They talked about modernity and tradition

Soraya asks when we ask unpleasant truths in the wake of Elliot Rodger’s destruction.

I watched the media’s erasure of Rodger’s hatred of women and the depressingly predictable narrative of the lone, mentally ill mass shooter disconnected from it. Computer-less, I occasionally checked news on my phone and, not wanting to derail the morning, I tweeted.


She tried to get on with a Saturday with her daughters, but she

was quietly seething that the media was still not connecting the dots about male sexual entitlement, the hatred of women that men’s rights and PUA groups cultivate, the hegemonic masculinity that fuels a cruel, dangerous and corrupt gun culture. As women began to flood Twitter with this information the depressingly familiar #NotAllMen responses began. A woman on Twitter, in an effort to provide a space for women to describe what we live with, created #YesAllWomen. So I said very little and instead tweeted. 

Meanwhile, when a buggy full of Mennonites went by, we talked about modernity and tradition. I did not say anything about my friend, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who grew up in a Mennonite community and understood that the veneer of justice, peace and non-violence did not apply to her or her mother, who’d been raped by her father. She has built a community for herself and many others previously smothered in damaging silence. None of this was evident in the buggy or its occupants, out for a lovely ride on a lovely day. It was not part of people’s consciousness as they tried to peek through the windows from afar or guess the vintage of the vehicle.

By noon I was having a loud and busy lunch with many relaxed people whose company I enjoy, who were saying the words “mass shooting,” but had never heard the term “aggrieved entitlement.” I could not explain that Rodger’s language and sentiments, while extreme, rippled through out media and women’s lives every single day. That women recognized in them and his actions the logical, sick efflorescence of the everyday culture Decoupling the actions of an isolated “madman” from this helps no one.

Except that it makes sociable lunches easier, because people don’t like to hear that things are desperately fucked up.

Complexity sucks for some people. I am frustrated with people willfully and destructively portraying mental illness and the hatred of women as mutually exclusive, binary, polarized and ranked. No one seems to care that a huge part of our issues treating mental illness is that it is feminized and that men, laboring with rigid gender norms, see admitting to this particular sickness as a sign of “female weakness.” These are marginalized issues, like women’s experiences.

But she kept trying, through the afternoon.

By dinner, I think, if Rodger was “just mentally ill,” what about all of the men who are using his language, trading in his fundamental ideas about deserving sex from women, and quietly believing that sexism and misogyny aren’t really all that bad? When someone suggests gender symmetry in violence I don’t have the energy to explain that there are 160 million missing women on the planet out loud.

There is a huge labor of education ahead of us all. Huge.


  1. carbonfox says

    I admire the bravery and persistence of you and other advocates in addressing culturally-approved, pervasive misogyny. As the survivor of an attack, I’m terrified by the thought of angry, entitled men harassing me online and potentially where I live. It’s not an irrational fear at all, considering how many examples there are of this actually happening to women who dare to speak up.

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