It’s unclear why three men died in Elliot Rodger’s self-proclaimed war on women, but apparently all women everywhere denied him sex and therefore drove him to kill. Yesterday, Twitter erupted into a #YesAllWomen outpouring against the misogyny and violence underlying his unprovoked murder of six innocent young adults. Barely old enough to vote and too young to drink (except one), these college-age girls and boys were killed for no other reason than sharing a home with Rodger or possessing a vagina.
George Chen, age 19
Veronika Weiss, age 19
Cheng Yuan Hong, age 20
Christopher Michael-Martinez, age 20
Weihan Wang, age 20
Katie Cooper, age 22
Enough time and space has been devoted to Rodger, his videos, and his presumed alliance with men’s rights associations. I have no desire to give attention to a killer today, and you’ll have to go elsewhere to ponder his motivations, upbringing, and need for mental health care. Instead, let’s talk about the lives lost and how we can move forward.
Yesterday, I read the #YesAllWomen feed with growing horror. Women and men talked about a rape culture in which women are treated as objects of sexual desire, to be owned and abused by men. I was honored to be quoted along with Neil Gaiman in the Daily News.
Throughout the day, the feed brought out some profound, saddening, and frighteningly true sentiments.
One person (whose name I unfortunately can’t remember and therefore can’t credit) pointed out that the number one cause for injury and death of women is…men. Guess what is the number one cause for injury and death of men? Their own hearts (I’m assuming heart attacks, failures, etc.) Elizabeth Veil (@AnimeJune) tweeted, “because we’re somehow more responsible for Elliot Rodger’s virginity than our own.”
It’s not difficult to understand why women would perceive the deck being culturally stacked against them.
Perceive? I don’t think targeting women for death is a “perception.” Jessica Valenti also disagrees, saying that this shooting is “further proof that misogyny kills.”
I have to wonder how much police dismissed Rodger’s video rants because of the expectation that violent misogyny in young men is normal and expected. [. . .] So when we say that these things are unstoppable, what we are really saying is that we’re unwilling to do the work to stop them. Violence against women does not have to be inevitable, but it is almost always foreseeable: what matters is what we do about it.
These things matter because the horror of Rodger’s alleged crimes is unique, but the distorted way he understood himself as a man and the violence with which discussed women — the bleak and dehumanizing lens through which he judged them — is not. Just as we examine our culture of guns once again in the wake of yet another mass shooting, we must also examine our culture of misogyny and toxic masculinity, which devalues both women’s and men’s lives and worth, and inflicts real and daily harm. We must examine the dangerous normative values that treat women as less than human, and that make them — according to Elliot Rodger — deserving of death.
Why, as an author, am I writing about this today?
As creators of stories, our fictional world matters. Our words matter. When we write “alpha heroes” who batter and abuse women in order to demonstrate their sexual prowess and manliness, we contribute to a culture of violence and misogyny. When we write “feminist” characters only to belittle feminism as no longer relevant because all women need and want to be “taken” to satisfy their needs to be dominated, we teach men to abuse and women to accept abuse.
When we romanticize violence against women in our stories, we give our permission for the violence to continue.
George, Veronika, Cheng Yuan, Christopher, Weihan, and Katie…I wish you and your families Godspeed and grace. Your young lives, unbearably young, deserved so much more. You should have lounged in your parents’ home for a visit, picking on your younger siblings and sassing your parents for bugging you to study harder and get a job. You should have bubbled with excitement at landing your first internship, your first job, and meeting the special person who would become your life partner. You should have slogged through work, hating the daily grind and grumbling about hellish commutes, micromanaging bosses, and skyrocketing rent. You should have driven your friends crazy with your neurotic first-time-parent woes and worries, acting as if no one ever had become parents before you. You should have fretted about retirement, and then found so many things to regret once you did retire. You should have blinked as you looked into the mirror, wondering when the wrinkles and gray hair turned you into your now-deceased mom or dad. You should have heard the laughter of grandchildren, spoiling them rotten as your adult children complained that you never allowed your children half the fun your grandchildren received. You should have closed your eyes one final time, peaceful and safe in a hospice bed surrounded by loved ones.
May your lives be remembered, cherished, and honored. May your light continue to shine in a world grown dimmer, poorer for your absence. May your loved ones find comfort and sense in a world suddenly grown cold and senseless. May the next little boy, feeling rejected and unliked, find the courage to face his faults, own his issues, and work on becoming more likable. May boys and men all over the world learn that they are not entitled access to anyone’s vagina.
May your lives not have been lost in vain.
We offer today our prayers and thoughts for you, your families, and everyone who loved you.