In addition to the original reporting, I’ve read three blog posts on the Elliot Rodger story today. Two are from friends, and one is by Laurie Penny at The New Statesman. In Laurie’s post, she writes:
Misogyny is nothing new, but there is a specific and frightening trend taking place, and if we’re not going to accept it, we have to call it by its name.
The name she offers is “misogynist extremism.”
Violent extremism always attracts the lost, the broken, young men full of rage at the hand they’ve been dealt. Violent extremism entices those who long to lash out at a system they believe has cheated them, but lack they courage to think for themselves, beyond the easy answers they are offered by pedlars of hate. Misogynist extremism is no different. For some time now misogynist extremism has been excused, as all acts of terrorism committed by white men are excused, as an aberration, as the work of random loons, not real men at all.
I get Laurie’s sentiment, but I think she’s wrong to call this by that name. There is no doubt that misogyny, plain and simple, was behind Elliot’s rampage. And that’s exactly what it was—misogyny, plain and simple. When you make misogynist modify extremism, you let regular misogynists off the hook for their behavior, and you put Elliot in a category of irrational actors beyond help, which is how we think of extremists.
Calling Elliot Roger a misogynist extremist unwittingly condones the behavior of misogynists who haven’t gone on killing sprees. They become “one of the good ones.” After all, they are moderates, right?
On the other hand, calling Elliot Roger a misogynist makes him one with every other person out there who maintains a hateful or superior attitude towards women. Their behavior should be just as reviled as Elliot Roger’s. If misogyny is seen by everyone as an ill when it’s manifested in something as simple as making snide comments about co-workers because they’re female, then there will be far less tolerance for the ridiculous misogynist subcultures to which Eliot and others like him belong.
The story of Elliot Rogers should be seen as an example of social failure at every step along his corpse-littered path. That there was a men’s rights / pick-up movement that he could fall into was a failure in our society. That misogyny is so commonplace that we aren’t weirded out by “game” guys is a social failure. That he so easily turned away police who had been warned about him was a social failure. It goes without saying that our gun-craziness is also a social failure. This isn’t to paint Elliot the victim- that label is reserved for the people he wounded and murdered. He is, however, a product of our society that essentially co-signed everything he thought and did up until he took other people’s lives.
Let’s call this tragedy what it is: misogyny. And let’s call that extremism. That’s how we prevent future Elliot Rogers.