05/28/2014 12:17 pm ET Updated Jul 28, 2014

Elliot Rodger and the High Price of Misogyny


This is a dark night of the heart for me. Friday night, Elliot Rodger killed at least six people (it's recently been reported that there were three more) and injured 13 others. According to the Associated Press:

Elliot Rodger's parents raced to his Santa Barbara-area community after his mother saw his online threats, but they heard the news of a shooting on the radio as they were driving on the freeway.

They later learned their son had killed six people, wounded 13 and then -- authorities say -- took his own life.

Naturally, this has sparked an international debate about mental illness (and people wrongfully conflating Asperger syndrome with mental illness), gun control and, buried underneath all that, his heinous hatred of women. For two days now, I have watched the pushback on any woman daring to raise the point that Rodger quite clearly had a problem with women. These women aren't extrapolating; the misogyny is plain as day. Take this excerpt from his speech, transcribed by CNN:

And girls, all I've ever wanted was to love you, and to be loved by you. I've wanted a girlfriend, I've wanted sex, I've wanted love, affection, adoration, but you think I'm unworthy of it.

That's a crime that can never be forgiven.

If I can't have you, girls, I will destroy you. (laughs)

You denied me a happy life, and in turn, I will deny all of you life. (laughs) It's only fair.

Of course, we must talk about the access to high-powered rifles and the fascination America has with guns and violence. Of course we must bring up gun-loving Switzerland and their low levels of violence. Naturally, this seems as good a time as any to remark on the lack of mental health services in the country. All these things are true, and even if we don't know the extent to which mental illness played in these deaths, I'd still like to see better services and less barriers for people who are vulnerable due to mental health issues. These are all good, concrete issues that we can point to -- tangible topics that we can blame for Elliot Rodger's murderous rampage.

And yet, while we talk about these things, it buries the things we don't like to talk about: the roles that entitlement and misogyny play in senseless acts of violence. Michael Kimmel has spoken on the refocusing of this issue before in "America's Angry White Men":

Yet deny it we do, often by assuming that these outbursts are motivated by anything at all -- mental illness, access to guns, video games, whatever -- other than gender. We'd notice, of course, if it were poor black girls pulling the triggers in school shootings, or women who walked into their workplaces with semi-automatic guns firing, or all Asians or Jews or Latinos who were shooting up our movie theaters and political rallies. But white men? Must be some other factor.

Even through my own fear and anger about this senseless violence, I can hear the terror, pain and loneliness that prompted this young man into action. It's not so very long ago I suffered from loneliness -- from a fear that boys would never, ever like me. The school tauntings I received have far outlived the bumps and bruises inflicted on a girl who was poor, who was quiet, who had trouble speaking with people. I don't have to reach that far back into memory to recall many young men and women telling me I was fat, ugly, worthless. These taunts continue almost daily from random commenters on the Internet, but they'll never match the sting from my adolescence. My response to this was to turn the violence inward, and if you look at my wrists there are still the faint scars from self-mutilation. There are other marks, but they are not as easy to see and the slice of a razor.

So it's not surprising to me that these dark feelings, this rage born of isolation and suffering, led Rodger to the dark, dank corners of the Internet -- places where the stench of misogyny is so settled into the carpet that people no longer notice the smell. In fact, I imagine it's probably like Pickton on his pig farm.

Joanna Schroder wrote at The Good men Project: "Many are wondering why this shooter would (allegedly) choose to do this. Well, we don't have to wonder. He told us. He told us he's mad that he was rejected by women for so many years. He told us that he is angry that certain men get the women he thinks he's entitled to."

Further, Anne Theriault at the Bell Jar explains Rodger's online activities:

He was an active member of the "PUAhate," an online forum (which has been down since the shootings) 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." And just to clarify, they're not revealing these scams because of how vile and misogynistic they are, but rather because these men have tried these techniques and still failed to trick women into sleeping with them. These are men who both feel entitled to have sex with women and also blame all women everywhere for not fucking them. See, they want to have sex with a woman because that's what they deserve just for being dudes, but they also hate women for withholding what they view as rightfully theirs. And I mean, boy do they ever hate women. The PUAhate forum has, according to an article on The Hairpin, threads with titles like "Are ugly women completely useless to society?" and "Have any hot women ever committed suicide?"

Chauncey DeVega discusses the crisis of white masculinity and the connection to these typically young, white, middle-class men to mass shootings. There is, says Devega, a common theme in the was rage and white entitlement come together.

Honestly, I don't write this with glee but with a sense of foreboding. I write with despair in my heart that men and women had to die because of the unchecked misanthropy Rodgers felt. His rage built slowly, kindled by misogyny and fed a steady diet of policed masculinity as tinder. Looking through his manifesto he came to loath men as much as women. While he aspires in his manifesto to create a perfect world by making sure that "all women must be quarantined like the plague they are" (p. 136) he writes in other places of destroying those men who he deems subordinate to these ball-busting she-demons.

There will doubtless be more crimes like this. It reminds me of my conversation with Detective Stephen Camp of the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee. In a discussion of free speech in society, he described Section 319 of the Criminal Code. Camp says this definition of hate propaganda means there has to be intent to "move people into action whether that is through discriminatory practice such as not allowing a particular group to have access to housing or education or actions such as criminal behaviour." I have not spoken to Camp about Rodger's actions, and do not know if he would consider the video or manifesto Rodger created as hate speech. Rather, this quote came to memory on reflection of the vile venomous phrasing by some men in the so-called "Men's Rights" movement. What we've witnessed here is the high price of misogyny that society pays. The question that now remains is this: Will we keep our heads buried in the sand or are we finally ready to take action?