I’m a little late to the party, but I couldn’t work out what I wanted to say exactly about this matter, and how I wanted to say it. I was really affected by the Isla Vista shooting the other week, I found myself thinking about it a lot and spending a lot of time reading article about the shooting itself as well as opinion pieces on why this mass shooting was especially awful. To be honest plenty has been said about it, most of it a lot better than I could possibly write (I’ll post some of links that I especially enjoyed at the end). But I still felt compelled to write something, to convey my thoughts on what made Elliott Rogers do what he did.
First of all, what he did was dreadful in every conceivable way. He decided that because women did not want to have sex with him, and other men were having sex with them instead, people deserved to die. Such a thought process is so beyond my comprehension, I barely know what to say except he was fundamentally wrong and anyone who sympathises with him is also wrong. Not one single bit of reasoning he gave for his atrocious actions can be justified in any way, which you’d think was pretty darn obvious but the amount of stuff I’ve seen where people (almost exclusively men) saying “if women just sucked his dick, this never would have happened” and words to this effect (yes I did read a tweet that actually said that and I’m still shocked and appalled by it). Clearly some people, most of which are men, just don’t get it.
Seeing #YesAllWomen take seed and blossom into an empowering discussion about what all women have to endure at the hands of some men was wonderful. It’s been so liberating to see how big this has gotten and how far the usually unheard voice of women are being heard, finally. I love seeing how much conversation it’s been generating, much of which has been very positive and helpful in shutting down the infuriating “NOT ALL MEN” rhetoric. I can only imagine how many men are seeing this stuff, and being shocked by how lucky they are to not have endured what so many women have, from obnoxious cat calling to physical/sexual assault. I hope that men, after reading about #YesAllWomen will be more careful about who they call out “compliments” to on the street, how they pursue women at bars and when to stop, what consent actually means and how to react when they catch another guy when he does something shitty to a woman. Obviously not every man will change his behaviour, but I am really optimistic that many will.
But what about the men who refuse to change their minds or just ignore this whole issue completely? Men who’ve been brought up thinking women are nothing but objects to have sex with and (if they’re lucky/so inclined) make babies with. Men who teach their son’s that women aren’t as good as men, that manliness is proven by sexual conquest and that respecting women is for “sissies”. Sometimes these boys don’t even need to be taught these things from their parents as such, maybe their parents just don’t really go into any of it so they boy has to search elsewhere for this information, and finds it from his peers, from his favourite TV shows and films and the internet. What is the information he gleans from these sources is skewed and teaches him the wrong thing? What if he learns masculinity is defined by sex and/or violence? What if he finds new friends who feel the same way and help make him become bitter that he can’t be a “real man” without having sex, so that his only resort is violence? That’s what I believe happened to young Elliott Rogers. He wasn’t told by anyone that sex isn’t the be-all-end-all, that at the age of 22 it’s perfectly OK to be a virgin, that women can offer a lot more than sex, that you’re allowed to talk to people about how you’re feeling and that violence is never, ever the answer. I don’t blame his parents at all, they already knew he was troubled and tried to do something about it but were told there was no real risk of him doing anything drastic. Can you imagine how they must feel, they’ve lost their son but can’t really grieve for him because of his own dreadful actions.
I worry that there’s no real way to reach the young men like Elliott and his online peers who feel the same way as him. While most of them won’t get a gun and shoot people, they still think the same way he did. How do you address people of privilege who have everything going pretty darn well for them in most respects but still expect more? How do you untrain all of the young men in the world who think they deserve the love and sex of women without doing anything to actually earn it? How do you explain that a black or hispanic man has just as much right to date a white women as he does, and they probably deserve it more because they think of women as whole people and make the effort to be kind to them? How do we tell all of the new parents out in the world to teach their son’s that a woman’s worth is not measured by what she wears, how she looks or how she sleeps with? It’s an overwhelming concept which seems all but impossible, but with more and more men standing up against misogyny in society, I am hopeful that maybe it will be possible in the not-too-distant future.