The killing spree of Elliot Rodger, which left six victims dead and seven others with serious wounds, has provoked a bizarre response from feminist writer Jessica Valenti.
Rodger was a misfit and insane. Valenti, however, doesn’t see it quite this way.
Instead she seems to see Rodgers as existing somewhere on the scale of normal and moved to mass murder by a sexist society. Hey, anybody can go on a rampage with enough of our misogynist culture!
As Valenti writes in The Guardian:
We should know this by now, but it bears repeating: misogyny kills.
No doubt about it: Rodger hated women. But it was a hatred that most of us can recognize as insane. Rodger, who had no friends and felt that women had spurned him, vowed to "slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see," according to voluminous material he left behind.This is not the product of mysogyny. It is the produce of a sick or evil mind. Except in Valenti's world:
[T]o dismiss this as a case of a lone "madman" would be a mistake.
It not only stigmatizes the mentally ill – who are much more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it – but glosses over the role that misogyny and gun culture play (and just how foreseeable violence like this is) in a sexist society. After all, while it is unclear what role Rodger's reportedly poor mental health played in the alleged crime, the role of misogyny is obvious.
Rodger, like most young American men, was taught that he was entitled to sex and female attention. (Only last month, a young woman was allegedly stabbed to death for rejecting a different young man's prom invitation.) He believed this so fully that he described women's apathy toward him as an "injustice" and a "crime." …
If we need to talk about this tragic shooting in terms of illness, though, let's start with talking about our cultural sickness – a sickness that refuses to see misogyny as anything other than inevitable. …
The truth is that there is no such thing as a lone misogynist – they are created by our culture, and by communities that tells them that their hatred is both commonplace and justified.
What can you say about something as unhinged as this? And who on earth does she think is telling young men that this kind of hatred is justified?
Unfortunately, Valenti has company. A website touts “27 inspiring feminist tweets fighting back against Elliot Rodger’s blatant misogyny.”
“‘I have a boyfriend’ is the easiest way to get a man to leave you alone. Because he respects another man more than he respects you,” tweets one woman with regard to Rodger. What is blatantly clear from these tweets is that this segment of the feminist movement has gone off the rails.
Rodger was not picking up and procecessing normal messages from society. He was a deeply troubled person and, not to put too fine a point on it, so creepy that most of us would have run the other way, as indeed did the women Rodger felt weren't giving him a chance. The reaction of Valenti and her 27 "inspiring" feminists is comparable to saying that Jack the Ripper killed women because he was a sexist. Maybe they already have said that?
What can be done? I would deplore the thought of any restrictions on how the press can cover these stories. Nevertheless, James Alan Fox, a professor of law and criminology at Northeastern University, and coauthor of the book “Extreme Killing,” has made a very sane point in USA TODAY:
The irony, of course, is that Rodger is no longer the insignificant, obscure "mouse," as he referenced himself, but someone about whom everyone is now talking….
The real downside to the media-driven dissection of Rodger's commentaries is in the message it sends to other obscure individuals who may seek the kind of attention they have been denied for so long. Although well-crafted and even articulate, Rodger's words are not worthy of our continued study, at least not on the public airwaves. For the sake of understanding, we may have benefitted from the documentation offered within, but now is the time to turn attention to individuals far more deserving than he.
Finally, when exactly did the angry rants of a mass murderer become rightfully characterized as a manifesto? Although Rodger's document is a manifestation of emotional disturbance, it hardly qualifies to be called a manifesto. A true manifesto reflects the political ideology of a formidable leader of men, a political force to be reckoned with. Nowhere in his 141 pages does Rodger describe his manuscript in such a way.
Instead of worrying about sexism, maybe we should worry about the incentive the coverage creates for other bent souls.
Dr. Helen Smith, a psychologist, also writes about the feminist take on the Rodger rampage.