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Discussion of the Santa Barbara man who killed his roommates and then went out shooting sorority women is dominating online space. People are expressing sadness, shock, and outrage concerning a number of various aspects from this tragic event.

Yes, there are issues concerning mental illness and gun control, but the realities of misogynist culture must not be downplayed in this story, especially after the shooter left a video about why he did it: blaming women for denying him what he wanted (sexual response).

Here are just two of the many voices that need to be heard (with short excerpts from their articles so worth reading):

The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein, “Rape Culture and The Myth of the Random Psycho” on her blog, PeaceBang:

The term “rape culture,” which has been in use for some time among younger feminists – particularly in the context of the sexual entitlement and sexual violence-soaked climate of American college campuses — makes many people uncomfortable. But it is a term that I want to use here in order to stand in solidarity with the younger and more outspoken generation that coined it, and in order to support the work of confronting the sick sexual culture in which Elliot Rodger’s mental illness progressed. Rodger left a manifesto that makes it absolutely clear that his actions were developed, pre-meditated and carried out because women he lusted after did not respond to him. For this “crime,” he murdered them.

The Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, “Yes, There Is a War On Women and #YesAllWomen” in Huffington Post:

The hashtag #YesAllWomen started trending on Twitter soon after the shootings, giving testimony to the widespread culture of violence against women and to how it is becoming almost acceptable. The #YesAllWomen is a furious rebuttal to the familiar ‘not all men’ argument that deflects analysis of rape culture and redirects it to individual male behaviors.

If you read the Twitter feed, you will scroll through fear, rage, heartbreak, courage, lament, insightful analysis of rape culture, as the tweet above demonstrates, and more. It is a virtual tour of the battlefield of the war on women. You can, for a time, actually witness to the fact that all day long, all night long, every day and every night, the bodies of women and girls are turned into a battlefield. Their bodies are penetrated against their will; they are burned, maimed, bruised, slapped, kicked, threatened with a weapon, confined, beaten with fists or objects, shot, knifed; their bones are broken, they lose limbs, sight, hearing, pregnancies, and their sense of personal and physical integrity. They are terrorized and they are killed.

The Twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen has incredible traffic right now: with women sharing their experiences, and many males voicing support. Predictably, there has been some backlash: some voiced on #NotAllMen. This tag has existed for a while, and it’s often used in counterpoints to feminist arguments. However, in the wake of the shooting, tweets with #NotAllMen are more likely to be in support of #YesAllWomen than arguing against feminism. (via Mashable’s “How the #YesAllWomen Hashtag Began”)

Having said that, the trolls are still out on both hashtags. The Mashable article reports:

The tag originated on May 24 in a Twitter conversation involving writer Annie Cardi (@anniecardi) and another woman who has since changed her account to private to protect her identity, Cardi told Mashable. Cardi says she was the second person to use the tag (after her friend) and sees herself as a supporter of the phenomenon rather than an originator.

(Cardi has since had to protect her Twitter account as well…)

Phil Plait’s Slate article “#YesAll Women. #NotAllMen: How not to Derail Discussions of Women’s Issues” deals with “…a narrower point here, and that has to do with men and women, and their attitudes toward each other.”:

Why is it not helpful to say “not all men are like that”? For lots of reasons. For one, women know this. They already know not every man is a rapist, or a murderer, or violent. They don’t need you to tell them.

Second, it’s defensive. When people are defensive, they aren’t listening to the other person; they’re busy thinking of ways to defend themselves….

Third, the people saying it aren’t furthering the conversation, they’re sidetracking it. The discussion isn’t about the men who aren’t a problem. (Though, I’ll note, it can be. I’ll get back to that.) Instead of being defensive and distracting from the topic at hand, try staying quiet for a while and actually listening to what the thousands upon thousands of women discussing this are saying….

Plait’s fourth point is illustrated elsewhere in a guest article by Phaedra Starling on Shapely Prose, A GUY’S GUIDE TO APPROACHING STRANGE WOMEN WITHOUT BEING MACED. From her entry:

If you expect me to trust you—to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy—you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.

Fortunately, you’re a good guy. We’ve already established that. Now that you’re aware that there’s a problem, you are going to go out of your way to fix it, and to make the women with whom you interact feel as safe as possible.

To begin with, you must accept that I set my own risk tolerance. When you approach me, I will begin to evaluate the possibility you will do me harm. That possibility is never 0%. For some women, particularly women who have been victims of violent assaults, any level of risk is unacceptable. Those women do not want to be approached, no matter how nice you are or how much you’d like to date them. Okay? That’s their right. Don’t get pissy about it. Women are under no obligation to hear the sales pitch before deciding they are not in the market to buy.

Additionally, Weinstein wrote a post “A Time to Speak Up, and a Time to Shut Up” on a “usually thoughtful male Christian minister” who sought compassion for “how this young man was suffering”:

The institutional Church — Catholic and Protestant — has a thick crust of blood on its hands as a result of centuries of preaching understanding and empathy to abused women and other victims of sexual violence, locking women into a strictly obedient and nurturing role, forcing them to return to abusive relationships with men and silencing them through discipline and torture. It is not just tone-deaf for a contemporary clergyman to express sympathy for the murderer at this moment of justified female rage; it is a time-honored, sexist abuse of spiritual authority.

By introducing theological reflection on compassion (which is just one small theological jump from forgiveness) hours after an act of misogynist extremism that generated an outpouring of passionate witnessing by women, this representative of the Church executed a rhetorical body blow powered by the dual power of male privilege and spiritual authority. Am I repeating myself? I’m okay with that. The author may have written his piece in a disarmingly pastoral tone, but he unquestionably implied that good Christian girls would be praying for Elliott Rodger instead of tweeting in solidarity with their sisters to #YesAllWomen.


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Megan Castellan

We need to be careful not to act like this event was some new occurrence in extremist misogyny. It’s not.

The conversation around violence against women has been happening for a while now–it’s just that this particular event has caused it to break into the mainstream.

In the spring, a high school boy stabbed a girl who refused his invitation to prom, and killed her. In 2009, a man angry about his divorce went to a women’s gym and killed several people. His suicide note cited grievances similar to the current shooter’s.

It’s also worth mentioning that the college student who started the #YesAllWomen hashtag has had to close her social media accounts due to the volume of threats and abuse she’s received over the last few days.

Kit Carlson

To read the #yesallwomen feed is also to be exposed to the ongoing scourge of misogyny,as men are using the hashtag to post hateful, denigrating and lewd commentary. Some of it seems to be trying to be “funny.” It’s not.

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