Elliot Rodger and illusions of nuance

Misogyny is not particularly nuanced. It has a long history and manifests itself in different ways across different cultures, but essentially it’s always the same: hating women, viewing them as less than human, denying them their subjectivity. None of these things is very refined; indeed, when you are on the receiving end of misogyny, you know that it is gut-wrenchingly blunt.

Responses to killer Elliot Rodger’s misogynist manifesto have not been nuanced. This is because there are no subtle shades in lines such as these:

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. […]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.

There is no reason for us to pore over these words, looking for the complexities, the justifications, the finely balanced decisions. This is someone who despised women for being women. And yet the language he uses – If I can’t have them, no one will – will be familiar to many of us. It’s there in descriptions of women as sluts, whores, prick teases, temptresses. It’s there in the way men treat women who reject them or try to leave them. It’s there in the belief that all men are entitled to penetrate women’s bodies. Such a view of women is all around us and if that sounds monstrous and extreme, that’s because it is.

Today has seen plenty of men desperate to claim that misogyny has nothing to do with misogyny because hey, that’s way too simple, ladies! Rodger could not have been more direct about the source of his hate yet instead of feeling anger, we are supposed to treat any discussion of his beliefs as a sixth form essay: beginning, argument, counter-argument, synthesis, end. Because obviously there must be a counter-argument to “this man hates women, says he hates women, says he is going to commit murder because he hates women, then goes on to commit murder”. There must be a counter-argument to “this man feels entitled to women’s bodies – just like every other heterosexual male in a pornified, patriarchal culture – and pissed off at the other men who are ‘getting’ them instead of him”. There just has to be, right? Otherwise it’s all a bit one-sided. As Ally Fogg writes,

I sense an inevitability to the debate that will unfold in coming days. Feminists and their allies are already spinning this as the work of an MRA and a consequence of men’s rights ideology. MRAs, I do not doubt, will become defensive and probably find some way to blame feminism – some PUAs are already going down that route. I don’t think any of that is meaningful or helpful, and may provide a convenient moral escape route for some people who should really be looking to their own hearts and consciences.

See? Two sides to every story and one nice, rational man in the middle, on hand to do the synthesis and write the conclusion.

Well, guess what? I don’t buy this. Patriarchy fucking well is one-sided. Misogyny is one-sided. I am sick of being told to play six of one, half a dozen of the other every single time women are devalued for being women. I’m sick of being told abortion is a “complex” issue. I’m sick of being told acquaintance rape is a “grey area”. I’ve had enough of hearing that the pay gap is about “women’s choices” and of being told that in terms of online abuse, “women give as good as they get”. I’m tired of hearing that male violence against women is “complicated” because “relationships are complicated”. I’m sick, above all, of being positioned as hysterical and extreme for pointing out that actually, there only is one side, the side that hates women. It is as clear as day and no one wants to say it even when, as is the case with Elliot Rodger, it couldn’t be made more obvious.

I might be a woman with a fluffy woman brain but I can do nuance and logic. I can do rationality. I can look at statistics. We all can. But manufacturing an illusion of balance for show is like putting on a lab coat and claiming that’s doing science. It might make men feel that their own hands are clean. It might even make some women feel safer. Nevertheless, you don’t create truth by giving a story a nicely shaped narrative. Misogyny is a jagged edge. It’s illogical, bitter and vicious. It is an outrage and any calls for “balance” should be treated with the contempt they deserve. And yes, there are no easy answers, but that’s not because the question isn’t right in front of us.

32 thoughts on “Elliot Rodger and illusions of nuance

  1. Replace women with an ethnic group and see how quickly the killer would be condemned by everyone. Replace women with Jews in Rodger’s hateful speech and he would be (rightly) labelled as a vile, racist extremist. No one would be calling Jewish people opportunist and unfair for pointing out the antisemitism. Jewish people online wouldn’t be getting abuse for saying this was a race crime. Say those things about women though and it’s, well, you know, Aspergers, lonely, not all men, men were killed too blah blah blah. Oh, and we are all crazy bitches for noticing the misogyny.

      1. Anti-semitism is real. So is the ethnocracy of Israeli settler-colonialism. It is dishonesty to act like the existences are mutually exclusive.

  2. The scary thing about Rodger to me is that he seems like a very typical man; his words are typical and his attitude toward women is typical. The only difference between him and most other men is that they usually commit their violence against women one-on-one and they try to hide what they do a little better.

    I think we should be concerned that he is a hero to many men who are turning up the volume on their violence against women not only online, but in real life. In my April 1, 2014 post at my blog I mention that the MRAs are more openly advocating violence against women. A lot of us knew this was coming and if something isn’t done by men themselves to rein themselves in – which we know they won’t do – there will be more incidents similar to this one in the near future.

    1. Beatrix Campbell has observed that due to the internet, we now know what men really think of women…and it is brutal and violent and full of hate. Because of the internet we know what Rodgers thought of women, and as you say it is no different to what is expressed every minute on twitter. As men become much more confident in being able to get away with their disgusting vitriol, and sites like Facebook refuse to see a page applauding Rodgers as hate, we can only expect more of this.

      1. Men who can’t control themselves because they never submitted themselves to a higher code of morality. Not all men are like that. My world used to be filled with them, but I left the lifestyle I was living that kept me in close proximity to selfish narcissists. Now all the males I know are real ‘men’ that honor and respect women. As a matter of fact, my husband prefers me over himself in all areas, and unselfishly ‘serves’ my needs before his own.

      2. And, frankly, though they are much less likely to become violent, I have as much trouble with liberal men who want to speak sympathetically of the problems of a Rodgers. (I will say that I think he was mentally ill; such attitudes are not the attitudes of health. What we need to realize is that we live in a society in which mental illness is the norm, and socially acceptable mental illness takes a different form from schizophrenia, bipolar, etc. Sociopathy and psychopathy are mental illnesses.) When I sent a list of threats transwomen have made against Cathy Brennan et al, to someone I knew, his sympathy seemed to be with the threateners, which disgusted me.

    2. @womanofthewoods

      If the typical man in your world is how you describe, then I suggest you should stay in the woods.

  3. 1) using a mass murderer to represent most men (or even most misogynists actually) is totally unreasonable

    2) generally speaking insisting your own view point is so obviously correct that the issue is devoid of complexity, is a sign of arrogance

    3) Mind actually explaining why your viewpoints all those issue is the are correct if their so obviously simple?

    4) that quote from Ally is taken out of context. He was arguing that Elliot wasn’t a men’s right’s activist, not that he was not a misogynists. Also he’s made it clear in past blogs more than one that he doesn’t all put the MRAs on equal ground with feminists as all

    1. 1) The phrase “using a mass murderer to represent most men” is nonsensical, or at best vague. Unless someone said “the shooter represents most men” (which would also be vague), it’s not a phrase referring to anything in real life.

      2) Glosswitch isn’t talking about “view points”; she is saying reality is obvious. Facts are obvious.

      3) Glosswitch points you to the shooter’s own words as citation for her summary of reality. Once again “viewpoints” have nothing to do with it.

      4) Ally Fogg treats both feminism(s) and the men’s rights movements as “dogmas” (whereas he is the floating Rational Mediator), because that’s easier and (more importantly) attracts more readers than if he actually learned about what feminism is and involves. Rather than “taking him out” of context, it is a perfect illustration of the context he operates under.

  4. Anything to bring out thoughts of nullification. What a great world this would be without any men or progressives. At least for a few years. Me, I’m moving to Europe, where the women are generous and free.

  5. Thoughtful members of Men’s rights group do not aspire to denigrate women but to challenge instances where they perceive inequity between men and women, in the same way feminists or women’s rights groups like to point out the inequity in a society that puts them at a disadvantage to men. Like it or not there are instances of unjust and inequity with respect to both genders and not to just one gender and it would behoove the media and journalists in general to keep this in mind rather than writing essays decrying the omnipresent existence of hate towards women. That is simply not the case.

    And yet we are told at the same time that the reason Elliot Rodger went on a killing rampage was because he hated women. I think it would perhaps be fairer to say that Elliot Rodger hated humanity and women were an incidental desire given the rise of his puberty and his feelings of sexual inadequacy, rather than an abject loathing of women simply because of their very gender.

    http://scallywagandvagabond.com/2014/05/elliot-rodger-really-kill-cause-misogynist-feminists-fallacies/

    1. Feminism, though there are many veins and types, is nothing like your reactionary embarrassment of a idea of how things work lol if you actually payed attention to feminists and tried to understand them you would know this. You can pontificate about “instances of inequality” all week but don’t compare it to the feminist insight that women are oppressed by men. The conception of oppression is a class-based analysis but it’s easier to focus on individuals and “equality” than actually listening to women.

      He hated women because of their *sex* — their bodies that he could not own (for him blonde women were the pinnacle of the worthy female body for some reason). He hated men who, in his mind, had the talent and ability to own women’s bodies. Taking these two obvious realities together and saying “he was a misanthrope! those dogmatic feminists have it all wrong!” is a laughable misstep in logic and betrays a (willful?) inability to consider a more intricate situation than the one most convenient for shooting down women — or at least, attempting to and failing miserably.

  6. Damn….first the shooting sent me to my bed, almost fetal-position with anger and shock. Then, I wanted to drink myself insensible, but as the daughter of an alcoholic, I long since conditioned myself to drink only in joyous celebration. So sober I remain. And bitter….bitter, more bitter than words can say.

    NOW the cops say they never saw the videos that made the parents concerned, and the social worker call — why the hell NOT, are they too stupid to use youtube, for pity’s sake? Or is it as I’ve found — they think parents are just nervous nellies to be ignored.

    I hope EVERYone who lost a person or was wounded SUES the police for not taking the threat seriously.

  7. Reblogged this on herlander-walking and commented:
    My own voice at this blog feels more and more stilled — in shock, in what feels like utterly futile rage. So I appreciated finding words not stilled to pass on to anyone still visiting here.

  8. There’s no better example of male privilege than seeing hard facts, black on white, and being able to look the other way. Can women afford themselves to pretend this is one isolated case of a “mentally ill” kid that affects no one whatsoever, like men can?

    1. Not easily, but caring about girls and women, and the violence they suffer, is misandry (that made up word for something that doesn’t exist). So, you know, basically shut up.

  9. Hi Glosswitch, Ally here.

    I’m a bit puzzled by the misrepresentation here. I normally let these things wash over me, but about six people have now tweeted me demanding that I go read you, and it seems to make more sense to spell out my position here, since it is apparently needed.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the first half of your post. However you then go on to say:

    Today has seen plenty of men desperate to claim that misogyny has nothing to do with misogyny because hey, that’s way too simple, ladies!

    You then go on on to quote me, so I presume it is me you are talking about. But anyone who reads my post will see that right at the top, after taking a moment to remember the victims the first point I make is this:

    [Mental illness] was never an adequate explanation. Mental illness alone very, very rarely drives people to kill. Hate, bitterness and rage, on the other hand, does so daily. Rodger may or may not have been ill, he may or may not had diagnostic label on his personality or neurological function, we do not know. What we do know, without question, is that he was spitting with misogyny.

    Does that read like someone claiming that this was nothing to do with misogyny?

    It might also have been slightly fairer to quote me at slightly greater length, because immediately after the paragraph quoted, I go on to say:

    Rodger does not appear to have identified as an MRA, and a debate as to whether or not he should be so described will be a pedantic distraction. The ugly truth is that, across much of the manosphere, his rantings are not especially unusual. Somewhere on the internet right this very moment – whether on an Insel site or an MRA site or an MGTOW site or Twitter or Facebook or an atheist forum, it really doesn’t matter – an angry young man will be spitting out his hatred of bitches, whores and sluts.

    In other words, the point about whether or not he is an MRA is not me trying to get them off the hook, but the exact opposite. Inaccurately calling Rodger an MRA simply allows actual MRAs to dissociate themselves from him, and lets them dodge their culpability in their shared misogyny. That was my whole bloody point there, and I don’t think I explained it too be clumsily to be understood.

    The other point I was making, which may have been missed, is that while I wholeheartedly agree that misogyny and patriarchal entitlement were the driving forces here, there are millions of men with those traits who do not become mass murderers, and the temptation to right Rodger off as a simple and clear cut case of misogyny risks cutting off inquiry into other factors that may have been involved. I mentioned bullying, as one specific detail that seems to apply to every single school / spree shooter, but there may be others.

    In summary, I’ve found the arguments I’ve had over the past 24 hours a little strange. Primarily, I have been criticised for asking for nuance. (One tweet directing me to this blog simply said “no need for nuance,”

    I just can’t buy into that. There is always need for nuance. When Lee Rigby was murdered, I wrote a vaguely similar blog, which also called for nuance. Yes, Rigby was murdered by two Islamist terrorists, but does the story end there? No, it didn’t at the time and it still doesn’t today.

    A lot of this reminds me of what John Major once said: “sometimes I think we need to understand a little less and condemn a little more.”

    I have no problem with people disagreeing with me on any point, telling me I am wrong. But very few people have been doing that over the past 24 hours. They haven’t been telling me I am wrong, they’ve just been saying “how dare you say that?”

    I find that quite a depressing reaction in any circumstance.

    1. Ally Fogg claims “there are millions of men with those traits” ( misogyny and patriarchal entitlement) “who do not become mass murderers” and in the same paragraph says “I mentioned bullying, as one specific detail that seems to apply to every single school / spree shooter,”.

      But most boys and a good number of men are bullied at some time in their lives and don’t become killers of women, so why use it as some kind of excuse for Rodger?

      As always with Ally Fogg, he tries to please both sides of the debate in order to boost his own popularity. As one poster who’s known Fogg for years, writes on my own site “I’m encouraged to see that Ally Fogg has taken something of a twitter-kicking for his characteristically rancid attempts to harness the Elliot Rodger murders to further his dismal agenda.”

      That agenda being his own popularity.

      Far more about Ally Fogg’s anti-feminism here –

      http://therealuntrusted.wordpress.com/dont-let-the-door-bang-yer-arse-on-the-way-out/

    2. You wrote that “Feminists and their allies are already spinning this as the work of an MRA and a consequence of men’s rights ideology.” Glosswitch is pointing out that there’s no need for spin, the ideology is right there in the shooter’s videos and writings. Whether he called himself an MRA is pretty irrelevant (you basically said this yourself); for convenience, he can be categorized as “an MRA[-type person]”. If you can’t appreciate the nuance of that, maybe you shouldn’t be lecturing about nuance.

      You also write as if you are the “rational man in the middle” as Glosswitch says. You write “Feminists and their allies” as if you’re some Great Voice of Reason, unwilling to “take sides” because it’s beneath you. It’s impossible that either “side” can be coming from a place of rational thought because if that were the case, there wouldn’t be the opportunity for you to pontificate yourself into the condescending paternalistic high horse. Glancing at your blog, this seems to be an opportunity that you rely upon springing up as much as possible. You have a vested interest in finding it, even creating it out of thin air, for your readership.

      I’m male, I used to be way into the world super-rational Bertrand Russell New Atheism “all ideology is inferior to Rational Logic-Reason” from which you’re currently hurling hilariously embarrassing and tired “commentary”. It’s way appealing, I get it. But could you hold off just this once? People are injured and dead.

    3. Thinking about it more and reading comments sections on your blog, it’s a wonderful business model: attract both moderate MRAs and male “feminists” or “feminist allies” by throwing the “dogmatic” pejorative only at the extremist misogynistic MRAs and semi-radical/radical women, making your mixed male audience feel fuzzy and superior. What I don’t understand is why Glosswitch bothers with such a clear example of marketing strategy. She treats you like a misguided fool, when it seems perfectly possible that you’re just a talented businessman.

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