The shooting spree at the University of California, Santa Barbera campus by Elliot Rodger has captured the attention of Americans everywhere this Memorial Day weekend. Rodger, a 22 year old student at the neighboring Santa Barbera City College, stabbed three people — George Chen, Chen Yuang Hong, and Weihan Wong, the former two being his roommates — in his apartment complex and killed three more students — Katherine Cooper, Veronika Weiss, and Christopher Martinez — on the Santa Barbara campus before taking his own life. It’s a tragedy in every sense of the word, and the lives of the six victims will not be forgotten.
As a college student myself, I feel personally connected to this devastating event because it has impacted a group of my peers, and those students pursuing their futures at UCSB will no longer have that opportunity. And on another level, I feel connected to this because Rodger claimed that his shooting spree was the result of countless rejections from attractive women throughout the course of his life. The implication of his 137-page manifesto outlines how attractive and popular women have denied him the chance of having sex and forced him to be lonely and unfulfilled. It only made sense to him to “make them suffer, just as they have made me suffer. It is only fair.” And this sickens me.
It would not surprise me if those of you reading this have also seen the response on social media surrounding this tragedy. One of the most outspoken areas is Twitter, using #YesAllWomen as a vehicle to criticize the misogynistic social norms that are impressed upon men in modern society. Rodger felt entitled to sex and, therefore, to female bodies, and he believed that being denied this was an unpardonable crime. While we cannot blame every aspect of his person upon society, I would be hard-pressed to find evidence that it wasn’t a part of his upbringing in some way. We see in movies, music videos, magazines, and other media that women are constantly objectified and stripped of all other parts of their identity save their body. Women may see these things and learn that this is what the world wants, but men may see these things and learn that this is what I deserve to have.
The repercussions of this kind of behavior negatively impacts both men and women struggling to navigate a world that harbors unreasonable expectations and leads to uncomfortable situations for all parties involved. You may be a strong and confident adult and still feel threatened enough to comply with an uncomfortable situation. I have had at least one encounter with a man where I felt that I had to take his phone number because I would be harrassed until I did so, and I suspect that it will not be the last time.
Bear in mind, I do not speak for all women, and I cannot accuse all men for embracing this thinking, because not all men have done so. I have had the good fortune of meeting excellent role models in the form of friends, family, coaches, and teachers. Then again, I have also had the good fortune to meet some real dirtbags in my life that put it all into perspective for me. Misogyny is no joke, and it is about time that pushing back against it becomes a more powerful social movement. This social culture is REAL, and it is not going away until all of us acknowledge its existence and take steps to educate all of humanity about the rights and responsibilities of every member in this world.
The families and friends of those victims of the Santa Barbara shooting are in my prayers.