Imagine that your mother gave you a BMW because she knew you were sad and wanted to cheer you up.
Imagine going to some of the best public and private high schools anywhere, to movie premieres with celebrities, traveling all over the world, and concluding that your life was terribly unfair because even with all your wealth you had not been able to attract the hot blonde girlfriend you felt was yours by right.
Imagine that just walking by attractive young blonde women made you enraged because they didn’t swoon at you.
Now imagine that this wholly imaginary injustice has pushed you into such a froth of rage that you are going to make the world pay, particularly those “blonde sluts” and the boys they’d rather be with. You’ve got it all worked out. You will lure people into your apartment and turn it into a torture chamber, then walk into the “hottest sorority on campus” and start slaughtering pretty girls right left and centre. Then you’ll go out to your fancy car–the car that should have won you one of those girls, because that’s how it’s supposed to work–and kill whoever else you can before killing yourself to avoid arrest.
You’ve spent months building up your weapons and ammunition, writing up a 140-page manifesto/memoir, going to target practice–you kill your roommates as planned, get to the sorority, and they won’t open the door.
You’ve spent months preparing for everything except that the door is locked and no one can hear your pounding over the music. It didn’t occur to you that they wouldn’t open the door, because OF COURSE they would open the door; after all, you are a perfect (well-armed) gentleman (with an impressive door-pound) who deserves to have those blonde sluts open the fucking door!
But they don’t and they won’t, so you kill three other people who happen to be nearby instead. They’re not members of the hottest sorority on campus, and they’re not the boys they chose instead, but you want to salvage something of your day of retribution before you off yourself, so they’re going to have to do. I have to think that, while every sane and rational person in North America is mourning the loss of those six lives, for Elliot Rodger it probably seemed like the final injustice: ignored by those blonde bitches to the very last.
I probably shouldn’t have read his manifesto, but I did. It was chilling, for two reasons.
Because he clearly is a narcissistic nutjob with no self-insight or perspective into life or his “problems.”
And because the way he talks about women is absolutely not in any way unique.
They’re not human, he says. They’re beasts with faulty wiring. They shouldn’t be able to choose who they mate and breed with; it gives them too much power. They should be locked in concentration camps, most of them starved to death, and the remainder bred in secret labs by experts. If we only get rid of women, men will be rational and we will enter a new phase of human civilization and prosperity–“we” making sense, of course, only if you are deliberately not speaking to women. I am clearly not part of that “we.” (starts on page 136 of the manifesto, if you’re curious.)
Much of his manifesto could have been cribbed directly from the defunct Nice Guys of OKCupid tumblr: I am a perfect beautiful gentleman who loves women, but the dumb sluts always choose assholes! Dumb bitches don’t know what’s good for them! They should choose me, but since they don’t, they’re all selfish cunts and I hate them. How can they not see I’d be the perfect boyfriend?
You might think it’s not possible to have such a collection of thoughts in the same skull at the same time, but you would be wrong. Like most women I know, I have had my share of run-ins with Elliots. They weren’t armed, thank god, or physically violent. Nor had they been diagnosed with any mental illness that I could tell. Maybe misogyny should be in the DSM, but it’s not. To anyone who does not actively hate women, yes, they sound crazy, but if you think about it it’s not much more crazy than “There’s a big powerful guy above the clouds who cares about who wins this Sunday’s football game but lets baby girls get raped and die of AIDS so the rest of us can have a learning experience.”
But our culture is still misogynistic, in ways both large and small. Guys who obsessively follow girls around who have made it clear that they don’t want to date have been unjustly “friendzoned,” and complain about it unironically and in great depth. How dare those girls not see what a great guy I am! Dumb bitches! Bodies are endlessly picked apart depending on how fuckable they are. Every spring practically every women’s magazine in the western world publishes articles telling women how to survive the traumatic event of exposing their bodily flaws on the beach, largely by taking a complete and detailed inventory of those flaws and carefully selecting the smallest amount of lycra possible that will passably camouflage them. And every time someone approaches you in public or private, you never know if he’s going to take your “no” politely or go off, and if he goes off, how far he’s going to go.
Earlier this week, I conducted an experiment: contrary to my normal practice of simply ignoring messages from guys I do not want to date, I decided to send polite “no, thank-you”s–as advised by the etiquette experts. “He took the time to write you! You owe him a letter,” they say, and there my friends is the culture of male entitlement in a nutshell. You Owe Him. Because. Except that, as every woman can tell you, what the guys think you owe them is often not just a polite no-thank-you.
I sent five such messages. I got one “you dumb bitch!” back. Apparently, my polite statement that Buffalo is a bit far for me to go for a date was actually a code for being selfish, shallow, and interested only in appearances. I can’t remember what he looked like, but I can tell you that he does indeed live in Buffalo and believes that men should be the heads of their households.
In this completely non-scientific poll, 20% of responses to rejection were deranged. I think that’s about right.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the crime since the story broke. Elliot Rodger may have been wrong about almost everything and he may have (thankfully) mostly bungled his day of retribution, but he was right when he said in his manifesto that his crime would shake women to their core.
There are blogs and forums on the internet praising what he did and saying that no one would have died if just one woman had given him what he deserved. He has fan pages on Facebook. And I refuse to link to them here, but if you want to find them yourself, it’s not difficult. Elliot Rodger is not alone in his feelings about women, and his feelings are not considered to be mental illness, which is why nothing was ever done. Young straight guy with no girlfriend who hates women for friendzoning him? Dime a dozen. You want to know how many guys just like him are posting threats of violence on the internet? THOUSANDS.
Women should be seen and not heard. And if they’re going to be seen, they should be hot. If they’re not hot, they should stay home. If they are hot, they should be willing to put out to any guy who is minimally friendly and hasn’t yet beaten or raped them. After all, you know, it’s not like women are human; we’re like the stuffed toys at the carnival, and if a guy manages to get the ball in the fucking basket or knock the fucking bottles over, he’s entitled, goddammit, to walk out of that theme park with the giant stuffed bear of his choice.
My heart breaks for his parents and siblings. As it breaks for the families and friends of all the victims. I wish there were a way to talk about this without talking about the one who killed or hurt them.
How can we turn this around? How can we talk about the humanity of the women who say no, try to say no, are never given the opportunity to say no, and suffer or die for it? No one should be memorialized solely by who they were victimized by. As the meme says, “She’s Someone.” Period. Full stop. Except these crimes turn them, not even into Someone’s Girlfriend/Wife/Mother/Daughter, but Someone’s Victim, foremost and forever.
They deserve better. We all deserve better, than to be defined by our husbands, boyfriends, children, or, worst of all, killers. How do we give them their stories back, their selfness back? How do we take back our own?
For myself, I vacillate. I don’t want to be seen as a victim–or as a survivor–so I mostly don’t talk about it, because I don’t want it to overshadow me or who I am. Then I worry I am contributing to the culture of silence, where people go on believing that it’s not really a serious problem because it hardly ever happens since they don’t know anyone it happened to. Except that they do, they just don’t know it, because so few of us ever speak.
Some terrible things happened to me. Most of the time, it is not top of mind, and I go on doing my thing–being a mom and environmentalist and crafter and sewist and writer and reader and hiker etc. What was done to me is the smallest possible part of who I am. And then something like this hits the news, and I need a glass of wine at night to fall asleep.
All right. Now back to the happy sewing talk.