Although police would not identify the suspected gunman, the connection was quickly made to a chilling video posted by a young man who identified himself as 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, titled “retribution,” reports the Santa Barbara Independent
. In the video, the young man vows to take revenge for what he describes as a lifetime of sexual rejection.
When Boko Haram kidnaps hundreds of girls, we have no problem attributing their actions to misogyny. But when an American guy shows us EXACTLY how he feels about women— that women are (barely) people, who exist SOLELY to satisfy his and other men’s sexual needs, and if we don’t do that, we shouldn’t exist— and then commits heinous acts of violence in complete accordance with that belief, America’s first cry is “Mental Health Issues!”
Really? How many of these killings, exactly, would it take for us to admit that not only do we have a mental health problem in this country, and not only do we need to address way-too-easy access to guns, but that we have some deep-seated woman-hating to address, too?
1 in 3 American women being assaulted in her lifetime apparently isn’t enough to convince US that we might have some gender issues to deal with, and that violent hatred of women isn’t just a problem with people in Those Countries, or of That Religion.
So what will it take, exactly?
I agree that the fact that he went to the extreme of killing people illustrates that something is more wrong with him than is wrong with most people. But we don’t actually know anything about his mental health history. All we know is that he subscribes to some very harmful, dangerous, misogynist beliefs, beliefs that are not out of line with what far too many other Americans, particularly men, believe: that women are not worthy, self-sovereign people of our own who have a right to think, feel and exist for our own purposes, but that we exist for them. That if we don’t do what they want, especially if they are (some addled version of) ‘nice’ to us, they are justified in behaving violently toward us. Why on Earth would we not take these documented facts about his (and others’) beliefs just as seriously as speculation about his mental fitness?
A friend of mine posted a screengrab of YouTube commenters on his video expressing sympathy for the shooter, blaming women for not “giving it up” and warning that “this is what you get for treating nice guys like shit”. It’d be easy to dismiss them as fringe— if we didn’t already know that something in our society is so sick that 76% of high school boys and 56% of high school girls are growing up with the idea that there are some situations where it can be OK for a man to force a woman to have sex with him.
Violence like this is not merely a “mental health” issue— it’s the predictable result of raising half our society to believe that the other half of society exists for their pleasure or disposal. How about we stop doing that already? (And make it harder to get guns, while we’re at it?)