A Man’s Rage and Society’s Faults: the UCSB Shooting


Affy Kongoulous

On Friday, May 23, 2014, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger uploaded a video to his YouTube channel, lamenting that he was still a virgin who had never been kissed. He was upset that college, a time normally associated with relationships and casual sex, instead led to him getting turned down in favor of what he called “brutes.” Rodger was confused as to why girls never seemed to show any interest in him, claiming that they “denied [him] a happy life.” He concluded his tirade by saying, “If I can’t have you, girls, I will destroy you. In turn, I will deny you life.” Rodger promised to enter the University of California Santa Barbara’s “hottest sorority house” and “slaughter every single spoiled, blonde, stuck-up slut [he sees],” on what he called his “Day of Retribution.” His goal? To be seen as the “true alpha male,” and make every woman sorry for every rejecting him. At 9:27 PM, he followed through with this horrific threat, and drove around UCSB’s Isla Vista neighborhood, killing seven people and leaving thirteen injured. (He shot three women in front of a sorority house, killing two, and shot at pedestrians.) Further police investigation showed that three unidentified male bodies were found in Rodger’s apartment, stabbed to death. Rodger was found dead behind the wheel of his vehicle, from what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot to the head. Three semi-automatic handguns and over 40 magazines of ammunition were found in his passenger’s seat.

The comment board of the news articles covering this, as well as on Rodger’s videos, are divided between people blaming the women who turned Rodger down, and people dismissing him as mentally ill. Though I’m unable to fully comment on Rodger’s mental state, I implore everyone to take a step back and reconsider his motives for this heinous crime. He straightforwardly stated that he was driven to violence because the women to whom he felt entitled never kissed him or went on dates with him. While it’s undoubtedly true that mentally ill individuals have a hard time accessing necessary care in this country, calling Rodger mentally ill right off the bat diminishes the problem. In fact, Rodger was seeing multiple therapists, after his parents watched several of his YouTube videos and reported them to the police. He was described as a “high-functioning Aspergers patient,” with no allusions made to violent tendencies or psychosis. The police checked in on Rodger at his apartment, but found him “polite and courteous,” not threatening. The American Psychiatric Association also reported that “the vast majority of people who are violent do not suffer from mental illness.” Make no mistake: this was a misogynistic crime.

Rodger found an online outlet in the men’s rights activists community, a group of self-described “gentlemen” who find solidarity in expressing outrage that women aren’t interested in them. Granted, men’s rights activism has the potential to be a useful thing. If men’s rights activists channeled their energy into providing awareness and relief for men who are victims of sexual or domestic abuse, or challenged the narrow, stifling definitions of masculinity, I could get behind this movement. Instead, this group chooses to get indignant, and, in this case, downright violent, when they don’t get what they want. This is the living manifestation of what’s sold to us in the media: “women are objects.” When we don’t comply with men’s wishes, the consequences are dire. Whining about being “friend-zoned” is one thing, but this tragic shooting is proof that misogyny is still alive and well. A man was so angry that he wasn’t able to go to bed with women he felt he deserved, so he mercilessly slaughtered nine victims and injured another thirteen. Though not every victim was female, this was still a crime driven by misogyny and entitlement. Rodger specifically targeted a sorority house, and continued taking out his rage at passersby, some of whom happened to be male. These male victims were still the victims of male entitlement and hatred of women; though not targeted because of their gender, their deaths occurred because Rodger was so angry with women that he was driven to violence.

To those who question the need for feminism, who claim we’ve already reached gender equality, take a step back. The point is not that all men aren’t violent, nor that all men react so strongly to rejection. Rather, the point is that women are still seen as objects. When we don’t submit to our roles as props for satisfaction, we have to fear for our safety. This shooting spree is on an extreme end of the spectrum, but male entitlement rears its head in smaller ways, too. Getting verbally harassed while walking has happened to every woman at least once, and it stems from the same ugly place. The fact that men feel comfortable enough ordering a person they’ve never met to smile, or sticking their head out of a car window to leer at my backside, disgusts me. They have no respect for women, and disregard whether or not they’re intruding on our personal space and our safety. Elliot Rodger was able to stab and shoot nearly a dozen women, and feel righteous in his violence because robbing these innocent women of life was a fair punishment for not being granted the access to female bodies whenever he wanted it. This is why women fear for their safety every time they leave the house.

Even though I’m lucky enough to have never experienced physical violence or assault, I still get the same message every time someone tries to call me “sweetie” or screams “Whore!” at me from a passing car: I am expendable. I am disposable. I am not worth any basic respect. We, as society, need to collectively stop promoting the idea that being a “gentleman” grants you unlimited access to a woman’s body, regardless of whether she has consented. It has deadly consequences. Murder aside, a staggering number of rapes occur because partners feel so entitled to sex that they press on, even after their partner says no.

Consider this shooting from the victims’ standpoint. The women’s only crime was existing in a female body. They were at the wrong place at the wrong time, and died because they were women.

UCSB isn’t the first place a misogynistic shooting has occurred, either. On August 5, 2009, 48-year-old George Sodini walked into an LA Fitness gym in Pittsburgh and shot three women. He injured nine more, then turned the gun on himself. He left a note in his gym bag, as well as numerous posts on his blog, complaining about never having lived or vacationed with a woman. Sodini also expressed dissatisfaction with his limited sexual experiences. Police did not discover any mental health issues in Sodini, yet he was still moved to open fire on an aerobics class because he was so infuriated that some women had turned him down. On December 6, 1989, Marc Lepine, 25, separated the men from the women in a classroom at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique and gunned down 13 female engineering students and a female employee. Before opening fire, Lepine screamed, “I hate feminists.” On June 29, 1984, 39-year-old Abdelkrim Belachheb retrieved an automatic pistol from his car and shot a woman who refused his sexual advances. They had been dancing together at a Dallas bar, but after she pushed him away for being aggressive, he shot her off her barstool. Belachheb then returned to his car, reloaded, and randomly shot 5 more patrons off their barstools, severely wounding another. And on May 25, 2014, mere days after the UCSB tragedy, another incident occurred in Stockton, California. 21-year-old Keith Binder opened fire on 3 women after the women refused to have sex with him and his friends. Thankfully, no one was injured, but the fact that a man was so quick to resort to violence after being denied sex shows a clear pattern.

The problem is not the individual shooters, but instead society’s skewed criteria for what a “real man” should be. Men are expected to dominate, to be the center of every room, with money and women serving as accessories to cement their status. They are expected to have a conventionally attractive woman by their side, as an accessory, a testament to their power and success. This, combined with the ever-present message that women are objects, reinforces the idea that men are entitled to women’s bodies and time whenever is convenient for them, not for the women. Complaints about being “friend-zoned” are seen as totally legitimate. Women who won’t put out are called bitches; it’s never the fault of the men for thinking women “owe” them sex, but rather the woman for “leading them on.” Though this ideology does not apply to all men, it’s seen as totally justified. I urge everyone to critically consider this shooting, and the shooter’s motives. Do not let this tragedy go unnoticed. The only way we can combat these hurtful social norms is to first acknowledge them, and understand how deeply hurtful and detrimental they are. Only then can we make a positive change.]]>