A lot is being written about the mass killing spree of Elliot Rodger. I though I’d just post a quick summary and link to some articles, but the more I read, the more wished articles took on a more rounded, intersectional analysis. Rodger’s complex story includes male entitlement and misogyny, internalized racism/white supremacy, heteronormativity, mental illness, and adolescent angst.
Rodger’s misogyny — well-documented through his YouTube videos and manifesto — has been covered pretty well. He intended to kill women because they were women. He said as much.
Rodger’s internalized racism has not been covered as thoroughly. Some articles drawing lines between Rodger’s whiteness and the preponderance of mass murders committed by white men fall flat because they miss the complexity of Rodger’s mixed racial background (his father comes from a white background, his mother has Malasian Chinese heritage). But Rodger had internalized messages of white supremacy, as demonstrated in these quotes:
“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….” (from a post Rodger made in an on-line community)
“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.” (from his manifesto)
It would be inappropriate for me, a middle-aged white man, to analyze his struggles as a white/Asian mixed-race young man, but he was clearly struggling with his racial identity. His first three victims were all young men of Asian descent. He killed them with a knife, a brutal and intimate weapon. Were they proxies for his own Asian heritage? Did he attribute his own lack of girlfriends to his “Asian-ness”?
None of this, of course, lessens the fact that that Rodger was a perpetrator of violence and made choices to act as he did.
So, as you read about Elliot Rodger, keep in mind that he was a complex human being, saturated with society’s messages of misogyny and white supremacy. The facts that he was only “half-white” and that he killed more men than women, do not negate that he was acting out those messages. And those same messages that each of us experience daily and pass on in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.
Here are some quotes from a few worthwhile articles about Rodger, misogyny, and masculinity:
Twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen. If you read nothing else coming out of this, pay attention to these stories from actual women.
[V]ery little attention has been given to the overwhelming message of society that for heterosexual men—if you are not attracting women, if you are not getting laid—you are an utter failure.
Misogyny Is Poison, And You’re Drinking It. Jess Zimmerman
Killing women because women reject you is the act of a monster, but that monster isn’t Elliot Rodger. The monster was whispering in his ear that women owe men sex, and that those who don’t comply should be punished (along, let’s be clear here, with those who do). It told him women did not have the right to make choices about their bodies, that for them to withhold access to those bodies is cruel and unjust. It told him that winning, or wresting, attention and service from a woman is the way to prove you are a man. But it told you that too, and your sons and brothers and fathers and teachers.
But the overall problem is one of a culture where instead of seeing women as, you know, people, protagonists of their own stories just like we are of ours, men are taught that women are things to “earn,” to “win.” That if we try hard enough and persist long enough, we’ll get the girl in the end. Like life is a video game and women, like money and status, are just part of the reward we get for doing well.
[T]he killer [left] a 140-page rant and several YouTube videos describing exactly why he did it. No he-said-she-said, no muffled sounds through the dorm ceiling, no “Maybe he has other issues.” The fruits of our culture’s ingrained misogyny laid bare for all to see.
And yet. When this story broke, the initial mainstream coverage only talked about “mental illness,” not misogyny….
It’s Not All Men. But It’s Men. Kate Harding
It’s not all men. Of course it’s not all men. The idea that anyone might be talking about all men when talking about those who commit violence against women is ludicrous on its face. Pointing it out serves absolutely no purpose except to derail a conversation that might have been lurching toward productivity.
It’s not all men. It’s not all men. It’s not all men.
But listen, you guys, it’s men.