UCSB Gunman’s ‘War on Women’ Wasn't an Isolated Crime—Hateful Violence Happens All the Time
Elliot Rodger didn't see the women of the Alpha Phi sorority—whose University of California, Santa Barbara, chapter was the intended target of his bloody wrath—as a sisterhood of love, loyalty, sympathy, and understanding, as the chapter's creed describes.
Instead the 22-year-old, who is suspected of killing seven college students, including himself, near campus on Friday night, wanted to kill women for spurning his desires. He accused women of being unsympathetic to a loneliness and rage described in a lengthy manifesto called “My Twisted World.”
Along with confessional-style videos now removed from YouTube, Rodger gave dark descriptions of his longtime isolation, years of bullying at the hands of boys and girls, mental health issues, and an intention to carry out a “war on women” for “the crime of depriving me of sex.”
Rodger isn't alone in his extreme, sexist ideas of women—or "hot, beautiful blonde women," as he called them. He found a community in online men's rights groups—also known as the “manosphere”—and pickup artist sites such as PuaHate.com, cited by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an online message board whose users lament that women are not attracted to them. The users frequently identify themselves as “incels,” or “involuntary celibate,” and promote misogynistic views of women as wicked and needing to be dominated by men.
“I’m not sure we can conclude that these online communities propel people to act, but they provide communities and moral support for people who do go out and act. It’s a chicken-and-egg question,” said Mark Potok, who tracks hate activity as a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
The men have commonalities, such as being very isolated and marginalized by society, so when they find each other their fringe thinking finds new life.
“Their views are not seen as remotely mainstream. When they discover sites online, it’s a revelation. They feel they were right the whole time,” Potok said.
The ranks of these men who view women as a sum of their physical parts and sexuality have borne domestic violence, acts of retribution, and past mass killers.
Over the weekend, just hours after the Isla Vista, Calif., rampage, police said that a man shot at least three women in Stockton, Calif., after they refused to have sex with him and his friends. They were uninjured.
“The idea that men should dominate over women in our culture today is thoroughly discredited, in theory. It’s the world of the past, not the wave of the future,” said Terry O’ Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. “It’s a loser’s argument. White-hot fury, anger, is the response of someone who has really, really lost.”
There are too many examples of men who were so very lost.
In 1989, mentally ill shooter Marc Lepine walked into an engineering school in Montreal, murdering 14 women, injuring 10 men, and wounding four other women before killing himself. In a suicide note, he blamed women and feminists.
In 2006, Darren Mack, a member of a father’s rights group in Reno, Nev., shot his wife dead and wounded a family court judge, said Potok.
George Sodini wrote in his blog about his rage at women rejecting him for 20 years before going to a Pittsburgh, Pa., area gym in 2009 and shooting 12 women, killing three.
In 2012, One Goh—deemed a paranoid schizophrenic and described by officials as having issues with women—allegedly walked into Oikos University in Oakland, Calif., and shot and killed seven people.
Of course, the gender bias that drove so many of these outrageous incidents isn't particular to mass violence. Following the UCSB shooting, women everywhere turned to social media and used the hashtag #YesAllWomen to report ways in which they have been reduced to their sexuality or antagonized by men over their gender.
The hashtag was seen as a counterpoint to the #NotAllMen hashtag, in which men pointed out that they were being characterized cruelly by blanket generalizations about misogyny. For the women who contributed, the point was that not all men may be doling it out, but all women have felt unsafe in the presence of misogyny or worse.
That's why a broader cultural change needs to happen, said O’Neill, from the top down, to lessen the brunt of entrenched misogynistic views leading to violence.
“We need to elect more and more men and women who support women’s equality,” said O’Neill. “When a troubled young man with a narcissistic personality, a sociopathic personality, goes to get treatment for mental health, we need a culture that opposes the rape culture that we’re trying to change.”