Attitudes that are all around us

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.




  1. says

    Rodger’s fantasies are so patently strange and so extreme that they’re easy to dismiss as simply crazy.

    Speaking as a man of more than sixty years experience I can tell you that he only seems extreme because he got published. His views are certainly not mainstream but they aren’t that unusual either. The only reason that you hear about them is that sometimes you get one that has access to guns and a willingness to die.

  2. newenlightenment says

    One area that hasn’t been looked at so far as I know is the role of Hollywood. There you see three messages:

    1. women are primarily valued for their bodies, not as individuals
    2. you are entitled to a ‘happy ending’ in which your challenges are overcome and your desire are fulfilled as of right
    3. violence is a legitimate means of resolving problems

    I thought about this after watching Rodger’s video, when it was first released I assumed it was a fake,I thought no-one could talk like such a stereotypical movie ‘psycho’. Since Rodger’s dad was a film director, he would have been utterly saturated by the hyper-simplified worldview of Hollywood, which when combined with the misogynistic bile of the MRA movement could have proved a deadly cocktail

  3. johnthedrunkard says

    Two issues:
    1. The extremity of Rodgers’ fantasy view.
    2. It’s nature as a logical extension of the cultural norm.

    Rodgers seems to have been poised to function the way the PUA culture taught him was his Right. He seems to have come from money, he had a BMW, his looks were better than passable (was he short?…)
    He seems to have been incapable of relating to other human beings. ACTUAL sex is part of all social relations. The isolation of ‘sex’ into porny scenarios with imaginary ‘hot chicks’ skips over the necessary inconvenience of actually interacting with other human beings.

    The systematic depersonalization, commodification and gender apartheid of modern life creates a pit of resentment that is shocking to think of. But Valeris Solanas only shot one victim, and Andrea Dworkin none. The idealization of male violence and aggression (male serial killers have FAN CLUBS) point the way to more Rodgers clones emerging.

  4. says

    Normally I wouldn’t say that anyone should read a killer’s deranged writings, thus giving him more posthumous infamy (exactly what he’d want), but in this case, I’d suggest they’re actually extremely illuminating.

    What’s scariest to me is how banal they are, at the beginning, and how they get twisted into something extreme toward the end. But you see that that seeds are there all along, and reading along, you only notice the extremity of his views past a certain point, because before then, everything that gives rise to his revenge fantasy is so normalized that it barely passes notice.

    We like to think of people like this as monsters, but the truth is that we are all influenced by the same societal conditioning, and we only choose to accept or rebel against it to certain extents. Elliot Rodger’s dehumanization of women is far from unique to him; he just happened to act on it with a gun.

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