I’ve been hesitating on writing a post about Elliot Rodger, the young man who shot and killed multiple people at the UC Santa Barbara campus, because I usually like to reflect on my thoughts on cultural moments before I attempt to utter a word. Most of us have already heard about his heinous crimes; however, there’s been a public debate occurring regarding the events. Are we supposed to blame the gun or the guy?
Gun control has been a mainstream conversation for a while. I’m sure that most of us remember Michael Moore’s film “Bowling for Columbine” which focused on the shootings at Columbine. While gun control is an important issue, there seems to be an obvious oversight in regards to who or what we should be concerned about. Feminists have been quick to point out that rather than talking about guns ONLY, we should be talking about this phenomenon of white men who kill. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but whenever a white man kills, the media frames it as the act of a crazy man who needs mental health attention. However, is this discussion about mental health preventing us from getting to the crux of the issue: white men.
Popular feminist Jessica Valenti states:
Rodger, like most young American men, was taught that he was entitled to sex and female attention. (Only last month, a young woman was allegedly stabbed to death for rejecting a different young man’s prom invitation.) He believed this so fully that he described women’s apathy toward him as an “injustice” and a “crime”
Brittany Cooper, PhD from Salon states:
This sense of heterosexual white male entitlement to a world that grants all one’s wishes, and this destructive murderous anger that attends the ostensible denial of these wishes, is at the emotional core of white supremacy… I’m also saying that white male privilege might be considered a mental health issue, because it allows these dudes to move through the world believing that their happiness, pleasure and well-being matters more than the death and suffering of others.
Thank you Brittany Cooper! Finally someone is linking white supremacy to the violence in patriarchy. Misogyny is often sculpted by white supremacy, therefore, it’s not a coincidence that many of these crimes are committed by white men.
We CAN’T forget that Rodger’s misogyny and sexism was bolstered by racism. Rodgers likened white, blonde women to perfect women, in fact, these women were his targets. He felt entitled to them and was offended when these women chose to be around brown men. Policymic released an article detailing just how racist Rodger’s really was. Of course, many white feminist outlets are only focusing on Rodger’s sexism, again, detaching his anger from racism.
On the website, PUAhate.com, Rodgers left comments like:
“Today I drove through the area near my college and saw some things that were extremely rage-inducing.”
“I passed by this restaurant and I saw this black guy chilling with 4 hot white girls. He didn’t even look good.”
“Then later on in the day I was shopping at Trader Joe’s and saw an Indian guy with 2 above average White Girls!!!”
“What rage-inducing sights did you guys see today? Don’t you just hate seeing these things when you go out? It just makes you want to quit life.”
Policy Mic writer Zak Cheney-Rice states:
That Rodger’s misogynist worldview was so strongly linked to a racist one is telling. America has long been invested in the affirmation of white beauty, but to hear these ideas echoed by a mass murderer signals the oft-forgotten fact that racism and sexism are inevitably – and often violently – intertwined.
Rodger was not just angry with women. He was angry that white women would reject him for men he deemed racially inferior. Like the Ku Klux Klan and men’s rights activists before him, he felt entitled to certain considerations by virtue of his whiteness and maleness, and when he thought these were being denied, he saw himself as a victim and lashed out.
The entitlement that Rodgers felt towards white women’s bodies was quite normal in a culture that breeds the routine dehumanization of women. Mainstream media culture regularly depicts white college women as naive items to be attained. You can look to films today with horribly narrow narratives that center on white men who make it their mission in college to get laid…normalizing the idea that college women and men should only interact through sex. If you just google the term “spring break”, all of these notions will be validated. It’s a time that is largely depicted as a white guy’s ultimate frat party…it makes you wonder when women get breaks…
Film critic Ann Hornaday states:
How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like “Neighbors” and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of “sex and fun and pleasure”? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, “It’s not fair”?
If our cinematic grammar is one of violence, sexual conquest and macho swagger — thanks to male studio executives who green-light projects according to their own pathetic predilections — no one should be surprised when those impulses take luridly literal form in the culture at large.
I’m glad that someone is finally pinpointing media culture for helping facilitate the white male entitlement complex. Not only do young white men get access to women’s bodies in these narratives, they also are accustomed to seeing films where they’re overly represented. Unfortunately, Hollywood confirms the idea that men are the most important audience members in all of culture–they seemingly deserve everything.
Rodgers’ particular targeting of white blonde women and his disdain for minoritized people is not coincidental. He further provides proof for an uncomfortable cultural truth: that we tell men they DESERVE loads of women…that white women are still at the top of the totem pole [it feels like Hitler is still alive….our obsession with blonde haired blue eyed women is odd], that minoritized men don’t DESERVE white women and should be punished.
While it’s easy to attribute all of this to Rodger alone, we have to contextualize his acts in a larger culture that breeds similar ideas. Women are treated as disposable, fuck-able toys and Rodger is merely an ultraconformist to that cultural notion. We have to remember that misogyny is a cultural illness that is present in *many* men in our nation, and for that, we should all be afraid.
So when we say that these things are unstoppable, what we are really saying is that we’re unwilling to do the work to stop them. Violence against women does not have to be inevitable, but it is almost always foreseeable: what matters is what we do about it.