Since the heinous acts of last week’s rampage courtesy of one disenfranchised 22 year old Elliot Rodger, questions have been asked were his actions informed as a result of abject misogyny or was it all just a situation of a man riven with mental illness?
Contemplates nymag: Commentators quickly put this incident into what they saw as its proper context. His rampage, they argued, could be tied to the proliferation of a very modern, virulent form of internet-fueled misogyny — the men’s rights movement, the pickup artist community (and the community of men who feel like it failed them), and other breeds of sleazy women-haters enraged at the progress women have made in recent decades. This was an act of misogynistic extremism, some insisted, and to ascribe it to mental illness is to ignore the ravages of misogyny and stigmatize the mentally ill. In response to the tragedy, the #YesAllWomen hashtag — yes, all women have to deal with pervasive misogyny in its myriad forms — went viral.
So on one hand you have various men’s groups advocating an increasing awareness of injustices or expressions of inequity within the cultural metaphor of gender identities and within those forums you also have men who take a harsher line insisting that their lot has been denigrated as a result of women, whom also feel entitled to demand terms from women and subject them to notions that in essence only serve to negate most women.
Which raises the question to what degree was Elliot Rodger a misogynist? Yes he hated women but not because he deemed them as an inferior gender, or a gender that he had to necessarily control or negate but more as a result of him not being able to come to terms with his own sexuality and receiving sexual reprieve. That speaks more of an individual who is struggling to come to terms with his own identity as opposed to an individual who seeks the denigration of women from the point of view of them being the inferior gender.
And yet in Elliot Rodger’s world, where most of us would be able to find some redress to what ails us, the more he found himself stymied, unable to cope with his feelings, the more he would regress into a kind of moral and mental torpor, where not just women, but other men would also agitate him, provoke him, to the point where he had now come to find hatred for anyone or anything that in his mind negated his sense of sexual prowess, his social standing (he was consumed with his social standing) and his sense of entitlement.
It is here where one has to ask had his inability to reckon with the outside world, his own feelings, to where he stood in relation to the outside world that had made him the diabolical character in the end that no woman or man (outside of forums) wanted to be near?
Contemplates nymag: The problem is that when you look closely at the evidence available so far, Rodgers’s mental health really does appear to have been a much bigger factor than any cultural explanation. Yes, by the end of his life he had dabbled in online men’s rights and pickup artist forums online and adapted some of their language, but it appears that this happened after years of bottomless anger and frustration had already warped him into a dysfunctional person. These communities warranted only a single, fleeting mention in a manifesto that goes into painstakingly meticulous detail about Rodger’s grievances and aspirations. Rodger was frustrated and outraged as a result of what he saw as a neverending stream of rejection. The manifesto gives off the distinct impression that just about everything which happened to him fueled his hatred and anger — that daily life tortured him.
One must not dismiss the fact that Elliot Rodger’s at the end of the day harbored hurt and resentment and a desire to hurt women, which speaks volumes of his disdain for the opposite sex, but one ought to bear in mind this was likely a situation of an individual who had by now come to feel hate, petty disdain for anything that didn’t exact a feeling of wellness from within. Which is to say Elliot Rodger was in the midst of deep mental despair, despair and anguish which by now had convoluted itself into a incredibly distorted view of both himself and the world where Elliot Rodger was by now unable to reason, rationalize or control himself. His anger was directed to the world and not just to women alone.
nymag: He had no agenda, in short, other than his endless, futile desire to have sex, and dark, clashing fantasies of actually outlawing sex altogether because it’s such a “barbaric” act. Yes, he targeted a “hot” sorority in his massacre, but he ended up killing more men than women — he found a way to hate just about everybody. He probably did internalize certain aspects of the culture around him — obviously his sickness and fantasies would have taken on a different form if he’d been raised in, say, a devoutly religious community rather than a secular and sex-focused one — but if we want to understand why he did what he did, studying misogyny isn’t the best place to start.
If there was an agenda, it wasn’t the overt subjugation of women but the desire to become the bigger thing that he believed or wished he could be and consistently failed to be. His anger and hatred in essence was really directed towards himself and that is the chief difference between men who actively seek to assert their own needs over women versus some men who descend into a complete mental inability to reckon with their own limitations and self loathing…