ELLIOT RODGER: I hate women because they won’t fuck me. (kills 4 men, 2 women and then himself)
SOME WOMEN: Rodger was driven by misogyny. Misogyny is appalling, widespread, and largely denied.
#notallmen: Not all men are like that.
#yesallwomen: That’s not the point. All women experience sexism.
— The End (at least til next time) –
We are already part of this conversation whether we like it or not. This is true simply because it is occurring within the Anglophone cultural space (and maybe elsewhere), and it is large enough that it is impacting that space. So whether we engage with it or not, it has an impact on us all.
It’s obviously of benefit to many women – they are putting a lot of energy into it, which is great for them. But it’s not getting anywhere for men, and so it’s not helping men and women to connect further.
I totally accept that this conversation is going on. More than that, I want the conversation to go on because it holds a massive potential opportunity for men – if we’re willing to change the script. We can’t change the “women” part, but we can change the “men” part. I want men to go back and have a look at that package women call ‘misogyny’. That word is a label created by women to name a pattern of behaviours women experience. Great stuff – big step forward for women.
But that doesn’t describe how it is for men inside. For men to accept the validity of that label, as the #notallmen people implicitly do, is to give away our autonomy to name our own experience.
I suggest the experience inside the set of behaviours labelled misogyny is something closer to disempowerment. Hatred of women makes perfect sense when I have given away certain crucial powers to women. Elliot Rodger has given to women the power to validate him through sex. So he’s stuck: he won’t feel validated unless a person external to himself – a woman – does something he wants. And when a woman won’t fuck him, that’s invalidating for him. His response is to lash out with violence. Which, oddly enough, fails spectacularly for him.
This is not just Rodgers’ internal world. It is a culture-wide phenomenon in which men are trained to dissociate from our own sexual beingness and to project our sexuality (and a whole bunch of other stuff) onto women. Thus, what “the woman” does has a massive impact on us because, crucially, we are not really present as autonomous beings in the relating. We are impacted by what “the woman” does as if she is part of our internal world rather than a separate being herself.
This whole process is not ‘natural’, and its nothing to do with penises. It’s a cultural effect, a socially-produced ‘masculinity’ which we have to learn to do. From within that masculinity it seems like a whole bunch of stuff is the fault of women. But actually it’s created through complex interactions involving men, women, social institutions and cultural norms.
When we claim our own experience of the behaviours labelled as misogyny, we access a pathway to change which is within the grasp of men. More than that, naming our disempowerment around our own sexuality brings clear benefits to men: it’s a first step to being empowered, we get to have a richer and deeper connection with our own sexuality, and we get to relate to women as interestingly different people.