Those Focusing on Elliot Rodger’s Misogyny and #YesAllWomen Are Missing the Point

Just a quick hit today.

Everyone now knows the horrible news about Elliot Rodger’s shooting spree in Santa Barbara County, California, killing seven (himself included) and wounding thirteen others.

In response, the hashtag #YesAllWomen trended on twitter and became national news.  This, despite what I will be pointing out below, is generally a good thing.  Using a tragedy to discuss important issues and to educate is the best thing that can arise out of something awful.  Might as well make a teaching moment, and potentially make the world a better place.

But focusing on misogyny misses the point.  The real problem is that Elliot Rodger was a terrible and/or troubled person (depending on your view of his blameworthiness in light of his mental illness) who was enraged by the happiness of others (most of which stemmed from others, both men and women, having enjoyable love lives).    Rodgers wrote:

“I will destroy all women because I can never have them.  I will make them all suffer for rejecting me.  I will arm myself with deadly weapons and wage a war against all women and the men they are attracted to.  And I will slaughter them like the animals they are.”

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“The First Phase will represent my vengeance against all of the men who have had pleasurable sex lives while I’ve had to suffer.  Things will be fair one I make them suffer as I did.”

He also planned to kill his own step-mother and brother, and began the day by killing his three male roommates. The reason that he intended to lash out against women (even though he also intended to lash out against men and did, in fact, end up killing more men than women) appears to be because that was the only thing that he desired that could not simply be purchased.

He had the cars, he had the games, he had all of the creature comforts that a person could want – except love and sex.  He hated everyone and everything that didn’t immediately submit to his self-perceived superior status.

Rodgers was many things.  Misogynistic is one of them.  Racist is another.  Classist was another.  Deranged and out of touch with reality was another.

But as a man who has followed the news, the hyper-focus on misogyny is troublesome.  The #YesAllWomen campaign, although as I mentioned above has been a wonderful avenue to forward an important conversation, has missed the point as well.

If a woman was in an abusive relationship, I’d ask her why she doesn’t leave.  If a man was in an abusive relationship, I’d ask him why he doesn’t leave.  It’s not a gendered concept.

And some used #YesAllWomen to generally air grievances, like being told to smile, or the lack of strong female Disney toys, or this:

If you’re not convinced yet, think about it like this.

If Elliot Rodgers was gay, would his shooting spree have targeted women and the men who they give their love to — or would it just have targeted the men that hurt him?  In 2014, we should be civilized enough to make the distinction, that Rodgers hated the happiness that he was deprived of — the sex itself, the pleasure, not just women in general — and lashed out against those people that caused it.

It’s a complicated issue involving many, many interrelated concepts and factors – ones personal to Rodgers as well as societal.  I was recently linked (after I wrote this) to an article in the Guardian which I think is superb and people should read.  I’m going to include large portions from the article here because it says things so perfectly:

This misogynistic culture exists, absolutely, and what’s so dangerous about it is that it attracts potentially mentally unstable people, including Rodger, and validates their most extreme feelings. To say that mental illness played a part in Rodger’s behaviour doesn’t dismiss the culture that played a part in it any more than saying eating disorders are a mental illness (which they are) excuses the part played by the sick fetishisation of women’s bodies in western culture.

Finally, she does a great job of pointing out how little attention Rodgers racist ramblings have received in the news — even though his very first victims were of Asian descent:

It’s also worth pointing out that Rodger didn’t just rail against women in his manifesto – he also spewed plenty of racist bile, which is getting far less attention, even though the first people he killed were his two Asian roommates and their Asian friend, whom he had specifically described as “repulsive”. (Rodger was half-Asian himself and blamed this for his lack of success with women.)

He was misogynystic, but he was also racist, and classist, and mentally disturbed.  #YesAllWomen is a great movement, but burying the most important part of the Rodgers story in that hashtag threatens to bury the myriad other issues which should be discussed and which could have rendered this entire tragedy preventable (mental health, gun control, the early intervention of medical professionals, the evaluation that was done by police, the failure of his own personal family unit, etc).

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Here is a link to an incredible map showing a timelapse of when #YesAllWomen tweets were posted.  I’ll present it without comment for now.