Browsing Tag

Elliot Rodger

Social Issues

mass shootings are a feminist issue

If you haven’t heard about the mass shooting that took place at Umpqua Community College yesterday, the New York Times gives a decent summary of the facts we know at this point– which, honestly, isn’t much. There’s been a lot of speculation about what drove this particular attack. I followed the #UCCShooting tag for a few hours last night, and the dominant consensus was that the police weren’t releasing the shooter’s identity because they were a bunch of “libtards” who didn’t want to admit that it was a “radical Muslim” who’d “targeted Christians.”

That theory came about because one witness has said that the shooter was asking if any of his targets were Christians, and others who are the friends and family of victims have made similar statements. While I don’t believe that these people are lying, I’m doubtful that this person intended to target specifically Christians because he hated Christianity just that much.

I feel that this man wanted nothing more than attention, and one of the best and guaranteed ways for a mass shooter to garner as much attention as possible in this country is to invoke Columbine and Cassie Bernall. Making Christians think that they’re being persecuted is a surefire way to make sure your story makes it into — and stays in— the popular consciousness. The only reason why I heard of Columbine, back before social media and “going viral” was a thing, was because of Cassie.

I think he “targeted Christians” for the attention because of two reasons. The first reason is that the experts say that mass shooters exist because of the attention we give them.

We’ve had twenty years of mass murders, throughout which I’ve repeatedly told CNN and our other media that if you don’t want to propagate more mass murders, don’t start the story with sirens blaring, don’t have photographs of the killer, don’t make this 24/7 coverage, do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story, don’t to make the killer some kind of anti-hero. Do localize this story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible to every other market. Because every time we have intense saturation of coverage of a mass murder, we expect to have two more within the week.

Dr. Park Dietz

The second reason is that he said he was doing this for the attention on 4chan’s /r9k (one of the places where #GamerGate was spawned, and is a board dedicated to “relationship advice”). He posted his intentions, added that “This is the only time I’ll ever be in the news I’m so insignificant,” and was encouraged by the community and given advice on how to kill as many people as possible.

I’ve read through that particular thread multiple times, and it’s clear from that thread as well as breakdowns like this one (only go there if you can stomach it) that the /r9k community is filled with self-described “betas,” who are pretty obsessed with how wronged they are by women not having sex with them. Even though the shooter didn’t state that he was doing this because women had wronged him like the Isla Vista shooter, the instantaneous reaction in the thread was to call this “The Beta Uprising.”

And then this happened:

4chan 1

“If only he had been consoled or had a [girlfriend] then maybe he wouldn’t have went off the deep end like this and many lives would have been saved.”

4 chan 2

“A [girlfriend] could have prevented this … state mandated [girlfriends] when?”

4 chan 3

“If only he had a girlfriend this wouldn’t have happened. We need to save the troubled souls not make fun of them. You all make me sick.”

4 chan 4

“If only he had a girlfriend he wouldn’t have resorted to this. #betalivesmatter”

4 chan 5

“Also it’s because all the girls date douchebags rather than the [Original Poster] or moi.”

That last one especially made me sick because it’s apparently possible for “willing to commit mass murder” not to appear on someone’s “this makes you a douchebag” list. The whole thread made me sick because it was essentially a bunch of people either praising the shooter, calling him “legendary,” or saying that it’s women’s fault that this happened. We’re not willing to date mass murderers and that makes it our fault.

The feminist critique of that should be obvious, so I’m not going to spend much time on it.

We know that these mass killings usually happen because men want attention. Women do similar things, too, but much more rarely, and for different reasons. There’s been a lot of conversation happening recently on toxic masculinity, like with the #masculinitysofragile tag on Twitter, and it seems intuitive to me that actions like mass shootings are an outgrowth of this reality in our culture. Boys are taught from a very early age that violence and aggression are two of the principle methods to gain respect– when you combine that with how men aren’t allowed to respond to their emotions in natural, healthy ways, the result is that men frequently respond destructively. Often that includes suicide, but it often makes it possible for men to be violent in ways like mass shootings.

However, I think this is bigger than just toxic masculinity. I think it’s our entire patriarchal culture. Toxic masculinity tells men that they need to be dominant and aggressive, but patriarchy tells men that they have a whole plethora of rights. Among these “rights” are things like “I deserve to have women sleep with me.” Most relevant among the messages that patriarchy screams at men is that they deserve to be at the top of everything– to be in control of the money, of government, of companies, of universities, of departments … Patriarchy tells men that if they are not the center of things, if they do not have total control of their environment, that they have to do something to assert their masculinity and superiority.

Sometimes this means abusing their partners.

Sometimes this means neglecting their families in favor of overtime.

Sometimes this means mass shootings.

As a friend put it: “entitlement is a hell of a thing.”

Gun violence in America is a real concern, and I think something fundamental must change in our gun laws in order to avert these kinds of situations in the future. But, I don’t think that largely unregulated firearms and ammunition is the only problem. Some would like to use the red herring of “mental illness,” but more and more often these people are telling us exactly why they’re willing to commit these acts. In Charleston it was blatantly racism. In Isla Vista it couldn’t have been more clear that it was misogyny. And now, in Oregon, this shooter felt robbed of the attention he felt he naturally deserved– from women and society– and he was willing to murder people in order to get it.

Feminism is an answer to this problem. We know that when gender parity and egalitarianism becomes common, violence declines. It is not a given that society must be this violent, must be this wracked with terror and grief. Feminism has taught me to prioritize empathy and understanding, and I believe that if those were to become the virtues of our society– instead of power and wealth, the virtues of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy— our world would be a much better place.

And maybe, just maybe, mass shootings would become a thing of the past instead of a daily reality.

Photo by John Spade

nolite te bastardes carborundorum


I’ve been avoiding this. I didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to dwell on it, didn’t want to really acknowledge what had happened. I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t heard about what happened at University of California Santa Barbara last week. If you haven’t, “Elliot Rodger didn’t have Autism, he had Anger” by Emily Willingham and “Stop Being Surprised, Damn It” by Donna Decker are good places to start, in my opinion.

I heard about the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Saturday night, and contributed a few tweets. I spent the rest of the holiday and most of this week avoiding the internet because those tweets were basically blood in the water. I couldn’t face all of the e-mails and comments that started pouring in– people attacking me, accusing me of horrible things, maligning my integrity, my honesty, belittling me, and harassing me for days. It’s only just now died down, but I’m still flinching when my phone tells me that someone tweeted at me or I’ve gotten an e-mail.

I tried to view these attacks as funny– after all, they really were just fulfilling Lewis’ Law. My point could not have been proven any better, really.

Except… that really doesn’t help.

It doesn’t help when I can still see Elliot Rodger’s face, can still hear his speech in my head, repeating on an endless loop, and it’s accompanied by the dozen other times I’ve heard that exact same speech (granted, without the “I’m going to kill all of you” part) shouted at me in restaurants, in my car, in a classroom, on a sidewalk, on dates. That speech has been directed at me, meant for me- and it’s been given to me as though I’d be sympathetic, as though I’d understand and be on his side.

That frightens me beyond words.

Because, up until now, I’ve been annoyed by ideas like the “Nice Guy” and the assumed existence of some “Friend Zone.” The notion that some men think that being a decent human being entitles them to sex with women has infuriated me at times. But, it never really scared me. Now, it does. It terrifies me. Because now I’m wondering– how many of the threats I’ve gotten have been idle? I’ve dismissed them, up until this point, because I’ve always assumed it’s just some guy being an asshole from the safety of his keyboard. But now . . . now I’m not so sure. That man who followed me around in his pickup truck for half an hour– if I hadn’t dialed the police and told him I was doing so, what would have happened? Would he have tried to hurt me? The men who followed me out of Wal-Mart and shouted things about my ass and watched me as I put my groceries into my trunk while my heart was trying to strangle me… if things had been just a little different, what would have happened? Would I be alive right now?

And what about a young man I grew up with that has delivered three different versions of Elliot Rodger’s screed to me over the years– who I’ve had to block multiple times because he keeps creating accounts to harass me? As far as I’m aware, he’s angry, and bitter, and people who know him describe him as “hurt” and still single and has “given up” on relationships. Will I wake up one day to a news story about him going on a rampage and shooting people, and then naming me in a 140-page manifesto as the woman to blame?

The world we live in is … it’s horrible. The thought of it has kept me in my bed, hiding under blankets and avoiding any form of reality for a week. I didn’t want to summon the strength to hit delete delete delete over and over and over again, while opening up each message and reading it and taking a screen shot and finding his IP address and blocking him from my blog and on twitter and from my e-mail and putting all of the information in a folder I keep on my desktop– and feeling as though if I don’t do these things I’ve failed in some way, when I shouldn’t have to be doing it at all and the fact that I do is what’s fucked up and not me not wanting to deal with it at all.

It all just gets so exhausting. I’m tired of being afraid. I’m tired of grieving. I’m tired of that horrible lurch I get in my stomach when I read yet another headline about how a man has stabbed someone, or shot someone, because they didn’t get what they wanted from women. I’m tired of the blinding rage and fury that follows when I see comments that sympathize with a mass-murderer because yeah, rejection sucks, broI feel ya, dude.

I wanted to burn the internet down this week. Just burn it at all. Burn it with fire.

I wanted to sleep and never get out of bed and pretend that the only things in the world that exist are Klondike bars and Netflix.

I don’t want to talk about these things. I hate that every time I do, it feels like people come out of the woodwork for no other reason than to harass me and then eventually melt away. The endless barrage of “you’re a lying whore” and all the people on internet forums who are so filled with hatred that they rip me to shreds for no goddamn reason. I’ve stopped checking my stats hardly at all because I see the list of referrers and I know that the people who are coming here and reading my words aren’t here to understand, or to learn– they’re here to find ammunition to blast me with by taking everything I say out of context.

Then I read back over this post, and I realize that I’ve spent 900+ words whining about nothing. I get e-mails from anonymous assholes?  People talk about me on message boards? That’s nothing. It barely matters at all in a world when girls can be kidnapped for trying to get an education. When simply being white protects me from the harassment and dehumanization that women of color face on a daily basis. When I’m in a healthy, loving relationship with a man who would be devastated if he ever did something to hurt me.

Thankfully, I’m surrounded be a community who support what I do, who believe in what I write, who hear my despair and wrap their arms around me and whisper “illegitimi non carborundum” and give me the hope to keep going.

So, if there’s one thing I would want to say to all of you, it’s this: don’t let the bastards grind you down.

#YesAllWoman will make a difference. All of us can make a difference. The world is a horrible place, yes, but I still believe that it doesn’t have to be this way– that it won’t always be this way. It can change. We can do better.

We won’t let them win.