Elliot Rodger

Elliot Rodger was still a virgin at 22, and he was angry that he was because too often, men’s value is in their ability to “get women”. There are a lot of good articles out already – Slate’s & The Belle Jar‘s & Jess Zimmerman’s in Medium’s Archipelago are standouts – all of which have pointed out that Rodger was not a madman because he didn’t need to be. He only had to be a man, full of entitlement and male privilege – entitled to women’s bodies and to sex. His connections to various groups who persist in thinking that “game” is what convinces women to have sex with men, and that women are only attracted to jerks – never to a “perfect gentleman” as Rodger thought he was – has been well documented, despite those groups and online communities having scrubbed any and all of his posts. I assume they don’t want to be held responsible for failing to recognize someone who wasn’t just blowing off steam but planning to kill.

And what always strikes me about these kinds of complaints is the thing that I had to explain to my wife as she was transitioning: there are men who can yell that they want to do you across a crowded street and it’s a compliment, even if totally inappropriate, and there are others who can shake your hand politely who fill you with caution if not fear.

When I have made this observation (here on my blog and elsewhere), invariably someone who is male – or who used to be – says something about how the real difference is whether or not the man is attractive or handsome or whether the come-on is welcome.

That is not the case.

As Jess Zimmerman points out in parentheses:

“If women‘s mysterious disinterest drives you to consider murdering them, consider that you may be terrifying. Women are smart enough to notice that you’re the kind of guy who’s driven to blood rage by simple rejection.”

And I would add, not only do women pick up on someone who hates them enough to threaten or commit violence; they can, too, pick up on a more subtle and less violent misogyny as well. And that is what I feel is the difference between the men I’ve just mentioned: using “gentlemanly” manners to cover a deeply felt hostility or hatred toward women will not work.

And as someone who has hung out with kinky folks – for whom fulfilling a woman’s fantasy of rape, degradation, or humiliation is not uncommon – I know there are men who respect and adore women enough that even these difficult fantasies do not change their respect for the women they top.

By no means am I saying that only when men respect women enough do they “get” to exert power over them; that is the illusion, not the fact. The fact is that what comes first – what gains a man privilege into a woman’s trust – is their respect and understanding that only once their misogyny is something they have become aware of, worked on, realized and acknowledged does it go away.

It strikes me that this is not unlike racism, or transphobia, or ableism or any of the other kinds of blind hatreds are culture teaches us. And we are all taught them; women in a patriarchy can also be misogynists who do not trust or like or respect other women the same way that even gay men can hate themselves and other gay men because we are all raised in the stink of homophobia.

But the thing about Elliott Rodger is this: so many men who want to date or have sex with or marry women figure it out. They realize they love their moms or their sisters or their daughters and realize the women they are dating or sleeping with or marrying deserve the same respect as the women they know and love. Gay men, on the other hand, especially those who live in a very intense masculine homosocial environments, can express a misogyny that is raw and unchecked. That is, they haven’t had to do the work necessary to realize that women are awesome. Those gay men, I might add, are very, very rare, and getting rarer by the day. The only time their misogyny is still apparent is in the disrespectful, violent attitudes they occasionally express toward trans women, which many, many people have witnessed in these recent uproars about RuPaul and Trannyshack.

What I’m saying, ultimately, is that people – not just women – are wise enough to pick up on someone who hates you for who you are. The white kid who loves rap but who hates black people will never feel welcome by blacks socially. Gay men and lesbians often know when someone who is truly a homophobe is in their midst.

And women, like all of these other groups, know deeply when a man hates them for being women. They may not know it enough to articulate it, but they know it enough to keep their distance.

No amount of chivalry or good manners or “game” will perfume over the stink of that kind of misogyny. In this time when we hear a lot of talk about how accepted gay people are, or how “post racial” we are, or when we hear a gay man talk about how much he really loves trans people but doesn’t want his language policed, we might do well to remember what Elliot Rodger accidentally taught us: that it’s only in owning and dismantling these kinds of systemic, taught, culture-wide hatreds that we free ourselves of them.

2 Replies to “Elliot Rodger”

  1. As much as I tried, I could never get it right with girls (1964) until I realized I want to be more like them than to ‘do’ them.

    I spent the last of my varied careers in real estate development which is a very ‘T’ enriched industry. My management was headquartered in SoCal. and what I observed was not dissimilar from other development company’s management. I had a very difficult time sitting through meetings because at some point it would turn into a good ol’ boy conversation about who got what last weekend or where are they going for their next conquest – and each of these guys was married, or in divorce proceedings.

    This is the culture these guys lived in, were captured by. Of the 10 or so managers who were married at the beginning of 2010, ALL (except me) were divorced. It almost didn’t matter that a couple of these divorces cost over $25 million (in one case over $100 million) is assets being split up. Getting divorced was like a badge of honor and solidified your position in group.

    I think Rodgers was looking to be part of a similar group and I am sure there are many such groups in any university town. Unfortunately, it appears Rodgers was trying much too hard and he triggered the alarm in the women he was interested in being with. The major difference between the males in my group and Rodgers is that women were attracted to the money and success of the groups’ members. This attraction was stronger that the notion that they were only allowed the secret handshake because they were new, young, attractive on the arm and willing to be bedded. Like the $3,000 suits these guys wore, when their bounty got dirty or wrinkled or worn too often, they got changed.

    Rodgers, on the hand did not have the ability to overcome his aura of hatred that so many women saw and that hatred festered and festered. His lack of maturity meant he didn’t understand what was going on and didn’t seek the help his parents KNEW he needed. The emotional boil broke this weekend and the mayhem he created will never be undone.
    …and the guns, but that if for a different thread.

  2. >>>>not only do women pick up on someone who hates them enough to threaten or commit violence; they can, too, pick up on a more subtle and less violent misogyny as well<<<<

    Yes, often, however, I think it's important to add that women may not always pick up on hatred/danger/misogyny. This does NOT mean it's the woman's fault for not noticing or being gullible when the guy does something violent.

    Likewise, being able to "get women" does not indicate that the guy is somehow "not violent" or "OK."

    Sorry, I KNOW it is not what you meant, Helen, but somehow this post seemed like it could be read as victim-blaming for those women who DO end up with violent guys.


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