A reader writes:
You posted a tweet with the hashtag #yesallwomen (no issue with that), but then you refer to the sad events this past weekend as “in the wake of the misogyny-fueled rampage near UCSB.” While I agree that Rodgers hated women, if you look at anything he’s put online, he clearly hates other men as well. In fact he seems to hate everyone, including members of his own family. He hated people for many, many reasons, including “you” appearing to be “better” than him. This was true if you had a nicer car than he did, as well as if you had a girlfriend – doubly so if Rodgers found her attractive.
He snapped this past weekend. He had a lot of targets. For whatever reason he started with his roomates, then he went to target some of the women who stood in for women who have turned him down. No doubt given enough time he would have gone after other people he was jealous of.
It is reckless to refer to this as a women’s only issue or to pretend that the only victims or targets were women. By framing it as you did, you imply that. He was a young man who had serious mental issues and had been doing his best to avoid the treament his family was trying to get him. That is the real issue – that, and how he got himself a gun.
Another quotes me:
“What we need is not grandiose and thereby doomed projects of cultural re-education, but a more powerful appeal to men to be gentlemen, to see maleness at its best as a tamed wildness.” Some of the most misogynistic men I have ever met considered themselves to be perfect gentlemen. They claimed that because they would never treat a woman like all those other assholes do, would never ever take her for granted, that they were better. But in reality they felt owed, just like Rogers did.
My ex is a prime example.
When we broke up, after years of me trying to explain, he clearly still didn’t understand why I didn’t just love him back. He was, according to him, the perfect boyfriend! He deserved my love. This totally disregards the fact that he had no respect for my intellect or my ability to think for myself. He treated me like a fragile doll and never understood that I just wanted to be treated like a person. I’m in no way perfect and did not want to be held to his incredibly unrealistic standards. But he always opened the door for me and bought me whatever I insinuated I would maybe eventually like to own. In return, I owed him love, right?
He would be deeply insulted to be called a misogynist. But that’s what he was/is. He never saw me as a fully formed person. I am a woman, so I am different. I am “less than”. I am a trophy to be earned or bought. And he was what you would call tame. I can only imagine what he would have been like if he was “wild”.
A male perspective:
By the end of your counterpoint to deBoer, I think you’ve actually ended up in very nearly the same place as he is (“we need … a more powerful appeal to men to be gentlemen, to see maleness at its best as a tamed wildness”). And if your desire is an appeal for bros to be gentlemen, then I think you’re pretty well asking for an end to (modern American) “traditional masculinity” as we know it. If you’re a gentleman, you don’t exhibit an over-the-top, hyper sense of “aggression, dominance and power.” If you wish to tame those very base instincts, then you’re ending up with a very different version of masculinity than “Murrican dudebro.”
Maybe it’s more of a “macho American” thing, but I was definitely brought up with the societal expectation of being more sexually aggressive. And that’s not just making the first move with a woman; outside of my mom, I was never really pushed back on for chasing girls or ogling them (without considering if it caused them any discomfort). I’m only in my early 30s, but I look back on the teenage me as a not-very-nice person. I’m sure everyone feels that way, but I feel it far more acutely now that my best friends are women.
Forget “expected male” behavior. If all we are is a pack of randy cocks whose excuse is “well it’s testosterone,” then we shortchange ourselves and insult our own capabilities. And forget “taming.” A “tame” animals merely tolerates the presence of humans. I don’t want to merely tolerate women; I strive to be their equal.
Update from a reader:
It seems a tad harsh for your reader to accuse her ex-boyfriend of misogyny for mimicking the classical virtue of chivalry as an attempt to get her to love him back. Based on what she reported, he was guilty of nothing more than ineptitude or incompetence.
Is every male failure, especially in their interactions with women, now an expression of misogyny? What hope do we have when we become contemptible and loathsome women-haters merely by not knowing what we’re doing?
I feel such a conflation not only trivializes the word “misogyny” but all male-female relations. We can now decide whether a male is relating successfully to women by measuring him on this simplified misogyny scale. I have a feeling that male-female relations are actually much more complex than that, given the whole thing is clouded over with issues of self-worth and self-esteem, which men deal with just as intensely – if differently – than women.
The entire discussion all seems besides the point. As other readers have pointed out, Rodgers problem wasn’t being rejected, and it wasn’t women. He had a severe neuropsychiatric disability and mental illness. The argument could be made that in his illness he internalized some of the worst aspects of our culture, and his mental illness amplified those aspects towards violent ends. However, this doesn’t justify cherry-picking aspect of his pathology and ignoring all others.
We need laws in place to empower mental health professionals and law enforcement to stop episodes like this in their tracks, to protect people from those whose mental illness leads them to make tragic, irreversible decisions, and to protect the mentally ill from themselves. That’s the primary, urgent, life-or-death discussion we should be having right now. Trying to pigeonhole this tragic story into a story about misogyny distracts us from this conversation.
In reference to the reader you quoted regarding Rodger’s hatred of men, yes, he hated other men, but that was quite clearly secondary:
I hated all of those obnoxious, boisterous men who were able to enjoy pleasurable sex lives with beautiful girls, but I hated the girl’s even more, because they were the ones who chose those men instead of me. It was their choice. They are the ones who deprived me of love and sex.
He didn’t just snap this past weekend. It had been premeditated for a long time, and he was quite specific about why he started with his roommates:
On the day before the Day of Retribution, I will start the First Phase of my vengeance: Silently killing as many people as I can around Isla Vista by luring them into my apartment through some form of trickery. The first people I would have to kill are my two housemates, to secure the entire apartment for myself as my personal torture and killing chamber. After that, I will start luring people into my apartment, knock them out with a hammer, and slit their throats.
This First Phase will represent my vengeance against all of the men who have had pleasurable sex lives while I’ve had to suffer.
His “Second Phase” represented his “War on Women”, beginning with the sorority house. Women were undoubtedly the main focus of his hatred. He certainly didn’t have any rants about men comparable to this:
Women are like a plague. They don’t deserve to have any rights. Their wickedness must be contained in order prevent future generations from falling to degeneracy. Women are vicious, evil, barbaric animals, and they need to be treated as such.
He then goes envisions his perfect world:
The first strike against women will be to quarantine all of them in concentration camps. At these camps, the vast majority of the female population will be deliberately starved to death. That would be an efficient and fitting way to kill them all off. I would take great pleasure and satisfaction in condemning every single woman on earth to starve to death. I would have an enormous tower built just for myself, where I can oversee the entire concentration camp and gleefully watch them all die. If I can’t have them, no one will, I’d imagine thinking to myself as I oversee this. Women represent everything that is unfair with this world, and in order to make the world a fair place, they must all be eradicated.