We Need to Talk

Memorial for UCSB students

Memorial for UCSB students

We need to talk.   I am outraged.  And I think that anyone who is a woman or who loves women should be outraged too.  There are a lot of conversations that could be had in response to the shooting at UCSB, but I am not going to talk about most of them.  I’m not here to talk about gun violence/gun control.  I don’t want to talk about the stigma surrounding mental illness, the speed in which the media assigns labels, or characteristic traits of Aspergers and how it does not equate to violence.  I don’t want to talk about the shooter at all.  What I want to talk about is the positive response his actions are getting on the internet.  I want to talk about the many men who think he had the right idea.  What I want to talk about is the Men’s Rights Movement, the message that young men are being raised with, and the fact that this is not a one-off incident.  The tragedy of the UCSB shooting is that it has happened before and it will happen again unless we all start having more conversations about misogyny and start changing our culture.

Elliot Rodger was a Men’s Rights Activist (MRA), a member of many MRA websites and forums, and subscribed to several “pick-up artist” and “player” channels on Youtube.  The sole purpose of these sites is to teach men how to manipulate women into having sex with them and also to blame women for withholding sex.  They are taught that just for being men, and therefore superior, they deserve sex.  They feel entitled to access to women’s bodies.  The MRA sites teach that women lie, cheat, and manipulate men, trying to steal their power.  They teach that men need to take their power back, by force if necessary, and become the “true alpha male”.  Each of these websites and Youtube channels have tens of thousands (if not more) of subscribers.  So, we aren’t talking about a few “gun-toting crazy” men who are going to snap and kill everybody.  We are talking about normal, everyday men that you may know, and that is what is truly terrifying.  The UCSB shooting didn’t happen because one man was (allegedly) mentally ill, it happened because this viewpoint has become normal.  This happened because last month a 16 year-old girl was stabbed to death by a classmate for refusing to go to the prom with him, and it’s so normal that you probably didn’t hear a thing about it.  Six people are dead because Elliot Rodger couldn’t get laid when society taught him he had a right to it.

It is truly frightening to see how many positive responses there are to the UCSB shooting.  And these horrible sentiments are getting “likes” and upvotes, so it’s not only a case of the extremist minority.  Whether the comments are sincere or said in jest (there are some of both), these thoughts are out there in the mainstream.  Here are some real life responses that I have seen:

  • “I applaud what this guy did and encourage other young men to take women’s lives, it’s the only way we can fight feminism.”
  • “Whenever a crazy guy asks for sex, you better drop them panties and take one for humanity.”
  • “This would never have happened if those stuck up women had given him a chance.”
  • “Thank you, Elliot, for putting these bitches in their place.  I really appreciate your sacrifice.  R.I.P.”
  • “I really feel bad for him, rejection is agony.”
  • “Involuntary celibacy [screws] with a man’s mind… No one cares about a man’s suffering until he starts killing people.”
  • And one of the worst to a current UCSB student: “If you had just given him a little ass, those people would still be alive today.”

People, what the fuck!  Why are you defending a mass murderer?  We need to talk about this.  I realize that the majority of my audience is female, but that’s fine.  Talk to your brothers and your friends, and especially your sons.  Tell the men and boys in your life that sex is not a right, it’s a gift.  Tell them that no means no, and it doesn’t mean they are now challenged to wear the women down.  Tell them that real men respect women.  Tell them that feeling “entitled” to sex is a short step away from taking it by force.  Ask them to think about the mothers, sisters, and female friends in their lives and take those women as evidence that not all women want to manipulate and use them.  Give them examples of how humanity works best when men and women work together.  Explain that there is no “one right way” that a man should be.  Explain that men come in all different shapes and personalities, with different talents that are just as valid as the next.  Explain that women are the same way.  Women aren’t objects, or property, or receptacles, or trophies, or caricatures, or body parts.  Explain that a woman might say “no” for any number of reasons and many of them may not have anything to do with the guy, but the important part is that they have the right for that “no” to be respected.  Teach them that they don’t have to fear a smart, successful woman.  Teach them that capable women make excellent partners.  Teach them to respect a women, not because she is someone’s sister or daughter, but because she’s a fucking human being and we share a planet together.

This conversation needs to happen.  “But,” you say, “the men in my life are all fine upstanding citizens who love women.”  That’s awesome!  Get them to talk to their friends.  We can not keep perpetuating a misogynist culture where rape jokes are perfectly acceptable on facebook, men can make youtube channels dedicated to tricking women into sleeping with them, and women get brutalized (verbally and physically) every day simply for being a woman.  My heart goes out to all of the victims that were shot, stabbed, and run down by Elliot Rodger.  But mostly I am pissed off that even one person can look at this guy and his manifesto of hate with sympathy, understanding, or agreement.  There is a very popular Margaret Atwood quote circulating the internet right now: “Why do men feel threatened by women?  They’re afraid women will laugh at them and undercut their world view.  Why do women feel threatened by men? They’re afraid of being killed.”

I am not an activist.  I have never been very focused on politics.  I don’t follow the news, I don’t listen to talk radio, and I am not as aware of the world around me as I should be.  But, I do know that without the actions of good people who can’t stand the way of things, the world will never change.  I have become more politically aware as I’ve gotten older.  There are certain causes that I truly believe in.  Mainly, though, I simply refuse to remain silent as society crumbles around my feet.  So, instead of leaving your with that sobering quote from Margaret Atwood, I will choose to end on a different note.  Have a conversation.  Don’t talk about the gory details of what happened at UCSB.  Talk about why it happened.  Talk about gun violence and gun control.  Talk about the stigma surrounding mental illness, and the speed in which the media assigns labels.  Educate yourself on the characteristic traits of Aspergers and then talk about how it does not equate to violence.  Talk about misogyny and the Men’s Rights Movement.  Educate yourself, and then spread the word because we have a hell of a lot to talk about.

Not only will we have to repent for the sins of bad people; but we also will have to repent for the appalling silence of good people.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

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7 responses

  1. I don’t mean to upset you further, but I think by even spending a minute countering the specious arguments originally offered by a self-eliminated madman you are granting them a validity they don’t deserve.

    The killer was a midge of a miniscule of an outlier of an anomaly in human behavior. The MRAs represent a tiny percentage of malcontent neurotics. Conversing with them is like arguing with drunks. Life and time can sober them up, but you are wasting your time to try.

    The only aspects of this event worth my time are about strengthening gun control laws, and the need for police to be more proactive when dealing with anyone they are called to visit repeatedly.

    1. I would love it if I could agree with you. I wish that I could dismiss this as the sentiments of the extreme minority. The problem is that the statistics on violence against women prove that it isn’t. The attitude of men wanting and expecting dominance over women isn’t limited to MRA. It is firmly part of mainstream culture. I agree that there are many wonderful men who do love and respect women, but there are just as many who don’t and they pose an enormous threat. If you are passionate about gun control and police policy, then please, by all mens, get those conversations going. As I said in my post, this event brought up so many issues that need to be considered and conversations that need to happen and they are all equally valid. Thank you for your comment. Whether you agree or disagree with me isn’t important. What matters is that this conversation is taking place, which was the whole point.

      1. Actually I totally agree that violence against women is a systemic, widespread problem. But the MRA is still a tiny number of people who have little influence on anything. Sexism and misogyny are core aspects of Capitalism, Corporatism, religion, and American politics. If you want to have the conversation with and about those who cause the problem, have it with Congress, the banksters, fundamentalist Christians and with the 1%.

  2. YES to all of this. I’m working on a post that’s a more substantive comment, because — you’re right — we need to have a conversation about all these things.

    I know you’re not on Twitter, but there’s been some amazing stuff going on with the #yesallwomen hashtag. And, of course, there have been some attempts to detail (notallmen and yesallpeople, because God forbid we acknowledge that there’s a huge problem without making sure that random men aren’t insulted).

    And then, of course, there’s stuff like this: http://thinkprogress.org/culture/2014/05/27/3441705/seth-rogen-neighbors-yes-all-women/

    1. Thank you, and I can’t wait to read your post. It’s frustrating that anytime a women start talking about misogyny and women’s rights or telling their own stories, there are men who feel that they need to defend their gender instead of listening to what the women have to say. Yes, I understand that all men everywhere are not assholes, but there are enough of them that this is a widespread issue. If you are not a misogynist ass, great, but that doesn’t invalidate the experience of thousands of women just because you got your feelings hurt.

      1. I had a conversation about a year ago with my mom and her best guy friend, and it pretty much went like this:

        Me: Wait, what do you mean sexism doesn’t exist anymore if it ever did?
        Him: Well, I’ve never experienced sexism, and I’m not sexist, so…
        Me: ‘Kay, but maybe your experiences aren’t the end all of human experience. Maybe a whole bunch of women, including both women in the room, HAVE experienced it and know what they’re talking about when they say it exists and is still a problem.
        My mom: You should listen to Kelly. She’s right.
        Him: yeah, but I’ve never experienced it.

        And he’s not alone. Part of the problem with this dialogue (not really a problem, actually, just an added difficulty) is that people raised in a dominant group often have a difficult time contextualizing the experiences of non-dominant groups, and they find it easier to invalidate those experiences than to struggle to understand. That’s what I see happening with a lot of the #notallmen responses. But, honestly, even though they probably don’t mean to be harmful, it’s such an unhelpful response that it almost doesn’t matter what they intend.

  3. […] woke up this morning to an awesome post on my friend’s blogs, Defies Description and Beauty in Budget Blog. She’s right: we need to talk about this […]

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