I will clarify that I am not justifying a violent act nor lessening the tragedy of Elliot Rodger’s shootings in UC Santa Barbara. Those are not my intentions and, as a feminist, I am completely against his actions.
That being said, I want to explain why Elliot Rodger is not a misogynist. This is not an example of misogyny but an example of our society speaking through someone else. And that is the reason why we prefer to put a label on him before truly understanding the situation.
Rodger said in a video called “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution” that he is 22 years old but still a virgin. Rodger believed college is supposed to always be fun, and everyone has sex. I do not blame him for that depressing but very real thought. Friends have advised me not to have girlfriends in college because this is the time to enjoy yourself and be with a lot of girls. We have movies like “American Pie” which portray what the media has told us college should be — sex, drugs and parties. With different cases like Elliot Rodger’s, we can sense the weight society put on his shoulders. If he does not fulfill the requirements society has for him, to have he won’t fit in and will be considered inadequate.
In his video, Rodger said he was the “ultimate gentleman” because he drove a nice car and knew how to dress. I think Rodger calling himself a gentleman because of the material things he possessed was saddening. But what are we saying to our children when we have television shows like “The Bachelor” and “The Real Housewives,” where it seems to imply good looks and expensive things can create happiness? You can call it entertainment, but when someone thinks vanity should be a life goal, it becomes problematic. With reality shows like those, we are conversely promoting a false and impossible reality of how the world is supposed to be.
Rodger’s video includes a lot of bitterness, as he reveals he was constantly miserable, that he felt he deserved a woman. In his 134-page manifesto, Rodger explains he was born in London and after moving to the United States, he adopted an American accent just to fit in. It is sad and alarming because diversity should and needs to be part of a functional society. Perhaps, then, if we accepted others who might look or sound a bit different than the American ideal, Rodger wouldn’t have felt so isolated.
After the shooting, some social media users reacted to this tragedy by rallying together under #YesAllWomen. I had mixed feelings when I was reading the hashtag on Twitter. I was upset by all the horrible, unequal and unfair experiences women bravely shared through the social media. They are courageous for sharing their experiences to a world that still judges them and still says that they dress to entice men, or that they were “asking for it.” I was happy a social movement had arisen and that for 48 hours women were sharing their stories as a protest and men were showing solidarity. However, we continue failing to achieve equality when we need to compare the college students Rodger killed to our mothers, sisters or cousins in order to bring the nationwide tragedy to a personal level, because understanding the scope of our society’s influence is the only way we will understand the kinds of people society is creating.
I am against misogyny because I am against hatred. I am against it because it is a huge obstacle to achieve equality among all genders in this beautiful world. But I am also against using the word misogyny when it means we can excuse society in tragic events like these. From promoting constant sex in college to not having a proper gun control protocol to negative attitudes towards the mentally ill, our culture has a part in the responsibility for this shooting. It is just easier for us to call him a misogynist than to question the type of society we are living in.
Nothing — absolutely nothing — excuses the murder of innocent people. But just as bullying contributed to the infamous shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, our culture has contributed to what Elliot Rodger did on May 23.
I am not going to call him a misogynist, even if everyone agrees he is. I am not going to label him. I am going to act. Let’s raise our kids in a different environment, where we teach boys that when girls say “no” it is the end of an argument and not the beginning of a negotiation.
Let’s use another language where gender does not define your strength. Let’s turn off the TV every time there is something that shows a materialistic, superficial view of the world. Let’s not put pressure on the kids of the future or on us.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is a journalism major. Reach him at email@example.com.