What Elliot Rodger’s Santa Barbara Killings Teach Us About Misogyny And Male Privilege

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elliot rodger

I literally did not want to write about this. When I heard on Friday 22-year-old that Elliot Rodger went on a shoot-out killing spree at the University of Santa Barbara, killing seven people and wounding 13 others because women rejected him and they would not have sex with him—I thought, I don’t want to write about this. It’s too much. It’s nauseating. It’s a visceral disgust. But it’s my job to write about this kind of thing, so here I am. There is nothing I can say about what Elliot Rodger did that you do not know. Elliot wrote a manifesto, that you can read, detailing how he felt rejected by women. No he didn’t want a companion, a partner or an equal he wanted a “hot” “blonde” to have sex with him or be his girlfriend. He wanted to possess a woman who had all the the qualities of a trophy. When women declined his admissions, as is their right to do, he was so entitled he killed and targeted  young women at the Alpha Phi sorority house.

This is in part the product of a culture that encourages men to feel entitled to women’s bodies. This is the product of a culture that says it’s OK for women to live in fear of men everyday of their lives but never once tells men to stop it. Stop following us down the street. Stop shouting obscenities at us. Stop incessantly begging for phone numbers and conversation when we have already said, “No.” Stop touching our bodies without our consent. Stop. Men, stop.

Elliot Rodgers said in a Youtube video the day of his murders:

“Well, this is my last video, it all has to come to this. Tomorrow is the day of retribution, the day in which I will have my revenge against humanity, against all of you. For the last eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires all because girls have never been attracted to me. Girls gave their affection, and sex and love to other men but never to me.”

I’m 22 years old and I’m still a virgin. I’ve never even kissed a girl. I’ve been through college for two and a half years, more than that actually, and I’m still a virgin. It has been very torturous. College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. Within 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. It’s an injustice, a crime, because… I don’t know what you don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman.”

But like I said there isn’t anything I can say about this, that you, CollegeCandy reader don’t already know. You are probably a woman, yes? And so you know what it’s like to be a woman, walking down the street at night with a key between your knuckles just in case. Always traveling in groups, just in case. Peering over your shoulder, just in case. Wondering if this outfit is too much, just in case. Just in case what? Just in case you might encounter the wrong man, who was feeling a certain way that night, who decided to make you the object of his desire and aggression.

Elliot Rodger is the culmination of a society that perceives a woman expressing her needs as “male rejection” and that violence perpetrated against them is excusable because of this.

Elliot wrote in his manifesto, “Humanity… All of my suffering in this world has been at the hands of humanity, particularly women.”

Are all men rapists? Do all men hate women? Do all men have the kind of lingering anger Elliot Rodger has that can cause them to act out in the most disgusting way? It goes without saying, obviously not. But the truth is that women live in fear of violence from men and men do not live in fear of violence from women and hardly even from each other. All men, all women too, are susceptible to internalizing the misogynistic culture that is deeply seeded in America.

But this isn’t just about sexism, it’s about race too. Elliot Rodger felt most  betrayed by the “white girls” he wanted to have sex with because he was white. Elliot Rodger associated his whiteness with a superior form of attractiveness and he made this clear in his online postings and manifesto.

Elliot wrote in his manifesto: “How could an inferior, ugly black boy be able to get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful, and I am half white myself. I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves. I deserve it more.”

He wrote online: “Full Asian men are disgustingly ugly and white girls would never go for you. You’re just butthurt that you were born as an asian piece of shit, so you lash out by linking these fake pictures. You even admit that you wish you were half white. You’ll never be half-white and you’ll never fulfill your dream of marrying a white woman. I suggest you jump off a bridge.”

To Elliot, non-white races were disgusting and unworthy of the grand prize which was white women. Sadly, Elliot is actually mixed race. His mother is Moroccan. Elliot’s racism is probably a product of self-hate. He privileged the side of him that was white and European but completely demeaned the other parts of him. Not only do we live in a sexist culture, we live in a racist culture. We live in a culture that privileges white males and there are only so many hashtags and cases of affluenza that we can have before we do something to end this bullshit. Putting groups of people down, gives other groups of people an inflated sense of self, a relentless sense of entitlement and a free pass to treat others as inferior.

As The Daily News points out Rodger’s parents tried to help him before he went on to stab three of his roommates and shoot others including himself. They called the police but the police thought he was fine. “Here’s another way Rodger’s race was involved. His parents were so worried that they called the police. The police went to his house and questioned him. They thought that he was basically fine, posed no threat, and they left him alone. Now imagine if he’d been black and expressed the threatening rage that is present in his many YouTube videos.”

This kid was making vlogs about his disgust for women and people of color but no one was concerned because he is a white male of affluence and “those guys are harmless.” But a black kid wearing a hoodie eating skittles, now he’s dangerous. 

In America victims of violence and history (a history of the oppression of women and people of color) are blamed for merely existing. In America the actions of misogynists and racists are excused because the mere existence of women and people of color provokes misogynists and racists to act violently. In America violent aggressors, if they are white males, are not told to think rationally, to walk away, to take a deep breath and move on, they are told, “It’s OK you hurt someone, it’s OK you took a life because their presence made you feel uncomfortable.” In America there is nothing more valuable than how white males feel. There is nothing more excusable than what white males do. There is evidence of this all around us. Look at your Senate, look at your classroom, look at your bars, neighborhoods, offices, celebrities and the disparity between what they get away with and what you can.

Who do we blame? It’s so difficult to blame these individuals because they are mere products of their environments, of this culture. As I have to deal with racism because I was born in this body and in this country, others become racists because they were born in this country in their bodies. It is all grossly unfair. It is grossly unfair that we turn people into victims and others into monsters. It is this country’s greatest failure to its people.

What is the solution? We hold those who act violently accountable and stop rationalizing their behaviors. We continue to talk about it publicly. Women, speak up and talk about your experiences. Men, be accountable for your actions and emotions.

The solution is collective but it is individual. We each have to choose to not be oppressors. It’s that simple. If you  have violent urges get help. If someone you know behaves violently alert the proper authorities and channels. As a society we should, by now, after all of these shootings demand better mental healthcare. We can protect each other, we can protect ourselves but most of all we can be better than the examples set forth for us by the media. Men: Show the world that this is not how good men behave. Show the world that one person’s actions is not the barometer for how you will carry yourself and treat others. Be better. We can all be better. Can’t we?

There aren’t any questions to ask about Elliot Rodgers because he answered all of the questions for us. Was he motivated by hatred of women? Yes. Was he motivated by racism? Yes. Was he motivated by entitlement? Yes. And what do those things add up to: America. When it was written in the Declaration of Independence that all men were created equal, you best be sure our forefathers were talking about straight, white men. No matter how far we’ve come, no matter the Suffrage or The Civil Rights, the rest of us are just casualties to their will. At least for now.

I’ll leave you with documentarian Michael Moore’s words on the subject:

While other countries have more violent pasts (Germany, Japan), more guns per capita in their homes (Canada [mostly hunting guns]), and the kids in most other countries watch the same violent movies and play the same violent video games that our kids play, no one even comes close to killing as many of its own citizens on a daily basis as we do — and yet we don’t seem to want to ask ourselves this simple question: “Why us? What is it about US?” Nearly all of our mass shootings are by angry or disturbed white males. None of them are committed by the majority gender, women. Hmmm, why is that? Even when 90% of the American public calls for stronger gun laws, Congress refuses — and then we the people refuse to remove them from office. So the onus is on us, all of us. We won’t pass the necessary laws, but more importantly we won’t consider why this happens here all the time. When the NRA says, “Guns don’t kill people — people kill people,” they’ve got it half-right. Except I would amend it to this: “Guns don’t kill people — Americans kill people.” Enjoy the rest of your day, and rest assured this will all happen again very soon.

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