Letting Others Speak about Elliot Rodger, #notallmen, and #yesallwomen

I want to change that to #yesallpeople. But this is a start.

I’ve been reading everything I can find that’s been written in the wake of the Elliot Rodger murders at UCSB because I just haven’t been able to get my head around the events that went down last Friday. At the intersection of privilege, hate, mental illness, and access to weapons there was an explosion of unspeakable horror–I know that. Elliot Rodger was, let’s make no mistake, an example of the worst, vilest, most despicable form of humanity, even if we take into account his illness. He was failed by his family and friends, who should have gotten him help or at least talked him down, and by the larger society that allows this kind of illness and horror to fester and sometimes even encourages it. But let’s not get carried away by sympathy or empathy: he was a monster. What he did was unthinkable, unforgivable, un-understandable. And I can’t understand it.

But the silver lining here is that a conversation that desperately needed to explode into the public’s awareness about the reality of systematic misogyny that leads to violence… really has exploded. The #yesallwomen hashtag is still trending, and I hope it continues to do so. I hope it keeps this conversation alive long enough to make the message that hate, misogyny, violence, and sexism are not just wrong but pervasive seep into the news media, the talking heads’ speeches, entertainment, and our daily lives. This is essential. So I’m going to write about it. But not here and not right now. I’m still processing. I want to process a little longer so I can come up with something that will last longer than a few days in the midst of a firestorm.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading. Many, many people have written thoughtful, helpful, articulate, and much-needed treatises on what happened last Friday, as well as in its aftermath. I’m so happy to read these articles and to see that a swell is happening here: people are starting to really think about this in a big way. A sea change might be just around the corner. I can’t wait to read what else comes out in the next days, weeks, and months.

On nerd culture encouraging misogyny, by Arthur Chu: “The overall problem is one of a culture where instead of seeing women as, you know, people, protagonists of their own stories just like we are of ours, men are taught that women are things to “earn,” to “win.”…Like life is a video game and women, like money and status, are just part of the reward we get for doing well.”

On why misogyny is often invisible to men, by Amanda Hess: “misogyny operates in a society that privately abides the hatred of women unless it’s expressed in its most obvious forms.”

On why the #notallmen response derails the conversation rather than contributing to it. (I personally believe the experiences of male survivors and victims of sexual injustice should speak up, too. PLEASE. But can it be a conversation instead of a yelling match?) By Phil Plait: “Instead of being defensive and distracting from the topic at hand, try staying quiet for a while and actually listening to what the thousands upon thousands of women discussing this are saying.”

On how #notallmen isn’t helpful because it contributes to nonaction, by Erin Lynn: “I can’t help thinking that, apart from the very real culture of misogyny we live in, this defensiveness by some men and denial by some women are partially to blame. If people can so easily shrug off sexism because they have not personally committed rape, will they then ignore it when it occurs in front of them?”

On the very real dangers of male entitlement, by James Michael Sama: “No man inherently “deserves” a woman’s attention, body, or heart. But the entitlement complexes deeply rooted in boys like Elliot easily create a Patrick Bateman-esque love/hate relationship with women.”

On the reality of white male killer syndrome, by Brittney Cooper: “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. Elliot Rodger was a late bloomer, which while socially inconvenient and embarrassing, is neither uncommon nor a problem.”

On misogyny as sickness, by Jessica Valenti: “The truth is that there is no such thing as a lone misogynist – they are created by our culture, and by communities that tells them that their hatred is both commonplace and justified.”

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