Sasha Weiss at the New Yorker on #YesAllWomen. She first reads Rodger’s “manifesto”:
The first half of the manifesto is lucid and reflective—we see glimmers of a happy boyhood and an affectionate, curious personality—which makes his spewings of misogyny and hatred in the second half even more chilling. He wanted to abolish sex, thereby equalizing men and ridding society of women’s manipulative and bestial natures, and to lock women in concentration camps so they would die out. (“I would have an enormous tower built just for myself, where I can oversee the entire concentration camp and gleefully watch them all die,” he wrote. “If I can’t have them, no one will, I imagine thinking to myself as I oversee this. Women represent everything that is unfair in this world, and in order to make this world a fair place, women must be eradicated.”) His idea was to imprison a few select women in a lab, where they would be artificially inseminated to propagate the species.
Rodger’s fantasies are so patently strange and so extreme that they’re easy to dismiss as simply crazy. But, reading his manifesto, you can make out, through the distortions of his raging mind, the outlines of mainstream American cultural values: Beauty and strength are rewarded. Women are prizes to be won, reflections of a man’s social capital. Wealth, a large house, and fame are the highest attainments. The lonely and the poor are invisible. Rodger was crazier and more violent than most people, but his beliefs are on a continuum with misogynistic, class-based ideas that are held by many.
The ones that jump out at you from the tv screen if you pay any attention.
Elliot Rodger earned the fame and infamy he wished for through his act of violence, and now everyone can read about his grotesque ideas. #YesAllWomen offers a counter-testimony, demonstrating that Rodger’s hate of women grew out of attitudes that are all around us. Perhaps more subtly, it suggests that he was influenced by a predominant cultural ethos that rewards sexual aggression, power, and wealth, and that reinforces traditional alpha masculinity and submissive femininity. (This line of thought is not intended in any way to make excuses for Rodger’s murderousness, but to try to imagine him as part of the same social world we all live in and not as simply a monster.) The thread has produced over a million tweets, and they are by turns moving, enraging, astute, sorrowful, and terrifying. Even though most of the tweets do not directly mourn the people Rodger killed, the tweets accumulate into a kind of memorial, a stern demand for a more just society.
It would be good if we could have that.