Another shooting rampage occurred in America last week. The media whirlwind that ensued tossed around ideas as to why Elliot Rodgers would be driven to stabbing three people and shooting thirteen. Madness, autism, and even homosexuality have all been mentioned as possible reasons.
The media response to this shooting (and many others), which always focuses on the offender and not the victims would be interesting to explore. Furthermore, The demonizing of mental illness, autism, and homosexuality could each be examined in depth. So too, could the seemingly unending debate about access to firearms in the United States. Or the culture of violence, in America, that results in the highest rates of firearm related deaths in the world.
But the conversation I am eager to have is one about misogyny. More specifically, the relationship between men’s sexuality and violence towards women.
Elliot Rodgers put up a video on youtube hours before the shooting, describing his frustration towards women who have never been attracted to him, and thus denied him pleasure. He states that by committing these crimes people will finally see him as the “true alpha male” that he believes he is.
It’s really disturbing to me when men use violence as a way of asserting dominance over women; in my view, to say that violence makes men ‘tougher’ or somehow ‘more manly’ is completely contradictory. More strength is required to be vulnerable than it is to be violent. Particularly in a world where men’s violence is reinforced and celebrated, and their vulnerabilities and gentleness are often shut down.
Rodger’s posturing that women somehow caused his violent spree because they didn’t have sex with him, reminds me of a closer-to-home spate of misogyny propagated by the Roastbusters club last year. In both instances the men involved equated masculinity with sexual activity, and asserted the idea that women were a means to achieving that end.
I’m curious as to the messages that these young men have been given that lead to them despising women so much, that they are seen as merely objects of men’s pleasure. I’m curious, and devastated.
The #yesallwomen hashtag that has popped up on twitter in the days following Rodger’s spree tells us that these incidents aren’t isolated, but they aren’t insignificant. They’re happening every day, and whilst not all men are perpetrating this violence, all women are affected by it. Yes, all women.
Not ALL men harass women. But ALL women have, at some point, been harassed by men. Food for thought. #YesAllWomen
— Adelaide Kane (@AdelaideKane) May 27, 2014
So, what can men do to stand alongside women and create a world that is safer for people of all genders?
I think that we need to find ways value and celebrate the strength in vulnerability, emotional intelligence and connection. I think we need to create messages about sex and pleasure that humanise all parties involved – where sex is as much about your partner’s pleasure as it is yours.
I think we need to stop pretending and propagating the idea that violence, and power and control, is an indicator of strength. I think we need to stop pretending and propagating the idea that women are ‘the weaker sex’ and start celebrating all the ways in which women use their strength to survive in a patriarchal world.
I think we need to help smash the patriarchy because it doesn’t do any of us any good.