2. What Elliott Rodger did was extreme in its scale, but not in its nature. Men attack and kill women for rejecting them all the time. Two women are killed by a violent partner or ex-partner every week. Last month, a 16 year-old boy stabbed a 16 year-old girl to death because she turned down his invitation to junior prom.
3. Sex is not a magic cure for all that ails you. Love and companionship are, at best, a band-aid for your existing emotional issues. Yet a disturbing amount of men cling to the premise that if Rodger had only gotten laid by one of those hot blonde sluts he both coveted and despised, he would not have been such a deeply damaged and damaging individual. Sure, the majority of these men don’t have a mainstream platform and are instead anonymously raging in comment threads across the internet, so it feels easy to dismiss them. But sometimes I think we forget that it takes a real live person to sit down and write a comment.
4. In any case, the tabloids have already found a woman to blame and bikini-clad picture of her to go with it.
5. I said it on Twitter, and I’ll say it again: how many pages of misogynistic vitriol does a killer have to write before we can call him a misogynist? This killer wrote a substantial dissertation on the topic “All women are evil sluts who should be exterminated” and yet the mainstream media is still shying away from attributing the motive to misogyny. The Sunday Times ran the story alongside an article about another shooting, near a Jewish Museum in Brussels. At least a third of that article was focused on antisemitism. The Isla Vista piece, though significantly longer, contained one line mentioning “misogyny” and no discussion of the wider problem of gender-based violence.
Internet, if we cannot have a conversation about the large and well-documented intersection between violence and misogyny after this, then WHEN?
6. If I had written this as a movie script last year, it would be dismissed as ludicrously over-the-top feminist propaganda.
7. Rodger was a fucked up individual. I do not know if he had any underlying mental conditions. I do not know what went on in his sessions with his therapists. I’m not a psychologist, and I think if I was, I would know that an armchair diagnosis via the internet is bad practice. I do not have access to his medical records. What I do have is access to a 140-page manifesto which includes a fantasy about watching women starve to death in a concentration camp, plus a video where he explains that he is going on a killing spree to punish women for not sleeping with him. There is no need for extrapolation or reading between the lines. The killer states his motive, plain and simple.
And this is the thing. There are certain mental illnesses and personality disorders that can exacerbate an individual’s capacity for rage and their tendency to act on violent impulses. But even if Rodger was suffering from such an illness, this does not explain why his anger was directed at women with laser-like focus and intensity. That focus was not guided by his own pathology, but by external influences. Sealing a “madman” off in a vacuum away from the rest of the world is a convenient way of pretending that he is an aberration, a freak swimming against the tide of our cultural norms and values. But there is no known mental illness that makes you hate women.
8. On that note, Asperger’s syndrome and autism are not commonly associated with violent rage or murderous tendencies.
9. I do not know the extent to which Rodger was involved in the Men’s Rights/Pick-Up Artists movements (loosely known as the Manosphere). I do know he regurgitates many of their main talking points in his manifesto and his grandiose rhetoric would not be out of place on many of the forums and blogs that comprise these movements. I also know that these movements are scary. Sure, I spend a lot of time reading We Hunted The Mammoth (an excellent blog that does the hard job of tracking and mocking Manosphere denizens), boggling at their convoluted logic, laughing at their purple prose. But ultimately, it’s scary to think that there are huge communities of men out there dedicated to hating you and encouraging others to hate you. Movements that convince already awkward and alienated teenage boys that pain and loneliness are things women inflict on them, deliberately and gleefully. While they hate you, they also want to use your body for their pleasure. It’s scary to live in the same world as these men.
10. You know it’s bad when people are are trying to steer the conversation towards gun control.
11. #YesAllWomen have met Elliot Rodger. We have met him in bars, on our way home, in work, on buses and trains, at weddings, on holidays, in our own bedrooms. We may not have met a mass murderer, but I can guarantee you we have all met the “perfect gentleman” who turned nasty when he did not get his way, who became enraged or even violent when we refused to abide by his internal script of how our interaction should play out.
I met him here. More recently, I met him in a bar where I was having drinks with six female friends. He approached our table and started loudly trying to insert himself into the conversation. I said, politely but firmly, “Actually, our friend is leaving the country tomorrow and we’re here to spend time with her.” His face darkened and he told me in acid tones that girls like me should keep their mouths shut. My friend intervened, and he called her an ugly bitch. He stormed off, but then stormed back to show us his expensive watch and, by implication, what we were missing. Later, we saw him harassing a different table of women. When we left, no one said anything, but by silent consensus we did not go our separate ways until we were well shot of the bar and sure that we had not been followed. Because it’s difficult to tell the difference between the drunk who is going to stumble home to bed with a bruised ego and the drunk who wants to make you pay for rejecting his company.
The way that man’s face twisted up into a snarl of hatred as I told him we did not want his conversation stayed with me as I fell asleep that night.
12. Rodger is scary because he is familiar.
13. Anecdotes are not evidence, but they are reassuring when it feels like you spend half of your life trying to convince people that this is a real thing. They are comforting when you feel like you spend most conversations about sexual harassment, rape, domestic abuse, ad nauseam, stroking the hand of your well-meaning perplexed male friend, saying, “No, no, I don’t mean you! Of course not! I mean, it’s complicated, but on a structural level… and yes, it’s awful that a girl was once rude to you, and rejection is awful… but it’s just that rape culture… ok, no sorry, I know you don’t like that term, I won’t use it… and yes, some feminists are extreme, but that’s not really the point… what I mean is…never mind, I don’t want to ruin the evening…”
14. #YesAllWomen gave me some hope.
15. The Isla Vista shootings were a logical conclusion of the idea that sex is something women owe men; a toll we should pay in exchange for walking around the world unmolested and unharmed. The reaction to the shooting is the logical conclusion of a society that will twist itself into knots to avoid talking about misogyny as anything other than a “tendency” in a few unstable individuals, or a Very Bad Thing that happens in Foreign Countries. This is the logical conclusion of misogyny and the refusal to acknowledge that it is a structural problem. And it kills.
16. Have some reading:
- The Belle Jar – Elliot Rodger And Men Who Hate Women
- Laurie Penney – Let’s call the Isla Vista killings what they were: misogynist extremism
- Laurie Penney – Speaking on NPR
- Dr. Nerdlove – Elliot Rodger and the Price of Toxic Masculinity
- Ari Laurel – Elliot Rodger and Masculinity as a Culture of Violence
- Sometimes, it’s just a cigar – Principle, practice and ‘not all men’
- Stephanie Lord – #YesAllWomen: What difference does it make?
- Zoe Stavri – An open letter to all men
- Arthur Chu – Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds
16 thoughts on “elliot rodger and the logical conclusion”
Huh. It’s like you aren’t even reflecting on the knowledge that he killed a fairly even number of men & women. Handy for all of you, so that way you wouldn’t have to change the generalised, echo-chamber viewpoint you hold in the slightest.
Or, wait, men can’t be victims in this ‘ideology,’ can they? Men, who die in far more horrible ways than old age on a consistent basis in the world today? Or do you only listen to the news reports about the abused or killed women? Hate to remind you, but they’re a very low percentage of weekly deaths, & only the most enflaming deaths – those who we are raised to believe are weak & innocent – are the ones that make the 6 & 9 o’clock death reports. Well, them and the ones involving psychopaths who recorded their manifestos. The rest are just uninteresting, less-than-photogenic men. And foreigners.
Let’s face it, & if you won’t, then you’re worse than children in terms of petulance. At least they’re actually naive.
When you’re perfectly grand with labeling MRAs as terrorists, the kind of people who use explosions & hostage situations to get their point across, you’ve loosened your own screws & thrown them down a gutter.
Never mind that you’re simply promoting the very essence of bigotry & hatred by taking all I said & ignoring the point, but in order to dance around any logic that would prove you wrong you would rather circumvent, distort & twist any statement, take it out of context & abbreviate it, for the small satisfaction of your own cheap little online dig in at your ‘aggressor’ & the soundless praise of peers.
I am not any better, or any worse than you, really. But I have the distinct difference of knowing the personal source of my bias, & that galvanises me from becoming everything I hate. Although, I don’t owe you or anyone else here the details of that. You see, I have the notion that if I present any human weakness here you’d nosedive in like a rabid animal on an open, bloody wound. Because men would not be allowed to reconcile & give charity in place of ruthlessness by the terms of the Status Quo. One upheld by the cunts of your gender & the dicks of mine, the figurative if not literal sub-humans that hold back our species & keep this trivial gender war going strong, along with any kind of toxic rage.
The foundation of your thinking should be stronger, if all you do with your words is promote the generalised bias of feminism blindly & never question the authority of your echo chamber.
Oh don’t you dare stir up the Feminist Hive Mind!
On a more serious note, you should really try that reflecting thing, it does wonders for relieving the symptoms of being a douche.
And who precisely is responsible for said mayhem? Hmmm…? Think hard, Biscuit.
Thank goodness you commented again, my supply of male-tears was getting frightfully low.
I might if you stop abusing the ampersand.
I suspect not, as your grasp of reality seems to be tenuous at best…really.
Yours is, demonstrably, a war of word salad. The only war going on right now is the oppression of women by men.
Since you have demonstrated that you have no knowledge of what feminism is, any critique you offer is based on nothing but the creaky fartbeans that rattle around in your mouldering skull.
Fartbeans are boring. You are boring.
There must be other corners of the interwebs just brimming with misandry that require your special attentions much more than here.
I had a very similar reaction when this tragedy happened. Initially, I couldn’t motivate myself to write about it but ultimately I mustered the strength.
Re: #4 – I hadn’t heard about that – so scary!!
Re: #7: Exactly! Misogyny may be exacerbated by mental illness but it is not a mental illness! It is a function of a society that consistently and regularly degrades women and has done so for a very long time.
[…] explaining sexism 101 to different guys but will never tire of trying to get people to understand. Here’s a good post I read from one of my favourite bloggers on her thoughts on it […]
Excellent post. I love your writing. And thanks for the link back. 🙂
“The Santa Barbara shooting was a logical conclusion of the idea that sex is something women owe men; a toll we should pay in exchange for walking around the world unmolested and unharmed.” That idea is an oxymoron in itself. I mean, what it describes is rape. If the woman is obliged to have sex with the man, then she’s in no way unmolested or unharmed. Someone who thinks that is demanding that women rape themselves with him. That’s how disgusting it is.
Thank you for writing this. I too have been moved by comments #yesallwomen . Had a few heated discussions, trying to get men to listen without tip toeing, had to apologize a few times cause I hurt some men’s feelings. I pressed on because this is a discussion long over due. Thanks again.
LOVED YOUR POST.
NICE WORK 🙂
Great Piece! Something that all of us as men need to take in and learn from. http://wp.me/p4oODX-1m
THAT is a statement bordering on pandering for social acceptance. Which is grand for me, since it validates my opinion.
If there is anything we need learn from Rodger, it’s in his actions & not a feminist dissertation, which points to a simplified conclusion & fuels a bias for MRAs instead of calling a spade a spade. Why he expressed himself by his commodities, why he went & snapped to do the polar opposite of his initial hopes & goals, & why they were shallow imitations of obeisance anyway are all answered by the obvious elephant in the room; because he thought all of those values & validation from women was something that he needed to function as an individual. And that makes me loathe him for that imbred weakness, the irony of it!
Men like that are not everywhere, & sure by physical qualities he may indeed fit a profile, if you follow the same criteria as a film extras agency (which, to be perfectly honest here, I feel the author of this piece would do. Nothing short of a 6 pack, 6 inch biceps & a cowed bear, wrestled into submission, huh?) but the levels of self-entitlement & sheltered lifestyle for that maniac is unique even amongst the deluded characters of the world. Airbrushing that tidbit of rationality so that indeed ‘ALL MEN ARE MONSTERS’ is an act of equal fear & delusion.
The first stepping stones of individuality, cheesy as it sounds, is awareness. Awareness of yourself, the outlying influences of the modern world & of course your immediate life. If you really keep that notion in your mind, you can recognise when there are people you come across in life trying to give themselves that benefit of living. Sure, the MRAs across the world are at first awakened to their outlook by quite likely outrage & sheer frustration, but you know what happens then? They try their goddamn hardest to not be prey to the irrationality that anger brings to their minds, as it clouds their judgement for a movement as a whole. Now, when you consider that Feminism & the lauded keyboard warriors choosing to campaign against ‘The Patriarchy’ let anyone into their movement, (including that gorilla Sarah Jay, remember her?) and DON’T check themselves for the sake of rationality, there is a clear difference in each movement’s manifesto, isn’t there?
Also, Point 11 is almost immediately debunked by the logic of Point 13. That’s just sad. Never hear of proofreading?
I’ll end my dissection of this ‘article’ by going over this little misleading quote.
“15. The Santa Barbara shooting was a logical conclusion of the idea that sex is something women owe men; a toll we should pay in exchange for walking around the world unmolested and unharmed.”
While it may indeed be this idea that drove this envious, less-than-individual character to murder, the real damage comes from trying to fit into this worldview to begin with, thinking of such a shallow expression as the highpoint of existence. People are blaming the NRA for gun control, not enough people are saying that the police already gave him the A-OK, and then there’s expressed views of Feminists who blame ‘The Patriarchy’ & by extension MRAs, & not the falsifying standards of the society they live in, standards they themselves express as the way forward on some occasions, when one considers where men should be placed according to some feminist viewpoints. This story, it appears, & the issues it raises, seems to be the catalyst for several bandwagons.
I daresay, a bandwagon isn’t the only way to move forward & away from the lowpoint of this current issue. Sure, you wouldn’t really be doing the steering, now would you?
Oh potatoaddict. I read this several times trying to make heads or tails of what you were getting at, but alas, clarity is not your strong point.
A couple of points:
1) You know literally nothing about me and my preferences in sexual partners and projecting your own insecurities onto a random blogger you’ve never met makes you look a bit silly.
2) The term you want to insult the coherence of my piece is “copy editing”, not “proofreading”. Copy editing is checking a piece of text for consistency and style. Proofreading is checking for spelling and grammar errors. It’s very important to be absolutely accurate yourself when critiquing others for their accuracy.
Wow, so I got a term wrong, & some of my narrative cues belied how I was slightly pissed off over how Rodger is being passed along as the problem child of MRM? To be perfectly clear, I have not the slightest interest in your preferences or sexual partners either. I just wanted to say that demonising skinny men who fit the same physical demographic as Rodger, to judge them in the same light as if they’re potential fiends, the way your article leans towards that notion is endorsing a bias. It seems that way, to me.
Silly I may appear for losing my composure online, since for some reason it’s a social given that once someone does so, they lose their credibility. Be honest here though, do the self-condemning actions of a murderer equate to the self-condemning actions of a sleaze at some bar? Just because the source of their angst is by trying to follow the same ‘value,’ if it can be called that, their actions define them in the clear categories of either ‘evil’ or ‘delusional.’
It’s clear from his self-documented behaviour (which is so close to Patrick Bateman’s in terms of mannerisms, it’s comically surreal. Which makes it even more horrible) that whilst Rodger took a bite out of both apples by the end of this affair, it was the host of delusions that he perpetuated which led to his choice of committing acts of unmitigated evil. The root of all those delusions was that he had to fit into this bland & shallow ideal of personal happiness by flaunting commodities, to gain a caring female in his life, another commodity as far as he was concerned, to claim any shred of emotional stability. He made it worse for himself by judging everyone, even other men around him, as inferior. By setting himself up in such a self-pleasing light, that delusion which played as a defence mechanism for his own self-worth, against his own base desire to fit into a social paradigm, it ultimately became what drove him to such madness.
Doubless you already knew that, & from your reply which seems to highlight my own bias, it’s clear that in terms of gender issues we may have more to disagree upon than agree upon. When you live most of your life surrounded by the worst examples of a gender, it seems to blight your views universally, & objectivity becomes as much a dream as a goal, doesn’t it?
So what say you to a point we can agree upon? Whatever it is of this shade of an individual, this whole debacle has brought to the forefront of our society, how it may be interpreted by some & utilised by zealots of movements as a rallying point for pushing their own agenda (which we’re all privvy to. Anti-NRA, & pervasive opinion-goers amongst enflamed feminists & illogical MRAs, people who would mislead with good intentions), my core opinion of what made Rodger a pitiless & miserable creature hasn’t changed. The idea that he took & twisted himself with to the point of self-destruction was that he had to fit in, period. He had to measure himself & his happiness by the ‘love’ that others would give him, & not his own self-belief? Really, now. He’s the extreme example of the kind of weakness that idea brings forth in a person, that when the notion crumbles, they lash out destructively & make life worse in whatever way they can. After all, their hope has died, so why not get crazy, right?
It’s true, & sometimes – sometimes – pitiable that there are sol-standard men & women out there who play by this script on an either base or compassionate level & end up betrayed by their lack of suspicion as to how utterly disgusting people on a general basis tend to be. It is also true that the opposite effect sometimes occurs, & we can experience a touching romance, in our social circles if not experienced personally. But the individual has to exist first; people need a solid foundation psychologically speaking before they try & play to each other on the same wavelength.
That’s why when someone would get all unhinged as such & go on a few killings, we blame the individual & his/her background, no? Such an example of Rodger, being the shallow existence that he was, we can’t get that fallback this time, none of our ideologies can. All we can point towards are the ideas that influenced him. So it is that core idea of measuring yourself by the value others would hold you, that misleading fallacy tied in with concepts & phenomena like social acceptance/success, drinking cultures across different nations, family bonds, & so on, that really stood out to me in this matter. Everything else is a game of finger pointing.
P.S. I admit to my bias of your article, although it pales in my opinion to the point I expressed above. Anyway, it was not a blind stab of righteous keyboard warrior fury. The zealots of your movement are indeed fanning the flames of this gender issues battle further, & apart from it being misleading & appealing to the baser sympathy men may preternaturally hold for women, it eats away at what credibility your movement possesses. https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/classify-mens-rights-movement-terrorist-group/W5018W63
Only the utterly demented & petty would sign this, given the expressed views of the murderer himself, that he considered himself a true ‘alpha male’ & held other men in contempt. That, & nobody laughs over the butchery he caused. MRAs recognise him as the most pathetic excuse for a human being, at least I sure as hell do.
Funny how a movement that promotes the hatred of women is identified with people who hate women…
Ummm…men have been killing women at a horrendous rate for hundreds of years now, this isn’t a ‘perceived bias’ it is reality.
You mean highlighting the ocean of misogyny that women are forced to swim in *every* day of their lives? It is rather easier when the status quo isn’t challenged, apologies for making things a little uncomfortable for you.
Feminism is not about gaining credibility and bouquets from men, let me assure of that. If man-fee fees are hurt because they need to get out dark ages and start acting like descent human beings, so be it.
Hate group status is probably enough.
Shorter Potatoaddict –
How dare you bring up the endemic misogyny that underpins society it means I might have to change!
Calling teh women teh evilz is much easier, so I shall!
You did better than me! All I got from it was “FEMINISTS BAAAAAAAAD, MRAS GOOOOOOOOOD!”
Reading through various comment sections one starts to put together themes…*sigh* And what happy themes they are.