I’m sitting here at Starbucks, with my laptop and a couple of women wearing their princess tiaras, thinking about Elliot Rodgers, the Santa Barbara Shooter, his victims and the resulting outcry on the internet. It’s an ugly thing that happened, and some of the responses to these events make it even uglier. Some of the responses in #YesAllWomen are heartbreaking, but you can’t help but respect the strength being shown there.
Here’s the short version: a 22 year old male named Elliot Rodgers, who was reported to have been in therapy for mental health issues and a member of a website called PUAHate (an anti pick up artist group) wrote up a manifesto and posted a video to youtube before going on a killing spree targeting sorority girls who he felt deserved death for rejecting him.
He was an angry young man. I found watching his youtube video disturbing. If you have the stomach for it, it’s worth looking it up on youtube; I can’t find the original, but there are plenty of copies of it that have been reuploaded several times, so it’s easy to find a copy of it. At first I felt sorry for him, but then he managed to squash any sympathy with his attitude. Initially, I was able to relate to him, because when I was in my late teens, I couldn’t connect with women, however I turned that hostility inward, rather than outward. I hated my own awkwardness and worked to figure out what I was doing wrong, which I think is the more common response. I really don’t know how to process his attitude. I don’t understand where that kind of hatred comes from; why he feels that women owe him sex.
It was reported that after posting this video Elliott Rodgers made an attempt to murder sorority girls, but he failed to get into his chosen target because of a locked door and instead proceeded to shoot random people nearby. After that it’s unclear exactly what happened, but he died in a car crash about 10 minutes later, with a gunshot wound to the head. It appears the wound was self-inflicted, when he realized that his spree was ending.
This article from the Washington Post goes into further detail about his spree.
These events are disturbing, but then people make the damn thing worse. People comment on his youtube videos, on twitter, and on message boards, putting the blame on women for his actions. Members of the Pick Up Artist community made comments that the incident could have avoided if he had been properly trained by them to approach women, that he would have gotten the attention, affection or sex that he was lamenting the lack of.
The PUAHate community, of which he was a member, was a community against the Profiteering of the Pick Up Artist community, but not against the ideology and the toxic nature of their perception of women. The site appears to be offline at this time.
Shortly afterwards, the hashtag #YesAllWomen began to trend on twitter, with women posting how violence and the threat of violence from men has affected their lives. The tweets are worth reading, and it’s worth thinking about. It’s worth considering if you’re part of the problem or a solution. What can YOU do to make things better?
For my part, I’ve been reading the #YesAllWomen, thinking about the problem, and what, if anything I can do. Beyond trying to write up a few articles on here, I’m not sure what I can do. I can try to combat the symptoms of the problem, but I’m not sure what I can do about the actual causes. I can offer to escort women to their cars when leaving events that I’m attending, and if they know me, that helps. If they don’t know me, then that walk to the car is probably pretty tense, being protected from random predators by something that could potentially turn on you; I can’t imagine that’s very comforting.
I’ve been in a bar when someone has been drugged, and I’ve made sure their friends got them home safe. That situation worked because I knew the person and I knew who their friends were. Often if something like that happens, you won’t be that lucky. I’ve also been in a bar when a situation turned hostile between two people and it was serious enough that the guy was ejected from the bar. Someone who staff knew and trusted helped the woman get a cab home. Those were situations when we were able to help. But there will always be more situations where I didn’t or couldn’t help; mostly because I didn’t know there was a problem.
A while back, someone I know bemoaned the fact that he’s naturally intimidating; that his size and other characteristics make him seem like something scary, when it reality he’s pretty harmless. He knows that sometimes his presence makes women avoid him on the street, when he’s merely walking the same direction as them. It’s not like saying “Don’t worry, I’m not a rapist.” would make them feel any better. Is there anything he could do that would make them feel better? I know he’d like to know if there was anything, and I know I would as well.
His situation is a symptom of the issue; a symptom of the problem with the world we live in, where violence against women is so prevalent. These women are on guard because they feel at risk. Always being on your guard, that’s not something I can even imagine, but it’s a reality that women live with every day.
Maybe we need to be more vigilant, maybe we need to be more willing to step in when there is a possible problem. Though does that really help? It stops a symptom, if we’re lucky. But maybe that’s the best we can do.
#YesAllWomen is the start of a conversation that society needs to be having. I’m unclear where the conversation leads, but I’m paying attention, and I’ll be doing what I can to make sure as many people are listening as possible.