On Our Radar: Elliot Rodger Wasn't Interested in Women

Here, we talk a lot about race and gender in the context of body image. We talk a lot about being a woman (and sometimes men), and how we can “protect” ourselves through awareness. 

The recent Elliot Rodger shooting at UC Santa Barbara shook us up. This openly type of violence and anger towards women is something that we’ve certainly known (just look at the way we talk about women in media), but haven’t seen displayed in such an unapologetic manner in the United States.

Our friend Dexter Thomas wrote this piece over at Aljazeera and provided his take on how the shooting actually didn’t have much to do with women. It had to do with men and the “system” that we’re each perpetuating that has a long-lasting, regrettable effect:

Recently, we’ve been hearing a lot about Elliot Rodger’s supposed misogyny. Some say the killings were a hate crime. Other people prefer to steer the conversation away from the topic of women.

This is fair, because really, Elliot wasn’t talking about women at all. He was talking about men.

Specifically, white men.

This is obvious if we take the time to listen to him. If we read his 140-page “My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger” with the same seriousness that we read other “stories”, we can see that women were generally irrelevant to Elliot. With the exception of those in his immediate family, Elliot writes about women as flat, faceless characters. They rarely have names, and never have personalities.

Actually, Elliot spends about as much time describing women as he does his new BMW 3 Series.

Men, on the other hand, are described in detail. They generally have first and last names, especially if they are white. Elliot tells us about their skin colour, their personalities and hobbies. When Elliot talks about a woman he had a crush on in his math class, he doesn’t really tell us what she looks like. Instead, he describes her boyfriend, who is a “tall, muscular surfer-jock with a buzz cut”. Even men he passes on the street are given more detail than women: He tells us about how tall they are, about their jawlines, their clothes.

This is to say: like most misogynist literature, “My Twisted World” isn’t really about women at all. 

It’s about men.

That’s actually the most difficult thing for many of us to understand. Misogyny, or sexism in general, rarely has anything to do with women as people. They are symbols, only relevant when discussing intimate and complicated relationships between men: Alpha vs Beta, say.

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Fault Lines - Death in Plain Sight

Like many men, Elliot was only able to understand women as status symbols. His obsessive quest to lose his virginity had less to do with a desire for pleasure and more to do with a need to show other men that he was a white man, or as good as one. To him, his failure to seduce a white woman was embarrassing proof of his inferiority to his white peers.

Elliot’s main problem was that he was not white.

A lot of people seem to think that Elliot felt that he was entitled to sex and attention from women. I don’t think this is quite accurate. Elliot’s descriptions of himself as “beautiful” or “magnificent” read like desperate attempts at self-delusion. He is much more honest and vulnerable when he refers to his racial background.

Elliot clearly believed that his being half Asian stained him, and ruined the entitlement he would have had if he were pure white. His most clear anger was directed at those lower on the racial totem pole - “filthy” blacks, “low-class” Latinos, and “full-blooded Asians” - who were having sex with white women. He fully accepted that he did not deserve what his white peers had, but he could not stand to see those with even less pure blood than him get the rewards that should have trickled down to him first.

Read the entire article here.

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Lisa Lee