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.