Let's have a talk about misogyny

This post was originally written for Facebook, but I have been encouraged to post it here as well.

Alright, Facebook, it's time to get serious. Let's talk about Elliot Rodger & Santa Barbara for a minute here.

I've seen and heard a lot of people discussing Rodger's state of mental health and the implications it had on his actions. At face value, these comments may seem valid. Clearly someone who is "psychotic" or has a "mental imbalance" could be unstable enough to go on this sort of killing spree, right? Except that's where you're wrong in several different ways.

Firstly, as far as we know right now, Rodger was never officially diagnosed with any sort of mental disorder. All of the major news outlets may be speculating about it but I have yet to see a single legitimate source discussing any real diagnosis. While it has been confirmed that he was seeing a therapist and/or counselor, whether or not a diagnosis was made remains unclear. Calling Rodger mentally ill because of his actions is factually inaccurate and only leads to more rumors & uncertainty about the shooting. Sticking to the known facts is the only way to ensure the discussion remains focused on what it needs to be about.

Secondly, blaming Rodger's actions on mental disorders further stigmatizes these issues. It associates mental disorders and illnesses with violence, crime, and immorality. It implies that all people with mental disorders are prone to going on these sorts of deadly rampages or committing other violent crimes. It implies that people with mental disorders are dangerous, are to be feared, are to be shunned and blamed for all these tragedies. These negative connotations around mental disorders only serve to worsen the public opinion of mental illness, and that ought to be the last thing anybody wants to do.

Consider this: according to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 26.2% Americans over the age of 18 have a diagnosable mental disorder (source). For every four adults you know, there's a good chance that one of them could be suffering. Using mental illness as an explanation for Rodger's actions tells these people--your friends--that they are equivalent to this murderer. Could you tell that to your best friend's face if you knew they were diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, or another mental disorder? I didn't think so.

In addition to these statistics, multiple studies have shown that people diagnosed with mental disorders are far less likely to be violent than those without. Appleby et al. (2001) found that people with mental disorders are actually vastly more likely to be victims of violent crimes, not perpetrators; similarly, in 2006 the Institute of Medicine concluded that people with mental disorders contribute far less to the number of violent crimes committed than people without mental disorders (source). With this in mind, the likelihood of Rodger honestly being psychologically ill should seem very low.

Thirdly, blaming mental illness for this tragedy continues to ignore the real root cause. Rodger did not kill these six people because he was mentally disturbed. He killed these people because he was a product of the deeply and violently misogynistic American society.

In his now-infamous video, Rodger explicitly stated that he hated women. He outright said that the women who spurned his advances over the years deserved to be killed, and all "blonde sluts" deserved this fate as well. This screenshot of a comment made by Rodger on a bodybuilding forum shows that he strongly connected women and feminism with evil and injustice towards men (source). His 141-page manifesto blamed rejection by women for every misfortune in his "twisted world".

This mindset is not one of a mentally ill man. This is the mindset of a man who grew up in a world that confirmed his sick ideals. Everywhere in American society you see men like Elliot Rodger being validated in the belief that women owe them sex and romance simply for being "kind". Everywhere you look in American society, you can see women being held responsible for the crimes committed against them--rape victims are asked what they were wearing, assault victims are asked why they weren't more careful, women who are harassed on the street are told they must have been provocative somehow and should be appreciative of the attention.

This has to stop.

The only way we will ever prevent another shooting like this from happening is by educating our sons and teaching them that they are not entitled to women's bodies. We have to teach them that if they want a relationship with a woman, they have to earn that woman's respect through honest kindness. We have to teach them to see women as real human beings instead of objects to claim. We have to teach them that women deserve the right to pick their partners without having to fear for their lives if they deny someone. We have to teach them that women deserve respect, because right now we are failing desperately.

I am far from a stranger to the complicated politics of men's entitlement. I have had dear friendships with boys turn into major causes of stress because I felt uncomfortable with their clearly romantic advances but I didn't want to jeopardize our friendship. I have feared for my reputation because I turned down boys who would go on to tell their friends how awful I was and how nobody would ever like me. I have been called names and insults ranging from "rude" & "heartless" to "bitch" & "whore" simply because I didn't want to date these boys. I have dealt with being catcalled, being told to smile, and having my appearance inappropriately commented upon by men older than my father. This past Halloween, I went dancing with several of my female friends and had to shake off countless male hands trying to make their way around my waist or into my back pockets. None of these guys cared that I had a boyfriend across the state, that I didn't want them to grope me, or that I only wanted to enjoy a night out with my friends. To them, I wasn't even a person. I was just an object to grind against for a few minutes, and that terrified me.

I should not have to worry for my safety when I walk across campus after a mandatory night class. I should not have to approach all of my friendships with guys with the concern that I might be "leading them on". I should not be told in all seriousness that one benefit of my short hair is that guys won't be able to grab me by it when I walk by. I should not have to follow instructions on how not to be raped when I know that the boys surrounding me haven't been taught not to rape me. I should not be afraid that when I return to campus in August I will become a victim of another crime by another Elliot Rodger who decided that he was being denied what was owed to him. I should not be afraid for my life just because I am a woman living in America.

The thing is, I'm not the only woman to have experienced this. Every single woman has had to protect themselves and the other women around them because they were threatened by men. Every single woman has been told that anything bad that befalls them is their fault, that they did something wrong to deserve it. Every single woman has had to fear men assaulting them just for being women.

This cycle can't stop until we dismantle and absolutely destroy the idea that men are entitled to women's bodies. Elliot Rodger believed that he was justified in murdering Katie Cooper and Veronika Weiss because he felt that the women in his past owed him sexual favors. Saturday morning, mere hours after Rodger's shooting, another California man opened fire on three young women because none of them would agree to sex with him (source). Countless more acts of violence targeted towards women are going to happen if we don't start reconstructing the way we view women in America.

So when you blame Elliot Rodger's mental state for his shooting, you ignore the fact that he was specifically targeting women and wanted to kill as many "blonde sluts" as he could. You are further demeaning the lives of women across the country by telling them their safety doesn't matter, that they don't matter, because the gunman couldn't be held accountable for his actions since he wasn't right in the head. You are further enforcing this toxic and misogynistic system that constantly kills women no matter what they do to protect themselves. You are acting as an agent of violence against women, and you are denying us the right to be validated as human beings.

If you agree with anything that Rodger believed--that men are worse off in this world than women, that all men are owed sexual gratification from women they act kindly towards, that all the women who denied him deserved to die--then please unfriend me immediately. Better yet, let me know who you are so I can block you directly. I do not want to associate with anybody who thinks that I deserve to die because I don't want to date somebody. I refuse to surround myself with people who don't even regard me as a real person. This is not a subject that is up for debate. I am not going to listen to people tell me that women's problems aren't real or feminism isn't needed in American society when there are two young women pointlessly dead because of a spoiled child's entitlement, and most people don't even know their names.

If you still need further proof that Rodger's actions were an act of terrorism against women rather than the misdirections of a mentally ill boy, look at the Twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen. Read these people's stories and then try to tell me that this wasn't violence against women, or that women have it easier than men. I hope you appreciate that you have the privilege to find it difficult to stomach, because women don't have that privilege when we have to live through it every day.

Comments

Excellent blog post dearest

Far too many men need to learn that friendly can be accomplished without the use of hands.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Please allow me to introduce my

18-year-old daughter, Emily.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Hehe

Of course, you know, she raised me.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Wow!

Talk about creating an outstanding first impression! That one was heckuva fine introduction, Emily. Great post. Truly outstanding.

Thank you for sharing it here. Hope to hear more from you.

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"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014

She is at work

and will be back this evening to respond....

She's a psych major....can you tell? :)



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Nailed it

Beautifully written, Emily.

Thirdly, blaming mental illness for this tragedy continues to ignore the real root cause. Rodger did not kill these six people because he was mentally disturbed. He killed these people because he was a product of the deeply and violently misogynistic American society.

Sometimes I hate being a man in our screwed up society, which is why I've been calling for almost ten years for women to take over. This piece first ran on BlueNC, then ricocheted all around the world.

My second thought upon reading this

was, "James is going to love this."

My first thought was, "This is brilliant. I love you, sweetie."



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Bingo.

Good job, Emily!

Guys who use whatever guile and resources they can find to coerce women into involuntary sex are nothing more than sexual predators, period. And the coaches and teachers and parents who try to write that off as something innocent or "part of growing up" are complicit in the criminal behavior.

Thanks for bringing your wisdom to BlueNC, and please make it a habit. :)

I know you're just egging Steve on....

but it is more the culture that excuses it in men....the old "boys will be boys" routine...that is being addressed.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

We don't discuss it

because statistically speaking, it's about as common as being stung by a wasp while you're being audited by the IRS.

Seriously. If sexual abuse was viewed as a viral disease, it would be classified as pandemic. The time for joking about it or making false equivalencies is over.

I'm not James

And yes, there are definitely cultural drivers behind misogynistic behavior. Boys who are promiscuous are admired while girls who exhibit the exact same behavior are reviled. That's conditioning, and it produces a certain mindset. A mindset that encourages sexual aggression in males and silence in the females who are objects of that aggression.

But classifying the shooter as merely "bat-shit crazy" is (in my opinion) taking the easy way out. It opens the door for the assumption that there's really nothing wrong with attitudes between men and women; there's normal and then there are aberrations. In reality, there's a whole spectrum of abnormal behavior that climbs up to that "bat-shit crazy," which is why 1 in 5 girls/women will suffer some form of abuse in their lifetimes.

Steve H.

Over the years, I've found that my exchanges with you often become weird and unproductive. It could be because we're both somewhat strong-willed, or it could be something else. I don't know, but it's a long-standing pattern that serves no useful purpose. I appreciate your participation at BlueNC, but I'm going to steer clear.

Peace.

Misogyny, Yes.... But...

First let me just say that I thought your post was excellent. It was thoughtful, compassionate, and demonstrated a clear understanding of the difficulties people with mental illness face. I've seen a couple articles recently about misogyny in relation to Elliot Rodger. In all seriousness, yours has been my favorite. But, It concerns me that in our efforts to be sensitive to those with a wide variety of mental illnesses, we may be pushing the role that mental illness likely did play in this and other similar tragedies into the background. As a Clinical Mental Health Therapist and someone who is trained in and conducts threat assessments for near-future violence, I believe we have to discuss the role mental illness may play. It is, of course, the intersection between certain psychological conditions and the ridiculous availability of guns that form the crux of the problem. Just as with medical illnesses there are a multitude of psychological diagnoses. Some are more severe and some less severe. Some have greater association with the likelihood for violence and others have almost no association with violence whatsoever. Dr. Peter Langman did some great research into these issues and looked at the psychology of school shooters. He found that three disorders/conditions/histories were more prevalent than others with regard to their association with potential violence. These were a history of significant childhood trauma; psychosis; and psychopathy. Of course this doesn't in any way mean that everyone with these histories or conditions will commit acts of violence. Nor does it automatically mean that they are at higher risk to commit acts of violence. What it does mean is that if other risk factors/red flags exist and there is clear evidence of one of these histories or conditions, it would be prudent to conduct a more thorough evaluation specifically focusing on the risk for violence.

With regard to Elliot Rodger, he certainly appears to have held misogynistic beliefs. But, these beliefs could be a part of a system of potential delusional thinking often seen in mass shooters. Dr. Reid Meloy, I believe, was the first to formulate the concept of the "paranoid pseudo-community". This is a delusional thought process where the person believes that a multitude of people are conspiring against them. In reality, these people are typically only associated with one another and the oppressed in the subject's mind. A good example of this is Seung-Hui Cho. If you go to youtube and search his name, you'll likely see the videotaped confession/manifesto he made prior to the shooting at Virginia Tech. In this video Cho angrily discusses how people with money, "gold chains, cognac, Mercedes", were oppressing him. What he's discussing here is his paranoid pseudo-community. Over time Cho came to believe that all his problems in life were attributable to these people. In his mind he became the avenger and the martyr for future generations. He discusses this belief in the videos as well. This theme is prevalent in the writings, videos, and blogs of multiple persons who have committed these horrific acts.

So, in an effort not to drone on (too late right?), while Rodgers act when seen through the lens of his video appears and is misogynistic, there is likely a delusional thought process at work that we can't see. There are many misogynists in the world but the vast majority of them don't commit this type of violent act. Whenever tragedies like this happen, we start looking for answers. But, the answer will never be a single reason. It is always the interaction of multiple influences that culminates in the mindset needed to conceive, plan, and carry out killing others indiscriminately while rationalizing and justifying such acts. I believe that for these reasons, we must talk about mental illness while increasing the understanding that not all mental illnesses are alike. They are neurobiological conditions that vary in severity just the same as any medical illness. We can't, however, look to this as the sole cause for these events. Without the proliferation of guns in the US, these events simply couldn't happen.

Thank you so much

for such a thoughtful (and not droning at all) comment! I definitely agree with your conclusion--there's no way that one single factor can be the sole cause of the violence. To be honest, I wrote this in one long rant in response to my Facebook friends who were blaming the shooting entirely on Rodger's mental state. I was less inclined to emphasize the interaction between misogyny and mental illness and more focused on just bringing the idea of misogyny as a cause to the table. The role of mental illness in events like this definitely needs to be discussed, and while I would love to participate in that conversation I don't think I'm the most qualified person to initiate it.

I hadn't heard of the research you mentioned, and I'm glad you brought it up. Langman's results are particularly interesting; I wouldn't have thought that childhood trauma would be related to violent behavior, although the other two conditions were less surprising. Meloy's "paranoid pseudo-community" seems like the perfect way to define what exactly goes through all of the perpetrators' heads for a broad audience. You definitely provided a lot of insight into the role of mental illness in these shootings and I will definitely keep your comment in mind for future discussions on the subject.

Thank you again for your feedback! I really appreciate the discussion!

You are Very Welcome!

Hi Emily. Thanks for your kind comments and obvious level-headedness about this issue. As you know, it's a sensitive subject that often gets tempers flaring. So I'd like to send you the research I discussed if you're interested. I've been conducting threat assessments for about 10 years or so and have amassed a ton of information. If you don't want or need it, that's ok too! I know what it's like having a million things on your desk at any given time. But if you do want it... here's my dilemma... I don't want to post my email address publicly and I don't want to ask you to do that either. Is there some way I could send you these articles without posting either of our email addresses? Thanks!

There are a couple of different methods

for BlueNC members to contact each other privately. If you click on Emily's username, it will bring up her profile page. From there, you can send her either a private message or an e-mail to converse with each other. But if you want to include an attached document, you may need to get her real e-mail address to do so, as (I'm pretty sure) our system doesn't allow for that.

Thanks!

You know.... I didn't even see that option. Thanks for letting me know!

Well...

I'm not sure I'm following you here Steve. Are you continuing on from another post?

Just to be clear

I agree with the article's main point that misogyny plays a role in women being targeted for all sorts of reasons. I certainly didn't mean to undermine that point. One could make a strong case that, even if it's revealed that a delusional process was at work in Rodger's mind, the multitude of influences Emily M. referenced probably assisted in driving his delusional thinking in the direction of women. Women often become the lightening rod on which men blame their own insecurities and failures in life. Emily's point that this type of thinking is condoned by society is an excellent one. I don't know about TV ratings but I do know that there is an often unspoken undercurrent of thinking that says it's ok for men to disparage women if the man is hurt by a woman. This thinking seems to fall in line with unrealistic and rigid ideas about masculinity and about gender stereotypes in general. K... I've rambled on long enough... back to work.

I gotta tell ya,

if you really do have a legitimate argument, you've buried it so deeply in your flammable language it simply may not be found. "Dead chicks"? Really? Did you set out today planning on being banned here, or did you decide that along the way?