6 women have been murdered* and 7 more injured in Santa Barbara in a drive by shooting late Friday night which is currently being attributed to a man called Elliot Rodger.** Rodger got into his car and proceeded to shoot to death 6 women and injure 7 other women. Rodger was also killed Friday night but we do not yet know if his gun-shot was self-inflicted or from a police officer on the scene.
Sheriff Bill Brown has already referred to this mass shooting as ““the work of a madman” and suggested that we will soon learn “how disturbed this individual was”. Despite there being no evidence, as yet, that the perpetrator suffered a mental illness, and the statistical unlikelihood that a perpetrator of such extreme violence does have a mental illness, the police officers investigating the crime and the media reporting it are assuming that Rodger must be mentally ill. After all, “normal men” don’t murder women every single day (unless of course we count the 2 women a week murdered by current or former partner; women and girls brutally murdered by men during home invasions and robberies; the women raped and murdered in war zones and disaster areas; or any of the hundreds of thousands of examples of fatal male violence against women and girls every single day). The media is reporting that Rodger has Asperger’s Syndrome as an excuse for his killing but there is no clear evidence of a link between Aspergers and such extreme forms of violence. Whether or not Rodger’s has a formal diagnosis of one of the very few mental illnesses which has links to perpetration of violence is to be seen, however, assuming that a man who murders women must be “mentally ill” is to ignore the real pattern of fatal male violence.
The media narrative in play is not one of open investigation of the brutal murder of 6 women but rather a poor, depressed man driven to murder because of sexual inadequacy and the refusal of women to have sex with him. Granted, Elliot Rodger’s “confession video” is all about how girls aren’t attracted to him and how he will “punish them”. Rodger’s video is a performance of male entitlement . We live in a culture where men feel entitled to own and control women’s bodies: where men are raised to believe they have the right to full access to women’s bodies whenever and wherever they want. This mass shooting of 6 women by one man is part of a culture of toxic masculinity. It is part of the spectrum of male violence against women and girls that includes everything from young boys pulling girls ponytails when they are 5 to snapping bra straps when they are 13 through to street harassment, domestic violence, rape and murder. This mass shooting of women to “punish them” is not unusual. We have seen it in the massacre of 14 women at a Polytechnique in Montreal. Every time a man brutally murders one women – we ignore or make excuses. When a man murders many at once – we make better excuses for them.
So far, media coverage has gone for salacious and unnecessary facts whilst erasing the clear evidence of misogyny. The Telegraph has gone with this headline:
California drive-by shooting: ‘Son of Hunger Games assistant director’ Elliot Rodger suspected of killing six
Obviously, the movie the perpetrator’s father worked on is more important than the 6 women murdered. Business Online went for crass with:
Business Online Forum For Sexually Frustrated Men Reacts To News That Mass Shooter May Be One Of Their Own
As if Rodger’s “sexual frustration” is a valid excuse for murdering women or his membership of an anti-pick up artist website ‘real’ evidence of his misogyny (as opposed every other think Rodger did on a daily basis which would have demonstrated it) . USA Today used a more factual headline but focused exclusively on language which blames women for Rodger’s crimes. Much of the media has insisted on pointing out that the area where the 6 women were murdered was “a known party area” insinuating that the victims were somehow responsible for being in the wrong place which caused their deaths rather than the Rodger’s choosing to kill them.
The media have taken great pleasure in quoting from Rodger’s youtube video where his hatred of women was quite clear:
the crime of living a better life than me
love you, to be loved by you, … i’ve wanted sex, I’ve wanted, love, affection, adoration. You think I’m unworthy of it and that’s crime that can never be forgiven. … You denied me a happy life and in turn I will deny all of you life.
What is also clear is Rodger’s entitlement to women’s bodies; not that the media is discussing this. Instead, there is some rather gleeful coverage of Rodger’s status of virgin and all the mean, nasty girls who refused to have sex with him driving Rodger to commit mass murder. There is no real question that actually Rodger was never entitled to have sex with any woman he wanted; that no man is entitled to have sexual access just because they desire it. This is nothing less than rape culture being perpetuated by a media desperate to make excuses for a violent man.
I’ve watched the video several times and I have yet to see the media refer to this quote:
I hate all of you sexually active men.
After all, Rodger didn’t kill any men and suggesting that he might have wanted to might cause unnecessary panic. It’s perfectly normal for men to kill women who “reject” them or who “make them jealous”. Men don’t deserve fatal male violence; women do. Within our toxic culture of masculinity, it is perfectly reasonable for men to kill women. It isn’t for men to kill other. They do kill each other but it’s a problem that requires studies.
The mass murders committed by Rodger will remain mainstream news over the next few weeks covered by global media. It will not differ from the coverage for the last 24 hours: Rodger *must* be mentally ill regardless of any evidence to the contrary; that this is an “abnormal” event which is not linked to the clear spectrum of male violence against women and girls experience every day. We will hear lots of coverage of Rodger’s celebrity friends who will express shock and horror despite the fact that Hollywood, as with the rest of the world, is riddled with violent men who make the choice to harm women. We won’t hear very much about the 6 women who were brutally murdered or the 7 who are injured. We won’t hear of Rodger’s pattern of violence against women and girls – and there will be a pattern. We won’t hear about it because his friends, family and acquaintances will have minimised his behaviour over the years – just as they minimised the behaviour of all other men.
We live in a world of systemic male violence against women and girls. Rodger is no different than so many men who believe they are entitled to sexually access the bodies of women and girls and who blame women and girls for saying no. Rape culture means women and girls aren’t allowed to say no and any woman or girl who does deserves what happens to them. We will hear excuses for Rodger and we will hear lip service to the term toxic masculinity but no real attempt to actually deal with the problem of male violence.
Questioning toxic masculinity means questioning our capitalist-patriarchy. And, no man who has power within our culture is willing to change anything that might interfere with their power.
Men who kill choose to kill. Men who rape, assault and torture women choose to do so. Rodger isn’t abnormal or mentally ill. The video he released on YouTube is the same justification given by millions of men who choose to harm women: it’s women’s fault for believing they are human too.
This is misogyny: the crime, the media coverage and the men desperate to excuse a killer.
*The names of the victims have not yet been released. I will post them as soon as they are.
**I’ve seen Rodger’s name spelt as Elliott, Elliot and Eliot. I’m using the spelling given in the Telegraph which is the first coverage I’ve read.
These are the women murdered in Montreal by Marc Lepine
- Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
- Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
- Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
- Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
- Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
- Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
- Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department
- Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
- Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
- Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
- Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
- Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
- Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
- Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student