Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Elliot Rodger Incident: the actual problem (misogyny)

In December 2012, when a female was gang raped in New Delhi, India, the western media immediately declared (gang) rape the tragedy of Indian women. CNN talked about "the perils of being a woman in India", and India earned a reputation of being "the worst country in the world for women."

Yes, women in India get raped - but they also get raped (and killed for being women) elsewhere as well, including and especially in the U.S. But there's something unacceptably arrogant about the U.S. media that completely denies that rape is a problem in the U.S., or that misogyny is a disease and we need to eliminate both from our society (I propose we start with eradicating misogyny, and the end of rape will follow!).  

Another "poor, helpless white man needing mental help" goes on a shooting spree in America

Three days ago, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger of Santa Barbara decided to go kill every girl who would potentially have refused him sex based on his past experiences. These were hot blonde girls. Six girls were killed And, by the way, Fox News tells us that Rodger's possible homosexual inclinations are what caused him to shoot all those women. (Thanks, Fox - I don't know why *I* didn't think of this obvious possibility!)

Instead, what the media prefers to talk about is--and get ready for this--gun control. If only he didn't have access to a gun, he wouldn't have killed all those women, right? And, of course, we're being told he had mental issues. I saw a tweet earlier that so beautifully captures the problem with the way our media talks about all these white male shooters:

Here's another, similar, one:
It's true. This is exactly what the media tells us. And it's wrong on every level. Anything racialized and stereotyped is always wrong on every level, without any exceptions.

Evading the real issue here: misogyny, male privilege

So what I wonder is why we are so unwilling to admit that the problem is misogyny here. It's not guns we should be talking about. It's male privilege, misogyny, men feeling entitled to every single woman they are attracted to or want to sleep with that we should be talking about. Yes, the guy had mental issues - as does every other terrorist, shooter, murderer. But what our society needs to realize is that we need to start teaching our sons they aren't entitled to any woman's (or anyone else's) body or space. They don't get to demand sex from women just because they are men. We see this problem in different ways all around us, and the following are some examples:

- the popular saying that "boys will be boys"(no! Stop excusing every crime men commit just because boys will be boys!)
- something we hear in undergraduate campuses and otherwise widely: "no means yes, and yes means anal" (no! No always, always means no! And if you still do it, it's rape!)
- men/boys blackmailing women when things don't go their (men's) way
- rape, rape, rape!!!
- sexual/street harassment (how I dream of a society where I can do my run/jog without men staring at me, hollering at me, whistling, singing, calling out names to me; and I, like all other women/girls, are taught not to respond in any way and to just ignore them. This message is so disempowering.)
- and a lot more

Being a woman: for females, every man in the street is a potential rapist, especially if she's alone at night.

The point about rape and harassment compels me to add something here that far too many women are talking about on Twitter right now under the hastag #YesAllWomen. Here are some tweets:

For the longest time, I thought it was just me and a few other women I know who felt like every man they come across is a potential rapist, especially if they're in the street alone at night. And then through Twitter, during the #YesAllWomen and other conversations, I come to find that it's actually a fear that virtually all women face. I'm heartbroken. I'm terrified. And it's so unfair.  I feel like this is something every woman can relate to. She might not view every man walking around or near her as a potential rapist, but she definitely will prepare for the possibility in case of an emergency! And so we have all these rape and self defense classes that teach women to avoid being raped. I've been to workshops and classes like these. They were all taught by men, and I wish they'd invite men, too. Not to teach them to avoid being raped (although, yes, men, too, get raped), but to give them an opportunity to see what hell women have to go through trying to live safe lives.
The point here is not that "every" woman faces this fear - it doesn't matter how many women face it; what matters is that this fear is real and existent. Even one individual shouldn't be facing it.

If you're a female and don't have this fear at all, please don't say, "Stop exaggerating" or "Stop generalizing." I'm so happy for you that you feel safe walking alone, and at night, anywhere and everywhere, and I recognize that possibility for a lot of women. But I also know what I go through and most other women I know. Please acknowledge this fear as real, fully in place, and serious. Exaggerated or not, it is the reality of too many women, and it shouldn't be.

If you're a male reading this, please don't say, "I'm not a rapist or a potential rapist, and not ALL men are rapists." That's missing the point, it's irrelevant in this conversation, and it deviates from the actual message and purpose of the conversation. Chances are, you know at least one woman who has been abused, harassed, raped - understand what goes on, how it goes on, what it does to those to whom it happens, and what YOU can do as an individual as well as a community member, as a fellow human, as a friend to bring more peace into this world. Telling us that "But I don't rape, and I'm a male. Stop generalizing" is actually damaging to everyone, especially to those who've experienced sexual trauma. As Rebecca Solnit puts it,
"And, you know, we know it’s not all men, but we need to talk about the fact that it is all women. And that’s what "yes all women" said, is, "Yeah, we know not all men are rapists and murderers, are not abusers and misogynists, but all women are impacted by the men who are." And that’s where the focus needs to be, because it has such a huge impact."
You can read more about what the problem with "not all men" (or "not all of us are like that!") is in the following well-written articles:
- The problem with "Not All Men"

I'm going to paste her first point:
"Women are not stupid, of course we know that “not all men are rapists/sexual harassers” or whatever. The statistics say so. However, how are we supposed to know which ones are and which ones aren’t? Better to err on the side of caution, no? How are we supposed to know who is saying hi in a friendly manner, or who actually needs directions, as opposed to just wanting to harass us? Most women end up assuming the worst because MOST times they have assumed the best, they have endured painful consequences. That stranger you once decided to stop and give directions ended up following you to your destination because he mistook your kindness for interest. That man you casually chatted with at the bar when you thought you were being nice ended up forcing himself on you, kissing you against your wishes. It is safer for us to learn that you are a “good man” when we are suspicious than to learn, rather painfully, that you are a bad man because we gave you the benefit of doubt."
Basically, stop making this about individual men and about your own self:
"... Why don’t you really say what you want to say? “I HAVE NEVER RAPED/HIT/ASSAULTED A WOMAN!” Right? Isn’t this what you really want to say? Yes, make a discussion that is about the plight of MILLIONS of women about poor little old you. I mean, millions of women are being assaulted and oppressed, but you’ve never done it, so why are we making you uncomfortable with these discussions?" [Part of Point 2]
- "I don't care if not all men are like that!"
"Here's why we always assume the worst: because every time we've tried to assume the best, we have found ourselves proven wrong. Because we have tried to give the benefit of the doubt, and we've seen it thrown back in our faces. Because we've learned that it's safer and more comfortable to be surprised by decency than by indecency. If you imagine that everyone who approaches you in a sketchy back alley might mug you, you're probably going to misjudge some folks—but might also avoid getting your wallet stolen."
- "Here's why women have turned the 'Not All Men" objection into a meme"
"This phrase "Not all men" is a common rebuttal used (most often) by men in conversations about gender in order to exempt themselves from criticism of common male behaviors. Recently, the phrase has been reappropriated by feminists and turned into a meme meant to parody its pervasiveness and bad faith."
And later on in the same article:
"When a man (though, of course, not all men) butts into a conversation about a feminist issue to remind the speaker that "not all men" do something, they derail what could be a productive conversation. Instead of contributing to the dialogue, they become the center of it, excluding themselves from any responsibility or blame."

- "#YesAllWomen: Rebecca Solnit on the Santa Barbara Massacre & Viral Response to Misogynist Violence"
"Every woman, every day, when she leaves her house, starts to think about safety: Can I go here? Should I go out there? Do I need to take the main street? Do I need to be in by a certain hour? Do I need to find a taxi? Is the taxi driver going to rape me? You know, women are so hemmed in by fear of men, it profoundly limits our lives. And of course it’s not all men, but it’s enough that it impacts all women. And it’s pretty nearly worldwide. The tweets were coming from all over the English-speaking world and parts of the world that aren’t primarily English-speaking, to say that this problem impacts me, this problem impacts us, and we need to keep doing things about it. We need to escalate, and we need to address how deeply embedded it is. And we need to make visible what’s been invisible, and we need to change it. And I think this weekend we really started to do that."
Whatever you do, please do yourself, women, and this whole universe a huge favor and read Point 4 titled "What's bad about 'Not All Men'?"

To the Reader
That said, I don't deny by any means that men do get raped or that women, too, perpetrate violence. The bigger problem here is misogyny (patriarchy, really), and women and men can be and are sometimes equally misogynistic. (Some of the top misogynists in my life are females. I know, it's a shame considering they, too, are victims of misogyny. But misogyny begets misogyny.) So the enemy isn't individual men or women but patriarchy and misogyny. Similarly, the problem wasn't this insecure little fella named Elliot Rodger but his thinking that every woman owes him sex because ...  well, because he's a man and should get his way always. We know how prevalent this thinking is, so let's not be shocked.

To the (western) media: Please talk about the actual problem.You spare no opportunity to demonize other peoples and cultures and nations, but if you believe that this Rodger incident is a complicated matter, so is every other matter out there in every other country. Let's stop being assholes and traitors to the women (and men) who have experienced sexual trauma before and talk about misogyny and the repercussions of feeding misogynistic thoughts to our children. Every girl needs to know that she is no one's property; she has every right and needs every space to say no to every man she is uncomfortable saying yes to. She will and can say yes to every man she is comfortable saying yes to. Who she talks to, dates, sleeps with is entirely her own business, and there should not be any consequences of her rejecting men she doesn't want to be with. And every boy (homosexual included), without an exception, needs to be taught the same message: there will be times you'll want to be or sleep with someone and they'll turn you down; but that's totally okay because they have that right to say no to you. You just move on and let it go, goddamnit!

To other readers: if you're still not convinced this is about patriarchy, see this screenshot of just a few of the messages about how it's *not at all* the murderer's fault but the fault of the women who rejected this poor guy!

(I got this pic from a friend's FB.)


  1. That screen shot at the end was truly frightening. I seriously wanted to vomit after reading it and these guys think they are being clever. Or 'bosses' or whatever delusion they think they are. And the murderer is a posthumous celebrity which overshadows the pure horror his victims went through. Our collective moral compass is completely off kilter and thank God for steady voices like yours. Great post again.

    1. Thanks for reading and responding, Demon! I know - I'm distressed over what a celebrity he has become as well and the few voices (though powerful no less) that are speaking about it in such a way that makes him the culprit instead of those murdered.

  2. Yes women have every right to say yes to having sex with only men they want...because men can't ? What does that say ? Do men have to prove they are not rapists before hand?

    1. I'm not sure what you mean, Hyde. No man or woman (or anyone else) should be forced or pressured to sleep with anyone they're not happy or comfortable sleeping with.


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