Let’s get one thing straight, if you replace the word ‘infidel’ for every time Elliot Rodger said ‘women/girl’ in his video or 140-page manifesto, America and the world would have branded ‘terrorism’ onto every newspaper headline following the Isla Vista massacre in California last week. Hell, Obama would have given a national address on TV, there would’ve been a manhunt all over town and one more broke-ass Muslim country would probably have been invaded – my money’s on one of the -Stans. If Rodger was a psycho extremist and not a psycho misogynist then the police who questioned him beforehand would have shipped him off to Guantanamo faster than he could have said ‘Al-Qaeda’ and not walked out, unconcerned, describing him as a ‘wonderful human being’. If he were to have said: ‘you infidels…I will punish you all for it’ (as opposed to girls) or ‘I will slaughter every single Western infidel…I will take great pleasure in slaughtering you’ (rather than spoilt, stuck-up blonde slut), it’s not hard to imagine just how polemical the reaction would have been – I can see the YouTube comments section now.
It seems to me as if society is dismissing women as the victims in this massacre because they are not regarded as undeserving, blameless targets, yet we are confounded if a maniacal extremist were to victimise members of Western society. We victimise our women so frequently that it does not come as a shock when one member goes rogue and takes it too far. We are all used to quotidian misogyny: it’s what allows the Daily Mail to run a feature on a bikini-clad girl who ‘teased’ Rodger, clearly implying he was nothing short of provoked by one more wily woman. If this was a terrorist attack, would the Mail or any other paper for that matter have run a feature on how the gunman’s neighbours were Islamophoic/xenophobic towards him? Obviously the two cannot be compared as cleanly as this, but I’m trying to point out the media’s double standards.
My blame does not fall solely on Elliot Rodger, if he hadn’t done what he did I’d even feel sorry for him. He looked so uncomfortable in his own skin, racked by rejection and loneliness. It sounds like a terrible reality for any 22 year old and I can imagine he was miserable to his very core. But to write him off as a unique case is to ignore the blatant misogyny that has permeated all levels of Western society, from media to childcare to employment. Never has the feminist mantra of ‘the personal is political’ been more pertinent: women and men are increasingly incapable of identifying patriarchy when it stares them squarely in the face. It’s like questioning if it’s raining in the middle of a storm. This patriarchy is not only overtly harmful to women but to men too, who clearly feel this over-bearing pressure to be the virile, proactive male as evidenced when Rodger says the massacre will finally prove that he is the ‘alpha male’, as if violence and inhuman slaughter were part and parcel with earning the male top-dog crown – the most chilling part: ‘I will be a god compared to you’.
Indeed that people even question whether he was motivated by misogyny when Rodger overtly uses the phrase ‘I hate you all’ when insulting women is proof as to just how far society is ready to turn it’s back on its women – he tells us, in no uncertain terms, how he detests women and will ‘annihilate’ them. Women-hate is so entrenched that Facebook pages sprung up in the wake of the massacre glorifying the boy and blaming women (or rather lack-of) for driving him to extremes – shockingly there were even women commenting that he was an attractive man and it’s a pity he went before his time – case in point that we are sometimes the perpetrators of our own oppression.
As a Muslim woman I read reams and reams of bigoted and misinformed accusations against my religion for its ostensibly embedded misogyny, and whilst I (of course) acknowledge the dominance of patriarchy in certain countries, the Isla Vista massacre last week has demonstrated that the West pointing fingers is like the pot calling the kettle black. The West has its own misogyny and patriarchy but it has a different face, we saw it this time in the brutal killing spree of a 22-year-old privileged male who was driven to murder after being unable to attain a ‘spoilt, stuck-up blonde slut’.
Elliot Rodger has done nothing but prove to us, yet again, that politicians, the press and (increasingly) regular citizens are hypocrites. We would rather blame mental illness, terrible gun-laws, and – abhorrently – women for the terrible actions of an extreme misogynist rather than confront the brash reality that patriarchy is as potent as the air we breathe. And in doing so we unintentionally highlight how unconcerned society is with events such as these unless they fall under the umbrella of Islamic extremism or some global conspiracy. What we’ve got to realize is, the isolated incidents such as a desperate killing-spree and suicide of a lonely young man tell us as much about our society as the international organized terrorism that threatens the Western world. We cannot discard the one and over-state the other. We, as one global community, need to address all cancers in the body of humanity and tackle each individually with justice and fairness.
The shackles of sexism are getting loosened and projects like Everyday Sexism and the #YesAllWoman indicate that the discussion is now being had in the open – well in the virtual open of social media – let’s take this opportunity to make a difference, not watch it wither and loose interest.