Last Friday night, a young man named Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree in the UCSB Isla Vista community of Santa Barbara, California. He succeeded in killing six people and injuring thirteen more. His motivation, according to him, was that women didn’t have sex with him. Not only did they not have sex with him, but instead, they chose to have sex with other, “less-deserving” men. He felt entitled to their bodies and felt righteous in punishing them for denying him what he felt he was owed.
Since Elliot Rodger’s shooting/stabbing spree, women from around the world are sharing their stories. You can find many concise accounts on Twitter under the #YesAllWomen hashtag. A few examples are below:
Because every single woman I know has a story about a man feeling entitled to access to her body. Every. Single. One. #YesAllWomen
— Emily (@emilyhughes) May 24, 2014
“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
— Rylah (@JBRylah) May 25, 2014
#YesAllWomen because when a girl is harassed or even groped by a stranger in public, we’re told to “take it as a compliment”
— Amy Bottrill (@bottrill) May 25, 2014
Because men don’t text eachother that they got home safe. #YesAllWomen
— Addie Wagenknecht (@wheresaddie) May 26, 2014
The personal accounts of rape and sexual harassment paint a vivid picture of the misogynistic world we inhabit, but what truly exposes this truth is the reaction from many (but not all) men who view this as a personal attack against the entire male population. “Men’s rights activists” have taken to social media to stand up for their sex, claiming the feminist agenda is to purge the earth of all male inhabitants and accusing women of misandry, simply for speaking out about the oppression they have experienced and observed in their own lives.
Not surprisingly, mainstream media, men, and even some women are rushing to Elliot Rodger’s defense, saying he was just a mentally disturbed young man who only wanted something most people can identify with: to be given a chance to love and be loved — that he was someone who should be pitied, rather than despised for his act of premeditated mass murder. The innocent people whose lives were ended because of his twisted vendetta against women and the men who have “access” to them are largely forgotten and are instead banished to the category of collateral damage in the battle of the nice guy versus the world. This perfectly illustrates exactly what dissenters attempt to deny: that misogyny is such an insidious force in society that it goes unnoticed and is even itself used as “proof” of its non-existence.
Some examples of the anti-feminist backlash:
A similar hashtag, #NotAllMen, has become popular to both distract from and call attention to misogyny in society, depending on who it is used by. A comprehensive explanation of this can be found here.
The tragic incident last Friday felt all the more personal to me because I used to go to Isla Vista quite often to attend parties on the weekends and am familiar with the places these murders occurred. For all the above reasons, I feel the desire to elaborate on a couple of very memorable accounts of misogyny I have experienced while spending time in this same community. Part of what I will disclose in this post is something I have never spoken of since the day I saw it. I feel it’s time I finally get this out in the open.
In the brief time I was in college, I became friends with a guy in one of my classes who we’ll call Jake. He was a big, tall, bald, burly guy who was eager to please and always cracking jokes. He had friends who went to UCSB so we would go there together on weekends because at the time I didn’t have a car. Over the course of a couple months we all became familiar with each other and regularly partied together on Del Playa Drive (DP), which is a street any college kid could walk down on the weekends and find a party going on at pretty much every house. (It is also one of the streets on which Elliot Rodger opened fire on pedestrians.)
Jake would frequently do things to try to impress me which only wound up doing the exact opposite. One night, he drank an entire handle of Smirnoff vodka by himself. He spent the next day puking in the gutter. But that same night, while he was drunk, leaning on a wall in the hallway at some house party we were crashing, he tried to kiss me.
I took a step back and told him, “Look, Jake. You’re really drunk and anyway I’m not into you like that. I just want to be friends.” He laughed in his drunken stupor and tried again.
Again, I took a step back and told him it was never going to happen. Then he started begging and pleading with me and saying how I didn’t know what was good for me and if I’d only give him a chance I’d have to change my mind. I told him he was drunk and pissing me off and left the party.
The next day when I woke up I overheard him in the next room telling his friends, “I’m going to marry that girl. She doesn’t know it yet but just watch. If I play my cards right, she’ll come to her senses.”
I was speechless. I felt a mixture of disgust, anger, and pure shock. He wasn’t listening to me at all. It was as if only his feelings mattered and mine were utterly irrelevant, because supposedly he knew what I really wanted better than I did. Sure, he was drunk the night before, but I had looked him right in the eye and told him that I didn’t reciprocate his feelings.
I thought, “What is this, the ’50s? You don’t get brownie points for being persistent after I tell you I’m not interested. It doesn’t prove to me you’re a good guy who really cares about my feelings — all it proves is your complete disregard for my feelings.”
I walked out and said to him, in front of his friends, “I’m capable of making my own decisions, thanks.”
Later, when Jake was out getting pizza for all of us, one of his friends showed me a video on his phone I’ll never forget. Apparently, this type of thing happens “all the time,” but to me as an 18 year old who just started college, it was somewhat of a shock.
In the video, a young woman my age was laying down on her back and appeared to be very, very drunk. So drunk she could barely open her eyes or lift her head. She moved her lips a little and made some indistinguishable noises like she was trying to talk to someone out of frame but it was impossible to decipher what it was she was trying to say because she kept slurring her words and trailing off. I don’t even think she knew where she was. Someone out of frame asked her what her name was at one point and she couldn’t even articulate that. Then hands appeared in the frame and lifted up her tank top. Then her bra.
There must have been around four or five guys taking turns raping her. She didn’t fight back, but it was rape. She didn’t say “no,” but it was rape. She didn’t do anything to stop it because she couldn’t even keep her eyes open. She didn’t even remember her own name. And regardless of her choice to get drunk — it was never her choice to get raped.
For the most part, she was totally unconscious, but every now and then her eyes would roll back from inside her skull and she’d look around the room bewildered and then fall back into unconsciousness. I couldn’t watch any more. The whole time my “friends” were laughing about how much of a “slut” she was and how “stupid” she was to allow herself to be in that situation. They blamed her for what her attackers were doing to her. They thought that experience would “teach her a lesson” so she would “know better next time.”
I was dumbfounded and asked them if they knew who the guys in the video were. I think one of them did. I told them they should report it and one of them said they already did. To this day I don’t know why I believed them and didn’t continue to ask questions or do anything about it. Maybe it was because I was young and didn’t know how to react to seeing something like that. Maybe I selfishly didn’t want to get involved. Maybe I didn’t want to believe what I had just seen was real. Maybe it was a subconscious kind of self-preservation. I don’t know why I didn’t ask any more questions or do something about it. It eats at me.
They could tell I was bothered and tried to comfort me by telling me not to be so freaked out and that things like that happen all the time, even at parties I had been to. They tried to normalize it for me in an attempt to put me at ease. They couldn’t understand why I was so shocked and why I wasn’t laughing along with the rest of them. They assured me that I wasn’t a “stupid slut” and that they would protect me so I had nothing to worry about.
That was supposed to be comforting.
Needless to say, I had to get out of there. It was around 8:00 at night and I had to take a ride back to Los Angeles with Jake. On our way back he told me we were taking the long way back and he drove up a narrow, winding road to the top of a mountain. There were stars everywhere. Nothing in the sky was obscured by city lights. Everything else was dark. I didn’t know this wasn’t actually the long way back, and naively thought we were still headed to Los Angeles. We talked about normal stupid things college kids talk about. Music, movies, philosophical musings, etc. Normal stuff. Then he pulled over and said he had to take a leak. He got out of the car and I waited inside.
When he got back inside he didn’t start the car immediately. He just sat there staring at the wheel long enough to make things awkward.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Why don’t you want to kiss me?” he asked after a brief pause. “I’m a nice guy. I keep you safe at parties. I open doors for you –”
I laughed. “Jake, we already went over this. I only see you as a friend. I’m sorry, but that’s just how I feel.”
He kept looking at the steering wheel a little more and then leaned over to try to kiss me. I backed up toward the passenger window. “Stop,” I said firmly. “Let’s go back.”
Without pause, he shifted out of his seat — and mind you, he’s a big, tall, burly guy — and put his body on top of mine to try to kiss me again. Before I could think, I shouted, “Stop it!” and pushed him away from me so hard that his head hit and cracked his car’s windshield. To this day I have no idea how I was able to summon the strength to do that because he was easily three times my size. He winced in pain and rubbed his head and I ordered him to “take me home NOW,” which, thankfully, he did. I think he was just shocked. We didn’t talk the rest of the trip back.
He dropped me off at home and I never contacted him again. He called me for years after that night and would leave me voicemails asking if I had a boyfriend and what I was up to.
It was like he was still convinced that he was going to marry me some day and all he had to do was wait it out and wear my defenses down to prove that he really loved me.
These experiences are just a few examples of the misogyny I’ve personally experienced and witnessed. But it happens every day to varying degrees. And I am only one example.
I’m not saying all men are rapists and murderers. I’m not saying all men are walking around consciously detesting women. I’m not saying men aren’t ever themselves victims of sexual violence (though usually at the hands of other men). I’m not saying men are wrong for feeling lonely.
I’m also not saying that women don’t in some strange ways benefit from an objectifying, patriarchal society. For example, if I got a ticket every time I’ve been pulled over, I’d be thousands of dollars in debt. But this should be further reason for us to change the status quo, not an excuse for men to play the victim. And this slight benefit is a pittance compared to the male privilege which permeates society.
Misogyny and male privilege is ingrained in society in the words we use, the movies we watch, the music we listen to, the clothes we wear, the history we learn, and the stories we tell. For far too long women have been silenced. Our voices have been drowned out; our stories have been largely stricken from history; and our perspective has been completely ignored.
When the role of men is almost always the protagonist and the role of women is almost always the love interest or sexual conquest, that is misogyny in action. When we place greater importance on the male perspective than the female perspective, that is misogyny in action. When we brainwash young girls from birth to believe that she only matters if a boy validates her or that her opinion is only taken into consideration if she is considered attractive by the opposite sex, that is misogyny in action. When we brainwash young boys from birth to believe that being male means being strong and being female means being weak, that is misogyny in action. And when Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree at UCSB because he wanted to teach a lesson to the people he blamed for getting between him and the pleasure he felt he was so entitled to, that is most definitely misogyny in action.
And whether you like it or not; whether you recognize it or not, if you’re a man, you benefit from male privilege.
True, not all men feel entitled to male privilege, but all men benefit from it.
And the sooner we as a society recognize it, the sooner we can confront it and change it.
Unfortunately, Elliot Rodger was not the first or last misogynist to hurt others out of a sense of entitlement. He was raised to have these views by living in a patriarchal society that regards women as objects to be “had.” Ultimately, he is only a symptom of a much larger societal disease. One that left untreated, will continue to have disastrous consequences for us all.