I’m reluctant to write about , because the media needs to stop inspiring copycat murders and because of the amount of confusion and misreporting that surrounded the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords.
But I think the issues Laurie Penny raises in her piece on the topic are worth discussing. Penny notes that this wouldn’t be the first time that a sexually frustrated man has used feminism as an excuse for a killing spree:
In 1989, 25-year-old Marc Lépine shot 28 people at the École Polytechnique in Quebec, Canada, claiming he was “fighting feminism”. Fourteen women died. In 2009, a 48-year-old man called George Sodini walked into a gym in the Pittsburgh area and shot 13 women, three of whom died. His digital manifesto was a lengthier version of Rodger’s, vowing vengeance against the female sex for refusing to provide him with pleasure and comfort. Online misogynists approved.
Up ’til now companies like Twitter haven’t taken seriously the threats and harassment that misogynist activists terrorize women with. Penny writes:
For the countless women and girls who have come to live with harassment as a daily cost of being in public and productive while female – let alone while feminist – the tragedy at Isla Vista has been a chilling wake-up call. I know I will never be able to tell myself in quite the same way that the men who link me to two-hundred-post threads about how I ought to be raped can’t actually hurt my body, no matter how much they savage my peace of mind.
We have been told for a long time that the best way to deal with this sort of harrassment and violence is to laugh it off. Women and girls and queer people have been told that online misogynists pose no real threat, even when they’re sharing intimate guides to how to destroy a woman’s self-esteem and force her into sexual submission. Well, now we have seen what the new ideology of misogyny looks like at its most extreme. We have seen incontrovertible evidence of real people being shot and killed in the name of that ideology, by a young man barely out of childhood himself who had been seduced into a disturbing cult of woman-hatred. Elliot Rodger was a victim – but not for the reasons he believed.
As to how much blame to place specifically on the “men’s rights activists” (MRA), “pick-up artists” (PUA) movements, I’m reminded of Leon Wieseltier writing about the idea ofcollective responsibility vs. individual responsibility in the case of Jewish and Islamic terrorism:
If the standpoint of broadly collective responsibility was the wrong way to explain the atrocities, so too was the standpoint of purely individual responsibility. There were currents of culture behind the killers. Their ideas were not only their own.
I’d also like to echo Chip Berlet’s comments on Democracy Now following the murder of George Tiller in 2009:
I don’t think the issue here is urging the government to expand its repressive powers. I think that’s a mistake. I think what we have here are groups of criminals and criminal individuals who need to be pursued and prosecuted, as appropriate.
And I think it’s important to understand that, for many years, clinic violence was not treated with the same aggressive attention by the federal government and state governments as other forms of vandalism and violence. And I think that that’s because the anti-abortion movement has a very large political and religious constituency that makes it very difficult for state and federal officials to try and actually enforce the existing laws that they should be doing.