What the UCSB killings mean to one young woman

Elliot Rodger. Image: Still from Rodger's YouTube video

Elliot Rodger. Image: Still from Rodger’s YouTube video

This post from NCPR’s returning student employee Claire Woodcock, who attends SUNY Fredonia during the school year. Claire will be a regular contributor to The Inbox; in this piece, she explores a news story that has particular resonance for her as a college-age woman. –Nora Flaherty, NCPR digital content editor

The bullets that echoed through the streets Isla Vista, California on Friday night left seven dead, 13 wounded and a community in tatters. At the heart of the crime was Elliot Rodger, a disturbed 22 year old with a rancor towards women and the men who were fortunate enough to spend time with them.

It’s still a bitter pill that’s hard to swallow: The malevolent manifesto, the grisly photos, the chilling ‘Retribution’ video piled on top of disturbing interviews with the victim’s families, and the constant updates from competing news organizations.

What happened at the University of California, Santa Barbara, isn’t an isolated incident. There have been several mass shootings over the years, some more destructive than others (Reddit has compiled a list of 103 mass shootings in the United States thus far in 2014.) But Rodger was different. He was roughly my age, and he hated me.

Not because I was one of the girls he would have lusted after — I don’t think I was his type — But because I’m part of the larger group he hated. I’m a woman.

“You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime,” said Rodger in his ‘Retribution’ video.

“I concluded that women are flawed. There is something mentally wrong with the way their brains are wired, as if they haven’t evolved from animal-like thinking. They are incapable of reason or thinking rationally. They are like animals, completely controlled by their primal, depraved emotions and impulses. That is why they are attracted to barbaric, animal-like men. They are beasts themselves. Beasts should not be able to have rights in a civilized society.”

Perhaps the most disturbing mention in his declaration was his sense of entitlement towards women and sex: “It’s not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls have never been attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime, because I don’t know what you don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy, and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men, instead of me, the supreme gentleman.”

Rodger saw himself as executing justice for the isolation he experienced, the loneliness he endured and the sexual tension that swelled up inside of him: “Women are like a plague. They don’t deserve to have any rights. Their wickedness must be contained in order [to] prevent future generations from falling into degeneracy. Women are vicious, evil, barbaric animals, and they need to be treated as such,” Rodger wrote in his manifesto.

Many have emphasized the role that mental illness and gun control laws played in Friday night’s tragedy, and how it could have been avoided. But many women also believe that Rodger’s actions spoke for many other men who hold similar ideas about women and sex.

That belief was evident in the rush of women who were quick to express their personal grievances over Rodger’s actions, his comments and a larger culture in which they frequently feel sexually threatened; they flooded Twitter by the hundreds of thousands with their often-powerful responses, using the hashtag #YesAllWomen (very much worth reading).

Jennifer Medina of The New York Times wrote that for many women at UCSB, “the attacks were like a nightmare caricature of the safety concerns they deal with regularly on a campus where a high-profile gang rape recently prompted widespread concerns about safety and where an outsize reputation for alcohol-fueled parties led some to wonder if the beachside campus culture in any way played into the violence.”

The 2008 National Crime Victimization Survey says that more than 75 percent of the women who reported a rape were less than 25 years old at the time of their assault; more than 25 percent of the victims of reported rapes are between 18 and 24 years old. The White House has acknowledged the problem and issued guidelines for universities to more aggressively combat campus sex assault; but that doesn’t solve the problem. While premeditated mass murder and domestic violence against women are not the same offense, women continue to feel concerned about their safety.

Much of what’s appearing on Twitter says this: We are all products of a culture that has demeaned and sexualized women to the point where Rodger’s sense of entitlement, and the threat of violence against women, is seen as normal. Maybe UCSB’s culture played a role in the killings; but, they say, sexual violence can happen anywhere.

On NPR’s Morning Edition today, writer Laurie Penny talked about the sense of entitlement Rodger felt to love, sex, respect and even adoration, and the sense that if he didn’t get that he was “entitled to rape, beat and even kill.” With respect to the #YesAllWomen Twitter campaign and the larger conversation about the violence, she said,

“One of the most horrifying pushbacks is that ‘not all men do this, not all men think like this.’ Well of course, not all men are killers, not all men are violent misogynists. But the idea that before we speak about misogynistic extremism we should take men’s feelings into account and make sure that no man listening to this conversation feels threatened or has his ego bruised. That’s really, really dangerous. That’s the language of silencing and that’s what the #YesAllWomen tweet was reacting to.”

Elliot Rodger’s ideology is by no means an accurate representation of all men’s views on women. Not all men share the same views as Rodger, and not all women think that they do. But there are men who want to hurt women.

This weekend, I watched as CNN and The Washington Post told the story of the killings, and watched updates and comments splatter all over my News Feed–fear was the theme of the day.

But the conversation about Elliot Rodger and his victims has the potential to bring about change. The #YesAllWoman movement has brought many women’s fears, fears that have long been hidden, out into the open. If this violence could happen anywhere, maybe change will start on Twitter.

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15 Responses to “What the UCSB killings mean to one young woman”

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  1. shovel says:

    I’m glad people are talking about the culture of violence. However, I’m wondering if it is good practice to show his face, give his name and analyze his rants over and over, giving him the very notoriety he pursued. Rather, the focus should be on us, as a society, and what we can do to curtail these horrific episodes.

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  2. seszoo says:

    Did this rodgers even attend the university ? Was wondering if any of his professors could tell he was off the wall ,or did he work or do anything to support himself or just sit and stew about how unjust the world was to treat a privileged person living off of daddies money the way they treated him ? How would he have turned out if he was born poor and didn’t have private schools ,BMW’s and multitude therapists ?People try to make excuses of mental illnesses and the hatred of women , I think he was just another spoiled brat psycopath that took his revenge out with knives and guns and his nice BMW, all because he found out that the real world didn’t care whom he thought he was ,His manifesto was only his excuse for acting out. He’s better off gone. May his victims rest in peace and their families find some kind of comfort in the coming weeks .

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  3. V. Burnett says:

    You don’t have to be rich to be part of the male-entitlement culture. I’ve known plenty of men who shared similar, if significantly less violent, attitudes about women. There are plenty of poor men who also believe that women are mentally inferior and who are bitter and spiteful because women don’t choose them – who lash out emotionally against “evil & hateful” women who do not want to have sex with them instead of examining how their own behaviors and attitudes might be making them unattractive.

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  4. Peter says:

    He is a product of his upbringing. His family values made him into the monster he was, and we are seeing more and more psychotic behavior every day. I don’t want to turn this into a conversation about firearms, but I everyone I know who owns one has it in the back of their mind that they may one day have to defend themselves from weirdoes coming through their door, possibly including government weirdoes.

    We are nearing the tipping point of mass psychosis. This is the issue we need to address.

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  5. Jon Sklaroff says:

    I think it’s hard to say it’s his “family values” or mental illness or any one issue. It’s a multitude of issues. Regardless of social class and bank accounts. I grew up in a low to upper middle class suburban town and knew guys who drove used beat up cars and those who drove BMWs, many of whom would call a woman a “bitch” or “slut” if they got rejected.

    We teach our woman how to be safe on campus, colleges have emergency phones and “safety walks” for woman at night, because we expect men to be terrible and based on statistics and stories in the news and from friends, you would expect that.

    We need to change this culture, we need not just teach our woman to be cautious, but we need to teach our young men to be respectful. We need to teach men, that woman are their equals, not their inferior. Young boys need to learn from men and women that you should not harm another because they disagree with you or they refuse you.

    This is a much larger issue, look at our corporate world and pay structure for women. How can we as a society tell young men to respect women, if those in charge don’t?

    Top to bottom, men need to be better to women.

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  6. Will Doolittle says:

    Is this an event that lends itself to make a relevant point about anything? I’m not sure it is. If I wanted to make a point about disrespect of women, men feeling entitled to women physically, and so on, as many people have following these killings, I don’t think this is the event I’d use to make the point. I think what he did is an entirely different category — nutball mass killings. His similarity with other nutball mass killers — young, white, single, full of rage, lonely, socially isolated, mentally ill — is relevant to that discussion, I think. But I don’t think this guy works well as an example of misogyny, because he’s far out of the mainstream when it comes to misogyny. I think he has a lot less in common with the typical young man who feels frustrated with women and entitled to their attention than he does with the movie theater shooter in Colorado.

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  7. Jon Sklaroff says:

    Will – I agree that this guy is an extreme, but I think discussion this has spurred is not just about mass shootings and murderers but maybe, more common misogynists.

    When I say this I mean, it is obvious that this guy did this because of his hatred of woman, and there needs to be a discussion and more to the point, action taken to stop that mentality in this country (worldwide too). No, not every man who hates woman will go on a rampage and be a “nutball,” but many will rape, or abuse their wives and girlfriends and that needs to stop. Because this idiot had a manifesto of hatred of woman, it leads to the topic – men need to treat woman better.

    Like/Dislike this comment: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  8. Paul says:

    I agree with Shovel too much talking about this nut case is a bad idea. Is there a link between media coverage of these kinds of things and their prevalence?

    It seems to me these people are sometimes grandstanding. We are facilitating that.

    “This weekend, I watched as CNN and The Washington Post told the story of the killings, and watched updates and comments splatter all over my News Feed–fear was the theme of the day.”

    In the end seems that he was nuts, they knew it, did nothing about it, and here we are.

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  9. Peter says:

    A common contraindication of psychotropic drugs is suicidal and homicidal thoughts and tendencies. Same for sleep meds.

    I just read an article that said one out of three adults in France is using prescription psychotropic drugs. I have to assume the statistic for U.S. usage is similar.

    Every one of the mass murderers were being treated for mental illness.

    I think some good old fashioned hard work would be a better therapy to purify the mind.

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  10. Paul says:

    “Every one of the mass murderers were being treated for mental illness.”

    Peter what do you mean?

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  11. Peter says:

    A direct connection to mass murder and psychotropic drugs:
    http://www.psychintegrity.org/isepp_statement_on_the_connection_between_psychotropic_drugs_and_mass_murder.php

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  12. Pete Klein says:

    Hating women? I don’t know. If he hated women, he wouldn’t bother with them.
    What I do think all mass murders have in common is that they never got beyond the little boy phase of development. If they don’t get their way, they get angry and blame everyone but themselves. They believe the whole world is all about them and the whole world should meet their demands – just like any little baby that cries and throws a temper tantrum.
    Males (I will not use the word men) who abuse women or anyone else are little boys who never grew up. I think this hold true for Islamic terrorist. They demand everyone agree with them. They are the only good guys. Everyone else is bad.
    Are they crazy? Maybe more stupid than crazy.

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  13. Two Cents says:

    people who do this should have their names removed from everywhere it may be and sealed in a can with their bones for eternity. the mention of incidents should be from any perspective but the perpetrator’s. they are never to be mentioned by name again. only by a label, “killer”
    it’s not to bury our societal shame, (though we might ) it would be to deprive the killers any of the notoriety they all seem to ultimately crave as some form of warped “you’ll get yours”
    don’t ever want to see this particular a-holes face, no matter how perfect the dweeb got the light for his big close-up, mr. demille

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  14. LJR says:

    “I concluded that women are flawed. There is something mentally wrong with the way their brains are wired, as if they haven’t evolved from animal-like thinking. They are incapable of reason or thinking rationally. They are like animals, completely controlled by their primal, depraved emotions and impulses. That is why they are attracted to barbaric, animal-like men. They are beasts themselves. Beasts should not be able to have rights in a civilized society. . . . It’s not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls have never been attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it.”

    That’s why women were not attracted to him: they probably sensed his low opinion of them and his readiness to punish them for not behaving as he wished.

    “It’s an injustice, a crime, because I don’t know what you don’t see in me.”

    What they didn’t see in him was any real caring for them.

    “I’m the perfect guy, and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men, instead of me, the supreme gentleman.”

    Um, that is not how a gentleman thinks about women. The true gentleman knows that to love someone is to respect them, to think they are wonderful, to want them to have life and happiness.

    Maybe this is the real tragedy: that we do not do enough to teach young men and women that love is more about giving than receiving.

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  15. mervel says:

    I think Clair brings up a good point though concerning the culture of rape and sexual violence which is indeed gaining a foothold across our campuses. I don’t know if you can take it a direct causal analogy with this mentally ill young man, however the attitudes he expresses concerning women are not a product of mental illness but are quite common among a subset of men in our society.

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