Misogyny with a Gun

Elliot Rodger hated women. A lot. That fact isn’t really up for debate. He told us that he hated women on his video. He wrote about it. He hated them so much that he decided to kill some. Another fact that isn’t really up for debate.

What is up for debate, apparently, is whether or not Elliot was a sad kid with a mental illness or he was representative of ALL men. Some are arguing that misogyny is widespread and that violence is brewing under the surface of every guy.

Jessica Valenti writes,

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.

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.

Check out the #YesAllWomen hashtag. Commentary here and here. Then read the #NotAllMen hashtag.

The “all” in this debate rubs me the wrong way. But I guess that’s what happens when debates are confined to 140 characters.

34 thoughts on “Misogyny with a Gun

  1. There are two “all”s in play here. One is the claim that all women are affected by misogyny. Another, implied all, is that all of society is complicit in misogyny. (It’s the patriarchy, people, where we fall into misogynist tendencies due to established ways of thinking and behaving).

    However, I think it’s pretty clear that the with the dichotomy of the #notallmen and #yesallwomen hashtags,that the argument is not being made that all men are misogynists or abusers but that all women are or have been affected by this. It doesn’t take all men and I know a lot of genuinely humane, feminist men, young and old. Despite that strong core of good people in my life, I’ve still had some scary and scarring experiences. Every woman I’ve sat down with has had something similar, whether it is women of my mother’s generation or my daughter’s. Which is really sad.


    1. Yep. I imagine all women have had an experience where they’ve thought “if I say the wrong thing right now, I may end up dismembered in a dumpster.” All women live with the threat of physical violence hanging over their head on a daily basis. Most men are not abusive or violent towards women, but far too many are.


      1. To be unnecessarily clinical and pointlessly technical, I think the guys who plan things out enough to go with “dismembered in a dumpster” are probably going to kill somebody regardless. The ones who kill from anger and misogyny don’t usually manage many steps to evade detection. At least one woman was won a date with an active serial killer on a TV show.


      2. Fair enough. I remember reading about a woman on life support (?) after she was beaten senseless for rejecting a man in a club. I suppose being beaten, strangled, or stabbed and dumped behind a building or something is more likely the worst-case scenario negative result of rejecting the wrong man. Of course, it can be hard to know if the creepy guy is just garden variety creepy, potentially a misogynist killer, or has built a dungeon in his basement and is trolling for the right victim. As a woman, you don’t really want to find out. I do have to say this is an advantage to getting older as a woman. The number of threatening creepers who hit on me has really decreased from my teens and early 20s.


  2. Laura said:

    “What is up for debate, apparently, is whether or not Elliot was a sad kid with a mental illness or he was representative of ALL men. Some are arguing that misogeny is widespread and that violence is brewing under the surface of every guy.”

    Thanks to the magic of the internet, it seems pretty clear that there is a sizable minority of men that is seethingly resentful of women, and particularly resentful of the fact that women get to decide whether or not they are going to have sex.

    Julia Grey (in her excellent blog archive “Why Your Wife Won’t Have Sex With You”–one of the most useful things on the internet) has a very interesting quote about this:

    “When women wrote to me in a negative vein, it was usually an objection to my “cynicism” or “cold-bloodedness” about the subjects of sex and marriage. But when men wrote in to disagree with me they seemed to be pissed off about everything, up to and including (it seemed to me) the fact that women existed at all. As time went on I had to accept that the dominant emotion a large proportion of men were feeling when the subject of marital sex came up in the discourse was pure, unrepentant rage. You could power the Enterprise with the fury these guys were generating.”


    As we can see from other data, it’s not just frustrated married men who feel like that–it’s a broader social phenomenon.


    1. Meh, you can collect up plenty of resentful quotes toward either sex. Sarah Hoyt has a bunch today. (You might get more resentful male quotes on an internet comment page, but that’s because you get more male quotes of every kind on the typical internet comment page.)

      Sarah Hoyt’s quotes are mostly angry, man-hating feminists. You can also get plenty of resentful, non-feminist quotes from women who are angry because no man seems to want them, at least not for a relationship. Try Haley’s Halo.


      1. Except that angry bitter women tend to turn the hatred inwards, whereas angry bitter men turn it outwards. Women are taught that if men won’t have sex with them there’s something wrong with the woman. Men are also taught that if women won’t have sex with them there’s something wrong with the woman. When a woman shoots a bunch of people because “hot men” won’t fuck her let me know. Off the top of my head I can think of 5 incidents of men on a shooting rampage for that reason (Santa Barbara, Soldini, Utoya, Montreal, the Amish school).

        I checked out Haley’s Halo. The first post is a favorable review of Gottlieb’s book telling women not to be so picky and set realistic expectations for the type of guy they can attract. How the hell is that in any way similar to thinking you deserve to sleep with the hottest women around and feeling murderous rage towards women when they don’t?


    2. Y81–I have to say that your sites are having the opposite of their intended effect on me. When I read ridiculous, hostile, ahistorical crap like below I get very concerned about the misogyny of supposedly intelligent men. (This is in an explanation of why, though sexism was a problem in the past because women couldn’t own property, it was that bad–it was the “softest oppression” in history):

      However, in all those eras, there were women who became great. In all those eras, there were rules about how a man was supposed to treat a lady, and those rules didn’t include raping and pillaging across the bedroom. They were to be treated with love, tenderness, and respect. Wow. If that’s oppression, I could deal with it.Not to say that time was perfect, because it wasn’t. But it’s wasn’t some horrible dark age like slavery or Jim Crow either.

      And yes that was a comment but the blog owner corrected him merely to say that most women could own property in the past. Really.

      I don’t know–maybe part of the problem is people not standing up to the excesses of their own “side”, causing everyone to conflate them with the most extreme crazies. I will state for the record that I find radfem to be infuriating and absolutely sexist and I never read their sites or support them in any way. I am very upset that violence against men, including rape, is not taken seriously enough, and I am perfectly aware that men are much more likely to die by violence (although I hope you would acknowledge that the perpetrators are also overwhelmingly male). Now will you explain why you are reading a site (and a science fiction one, at that–this is EXACTLY why I defend George R.R. Martin’s worst excesses, because people do not have sufficient awareness of the brutality of history), in which comments like the above are not challenged for the absolute idiocy they contain? Why should I ever take anyone seriously who comments on this site and let this comment stand without response?


  3. Valenti said:

    “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.”

    Yes and no. You could say, “The truth is there is no such thing as a lone anti-vaxxer or lone homebirther–they are created by our culture, and by communities that tell them their distrust of conventional medicine is both commonplace and justified.”

    That would be true (there really is an anti-conventional medicine community hive mind, in pockets in meatspace and in large reservoirs on the internet), but it’s not quite fair to society. Society tolerates (and to a certain extent) enables both anti-vaxxing and dangerous alternative health practices, but it’s only fair to add that society also runs a lot of shiny hospitals and expensive research programs and society has managed to nearly stamp out many previously dangerous illnesses.

    By the same token, while society happens to have developed in such a way to alienate people like Elliot Rodger while at the same time creating cozy electronic havens for him to chat with the like-minded (which, given his level of social skills, was probably not going to happen pre-internet), society also has various laws and customs that people like that dislike (community property law and child support, for instance), men with guns to arrest people like him, courts to try him, and prisons and mental hospitals to keep him in if he proved dangerous. In fact, surely the fact that he killed himself is some evidence that he knew that society was not going to take kindly to his activities.


  4. My guys (we live in Arlington) seem to me clearly designed to go off on raiding parties against the evil Falls Church-ians and slay them and loot their bodies and bring back the bloody treasure to the lovely Ermintrude. And marry her and leave five kids behind when they themselves are slain by a Falls Church revenge party in a few years. And what we are asking of them is to do their chemistry homework timely and be polite and friendly with young women, who are named Jennifer. Or Emily. And who may deign to marry them if they triumphantly return from the struggle with a DDS and an orthodontia specialty. Or maybe Emily has the DDS and she is looking for someone who can keep track of nap times. This is loads better, I think!

    Today’s conditions are very different from those in which we evolved, some of our kids can adjust to what works in an industrial society with conurbations of millions and memos and installment purchases and suburban lawns and some cannot. We provide, as best we can, alternate outlets – basketball is good! And we nag them about politeness and chemistry homework. We pay attention to whether their friends are wholesome. We do our best.


    1. Funny! I’m not sure how the blood-thirsty Vikings became the social democrat Scandis, but perhaps part of the mechanism is that some mild-mannered Sven said to the other Viking guys, “Hey, I’m going to stay home from the raid this time and take care of the goats and the womenfolk,” and did so while his comrades perhaps went on to die on cold foreign shores.

      Speaking of alternate outlets, my husband and I took our nearly 12-year-old daughter to a free intro fencing lesson last night. We were pleased with all the exercise involved (which is mostly cleverly disguised as footwork and fighting). The kids there obviously LOVE it. It was interesting to see how gentlemanly it is. A standard bout involves a ceremonious salute at the beginning, a warning that you are about to fight, a totally safe fight, and then a ceremonious salute again. It’s aggression, but it’s very friendly, controlled aggression. We’re going to put both our rising 7th grader and rising 4th grader in for at least a month this summer.


  5. I can’t remember ever being afraid of being “dismembered in a dumpster.” However, I don’t entirely trust myself on these matters, because I have higher fear thresholds than most people. My friends and family wouldn’t use the words “higher fear threshold.” They might use the words “stupid” or “dense.” So, I have an entirely open mind on these matters.

    Did you read this? http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2014/05/lets-call-isla-vista-killings-what-they-were-misogynist-extremism


    1. I have a fairly low fear threshold, too. But, I would also say that until I started ramping up that threshold a bit (automatically, and without really thinking about doing it), I would find myself fighting off/rejecting the advances of boys and men that I did not want. Sometimes this was activity I was supposed to find innocuous (teasing, staring at my chest, snapping bras, pulling things from my pocket, being stalked in the school hallways); sometimes they were straight out violations (being grabbed for a kisses, in semi-public places).

      At a lunch last week, a friend said that her daughter and friend had, for the first time, been allowed to go to the neighborhood town center to hang out together (5th graders). The girls wandered further than they were supposed to — and encountered a flasher. They freaked out and came home, but then felt too violated to tell family. Eventually one of the girls started acting awkward enough that she was queried and it came out. In the ensuing discussion, all the women realized that they could remember similar incidents, similar sense of violation. The mom’s biggest concern was that things like this happened, and girls internalize the event, and won’t tell us so that we can help them cope.

      I don’t know if I want to call it mysogyny — there are words that can stop a conversation, and sometimes it’s better to avoid them, even if you do think you are just calling it like it is. But, I do think that women struggle to avoid feeling vulnerable, and, in particular, vulnerable for those things they want to celebrate about themselves. The blonde sorority girls — that look didn’t come by accident. If you’re then told that the way you have worked hard to look puts you at risk, it’s scary, but also a violation of more than just your security, but of who you are.


    2. “I’m not at the bus stop to catch the bus. I’m just here to talk to you. If you don’t talk to me, I will get on the bus and follow you to where you are going. Don’t worry, I don’t want to hurt you or rob you. I have money [pulls out wallet, shows cash]. I just want to talk to you.”


      1. Yes, and, this could be a stranger, who saw a smile on your face when he glanced at you (because, say, you liked his shoes, or were just trying to be polite, or were thinking about something else). Or, it could be a colleague, or another student, and, it could be that it doesn’t go so far as saying “I’m going to follow you home”, but, he just does.

        So, what do you do? Some women don’t mind. They shrug off these interactions. They think it’s cute when the kid follows them around in the halls of the school. They flirt a little bit. But some women learn not to smile, to hide, to avoid the bus stop, to wear the baggy sweater. I once had a friend tell me that he was sure that the woman professor on his thesis committee (formal european dissertation defense, woman sitting on a platform along with the other members) was flirting with him, during his defense, because he could see her cleavage when she talked to him.

        (mind you, I also don’t think that we can draw any direct connections between mass murder and this type of behavior, but, women do live in a different world, and they cope differently and make different choices, and that’s true even though all men are not beasts).


      2. bj said:

        “…women do live in a different world, and they cope differently and make different choices, and that’s true even though all men are not beasts…”

        I think that different women live in different worlds.

        As a young woman, I was 1) very cautious about strangers and 2) not that cute, so my brushes with stranger danger were confined to having a couple small Latin American guys be a little too friendly (there was one guy who was literally following me around downtown LA but I think I was taller than him and it was broad daylight, so it wasn’t scary) and some Russian guy who said “Let’s bang!” in Russian when he saw me changing my shoes on a bench in public (bare feet were apparently the trigger). I mustered the linguistic wherewithal to say, “Poshol tyi!” (which literally means “You go!”, but is short for a much ruder expression. He went off quietly. I think he was probably mentally ill.

        So, not a big deal, and probably more a self-esteem boost than genuinely frightening. However, I think being better looking does make for a totally different experience of being in public.


        With regard to BI’s guy on the bus, I think the answer is 1) talk to bus driver and 2) if that doesn’t work, use cell phone to call police. You can just stay on the bus in relative safety until assistance arrives.

        Of course, when I was that age, there were no cell phones and I”m not sure I would have had the presence of mind to do all of that. That’s where a little training comes in, I suppose, to work through different scenarios.


  6. B.I., try reading a year’s worth of blog posts, not just the latest one (if you’re actually interested).

    Lisa SG: I don’t follow your comment. I’m not trying to have an effect, so I can’t have the opposite of the intended effect. I’m just pointing out instances of female resentment, in response to Amy P’s implication that male resentment of women is unique in size and scope. If I understand your response, it’s like the story C.S. Lewis tells, where he confronted a rather simplistic nationalist by asking, “But doesn’t every nation believe that its statesman are the wisest, its soldiers the bravest, its women the fairest, etc.?” To which his interlocutor replied, “Yes, but here in England it’s true.” You seem to be saying, “But female resentment is justified.”

    You can find anything if you look hard enough. As Ann Althouse noted, people seem to be parsing Elliot Rodger’s ravings much more attentively than they did Ted Kaczynski’s, presumably because Kaczynski’s didn’t really fit anyone’s pre-existing political agenda. For myself, I don’t consider such crazies as having any broad meaning.


  7. In the past two years, I’ve taught two kids to drive — one male and one female. We taught the boy not to run over things, what to do if you are in an accident, how to fill out insurance paperwork, what to say if you are stopped for speeding. We taught the girl the following things:
    1. If you are driving at night, you need to call us when you get there. You need to call us when you are on your way home.
    2. Don’t take that windy, scary road where the cell phone towers don’t work. Definitely don’t take it at night.
    3. If you have an accident, or a flat and it’s dark or an isolated area, or if you just feel nervous — DO NOT GET OUT OF THE CAR! Call us and we will come and get you.
    4. If someone attempts to stop you and says he is a cop, roll down the window a tiny bit. Then tell the individual that you are driving to a brightly lit area with people in it, like a 7/11 or a police station. Only then do you engage with the policeman.
    5. Don’t park too far away from the mall. Try to park under a streetlight.

    Then we demonstrated how to use the panic button on her car keys.

    Anyone who says that the world doesn’t feel different if you are female is wrong. Any guy who claims he didn’t realize this never had a daughter.


    1. Louisa:

      Alas, statistically, the most likely bad outcome is that either the boy or the girl will kill themselves in an accident. (Not that these things are terrifically likely, just more likely than a carjacking.) We mostly yell at our daughter to fasten her seat belt, obey the speed limit, and not drink and drive.

      Also, statistically, the son is 2 to 3 times more likely to be a homicide victim than the daughter. (That assumes that they are white; if they were black, it would be more like 7 times.) One might try telling the son not to pick fights, to avoid crowds of hostile young men his own age, especially if they are of a different race or class, and to walk away from trouble, but I still haven’t started doing any of those things at age 56. So it won’t do any good to tell him.


      1. Yes to all the stuff about likely bad outcomes.

        And some of the vehicular stuff is hard to warn about. “Be careful trying to push a vehicle out of a ditch because it might roll back and break your leg,” would have helped a young woman I know, but who is going to give such a specific warning?

        I guess, “Call if you get into trouble,” is the go-to.


  8. Well, y81, how did you show that female resentment is in any way equivalent in scope or impact to misogyny/sexism? One blog post with a few quotes certainly can’t do that. I can come up with a few quotes showing support for a flat earth, but that doesn’t mean that view is as widespread as the view that earth is a globe.

    It goes against common sense to say that hatred/bigotry/bias/discrimination/exploitation of men by women (note, most violence against men is BY MEN) has anything near the impact as the reverse. Where is the proof? Where are the numbers? Let’s compare the statistics on mass, serial, and familial murders by women against men and by men against women. What is your explanation for the difference? Underreporting? While most mass murders probably have little to do with misogyny, even if some do, that makes it a bigger problem than misandry, because as far as I know there are virtually no mass murders of women against men as men. If I’m wrong, give me the data.

    That said, I’m not arguing that misogyny rather than mental illness was causative or even a cause in this case. That doesn’t mean that misogyny is a non-problem or a problem equivalent in scope to misandry.


    1. I should say that doesn’t mean that the influence of misogyny within our culture was a cause of his actions–clearly he hated women, but I’m not sure that culture is responsible for his misogyny rather than mental illness.


    2. I don’t have the numbers, but I suspect that women who kill multiple family members tend to be killing their children. That’s the female “style” in multiple murders.


  9. I am profoundly glad the sorority sisters did not open the door. For whatever reason. They may not have heard the doorbell. Maybe they had the music on too loud, while getting ready for Friday night.

    It reminded me of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, “Out of Mind, Out of Sight:” http://buffy.wikia.com/wiki/Out_of_Mind,_Out_of_Sight.

    The few parts of his writings I could read, and the searches I ran on it, turned up certain words. Lonely. Girls. Games. Money seemed important. I don’t see misogyny. I see mental illness. I see someone whom others overlook. For whom a “hot sorority blonde” would be a possession. A possession to prove a man’s status. He had the BMW. Next on the list would be a trophy girlfriend. Hard to do when no one notices you.

    I do wonder how many friends he had, if any. The young men he ranted to about his plans seem to have just dropped him. He creeped them out, but they didn’t take him seriously enough to report him to anyone. They didn’t care about him at all, nor did they find his plans credible.

    There have now been a number of mass murderers whose main activity have been violent computer games. Rather than trying to turn this terrible act into a platform for arguing over misogyny, turn it into a reason to teach boys not to just drop people who utter threats. (Girls are generally not on the MMORGs, or if they are, they don’t join groups with unstable people?) Teach boys that sometimes trash talk is a threat. You don’t have a free speech right to threaten to kill everyone. If a peer tells you in an online game that he “has a plan,” don’t just avoid him. You could save lives.


    1. cranberry said:

      “They didn’t care about him at all, nor did they find his plans credible.”

      I watched a little of one of his videos and heard some of the audio, and I suspect that the problem was his voice. The words were very threatening, but the voice just wasn’t one that you could take seriously. It’s like Justin Bieber attempting to play a Bond villain.


  10. A psychiatrist’s opinion on whether we can predict who will be killers: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/28/opinion/why-cant-doctors-identify-killers.html?ref=opinion “Why can’t doctor’s identify killers?”

    They can’t, he says, and says that the lifetime risk of the mentally ill of committing violent acts is higher than those of others (14% v 7%, but only 2 X), but that we can’t predict which ones. He also goes on to point out our legal standard for involuntary commitment and treatment — an imminent danger to themselves or others, a threshold that’s difficult to treat. He concludes that involuntary limits on owning the means of acting out on violent desires (i.e. guns) for the mentally ill might be enforced at a lower threshold, and might, help decrease the effects of the violence committed by the mentally ill. Limits on gun purchases/ownership for the mentally ill would limit their rights (and the rights of those mistaken for being mentally ill), but, less invasively than involuntary commitment to institutions.


    1. What about threats of harm? Are those being taken seriously enough?

      I think mentally ill people who make threats are in a totally different category from just plain mentally ill people.


  11. I think the issue is how much does threat of violence increase the probability that violence will be committed — to quote from another NYT article:

    “Dr. Swanson said, “You can profile the perpetrators after the fact and you’ll get a description of troubled young men, which also matches the description of thousands of other troubled young men who would never do something like this.” ”


    With anything less than a high probability (and, with the threat of “imminent harm” the threshold is being set high, with the presumption that we are preventing something that’s likely to happen), we are profiling, not holding a person responsible for their action (or threat). If that 14% likelihood of violence, generally, translated to 28% likelihood, would we willing to institutionalize 100% of those who threaten violence in order to protect ourselves form the 28%? And, is it more likely that someone with a psychiatric or developmental diagnosis (bipolar, or schizophrenia, or ASD . . .) who threatens physical violence is likely to act on it? I think we don’t know the answer to those questions. It would be interesting to see some data on the people who post a perceived threatening message on the internet and the likelihood that they then commit a violent act. I’m guessing that it isn’t that high, but I haven’t found a source.

    We do know that many of the men who commit mass murder share a set of characteristics, but it is also clear that many men who shares those characteristics do not commit murder or violence.


  12. http://whenwomenrefuse.tumblr.com/

    This happened to a friend of my sister’s. She broke up with her long-term on and off boyfriend after high school. A few days later, they were fishing her dismembered body out of a river. My sister had been friends with the boy in middle school. He even asked her to a school dance. He seemed totally, and in every way, like a totally ordinary kid.


    1. I knew someone convicted of murdering his girlfriend (actually, I worked with his girlfriend/fiance/wife, the one he wasn’t convicted of killing). He also seemed like a perfectly reasonable person, as did his fiance. In fact, so reasonable, that it’s hard for me to say straight out that he was a murderer, even though he was convicted, twice, of the murder. He was being tried when I knew him (out on bail, eventually convicted of manslaughter for having beaten the girl to death).

      I also knew a rapist, who snuck into windows to rape strangers. He was a physician, and also a nice fatherly figure.

      I do not believe, though, that either physicians as a class are rapists, or that tall, good looking Berkeley students are murderers.


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