Misogyny Kills: How the Isla Vista Shooting Proves What #YesAllWomen Already Know

4556032453_7e1c378839_zOn Friday night in Isla Vista, Elliot Rodger began the “day of retribution” he promised on YouTube, killing six women and men as part of what he himself called a “war on women.” I had arrived in Isla Vista five minutes earlier.

I didn’t realize that when I pulled up to join my friend for the weekend, I was entering a battle zone—and I was the enemy. My friend and I didn’t even realize the noises we heard were gunshots. Instead, during the 10 minutes of shooting, the only fear I felt was triggered by a group of five men who said “Hi, ladies” and jeered as we walked by.

This seemingly insignificant moment of street harassment is so frequent it would have faded from memory, if not for the later realization that while my fear did not have the same cause or intensity as that experienced by the victims and witnesses to the shooting, it did spring from the same root: the enactment of toxic masculinity.

While the events are of such drastically different seriousness that comparing them seems almost crass, both events were instigated by men trying to claim ownership of women’s bodies. Rodger promised to kill “every single spoilt, stuck-up, blonde slut” because they “would’ve all rejected me.” He felt that, as a man, he deserved access to women’s bodies. When that access was denied, the only way to maintain his masculinity was to punish them. Only in this way would they realize that he was “the true alpha male.”

These explanations are in line with the Men’s Rights Movement, which teaches—as The Belle Jar summarized in “Elliot Rodger and Men Who Hate Women“—

that men as a social class are dominant over women and that they are entitled to women’s bodies. It teaches them that women who won’t give them what they want deserve some kind of punishment.

While Rodger’s Internet history proves he did follow these misogynistic teachings, plenty of men hold similar beliefs without following such extreme movements. How? Our culture teaches men the same things.

Reacting to the shooting on Twitter, Imran Siddiquee, director of communications for The Representation Project (the team behind Miss Representation and the upcoming documentary The Mask You Live In), made the same connection. He observed that a street harasser’s behavior is

so clearly about his ability to impose himself in the space. To exert his ‘manhood.’ He was performing for other men. The woman was just an object via which he could make himself bigger, more valuable…  And when value is ‘taken,’ men learn the appropriate response is anger. Take it back. To not would make you even less of a ‘man.’

By comparing these events, I don’t mean to suggest that street harassers share in Rodger’s guilt, or that the Men’s Right’s Activist (MRA) or pick-up artist communities (both of which Rodger belonged to) are responsible. Rodger himself committed murder, and that blame is individual. However, when major news media such as CNN summarize Rodger as “very mentally disturbed” without addressing the underlying misogyny that he described in his 140-page manifesto and several YouTube videos, the connection needs to be made explicit. As sex educator Laci Green states in her recent YouTube video “Elliot Rodger: More Than A Madman,” “Elliot is the monster that we as a culture, as a society, have created.”

In her thoughtful article “Elliot Rodger’s fatal menace: How toxic male entitlement devalues women’s and men’s lives“, Katie McDonough writes for Salon:

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.

Many other feminist think pieces on the web from The New Yorker to the New Statesman to The Guardian express the same sentiment. This toxic masculinity our culture teaches is why, in the wake of this tragedy, there are still people online who are blaming women‘s rejections as the reason for the mass murder. However, this victim blaming is not going unchallenged—especially by the popular new Twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen. As Alex Abad-Santos wrote for Vox, “#yesallwomen is … in response to a twisted narrative that the women who didn’t date [him] were to blame for Rodger’s actions…The story, to those people, isn’t that Rodger was disturbed but rather: This poor guy wasn’t treated nicely by women.”

#YesAllWomen destroys that narrative. Here are some examples:

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 11.43.47 AM

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 11.53.11 AM

 

Screen shot 2014-05-27 at 11.45.21 AM

 

 

 

#YesAllWomen has been trending for two days, and the many insightful tweets have called out aspects of Rodger’s blatant misogyny that the media has ignored, and the many other ways our culture allows the devaluing of women—including street harassment.

Misogyny hurts through the fear it inflicts on all women’s lives, in the many ways #YesAllWomen explores. But it doesn’t stop there. Misogyny kills. Sixty-one of 62 mass murders in the U.S. in the last 30 years have been perpetrated by men, 90 percent of whom have been white. The majority of victims have been women, and 40 percent of mass shootings started with a shooter targeting his girlfriend, wife or ex-wife. As Elizabeth Plank writes for PolicyMic, “Many school shootings could qualify as hate crimes against women and girls.”

Misogyny killed in 2009 when a man walked into a Pittsburgh gym and opened fire because of his “rage at women for rejecting him.” Misogyny killed last month when a high school boy stabbed a girl to death for rejecting his prom invitation. And misogyny killed last weekend when yet another man who believed he had a right to women’s bodies and felt emasculated by their rejection decided to reassert his masculinity the way society taught: through violence.

The morning after the shooting, I walked through a town covered in security tape and crossed in front of a deli window with bullet holes. One of those bullets ended a young man’s life. Ironically, the misogynist Rodger killed more men than women in his “retribution”—which, it has been pointed out, proves that misogyny is deadly without regard to sex. While the debate about gun control and treatment of the mentally ill continues, there’s an immediate change we can all make in our lives: speaking up against misogyny in all its forms.

Photo from Flickr user Jo Naylor under license from Creative Commons 2.0

photo-150x150

 

Rachel Grate is studying English and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Scripps College. She writes regularly for PolicyMic, Ms. and MissRepresentation.org, and you can follow her on Twitter @RachelSGrate.

Comments

  1. Your story makes it seem like the men who died were somehow less important than the women… And the because women died it was somehow more of an attack on women than simply an attack on humans. There will never be ‘equal’ rights if people like you keep separating women from men and placing the importance of gender over the importance of simply being a good human.

    • I think more to the point, the writing is pointing out the damage that Toxic Masculinity is doing to men, everywhere. The fact men where killed does not mean this was not an act of extreme misogyny it shows misogyny kills and hurts men as well. Men are sold an epic lie that patriarchy is good for them, nothing could be further from the truth.

    • No, it was literally an attack on women. Maybe you should read his manifesto and watch the video. The men only died because they got in the way on his attack on women. He was “the alpha male,” and they were collateral damage to his goal of proving himself the strongest and why the females should have given up their vaginas to his glory.

      Until we acknowledge that women are being unjustly singled out for oppression to males, such as being treated as nothing more than unfair guardians to their bodies and the super precious sex, this is going to continue happening. Pretending it’s only about all human equality sweeps the problem under the rug.

    • Zion Leopard says:

      I think your point is important, however could be stated less pointedly by changing a few inflamatory words.
      “There will never be ‘equal’ rights if the discussion separates women from men and places the importance of gender over the importance of simply being a good human.”

    • This is no way what the article is expressing. The author does not for a second imply that the male victims are less important than the female victims.
      The article is about misogyny in our society and through women-hating online forums, this mentally ill person was fuelled with thoughts that he had the right to a woman’s body and to commit murder because of the potential rejection from these women. The author explains that it isn’t just guns and mental health but rooted misogyny in our society. The article explains that misogyny isn’t just dangerous for females but males too.

    • Common Sense says:

      Great post! Did anyone notice Jezebel initially ran the headline, “Six women murdered.” If they want to play gender politics over this story, at least read it!

    • Annette says:

      Why should she change “her words”? Just by making that suggestion makes you part of the problem. Women deal with violence everyday. It is instilled in us from the moment we enter the world. We need to speak the truth. Women are different. Our experiences are different. We have the most differences of any group that has ever argued for civil rights. Women still don’t have civil rights (crimes against women should be considered hate crimes) or protections under the law that other minorities have. (Yes, we are the minority because we have less power.) Our “Allies” are non-existent. For generations women have fought with Men for changes and rights we have never been granted to us. The “war on women” that we heard so much about in the last election was a farce for our votes and changed nothing.

    • You’re missing the point that misogyny hurts men too. A read of the manifesto would show you that Roger was extremely jealous of males that had greater sexual chances with women. It comes right back to him only seeing women as sex procurement services.

    • You’re totally right and this is not an isolated case. The fact is that men are the predominant victims of murder, but from feminist writing you’d get the impression that women are – because feminism is too often a particular kind of bias that mislead to see things that way.

      • Stop the madness says:

        Yes, men are the predominant victims of murder.. by OTHER men. 92% of domestic violence is perpetrated by men against women. There is a connection between the need for some men to feel dominance over women, and then over each-other. The idea that aggression and violence are definitions of masculinity is also a huge problem.
        Your assumption that “feminists” simply see the world through some skewed lens is completely false – these are simply people who recognize there are underlying problems in our society when it comes to gender roles and that a discussion needs to take place.

  2. nothing is going to change until we invest resources in schools on all levels to deal with role training and prevention. Attitudes towards women and to sexual slurs are not inbread…they are learned…via role plays in school where boys play girls in threatening situations and where we show via role training the value of restraint .The use of role reversal is a tool for assessing and developing empathy. This process also starts the education of boundaries which is a developmental as well as an ongoing skill for all of us. I thinks its important as well to frame the issue where a sexual slur has the same impact and power as a racial or ethnic one

  3. This article is misquoting it’s source 90% of school shooting have been white men, in total if controlled for gender, 64.5% have been white, roughly the same percentage as white people of non-Hispanic decent in America, your numbers are wrong and should be changed.

    • The statistics she gave were for a limited time span. If you mean all North American non-governmental mass killings then certainly the race breakdowns are different, but do not pertain much to current society. That’s why she only cites the last handful of decades, because that’s all that it pertinent in making the misogyny zeitgeist argument.

  4. Great article! Rodger’s extreme misogyny is a reflection of a society in which toxic masculinity is deeply ingrained, and where misogyny like Rodger’s is normalised,

  5. irene madrid says:

    I have had to create safe houses for me when dealing with x who is trying to take my half of family business away. MENS VIOLENCE TOWARDS WOMEN—- IT-IS-EVERYWHERE.

  6. betamale says:

    Has anyone noticed that Rogers hated ALL of humanity?? In what I think was the last video he posted, he repeatedly expresses his contempt, not just for the women who rejected him, but for the “obnoxious brutes” that they rejected him for, and all the other “popular kids” leading a good life and having fun. Though the way he responded to life’s challenges was obviously pathological and and not to mention, cowardly and pathetic, I’m not sure he was the misogynistic creep everyone is making him out to be. In fact, I think he was actually angry at the fact that women CHOOSE misogynistic creeps (read: “obnoxious brutes”) over sensitive and shy guys like himself. And the inconvenient truth, is that he’s right. Again, he was demented and had a very skewed sense of reality, and I don’t align myself with him whatsoever, but, I too have often wondered why, so many women go for cocky, sexist assholes. I can only assume that cockiness might be perceived as confidence, strength and ability, which is attractive to women in a biological sense. And if so, the whole sad irony about our present problem with misogynist men, is that in a way, you, ladies, over thousands of years of evolution, and continuing to this day, have selectively bred misogynist men, by choosing them, over more sensitive and gentle types, who though probably more respectful and appreciative of you, are perceived as weak and unfit partners in this game of propagation. Society may reinforce the misogynist tendencies of men, but only because you have reproduced the misogynists who run society!!

    • Carolyn says:

      So women have self selected mysogynistic creeps to reproduce with, and through natural selection have produced more mysogynistic creeps and therefore have created the bringer of their own downfall? No and no , beta. That is some fallacious logic and ridiculous pseudoscience. Reading not so between the lines of you comment is placing blame on the victims here, and it does parallel this murderer ‘s ideology. You may want to rethink this.

      • Frances says:

        I agree, Carolyn that this is fallacious logic. Yet, how do we deal with his central question of how we choose our partners. Is this an issue of socialization from our patriarchal environment? More importantly, how do we get at the root cause of this problem without blaming each other?

    • “In fact, I think he was actually angry at the fact that women CHOOSE misogynistic creeps (read: “obnoxious brutes”) over sensitive and shy guys like himself. And the inconvenient truth, is that he’s right. Again, he was demented and had a very skewed sense of reality, and I don’t align myself with him whatsoever, but, I too have often wondered why, so many women go for cocky, sexist assholes.”

      Please just reread this and tell me how defending the attitude that women should choose the right men to reward for being “nice” doesn’t align you with them. The “nice guy” is such a myth, and justifying you’re misogyny by stating you’re better than the other misogynistic creeps they choose…

      It’s not that women are with other men (many of whom they chose because they like them for whatever reason) – it’s that they aren’t rewarding the guys who think they are living tropes because they pretend to be nice in exchange for a relationship/sex. These are the same people who pathetically believe the “friend zone” is a real place and blame women for living up there. Women are not vending machines you can put “kindness” into to get sex in exchange.

  7. Andrew Fleischmann says:

    This kid belonged to a group called ‘puahate,’ a site (now down, I believe) which bills itself (or used to, anyways) as being at “the forefront of the anti-pickup-artist movement.” The author incorrectly states that he belonged to a ‘pick up artists’ group. Not true. Please try harder to be accurate. Although it may be easy to make this kid out as a caricature of an evil, women hating, man, you do everyone, men and women alike, a big disservice when you promulgate such untruths.

    • Mar Iguana says:

      The “puahate” group is angry at the PUA group because their tools for preying on women and girls don’t work and they’ve blown wads of cash for no results. These groups still agree on their misogynist views of women.

  8. Dawn MxcInnes says:

    How nicely you all put it. i feel that men like Rodgers are simply out of control as regards to their own sexuality and blame the object of their desires. Add to that a sense of entitlement encouraged by the media , most religions and the porn industry and they act out their own delusions. The gun nuts with their mantras help these pathetic sex obsessed twerps kill more effectively.

  9. Frances in California says:

    I’m the mom of an only son and quake in fear that some sociopath like Rodger might meet him some day, and whose mental unfitness might end my son’s life. He’s going to graduate school in Britain next year; I hope that improves his chances for survival. He, by the way, is a 21st Century Feminist-Humanist male but I’m certain Mr. Martinez felt the same pride over his now-lost young son. I doubt I could hold it together as well as he did if some Criminal Mind ended my son’s life.

  10. I am SO grateful that FINALLY women are speaking up. All my long life, I’ve wondered, when I read about some man doing and saying horrible, disgusting things, “How can a woman stand to be married to him, and stay married to him?” That’s the part I don’t understand. How can a woman have any dignity or feeling of self-worth if she’s married to a gun nut, or a misogynistic jerk-off?

  11. Julie Hartman-Linck says:

    Very well said. Sadly the shooter’s thinking was not “disturbed” any more than our mainstream culture is also disturbed (and of course most mentally ill people are not violent, so him being “disturbed” isn’t the issue, but that’s another point…) The sense of entitlement – and the anger that comes when that entitlement is not realized – is all too common among men. Rodger’s actions may have been an aberration, but his thinking was just on one end of a continuum of male entitlement and privilege in our society that leads to this kind of violence. Until we take a good hard look at masculinity – and the misogyny that is so often underlying masculinity in our society – we will continue to come up with the wrong “solutions” to this kind of violence.

    • This site has the only intelligent discussion on tho tragedy I’ve found, and our society desperately needs a functional dialogue. This comment here speaks to the underlying causes.

      “and the anger that comes when that entitlement is not realized – is all too common among men. Rodger’s actions may have been an aberration, but his thinking was just on one end of a continuum of male entitlement and privilege in our society that leads to this kind of violence. Until we take a good hard look at masculinity”

      I would suggest that be done by first establishing the founding elements of civil society, which happen to come from women. Justice.

      http://www.justitia-ausstellung.de/englisch.htm
      (From the page)
      “In a society based on the division of labour, men were assigned the task of protecting women and children. The sheltered space, the house, the city, the nation, were female symbols, evoking a mother’s womb. Thus, Greek society kept up the matriarchal tradition of imagining and showing the sheltered room as a public space of justice and peace.”

      That is the best, simplest and most direct definition of the women’s role in the origins if justice I found in a quick search. I’m quite certain none here know WHY patriarchy took over. That is information hidden from our modern world.

      Since I’m still uncertain that this discussion will be allowed, I’ll wait to see what moderation does.

  12. I am disheartened that colleagues (both scholars and activists, teachers and agency staff) have been talking about toxic masculinity for nearly 30 years. A first important book for me was Miedzian’s “Boys Will Be Boys.” Why is it that this conversation/discussion remains under the radar of the mainstream – regardless of what we might recognize and a more concentrated reflection on enhancing child development or effective parenting or even reconsideration gender roles during the same time period???

  13. I’ve been thinking about the links among misogyny, campus sexual assault, and the Men’s Rights Movement for months now, as we’ve tried to force the administration at the university where I work to address systemic problems of institutional betrayal and sexual violence. When the media blame alcohol use for sexual assault on campus or mental illness for instances of sexual harassment and violence, they are as Gates points out, missing the point. Plenty of men outside the US (and many good men within) drink to excess, but only in the US is college considered — as I put it in a recent blog post — a rumspringa for privileged mostly white men to enjoy what they consider the rewards they deserve by virtue of their gender, race and class privilege: namely, unlimited sexual access to women, with or without their consent. Mental illness doesn’t always express itself in violence specifically toward women. Blaming campus sexual assault on alcohol (which enables but does not cause it), arguing that autism or bipolar disorder causes men to murder women and children misses the point: there is a sickness at at the heart of US masculinity and it isn’t going to be fixed by some magic bullet. We need a broad-spectrum regime of antibiotics to help treat this sickness: gun control as a first step, education, zero tolerance for men who make threats — on or offline — about harming women, a system of justice that can look beyond the old lenses of racist crimes to understand the ways in which far too many privileged white men — from the Catholic Church, organized sports, university administrations, and the military — who have pretended to be protectors are actually perpetrators.

  14. Amy Hudock says:

    The erasure of the gender of the “shooter” from much of the media coverage makes this post important and necessary, as is #allwomen. For the first time in human history, individuals have access to a large audience without gatekeepers. That gives rise to manifestos like Rodger’s and the resulting one sided coverage of his violent act, but it also allows others to shift the conversation, to raise issues that the mainstream media doesn’t cover. So, I applaud MS magazine and this author for challenging the dominant narrative. Brava!

  15. Kristin Marsh says:

    Rachel Grate makes an important connection between gun violence and misogyny that we miss in our usual cultural discourse. And she is thoughtful about engaging the #YesAllWomen dialogue. I am struck that those resisting a gender analysis miss that feminists are humanists, too.

  16. Katie White says:

    “Misogyny hurts through the fear it inflicts on all women’s lives, in the many ways #YesAllWomen explores. But it doesn’t stop there. Misogyny kills. Sixty-one of 62 mass murders in the U.S. in the last 30 years have been perpetrated by men, 90 percent of whom have been white. The majority of victims have been women, and 40 percent of mass shootings started with a shooter targeting his girlfriend, wife or ex-wife. As Elizabeth Plank writes for PolicyMic, “Many school shootings could qualify as hate crimes against women and girls.””

    This is a paragraph that should be shared over and over on multiple platforms because it provides a quick and dirty visualization (via statistics) of the fear and violence brought about by insidious misogyny. Previous comments have attempted to poke holes in the numbers, but they hold true within a particular time frame, as the author states. Further analysis of these numbers can lead to a larger and crucial conversation about racism implicit in national conversations about violence, as well.

  17. Michaela Moura-Kocoglu says:

    Audre Lorde said that “our sons must become men – such men as we hope our daughters, born and unborn, will be pleased to live among.” In what ways are we failing our children as a society, as a community, as a family, as parents? While it is easy to lay the blame on mental health issues, we need to critically challenge societal structures that raise children to become effective players in a globalized capital economy. Structures supporting educational systems that neglect children’s emotional intelligence. How might we do better in nurturing our children to become men that our daughters ‘will be pleased to live among’?

    • From the article:
      ” if not for the later realization that while my fear did not have the same cause or intensity as that experienced by the victims and witnesses to the shooting, it did spring from the same root: the enactment of toxic masculinity.”

      My other comments, awaiting moderation, speak to what are the origins of “toxic masculinity”. Such a term is labeling, a cognitive distortion, an over generalization. My other comments have a point about media manipulation over 3 generations.
      This where this cognitive distortion originates and we loses our capacity to create context of definition.

      I would return to a point perhaps 4 or 5 generations back to attempt to define this.

      Justice, or the deprivation of it, (go back 7 generations) begins to show in 1919 when women in America were given the vote by the 19th amendment. Good things happened for about 10 years, then the male dominated world of finance and corporatism took over again. This time withe devious insight of Edward Bernayes.
      Again, awaiting moderation to see if this discussion will be allowed.

  18. Egalitarian says:

    “the Men’s Right’s Activist (MRA) or pick-up artist communities (both of which Rodger belonged to)”

    No, Elliot Rodger was not an MRA and he had no involvement in the men’s rights movement.

    The forums he’s been found to have posted to, a bodybuilder forum and “PUAhate”, are not connected to the men’s rights movement.

    His youtube subscriptions, cited as proof of a connection, do not include a single men’s rights channel.

    Furthermore, none of his beliefs have anything to do with men’s rights views.

    There’s a reason why no source has been able to point to even one specific example of a connection to the men’s rights movement. There is no such connection.

  19. Jennifer says:

    It is a perfect storm for the continuation of useless slaughter of innocent people. Easy access to weapons, expertly designed for the purpose of killing other people, the denial of a culture full to bursting with diminishing, dismissing, and fervent bias against half (Disclaimer: not accurate percentage) of a population by the other half (Disclaimer: Also not accurate percentage), and all nicely wrapped up in a resentment so strong, every pointed, questioning comment, or even hint, on the subject itself leads to overwhelming recoil, blame and defensive

    • Jennifer says:

      rationalization of every new incident. We are not actually “surprised” as the article states, we are complacent…

  20. Quote from the male who murdered 6 women in the Isla Vista massacre:
    “I saw two hot blonde girls waiting at the bus stop. I was dressed in one of my nice shirts, so I looked at them and smiled. They looked at me, but they didn’t even deign to smile back. They just looked away as if I was a fool. In a rage, I made a U-turn, pulled up to their bus stop and splashed my Starbucks latte all over them. I felt a feeling [of] spiteful satisfaction as I saw it stain their jeans. How dare those girls snub me in such a fashion! How dare they insult me so! I raged to myself repeatedly. They deserved the punishment I gave them. It was such a pity that the latte wasn’t hot enough to burn them. Those girls deserve to be dumped in boiling water for the crime of not giving me the attention and adoration I so rightfully deserve!”

    We really, REALLY have to strive for change. Fast. NOW. Things like these can’t be happening all the time but they ARE. There is so much women-hatred in the world and it cannot be growing by the minute. We have to stand up and make this come to an end! Together. Women AND MEN!

    So, to all the men out there (and if you truly and deeply understand this already – I am not talking about on the surface, I mean on a deeper level -, good for you – you know deep inside yourself if you do or not; so if you do go tell your buddies, encourage each other, stop worrying about being “cool” or having the need to be liked – you attract 100% more people if you are true to yourself, if you follow your heart, then you’re really “cool”):

    Now,
    Please wake up! You all came from a woman! How could there possibly be so much hate against women? Think about your own mothers. Would you mistreat your mother? Ever? If yes, why? Isn’t it true that whatever else she might have done to you, she gave you your life. The greatest gift of all. It is up to you to do something with it. This life is about service. This counts for all of us (women and men). You have to see that so much good in this world, so much brilliant thinking, so much creativity and love comes from women. Imagine a world without women. You wouldn’t want that. In fact, you wouldn’t be here. And if ever you hurt a woman, physically or emotionally, apologize to her and MEAN IT! If it was more than one, apologize to all of them. Take your time, but do it. Deal with your past actions. Deal with the harm you may have caused. Apologize. Heal the wounds together. Only then they will actually heal. Why wouldn’t you meet a woman on an equal level? Ask yourself the reason for this, if you don’t. And be honest to yourself. Is it pride? Does your pride really mean more to you than another human being? Is it fear? What are you afraid of? Or is it something else? Find out what it is. Identify where any of this might come from. As soon as we are aware of things we are already one step closer to solving them. Hate is not a solution. It is ego. It is pride. It is the opposite of service. It is the opposite of living.

    But what happens if you turn hate into love? Ask yourself that question.

    And love.

    Love.

Speak Your Mind

*