On May 23, Elliot Rodger took the lives of six college students and left seven others injured in a shooting rampage that took place near the campus of UC Santa Barbara.
The media immediately publicized this incident, blaming Rodger’s “mental illness” and “loneliness” for this crime. Yahoo! News even went so far as to say that Rodger’s shooting spree was “spurned by love.” But those of us who have experienced gender-based violence and discrimination at one point or another in our lives know better than that. Rodger’s killings, as horrendous and disturbing as they may be, are merely violent manifestations of the sexually prejudicial sentiments deeply ingrained within our society.
While Rodger is guilty of committing this crime, the perpetual cycle of misogyny and rape culture that seems to have a fixed place in our world must be held accountable as well.
Before Rodger equipped himself with a gun, there were clear signs that foreshadowed inevitable disaster. In his 141 page manifesto posted online titled “My Twisted World,” Rodger expressed his frustration that started as an adolescent and stemmed from his inability to take part in sexual intercourse like other boys, writing, “When a boy reaches puberty a whole new world opens up to him…a whole new world with new pleasures, such as sex and love. Other boys will experience this, but not me, it pains me to say.”
Rodger even uploaded a video on Youtube in which he declared that “college is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure, but in those years I’ve had to rot in loneliness. It’s not fair. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it”.
What Rodger’s rants have in common is that they all revolve around the concept of entitlement. Rodger, like many other of his cohorts and fellow “alpha males,” feel that they are entitled to women’s bodies and the sex that follows. To them, women are merely objects waiting to satiate the sexual appetites of the men interested in procuring them. While rape and sexual harassment are blatant displays of entitlement, we can encounter this disturbing subject etched into the foundations of many institutions in our society.
Within the confines of our schools, we are taught from an early age that “boys will be boys” and girls will simply have to make do. Often, sexual education classes offered in high schools and colleges make a mockery of the the very subject they are intend to teach. Usually, sex ed classes spend a great deal of time instructing young men on how to apply contraceptives and maintain their sexual health. However, gender-based bias is implicated when sex ed lectures women receive mainly discuss pregnancy prevention and contacting sexual assault victim hotlines and support groups, with contraception and sexual health remaining secondary afterthoughts.
If we have enough time to warn women about their vulnerability to sexual assaults, then we should allocate more time towards educating men on how to recognize sexual assault, understand the havoc it can wreak on someone’s life and essentially, prevent it from happening. By using sexual education as a tool that equally serves both men and women, complying with the masculinist notion of entitlement will no longer be the norm in the classroom.
Given that we are at the forefront of technological advances and social communication, the themes of entitlement and misogyny are so melded into cinema, music and media that they are ubiquitous; they are plastered across billboards for all to see, or at the edge of our fingertips whenever we toy with our hand-held devices. Honestly, it would be wishful thinking to expect Hollywood, the music industry and other media outlets to stop targeting women as sexualized objects just to increase profits and gain attention. Rather, we, as the consumers and spectators who witness such events, should focus more on changing ourselves.
Yesterday, I came across a blog, “Your Princess is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds,” written by Arthur Chu, where he breaks the fourth wall and gives us a stark glimpse of reality, writing, “We are not Lewis from Revenge of the Nerds, we are not Steve Urkel from Family Matters, we are not Preston Myers from Can’t Hardly Wait, we are not Seth Rogen in every movie Seth Rogen has ever been in, we are not Mario racing to the castle to beat Bowser because we know there’s a princess in there waiting for us.”
We are constantly reminded that through hard work and persistence, we surely reach our goals. But, more often than not, when we come face to face with failure, we writhe in frustration and rage. Rodger took this type of anguish to an extreme when he began spewing threats and harboring hatred because he was unable to cope with rejection.
That is why a thick, broad line separates fantasy from reality. The production of films, music, news and even clothing lines has set unattainable standards for us to reach. Rape culture is glamorized, and a handful of people who interpret this as something normal are only perpetuating misogyny. But, we always have the choice to follow the mainstream, or stop and realize that this is not how it should be.
All women are not young, attractive 20-somethings wishing for men over twice their age to hound them as movies depict or promiscuously-dressed (or not dressed) background dancers seen in music videos. Men who feel too entitled to see that must finally muster up the courage and acquire a level of maturity to admit their faults. By respecting a woman’s decisions in maintaining her social circles and choosing how she presents herself to the world, we are giving her a voice in shaping her life.
What compels someone like Rodger to get a gun, and undergo the transition from a misogynistic wallflower to a cold-blooded murderer? The same force that keeps driving men to act the way we want them to act.
I am not going to say that Elliot Rodger was a victim. He was conscious of the choices he made, and he was a harbinger of gender-based violence. But, as we fail to address the bigger issue, we are creating a society of victims due to the sheer power of willful ignorance. We are doing a disservice to our sons, brothers, nephews, husbands, friends, and other important male figures in our lives when we keep shouting at them to “Man up!” and conform to a mold where there is no room for weakness, no room for being human. When we tell them that the worst possible insult they can receive is being equated to a woman and that violence is perceived as a display of strength, we are doing far more damage than we could possible imagine. As Rodger led his life, contrasting his failures to the sexual exploits of others, he withheld insecurities that echoed further into his adolescence.
Having passed the wake of the 21st century, it is about time that we finally validate the existence of 51 percent of our species as actual human beings. Silence and passivity are not going to make any visible changes in the world. Hatred against women is an issue that affects me personally because enough has not been done to resolve it.
Even with social movements and outcries on social media being established, it is terrifying to know that more people like Rodger are alive and well, spreading their poisonous ideologies online and physically. Of course, I want to emphasize that, no, #NotAllMen are like this. But the problem is that, before the Isla Vista shootings, Rodger could have been anyone, and anyone could have been Rodger.
And so, #YesAllWomen are deeply affected by the fact that they must live in a world where a handful of men who might pose a risk to them look no different than upstanding gentlemen.
When the media is unable to condemn a bloody act of misogyny, and there are posts on social media sites blaming this massacre on the women who rejected Rodger, it speaks volumes about the tasks our generation is faced with. We should all remember Rodger’s killings as an example of how hateful thoughts can serve as a pretext for endangering the lives of the innocent if we truly want to begin changing and reforming the lives of women for the better.