I can’t stop thinking about Elliot Rodger, the California college student who killed six people and then himself as an act of “retribution” toward the women who rejected him romantically. I’ve watched his terrifying confession video on YouTube, and even skimmed through his 141-page manifesto describing his hatred of women and his right to “punish” and “slaughter” them for denying him “sex and pleasure.”
Rodgers also blames women for all of society’s ills, claiming on one site that, “Women have control over which men get sex and which men don’t, thus having control over which men breed and which men don’t. Feminism gave women the power over the future of the human species. Feminism is evil.”
Despite the fact that a man who feels entitled to a woman’s body and finds feminism evil just shot six people in an act of premeditated murder, responders are already quick to condemn anyone who identifies his behavior as an example of our inherently misogynistic culture gone tragic. “Not all men!” is the default response, trying to portray Rodger as an anomaly instead of a byproduct of a culture that consistently blames women for the crimes perpetrated against their gender. We live in a world where it is acceptable to ask what a rape victim was wearing, or why they didn’t fight back against their attacker, and yet stand back in wonder when a man believes he has the right to slaughter the “sluts” who wouldn’t sleep with him.
Members of the men’s rights groups Rodger participated in remind us, through Twitter and with comments on news articles and forums, that this is really women’s fault. “All it would have taken was for one of you sluts out there to take one for the team and this whole thing could have been avoided.” Others feel sympathy for Rodger, the clear victim of female aggression: “I understand Elliot Rodger, a friendzone can strip a man’s powers away.” One Pick-Up Artist community forum (PUA groups identify women as “targets” and teach men how to “trick” a target into sleeping with them) responded to Rodger’s actions by titling a comment thread “Will women become nicer after today’s attempt?”
This is why I can’t stop thinking about Elliot Rodger: He’s a glimpse into the future and a reminder of the past. Elliot Rodger will be back, in a different form, because our culture hates women just as much as he does. Most of us aren’t murderers, but the reactions to Rodger’s crimes prove we aren’t all innocent either.
You think I’m overreacting. You roll your eyes the way my teenage brothers do when I lecture them for telling a sexist joke. But the numbers don’t overreact. In an analysis of mass murders occurring in the past 30 years, researchers have identified a common trend: Female students are twice as likely to be injured in a school shooting, and revenge for romantic rejection was a common denominator in school shootings from 1995 to 2001. In 1989, Elliot Rodger wasn’t Elliot Rodger, but Marc Lépine, who killed 14 women at a Montreal school after telling them, “You’re women, you’re going to be engineers. You’re all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists.” In 2012, Elliot Rodger was named One L. Goh, who targeted only females when he shot seven students in Oakland, Calif. Police believe he was looking for the female school administrator who expelled him.
Violent events targeting women are a product of culture and belief systems that people internalize from a young age. We teach girls that they are “obligated” to go out with any boy who asks because it is nice, reinforcing the idea that men have a right to female bodies. Women who sleep with too many men are “sluts” and therefore cannot be raped—but beware “friendzoning” men by refusing to sleep with them, like a bitch. We legislate female bodies and elect politicians who question if a rape is “legitimate.” In romantic comedies, women are shown as prizes to be obtained by men. If he fails, it’s the woman’s fault for not realizing what a “great guy” he is, a trope we all find funny until someone uses it as justification for mass murder. The #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter offers further insight into what it’s like to live in Elliot Rodger’s world:
“Because every woman I know has experienced some form of sexual harassment, abuse or assault, myself included.”
“ ‘I have a boyfriend’ is the easiest way to get a man to leave you alone. Because he respects another man more than you.”
“#YesAllWomen are shown from an early age that our worth is directly tied to how sexually attractive we are to men.”
Let me be clear. Elliot Rodger is solely responsible for the murder of his victims, but until we change the way we view gender, until we stop veiling our hatred for women under the guise of protecting “men’s rights” and the “boys will be boys” mentality, Elliot Rodger will always come back. He will come back because we refuse to see pieces of ourselves interspersed throughout the ramblings of a murderer. We want to believe that he’s a freak of nature, not a symptom of a larger misogyny that infects us the day we are born.
This is why I can’t stop thinking about Elliot Rodger, because today he reminds me that while my daughter is begging me to take her outside to play, a parent just like me is making funeral arrangements. And Elliot Rodgers always come back.