Following America’s latest mass shooting, perpetrated in Southern California by the son of an esteemed Hollywood director, there’s been a vast level of conjecture over the shooter’s motives, attitudes and intentions. On Friday, Elliot Rodger left behind a chilling preparation video in which he outlined his plans for the massacre he would carry out later that evening. Chief amongst his reasoning for the heinous act he would commit appeared to be a fierce hatred of women, in particular fellow students at Santa Barbara university. Rodger outlined his intentions to enact “revenge” on the women who had scorned him, deeming the female population of UCSB “blonde-haired sluts”, amongst other things.
Rodger speaks with a high level of eloquence and makes his opinions known far more clearly than might be expected of a hell-bent psychopath, and his ensuing actions and specific targeting in his rhetoric of women have sparked debate regarding misogyny in the United States. It’s pretty clear by now that Rodgers had developed an extreme hatred for women over the years; unable to deal with rejection and to move on, instead forming an ideology where he led himself to believe that justice could only be obtained through mass-murder with firearms. He wanted to destroy the happiness of those more socially adept than him, and as an American citizen with easy access to firearms, planning an attack with the intention of fully carrying out was entirely plausible.
The “guns don’t kill people” crowd that has dominated American firearm politics for so long is keen to emphasise the role of misogyny in Rodger’s actions, and in a rare moment of fusion this viewpoint is shared by the feminist movement at large. The main line of argument being the irrelevance of gun debate when violence against women is frequently carried out with no armament whatsoever, and that the pressing issue in the case of UCSB is sexism, not gun control, as has been the case with other highly publicised massacres.
Although the centre of Rodger’s hatred appears to be women, a twisted 141-page manifesto he left behind also points to a similar dislike of men, in particular his convoluted ideas surrounding “Alpha males”. He recounts several tales where such males made him feel inferior and laughed off his own attempts to be “cocky”, as he put it. Although disdain for the “popular kids” is a motif so often associated with revenge shootings that it borders on clichÃ©, Rodger’s dislike of his own sex centred around those he deemed “the popular boys”. The beginning of Elliot’s rampage was the killing of his three male roommates, who were stabbed to death by Rodger before he moved on to attack a UCSB sorority house. While it seems beyond doubt that the core of Elliot’s anger was reserved for females, his clear emasculation at the hands of men who had no issues getting laid or finding girlfriends formed a significant contribution to both his rhetoric and ensuing attacks. It appears that Rodger was incapable of grasping that the success of said men was not the fault of the women against whom his attacks would be directed.
Undeniably sexism is a deeply entrenched part of American society, Rodger’s level of entitlement to sex due to his perceived status of himself as “The supreme gentleman”, is deeply disturbing. The relevance of this factor in the massacre cannot be understated, and while steps to counter misogyny will eventually and hopefully prevent violence against women, if the intricacies of the UCSB massacre are totally eclipsed by this single argument, there will be only one inevitable outcome: more firearm massacres.
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If American society wishes to prevent large numbers of people being killed with firearms, they must prevent the infiltration into their lives of large numbers of firearms. Whilst misogyny, racism and mental health issues are all very important offshoot debates to be made surrounding the recent spate of gun massacres, the integral feature remains. If no real effort is made to hinder the amount of firearms in the US, and most importantly the ease with which they can be accessed, there will be another mass murder carried out within the next few years. There will always be psychopaths, if misogyny and racism where removed totally from our society, they would still exist, and a psychopath with a gun is far more dangerous than one with half a brick or a box cutter.