Saturday morning I woke up to find my Facebook full of news about a mad terrorist on a murdering rampage.
Elliot Rodger left a video, very clearly and calmly explaining his actions. He wanted us to know. He wanted us to understand that he was punishing us. Punishing us for making him feel things he didn’t want to feel. Punishing us for not making him feel the way he was told he wanted to feel. Punishing us for letting him down.
I was gonna write a long blog post about this, but other people have said all of my thoughts in perfectly clear and cohesive ways. Here are the cliffnotes.
These killings were misogynist terrorism. (Laurie Penny, “The New Statesman”)
The ideology behind these attacks – and there is ideology – is simple. Women owe men.
Violent extremism entices those who long to lash out at a system they believe has cheated them, but lack they courage to think for themselves, beyond the easy answers they are offered by pedlars of hate. For some time now misogynist extremism has been excused, as all acts of terrorism committed by white men are excused, as an aberration, as the work of random loons, not real men at all. The pattern is repeatedly denied: these are the words and actions of the disturbed.
As soon as women began to speak about the massacre, a curious thing happened. Men all over the world – not all men, but enough men – began to push back, to demand that we qualify our anger and mitigate our fear. Not all men are violent misogynists.
But if you think for one second, for one solitary second, that demanding tolerance for men as a group, that dismissing the reality of violence against women because not all men kill, not all men rape, if you think that’s more important than demanding justice for those who have been brutalized and murdered by those not all men, then you are part of the problem. You may not have pulled the trigger. You may not have raised your hand to a woman in your life. But you are part of the problem.
We have been told for a long time that the best way to deal with this sort of harassment and violence is to laugh it off. Women and girls and queer people have been told that online misogynists pose no real threat, even when they’re sharing intimate guides to how to destroy a woman’s self-esteem and force her into sexual submission. Well, now we have seen what the new ideology of misogyny looks like at its most extreme. We have seen incontrovertible evidence of real people being shot and killed in the name of that ideology, by a young man barely out of childhood himself who had been seduced into a disturbing cult of woman-hatred. Elliot Rodger was a victim – but not for the reasons he believed.
Misogyny is nothing new, but there is a specific and frightening trend taking place, and if we’re not going to accept it, we have to call it by its name. Misogynist extremism does not exist in a mystical digital fairyland where there are no consequences. It is real. It does damage. It kills. And this is no longer a topic where abstraction is anything approaching appropriate.
Men need to grow [the fuck] up. (Arthur Chu, “The Daily Beast – Entertainment”)
We are not the lovable nerdy protagonist who’s lovable because he’s the protagonist. We’re not guaranteed to get laid by the hot chick of our dreams as long as we work hard enough at it. There isn’t a team of writers or a studio audience pulling for us to triumph by “getting the girl” in the end. And when our clever ruses and schemes to “get girls” fail, it’s not because the girls are too stupid or too bitchy or too shallow to play by those unwritten rules we’ve absorbed.
It’s because other people’s bodies and other people’s love are not something that can be taken nor even something that can be earned—they can be given freely, by choice, or not.
We need to get that. Really, really grok that, if our half of the species ever going to be worth a damn. Not getting that means that there will always be some percent of us who will be rapists, and abusers, and killers. And it means that the rest of us will always, on some fundamental level, be stupid and wrong when it comes to trying to understand the women we claim to love.
What did Elliot Rodger need? He didn’t need to get laid. None of us nerdy frustrated guys need to get laid. When I was an asshole with rants full of self-pity and entitlement, getting laid would not have helped me.
He needed to grow up.
We all do.
No seriously, dude, It’s you. (John Beckett, “Under The Ancient Oaks”)
If you think women are “supposed” to have sex with you, the problem is you.
If you just want to get laid and you don’t care how, the problem is you.
If you don’t understand [enthusiastic consent], the problem is you.
Our hypermasculine culture sets unrealistic expectations and encourages men to see women as potential sex partners instead of as neighbors, co-workers, and friends. All too often it is deadly for women and it’s no friend of the vast majority of men. It’s long past time for it to change to a culture built on mutual respect.
And if you can’t see that, dude, the problem is you.
Deconstructing #NotAllMen (Sarah Ortner, “All The Things, All Mixed Up”)
I.) It actually really does hurt [men] to hear [women they care about, tell] painful stories. Those stories are weighing him down, making him feel helpless and also kind of defensive, because ok, yeah, all of the women in his life are constantly having all these awful experiences and having to be so cautious and having to be mindful and having to figure out how to say “No” in ten thousand different languages and tones (So, in the immortal worlds of Louis C.K., men don’t kill us)- but *he* isn’t that kind of guy! He honestly, really, isn’t! And as much as I know he wants to, he can’t go out and just demolish all the dicks in the world. It’s just not possible. And he can’t stand between us and intervene between each of the women he cares about (and, because he is a really good human) all the women he doesn’t even know and each of the men who are jerks. So all he can do is listen and hear and feel awful and helpless and kind of terrible and kind of awful for being a guy. Which isn’t helping anyone, and he knows it. So what else is there to do?
Well, he has to tell someone, of course.
III) But when the person you go to tell things is the person who just told you things….
Woman to man: Here is my experience!
Man (internal dialogue): Holy shit, that is really awful and I feel really bad about it. I need to go talk to someone about this. I’ll go to the person that I usually go to to share intimate/emotional aspects of myself.
Man to woman: Hearing this makes me feel really bad! And now I’m worried about how you think of me! #NotAllMen are like that! (Importantly, I’m not!)
Woman (internal dialogue): Wow, I just shared a part of myself and my experience and now this guy expects me to help him feel better about the experience of listening to me? And also seems to be devaluing the integrity of what I’m telling him?
Woman to man: Fuck off. Seriously. For Real. #YesAllWomen.
IV) If you are a man who is becoming upset/depressed/overwhelmed/hopeless/defensive when you listen to the women in the world/your life talk about their experiences, you need to talk about it. With another man.
VI) Women need men to [talk to other men, about emotions and feelings]. Women need men to learn how to be emotionally connected to other men. We need men to learn how to draw emotional support and nurturing from other men. Not to do that in absence of us, but in addition to us. Because men being isolated and lonely- it really, really is killing us.
Men and women, it is really killing us.
So, my dear beloved very important to me guy friends- first of all, thank you for listening. I mean that. Listening is hard and crucial, and when you listen without being defensive it is a huge gift. Thank you. And second, when you are wondering to yourself- what can I do? What should I do? Please, don’t ask me. I can’t fix this or tell you how to fix it. I am not the one with that kind of leverage. But I have a feeling that you can make a serious start by finding another man and being honest and open with them about what it means to be male in this culture, and what it means to be female, and what you’ve heard from the women in your life. I think that can be really, really powerful.
(The Frog Man)
You say not all men are monsters?
Imagine a bowl of M&Ms. 10% of them are poisoned.
Go ahead. Eat a handful.
Not all M&Ms are poison.