We need to talk about systemic male violence not the “work of a madman”

Note: I will no longer be publishing any comments which erase Rodger’s responsibility for committing mass murder or want to pretend that misogyny doesn’t exist.


UPDATE: I wrote this when the media was reporting 6 women murdered by Rodger. The victims are as follows:

I have left the post as written because this is still a case of misogyny and male entitlement.


6 women have been murdered* and 7 more injured in Santa Barbara in a drive by shooting late Friday night which is currently being attributed to a man called Elliot Rodger.** Rodger got into his car and proceeded to shoot to death 6 women and injure 7 other women. Rodger was also killed Friday night but we do not yet know if his gun-shot was self-inflicted or from a police officer on the scene.

Sheriff Bill Brown has already referred to this mass shooting as ““the work of a madman” and suggested that we will soon learn “how disturbed this individual was”. Despite there being no evidence, as yet, that the perpetrator suffered a mental illness, and the statistical unlikelihood that a perpetrator of such extreme violence does have a mental illness, the police officers investigating the crime and the media reporting it are assuming that Rodger must be mentally ill. After all, “normal men” don’t murder women every single day (unless of course we count the 2 women a week murdered by current or former partner; women and girls brutally murdered by men during home invasions and robberies; the women raped and murdered in war zones and disaster areas; or any of the hundreds of thousands of examples of fatal male violence against women and girls every single day). The media is reporting that Rodger has Asperger’s Syndrome as an excuse for his killing but there is no clear evidence of a link between  Aspergers and such extreme forms of violence. Whether or not Rodger’s has a formal diagnosis of one of the very few mental illnesses which has links to perpetration of violence is to be seen, however, assuming that a man who murders women must be “mentally ill” is to ignore the real pattern of fatal male violence.

The media narrative in play is not one of open investigation of the brutal murder of 6 women but rather a poor, depressed man driven to murder because of sexual inadequacy and the refusal of women to have sex with him.  Granted, Elliot Rodger’s “confession video” is all about how girls aren’t attracted to him and how he will “punish them”. Rodger’s video is a performance of male entitlement . We live in a culture where men feel entitled to own and control women’s bodies: where men are raised  to believe they have the right to full access to women’s bodies whenever and wherever they want. This mass shooting of 6 women by one man is part of a culture of toxic masculinity. It is part of the spectrum of male violence against women and girls that includes everything from young boys pulling girls ponytails when they are 5 to snapping bra straps when they are 13 through to street harassment, domestic violence, rape and murder. This mass shooting of women to “punish them” is not unusual. We have seen it in the massacre of 14 women at a Polytechnique in Montreal. Every time a man brutally murders one women – we ignore or make excuses. When a man murders many at once – we make better excuses for them.

So far, media coverage has gone for salacious and unnecessary facts whilst erasing the clear evidence of misogyny. The Telegraph has gone with this headline:

California drive-by shooting: ‘Son of Hunger Games assistant director’ Elliot Rodger suspected of killing six

Obviously, the movie the perpetrator’s father worked on is more important than the 6 women murdered. Business Online went for crass with:

Business Online Forum For Sexually Frustrated Men Reacts To News That Mass Shooter May Be One Of Their Own

As if Rodger’s “sexual frustration” is a valid excuse for murdering women or his membership of an anti-pick up artist website ‘real’ evidence of his misogyny (as opposed every other think Rodger did on a daily basis which would have demonstrated it) . USA Today used a more factual headline but focused exclusively on language which blames women for Rodger’s crimes. Much of the media has insisted on pointing out that the area where the 6 women were murdered was “a known party area” insinuating that the victims were somehow responsible for being in the wrong place which caused their deaths rather than the Rodger’s choosing to kill them.

The media have taken great pleasure in quoting from Rodger’s youtube video where his hatred of women was quite clear:

the crime of living a better life than me

love you, to be loved by you, … i’ve wanted sex, I’ve wanted, love, affection, adoration. You think I’m unworthy of it and that’s crime that can never be forgiven. … You denied me a happy life and in turn I will deny all of you life.

What is also clear is Rodger’s entitlement to women’s bodies; not that the media is discussing this. Instead, there is some rather gleeful coverage of Rodger’s status of virgin and all the mean, nasty girls who refused to have sex with him driving Rodger to commit mass murder. There is no real question that actually Rodger was never entitled to have sex with any woman he wanted; that no man is entitled to have sexual access just because they desire it. This is nothing less than rape culture being perpetuated by a media desperate to make excuses for a violent man.

I’ve watched the video several times and I have yet to see the media refer to this quote:

I hate all of you sexually active men.

After all, Rodger didn’t kill any men and suggesting that he might have wanted to might cause unnecessary panic. It’s perfectly normal for men to kill women who “reject” them or who “make them jealous”.  Men don’t deserve fatal male violence; women do. Within our toxic culture of masculinity, it is perfectly reasonable for men to kill women. It isn’t for men to kill other. They do kill each other but it’s a problem that requires studies.

The mass murders committed by Rodger will remain mainstream news over the next few weeks covered by global media. It will not differ from the coverage for the last 24 hours: Rodger *must* be mentally ill regardless of any evidence to the contrary; that this is an “abnormal” event which is not linked to the clear spectrum of male violence against women and girls experience every day. We will hear lots of coverage of Rodger’s celebrity friends who will express shock and horror despite the fact that Hollywood, as with the rest of the world, is riddled with violent men who make the choice to harm women. We won’t hear very much about the 6 women who were brutally murdered or the 7 who are injured. We won’t hear of Rodger’s pattern of violence against women and girls – and there will be a pattern. We won’t hear about it because his friends, family and acquaintances will have minimised his behaviour over the years – just as they minimised the behaviour of all other men.

We live in a world of systemic male violence against women and girls. Rodger is no different than so many men who believe they are entitled to sexually access the bodies of women and girls and who blame women and girls for saying no. Rape culture means women and girls aren’t allowed to say no and any woman or girl who does deserves what happens to them. We will hear excuses for Rodger and we will hear lip service to the term toxic masculinity but no real attempt to actually deal with the problem of male violence.

Questioning toxic masculinity means questioning our capitalist-patriarchy. And, no man who has power within our culture is willing to change anything that might interfere with their power.

Men who kill choose to kill. Men who rape, assault and torture women choose to do so.  Rodger isn’t abnormal or mentally ill. The video he released on YouTube is the same justification given by millions of men who choose to harm women: it’s women’s fault for believing they are human too.

This is misogyny: the crime, the media coverage and the men desperate to excuse a killer.

UPDATE: I’ve not changed the text since I first published it. This is information released overnight:

  • police have confirmed that Elliot Rodger was the perpetrator.
  • he stabbed 3 male roommates in his apartment before beginning his shooting spree
  • he then headed to a sorority but was denied entry.
  • Rodger then shot two women  on the street
  • he drove away shooting one more male victim
  • and then shot himself
  • there is a document written by Rodger here detailing his plans


*The names of the victims have not yet been released. I will post them as soon as they are.

**I’ve seen Rodger’s name spelt as Elliott, Elliot and Eliot. I’m using the spelling given in the Telegraph which is the first coverage I’ve read.

These are the women murdered in Montreal by Marc Lepine

  • Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
  • Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
  • Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
  • Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department
  • Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
  • Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
  • Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
  • Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
  • Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
  • Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
  • Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student


20 thoughts on “We need to talk about systemic male violence not the “work of a madman””

    1. Je suis d’accord. Vous avez le reason. Mais touts les femmes q’ils sont morts n’est pas nécessairement feminists. Ils étaient humains. Féministes est nécessaire pour le monde, parce que le violence doit cesser.

  1. I agree with your post overall – however, one of the six killed was a man; a witness said so. Rodger’s line about “The crime of having lived a better life than me” was directed at men, not women. He was absolutely a creep with a serious issue with women, but he also hated men. He hated everyone.

    Two of the victims have been identified. Katie Cooper and Veronica Weiss.

    Here is a link to Rodger’s video so you can hear for yourself that he was focused on killing women, but intended to kill men as well:

    Rodger was on SSRIs. Why aren’t we having an honest discussion about overmedication and mental illness in this country?

    1. When I wrote this last night, the names of the victims had not been released and the media was reporting 6 women were shot in a drive-by. If you notice, there is already a link to the video in my post.

      1. That’s all well and good, but it’s not my responsibility to pay attention to time stamps. It’s your responsibility to write things with disclaimers instead of taking initial reports as fact. Now four men have been identified as being killed. That’s four out of his six victims.

        And if you’d linked the video, that means you watched it and intentionally misquoted him. He wasn’t referring to women when he said he hated them for having a better life. He was referring to men.

        This guy hated EVERYONE, not just women. However – let me make this CLEAR so you do not misunderstand me – I do agree that he was a misogynist who wanted to control women. Mentally ill or not, that is not okay.

        My issue is that you are making this extremely biased and intentionally twisting facts to further your agenda.

        I am a feminist and I am raising my children to be as such. However, there are holes in your story and I have pointed them out because irresponsible reporting on the matter, coupled with feminist writing, is a really great way for people to stop taking you seriously, thereby hurting the cause for equality.

        1. Actually, it is your responsibility to check the time stamp when you are reading something online. Otherwise, you make asinine mistakes and respond to articles from 2 years ago assuming the event happened today. This is literally the first thing we teach high school students. Assuming that you something you read today was written today is an utterly asinine position to take.

          Secondly, i wrote this in response to the media coverage. When I see comments like “irresponsible reporting” on a blog post based on information published by the media, I have to wonder if you bothered to take the time to go whining to the Washington Post, LA Times or BBC for reporting this case as a drive-by shooting of 6 women for the better part of 36 hours? I’m going to guess not because, well, people who come whining on feminist blogs to tell them they’re doing feminism wrong aren’t really interested in feminism or the fact that I don’t work for the Sheriff’s dept in Santa Barbara so am dependent on media coverage for detail. I’m also going to assume you haven’t bothered to go on men’s blogs to accuse them on being irresponsible because they took the LA Times coverage of a mass shooting as correct.

    2. Secondly, being on SSRIs, information which was not available when I wrote this, is not linked with high rates of violence against others. Yes, we need to talk about over-medication and mental illness but assuming this man killed because he was mentally ill (despite no formal diagnosis listed) is extremely dangerous. We know that the vast majority of people with mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violence than they are to commit violence but no one ever wants to talk about that: about how women and children with mental or physical disabilities are preyed on over and over again by violent men who rape them, beat them and terrorise them while we sit by and do nothing.

  2. The shooting victims are:

    Second-year student Christopher Martinez
    Fourth-year student Katie Cooper
    First-year student Veronika Weiss

    The suspect has officially been identified as Elliot Rodger. Three other victims, who have not been identified, were stabbed to death by Rodger inside his apartment.
    -UCSB Daily Nexus

  3. While i agree with a lot of what was said, there needs to be a line drawn here. ponytail pulling and bra snapping, while rude arent the only things that go on in schools, i’ve seen plenty of violence going back at boys too, on guy i know got kicked so hard in the testicles it burst one of them and noone even did anything. but there is a line to be drawn, as we grow up we shouldnt do those sorts of things anymore.

    1. Pony-tail pulling isn’t rude. It’s bullying. Snapping bras is sexual assault. And, my first question to a girl who kicked a man in the balls is if he raped her because, I bet he had.

      1. seriously? he was 13 and it was in a school hallway, one girl held him down and the other one repeatedly kicked him. You come accross as completely reactionary. I’m saying that the bullying goes both ways in early years. What you’re saying is that only men are capable of bullying and mistreatment which is borderline ridiculous.

        1. First of all, kicking other children isn’t bullying. It’s physical assault. Way to minimise there. Secondly, it is incredibly RARE for girls to lash out physically at boys without provocation, especially with something like you describe. If you do any research in education, social care or criminal justice, you’ll find that girls who physically assault boys in that manner have most likely been a victim of sexual abuse or rape perpetrated by the boy.

          This is the reality in which we live. Girls bullying exists – as does bullying by boys. Physical and sexual violence is almost all perpetrated by boys. When girls do engage in physical abuse, it’s usually in retaliation and girls who participate in sexual violence do it as the subordinate partner to a dominate male.

          Violence and bullying are gendered crimes. Pretending they aren’t helps no one. It just increases the risk children face of becoming victims.

  4. I don’t think that this issue, or any hate crime like it, can be divided along gender/sex lines without overgeneralizing either group. This issue isn’t a binary; it shouldn’t be “look at the male perpetrators” versus the “female victims”. Four out of the six people Elliot killed were men. So its not an issue of one gender fighting another gender. Feel bad for the boys who grow up learning that the only way they can show validation and express identity is through violence and hatred and aggression–that he couldnt find any form of expression other than killing because that’s all he was given. Consider the mother (or father) who feeds the ideology of a ” stronger male” to her son because that’s what SHE was taught and that’s how she believes her son will succeed in the world. And consider the mother (or father) who teaches her daughter how to be a lady and accommodating because that’s the only way she knows women can survive in society. If you’re a girl, consider a time when you’ve ever said a guy was inadequate because of how he looked or acted, reinforcing the same ideology you think is harmful. If we are going to talk about the “culture’s fault” or “society’s poisonous ideology” then we are talking about “OUR poisonous ideology”. The creation of an ultra-masculine, assertive, violent man is created my men AND women, perpetuated in the little things and expectations that men AND women have, a role assigned TO men rather than something they choose, and a reality suffered by women because of it. My point is that, although Elliot rhetoric was to seek revenge on women, the perpetrators and the victims are NOT divided along a sex-defined line. Gay men, men that don’t act up to scratch, women–all suffer from the age-old patriartical idea of an ” adequate man”. Sure, misogyny kills, but it kills both men and women.

    1. Rodger wanted to kill women. He said so in multiple videos on YouTube as well as 141 page manifesto. He killed his roommates out of jealousy and then he went to a sorority to kill women. The men he killed were bystanders. They were not the target of his rage. Why do you feel the need to ignore what Rodger actually said? If there were 40 women in the sorority and he had gained entry, he was well equipped to kill all 40 within a very small time frame. He couldn’t get in so he killed the first two women he saw on the street. Does his intent not matter in the desperate attempt to pretend this isn;t about misogyny.

  5. (I’m noticing that you aren’t allowing my comment to post…which is fine, however you also seem to be stuck on the idea that misogyny doesn’t go hand-in-hand with male vs. male violence as well. They are complementary. They lean on each other to survive. Rodgers also said he hated the men who were getting the attention that he was not getting from women. He felt inadequate, based on our society’s definition of ‘real’ manhood, and felt isolated from both other men, and women. While the majority of his rage was indeed directed against women, we can’t ignore the fact that his rage against sexually active male peers was real, as well. The story that explains both is one of hegemonic masculinity, which teaches boys and men to compete with one another for masculine status, and use their power over each other as well as over women, to demonstrate this status, thereby proving their worth as ‘real’ men in our culture. Please, consider spreading awareness around these greater historical patterns and forces when arguing w/less knowledgeable commenters? You’re doing great work here. Thanks!)

    1. This is the first comment from you that I’ve seen. I’ve just checked the spam filter and I don’t see any in there.

  6. Oh! It was a comment about the nature of hegemonic masculinity, that Patriarchy limits our boys and men to, creating a pressure cooker in which they must constantly prove themselves, and if they don’t feel adequate they are left isolated, with low self-esteem and almost no tools for understanding and expressing their sadness, pain and fear. So they act in anger, with aggression, because these behaviors fit within what they’ve been taught are expected and appropriate. The point is that I agree with you of course, violence is a gendered issue, violence against women AND violence against men, by men, for these reasons. In no way am I interested in stripping responsibility from Rogers (or any of the countless shooters, etc., who engage in violent behaviors against men and women every day but are not reported on or blogged about because of the color of their skin and the economic conditions of their homes). I am merely adding that there is a deeper analysis to be done, than simply saying that our society teaches men and boys that it’s ok to be entitled to women’s bodies. They are taught this-but WHY? That’s all I wanted to shed light on, so that we can move our feminist conversations in a direction that welcomes males as vulnerable human beings as well (WITHOUT excusing their bad behavior). Dismantle the patriarchy!! <3

Leave a Reply