I’ve managed to mostly hold my tongue in the last week regarding the murder spree conducted by Elliott Rodger in California. But I need to say something now.
I read Rodger’s manifesto last weekend. It makes very interesting reading, although it’s pretty terrible writing. The public debate about Rodger’s views and motivations has played out exactly as stupidly as I expected it to.
First up, there’s the gun fanatics. Every time there’s a killing spree or some prick goes and shoots up a school, they always try and find a way to say that easy access to guns really is no big deal. Their immediate reaction is to blame it on mental health and be done with it. Ignoring, of course, that it might not be a half bad idea if the US could actually make it so people with serious mental illnesses don’t get the right to own guns. Here in Britain, a family friend’s ex-husband started having serious mental health issues. Within a few days of his doctor diagnosing said problems, his shotgun licence was revoked and the police turned up at his house to take away his gun. Because that’s a sensible thing to do.
The gun-lovers can blame mental illness all they like, but their solution to people with serious mental illnesses having guns is… well, they don’t have a solution. Just lots of stupid fucking slogans like “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” (except like computers or photocopiers or cars, a gun makes the process ruthlessly efficient).
Then there’s another group of idiots: people who reckon that the best explanation for the crime is that, well, Elliott Rodger was a closeted gay man. Some idiot on Fox News gave that startling theory the other day. The evidence in the ‘for’ column seems to be: on YouTube, he is depicted listening to Whitney Houston and George Michael; he uses the word “fabulous” a few times; he is a bit swishy and effeminate in his mannerisms; and he buys expensive designer clothes. I mean, that seals the deal, obviously. He’s one of us. Send him the free toaster and the membership card for Club Queer.
I mean, it’s a great theory if you ignore the fact that his manifesto goes on at length about how he’s desperate for women to have sex with him, that he refers to getting instant erections when seeing hot blondes, that in his version of utopia, women would be disappeared from society, with a few left in chains to reproduce, and the men would be happy because there’d be no women and thus no sex to distract them from, I dunno, playing video games and watching sports.
I mean, it’s a notable thing about being gay: you are really mortified about rejection by women. Like, if you hear that a woman isn’t interested in sleeping with you, that’s terrible and ghastly and haunts you for all of about twenty seconds. It’s as mortifying as a vegetarian finding out that he won’t be getting steak for dinner. I read Rodger’s manifesto and while I can certainly empathise with the loneliness he expresses, it’s just really bloody lazy to equate any feeling of ‘outsiderness’ from sexuality with being gay. Back when I was 18 or 19, I would never have written that I’d seen a hot blonde chick at a shopping mall and I got an instant erection. Because, duh, not a dude. The “he was really gay” theory works great if you ignore the fairly fundamental fact that being gay actually includes being attracted to members of the same rather than the opposite sex.
The final and most significant part of the stupidity around Rodger is this: the complete denial that his actions stem from misogyny. The last week has been a cascade of idiots trying to find ways to avoid saying the bloody obvious: Elliott Rodger hated women, he wanted to destroy women, to get vengeance against women for the harm he believed women had collectively done to him by rejecting him as a sexual partner.
If he had published a manifesto saying that he wanted to kill all black people or all gay people or all Jews, we would have taken him at his word. But he publishes a manifesto calling for the destruction of all women and we collectively hem and haw and find ways to avoid coming to the obvious conclusion: that he was a radical misogynist. His rhetoric is one of complete elimination. That he failed to go through with it, and in fact ended up killing more men than he did women doesn’t change the intention. (Incidentally, David Copeland, the neo-Nazi thug who set off bombs in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho—targetting London’s black, Asian and LGBT communities respectively—only ended up killing people in the last of his attacks. Thankfully, he didn’t do nearly as much damage and destruction as he possibly could have done. Does that mean that his motivation to start a ‘race war’ by targetting minority groups wasn’t actually his motivation?)
Elliott Rodger was motivated by extreme, violent misogyny. No, that doesn’t make every man a conspirator any more than the KKK being motivated by race makes every white person responsible for their thuggery. There are communities of people where the kind of extreme misogyny that motivated Rodger is bred and spread: Rodger spent a lot of time posting on online fora associated with the seduction community—pickup artists and ‘The Game’. These are real communities of people who spend an enormous amount of time online hating women. I’ve read more posts from such forums than I care to think about. They have blogs, they have forums, they have chatrooms, they have a community, a lingo, a set of shared myths and narratives. It’s right there, you just need to hit up your favourite search engine and take a look.
Denying that misogyny is an actual thing, finding dumb moral equivalences betwen the extreme misogyny of large swathes of the so-called “manosphere” with some long-dead feminist writer who once frustratedly said ‘kill all men’ or somesuch tripe—this is all keeping one’s head in the sand. There are men who actually do hate all women, who want to kill or subjugate all women. Denying this fact in the light of Elliott Rodger’s murders puts you in the same box as creationists or anti-vaxxers or anybody else who is unwilling to see the clear and present reality right in front of them.
That reality is really fucking depressing. Reality often is. Denying that reality won’t make it go away.