Anyone with a television set has heard about Elliot Rodgers’ killing spree. Last Friday in a fit of rage, the 22-year old Californian got into his car and then went on to kill six people with a gun he legally acquired. While mass shootings seem to have become sadly blasé in the United States, this incident is extremely noteworthy because of two factors; firstly, because he was a Hollywood son and secondly because of what pushed him over the edge.
As a child of privilege (his father is Hunger Games assistant director, Peter Rodger) the idea that he’d be so angry at the world that he’d totally lose the plot and murder and injure a lot of people is extremely confusing. I mean, what would a young man, driving a bevvy of sports cars and living the high life, have to complain about? Its not as if he had any ‘real world’ problems like the rest of us; I mean, weren’t the one percent supposed to be happier than the rest of us? Well, obviously not. Which brings me to his ‘motive’ (I use the word ‘motive’ delicately simply because there is absolutely no justification for his actions).
Just before his killing spree, the young man, who complained of still being a virgin at the ripe old age of 22, wrote in a 141-page document about “’giving the female gender one last chance to provide me with the pleasures I deserved from them”.
The ‘last chance’ he was talking about was a college party that he attended in the hope that he’d get the chance to mingle with girls. He was enraged to discover that not only did the girls refuse to talk to him, they preferred to socalise with other young men instead, or ‘slobs’ as he called them. Enraged, he left the party, but not before getting into a fight and injuring himself. That was the last straw and the die was cast. Women had refused to talk to him and they now deserved to die. Talking to and having sex with him was “was the only thing that could have saved me”, he wrote.
In a final video Elliot Rodgers complains, “you girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know
why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice… I don’t know what you don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman.”
In the aftermath of his murder spree, along with obvious mental issues, his virulent misogyny was seen to drive his actions. His misogyny, which manifested in his belief that women owed him sex when he wanted it, set off a Twitter wildfire. A hashtag titled #YesAllWomen, which has been used more than a million times to date, aims to reveal just how insidious everyday sexism, male privilege and misogyny is.
As I’ve stated before, I am skeptical about the impact of social media campaigns but I will be the first to admit that some of the comments women posted cut me to the quick. I call myself a feminist; I can talk about gender equality all day long but the truth is, I can’t even begin to understand what women go through everyday.
A few months ago, during a conversation with a friend outside her home, she expressed her wish for streetlights outside her home. Not as a luxury mind you, but because she was afraid of being attacked and raped outside her home. I pooh-poohed her fear, reminding her that she lived in a peaceful neighborhood.
I came the realization that my dismissal of her fear was a manifestation of my male privilege.
Mundane things like having absolutely no fear of getting into a taxi late at night drunk, not thinking twice about a female friend’s invite to her home for dinner, not having to lock myself in my room when alone in my own home with only the houseboy present, not having to keep an eye on my drink in a bar at all time so that someone wouldn’t spike it and not wondering if someone’s brushed hand across my posterior was accidental or something more sinister are, sadly, the reserve of men.
Simply because of the lottery of birth, fear is not something that is engrained in me. I can honestly say that I cannot imagine what it is like to be a woman. All I can do is be aware of my own privilege and then fight this status quo. Whatever privilege we enjoy as men is wrong. Safety, happiness and ease of mind shouldn’t be a privilege at all. It should be a birthright.
This blog appeared earlier in The New Times