As a self described feminist as well as a “professional” one (I have a dual degree in Sociology & Women’s studies) I have many thoughts on this past week’s events in Santa Barbara (Isla Vista). You can probably gather my opinion simply from the title of this blog piece. That said, I don’t think being mentally unstable alone was cause, nor was being a misogynist, people on the internet, guns, mental illness. At the heart of any answer to this tragedy is a multi-layered cause.
We don’t know if Elliot Rodger was mentally ill. We don’t know if he was a “madman.” We do know that he was desperately lonely and unhappy, and that the Men’s Rights Movement convinced him that his loneliness and unhappiness was intentionally caused by women. But lets me real for a moment, people face rejection every day. People do not go on killing sprees every day. Rejection hurts and it sucks, but it is a part of life. It can make us stronger and more resilient as well as shape us in good ways (ie actors that get rejected from auditions may choose to take acting lessons to sharpen skills…as opposed to shooting the casting agent)
Rape culture: This one’s a big one. Not a lot of people have heard this term, understand it or agree with it. However to ignore its existence is a dangerous thing. Violence and hatred against women permeates our culture in such a way that we believe it to be normal. Of course, the average person isnt in support of domestic violence or rape, but how often do we support these activities when we lok the other way at violent video games that show graphic harm of women, singers that beat their girlfriends, movie directors that molest their daughters (I am looking at you Chris Brown & Woody Allen!) ? IN Washington last month, a bar owner caused upheaval when he added a specialty to drink to his menu entitled “Date rape.” He thought it was “funny.” Women’s rights groups did not think so & protested. Even now, amidst very low patronage, the bar owner has maintained his “right” to have this drink on his menu & call it whatever he wants. He chose to make fun of protesters for “not being able to take a joke.” However taking this “joke” & drinking it would accept that rape is something to make fun of. Given how often date rape occurs among drunken college students, in frat parties, dorms, etc I dont think its a bit funny. But this bar owner & his supporters (few that there are) do not understand their role in holding up rape culture. They have been so steeped in it via so many societal messages that it has become normal.
Mental illness: While no one can say conclusively if Elliott Ridges was diagnosed with a mental illness, he was clearly not well. Men (and women) get turned down for dates every day. Only someone who is a bit unhinged somewhere in the head will respond by killing random strangers.
Lack of initiative by people in society to step in: Of course, people say crazy things off the cuff every day. For example “Oh I wanna KILL them” without meaning it literally. Police cannot arrest you for your thoughts. However I’m wondering if theres not more that could have been done by someone who read his manifesto or watched his video. His parents did the right thing in calling the police. The police probably did only what they could within the law. Rodgers had committed no crime by spewing hatred, awful as it is, I have read worse on news feeds on Facebook. I do think more oversight somewhere could have helped, or offering counseling or some kind of intervention. I don’t know the answers as to what more could have been done in this arena. I DO know that in this country mental illness still has a stigma attached, people are less likely to seek help even if they know it & those that may want it may not find the resources in their area. Its unclear what was done for Rodgers mental health but it is clear he could have benefited dearly by having a professional to talk to.
People on the internet (More misogyny) Apparently Rodgers was a part of a “Men’s Rights” Group. While I don’t believe anyone can claim the internet made him do it, it certainly doesn’t help when a lunatic has supporters. This group, as Rodgers did, has the right to the views. Though as a person whose read up on history I’d say somewhere these men (and I used that term VERY loosely) missed the fact that this country was founded and has been running for the last several hundred years on “men’s rights.” Examples by the dozen can be found in your high school U.S. history textbooks.
Misogyny: Yes this is a clear one. Rodgers stated in his manifesto & video a deep hatred towards women that rejected him that he then applied to all women. This was NOT helped by the group he chose to associate with online. He was an active member of the PUAHate,”” an online forum dedicated to “revealing the scams, deception and misleading marketing techniques used by dating gurus and the seduction community to mislead men and profit from them.” These are men who both feel entitled to have sex with women and also blame all women everywhere for their lack of ability to to acquire sex. .THe overwhelming opinion of this group of men (again, using the term LOOSELY) is that hey want to have sex with a woman because that’s what they deserve. They also hate women for withholding what they view as rightfully theirs. PUAhate forum has on its site (*it was recently taken down I believe*) threads with titles such as “Are ugly women completely useless to society?” and “Have any hot women ever committed suicide?”Rodgers was encouraged by messages such as “F* women” “those bitches deserve it” (I dont want to etc. Given these eloquent internet rantings, it stands to reason why they didn’t understand how they weren’t attracting any women. It also tells us Rodgers was not a lone case. There are in fact a percentage of men like that who think similarly to him. This fact alone should scare all of us. .