Tag Archives: rape culture

FCKH8 Exploits Little Girls In Order To Sell T-Shirts

22 Oct

Trigger warning for rape

Yesterday, FCKH8 released a video called F-Bombs for Feminism: Potty Mouthed Princesses Use Bad Words for Good Cause that quickly went viral, and has been shared hundreds of thousands of times on Facebook alone. This isn’t surprising – it’s a video designed to hit that marketing sweet spot where people are equal parts outraged, delighted and just plain not sure what to think. I’d be willing to bet that this video has had nearly as many hate-shares and “is this offensive?” shares as it has people posting it because they think it’s great.

FCKH8’s video is carefully calculated to appeal to a certain type of young, hip feminist (as well as being designed to cause offence and outrage among right-wing conservatives). It starts out with a bunch of sweet little girls wearing princess costumes striking stereotypically cute poses and simpering “pretty” at the camera. Then there’s a record scratch, and suddenly the girls are throwing out cuss words left, right and centre: “What the fuck? I’m not some pretty fuckin’ helpless princess in distress. I’m pretty fuckin’ powerful and ready for success. So what is more offensive? A little girl saying ‘fuck,’ or the fucking unequal and sexist way society treats girls and women?”

The video then has the sweet, princessified little girls tackle a bunch of feminist issues, namely the pay gap, violence against women, and sexual assault – all while swearing up a storm, of course. What FCKH8 wants you to take away from this is that society feels more uncomfortable about cute little girls saying the word fuck than it does about the very real issues faced by women on a daily basis. Instead, what I see is a video that relies on the shock value of girls in princess costumes cussing and talking about rape in order to increase its shareability.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: this video is not some kind of PSA, it’s an advertisement. FCKH8 is a for-profit t-shirt company – emphasis on the profit – that has put together an exploitative and manipulative two minute and thirty five second commercial for t-shirts. And while FCKH8 asserts that all of this is “for a good cause” (they’ve promised to donate $5 from each t-shirt sale to as-yet-undisclosed organizations) the only cause that’s being promoted by this video is their bank account.

There is nothing feminist about using little girls as props in order to sell t-shirts – in fact, I would argue that this is the opposite of feminism. There is nothing feminist about exploiting a bunch of little girls by having them swear and talk about rape statistics just so that FCKH8 can make a quick buck. There is nothing feminist about creating an association between potty-mouthed little kids and social justice – and that’s not a slight against potty-mouths, because I fucking love swearing, but rather a statement on the fact that this video plays into a lot of the negative stereotypes that people already have about feminism.

On top of all that, there is for sure nothing feminist about having girls as young as six years old discussing rape and sexual assault; I would hope that at that age, most kids have never even heard the word rape, let alone had to recite facts about it for an audience of thousands, maybe even millions. I feel sick that these children are being taught about subjects like rape just so that a t-shirt company can make a provocative advertisement. The point that especially crosses the line between “this is problematic” and “I want to flip a table” is the moment where the five little girls spout off the statistic that one in five women will be raped in their lifetime, and then ask which of them it will be. Having a little girl demand to know if she’ll be raped just so that you can sell a few shirts is so far beyond the realm of what should be acceptable that I have no words for it.

This is not how we protect our children. This is not how we empower girls. Forcing a child to ask an audience of adults if she’ll someday become a rape statistic so that your company can line its pockets with cash is definitely not the way to practice social justice.

This isn’t the first time that FCKH8 has done this kind of thing either – they recently came under fire after they exploited the events in Ferguson in order to sell “anti-racism gear.” As with the F-Bomb Princess video, the Ferguson video featured a bunch of children rattling off facts about racism before promising to donate a portion of each t-shirt sale to some unspecified charity. This is their business model, apparently: take something that people care deeply about, commodify it, and then make money. As a strategy, it’s slick and smart as hell. It’s also pretty unethical.

Feminism isn’t a commodity that can be bought and sold. Rape statistics should not be used as a sales tactic. Children do not exist to be used as provocateurs in manipulative advertisement campaigns for clothing.

It would be really great if FCKH8 would realize that using little girls as shock-value props in their t-shirt commercial is not feminist in any sense of the word. No little kid should have to wonder aloud whether or not they’ll be raped one day, and especially not just so some grownup can make money.

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Reign’s Rape Problem

20 Oct

TW for rape

When I first heard about the CW show Reign, I knew that it was going to be my next guilty pleasure. A young Mary Stuart and her ladies-in-waiting living with Catherine de’Medici in Renaissance France? Yes please. Court intrigue and awkward teenage romance? Yes please. Weird pagans in the woods and flower crowns and a murderous queen and a (very anachronistically hot and young) Nostradamus? DOUBLE YES PLEASE. PASS THE FLOWER CROWNS, SON, I’M IN.

I talked my friend into watching it with me, and by the end of the first episode we were both hooked. We would make a ritual out of it – order a pizza, get a bottle of wine, and then sit down to make fun of plot holes and not-very-historically-accurate clothing and overblown teenage FEELINGS for an hour. But as much as we giggled over the poor life choices of the characters, and as often as I yelled “NOBODY WORE TUTUS IN THE 16TH CENTURY,” we developed a real fondness for the show.

And why not? There’s honestly a lot to like. Reign is all about the various ways that women wield power, both in gross and subtle ways. It’s about the relationships between women, and the electrical charges of jealousy and sneaky competitiveness that often sour them. It’s about female sexuality – in fact, the pilot featured a pretty hot-n-heavy female masturbation scene. To top it all off, every single episode of the series so far passes the Bechdel test, meaning that there is always at least one scene involving two women who talk to each other about something other than a man – which I know doesn’t sound like very discriminating criteria, but you would be surprised how many pieces of media fail to meet even this grimly minimal standard. But not Reign! Reign has, for all of its quirks, been generally pretty pro kick-ass women, a fact which I’ve really appreciated.

Plus I’m also here for the elaborate hair styles an the dark, secret poisons and the dudes in tight leggings. But I digress.

This week, a spoiler for an upcoming episode of Reign was leaked. This spoiler revealed that in an upcoming episode of the show, Mary will be violently raped. This rape, by the way, will not be a portrayal of a historical fact. Instead, it will be used as a plot device, a ratings grab and a cheap facsimile for character development.

Rape as a plot device is a lazy way to show a strong woman’s “vulnerability,” all the while demeaning and exploiting the experiences of real-life rape survivors. Rape as a plot device is also often used to take female characters down a peg, to put them in their place, to force them to rely on men for protection. Rape as character development is most often used as what Chris Osterndorf refers to as “an explain-all for complicated female characters” – in fact, we’ve already seen Reign pull that old trope with Queen Catherine, when it tossed in a quick rape story to justify her actions and make her more sympathetic to viewers.

None of these are good reasons to include a rape scene in a film or book or television show; I am disgusted that the writers and producers of Reign would use sexual assault to somehow drive the arc of the show forward or reshape Mary’s character. There is absolutely no reason to show Mary being violently raped, and doing so will only have harmful results.

People who defend this scene will say that it’s accurate, perhaps not in a way that’s specific to Mary Stuart, but in a broader, historical context. They’ll argue that Reign is fairly portraying how prevalent violence against women was in 16th century Europe. They’ll smugly explain that these types of scenes create awareness about rape.

First of all, let me assure you that everyone is aware of rape. Women, especially, are painfully aware of the threat of sexual assault. We live with that threat every damn day, and we don’t need a television show to educate us on how frightening and dangerous life as a girl can be.

Second of all, these scenes nearly always sensationalize rape, using the act of sexual assault to shock or create intrigue in audiences. They are not thoughtful portrayals of a difficult and incredibly sensitive subject; they play into the pervasive media narrative that centres violence itself instead of the experiences of women. These scenes also desensitize audiences to the issue of violence against women, especially when a rape is used to drive the plot forward – when rape is just a mechanism to make a character behave a certain way or do a certain thing, the very real emotional fallout that rape survivors experience is often only briefly touched on, and certainly almost never given the gravity and attention it deserves.

Rape is not a plot device. It is not character development. It is not a great way for television shows to get higher ratings. Rape is something that one in four women will experience in their lifetime. It is not something that should ever be used for shock or entertainment value.

Please, writers and producers of Reign, re-write this scene. You are better than this. You show is better than this. You’ve got something really wonderful and unique going on – please don’t foul it up now. And to everyone else reading, please go sign this petition. Even if you don’t watch the show. Do it for the women you know who are rape survivors. Do it for all the teenage girls watching the show who don’t need to see one of their heroines subjected to sexual assault just to close up some screenwriter’s plot hole. Or just do it because it’ll take five seconds and it’s the right thing to do.

Flower Crowns R Us

Flower Crowns R Us

Sheriff’s Office Re-Victimizes Rape Survivors

6 Oct

Trigger warning for rape

When Lori O’Brannon found a card in the mail from Clark County Sheriff’s office addressed to her 18 year old daughter Josie, she didn’t give it much thought. The card, a blue, standard post-card sized piece of cardboard, said that the evidence department had something to release to Josie. Lori figured that it was probably something innocent enough, left over from Josie’s wilder days when, as Lori put it, Josie had “been in trouble” a few times. So Lori called the number on the card, made an appointment, and drove Josie to pick up the “evidence.”

Neither of them could have predicted what was actually in the brown paper bag that the Sheriff’s office handed to her: a soiled grey shorts and a pair of women’s underwear. Both Josie and Lori recognized the articles immediately – they were what Josie had been wearing just over three years earlier, when she’d been raped the day before her 15th birthday. The clothing had been collected by PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Centre (the same hospital, in fact, where Josie had been born) as part of the rape kit done shortly after her assault.

She was being given back the evidence of her rape.

Josie, who her mother describes as a “tough little fighter,” started to shake at the sight of the bag, with its huge red BIOHAZARD sticker and neatly typed label showing Josie’s name, age, date of birth. Lori, a rape survivor herself, knew that her first priority was to get her daughter out of there before she collapsed. She stuffed the evidence bag in her trunk, managed to get Josie into the passenger side, and headed for home. Lori remembers thinking during the drive home that she might throw up; Josie said she felt like she’d been hit by a truck.

A few days later, when she felt a bit calmer, Lori called the Clark County Sheriff’s office to find out why, exactly, this had happened. She was hoping that it was all some kind of accident. Maybe there had been a miscommunication. Maybe the person who sent out the little blue cards hadn’t realized exactly what the “evidence” in question was in this particular case. Surely this couldn’t have been done on purpose? Surely someone would apologize and promise that it would never happen again. But no, Lori was told, this was standard procedure. The clothing was Josie’s property, and the sheriff’s office was simply returning it. There was nothing more to it than that.

Like most rape survivors, Josie knows exactly who her rapist was. And like most rapists, he was never convicted. The evidence bag from the sheriff’s office was a harsh reminder of these facts; ever since receiving it, Josie has been struggling to function. She has daily, debilitating headaches, sometimes so bad that she throws up. When she sleeps, there are always nightmares. When she’s awake, even the most innocuous things can trigger vivid flashbacks. Lori is struggling to get Josie some kind of help, but she hasn’t had much luck. The local YWCA mentioned getting both Josie and her mother into a rape survivor support group, but Lori doesn’t know what to do until then.

Josie

Josie

What she does know is that she never wants another rape survivor to have to go through what Josie has gone through.

“We are not ashamed,” says Lori. “We are angry.”

Both Lori and Josie want this story to be told. They hope that by sharing what has happened to Josie they might prevent the same thing from happening to anyone else. No one should have to be re-victimized in this way. No rape survivor should ever have to experience the trauma of being given back the clothing they were wearing when they were raped. This specific type of suffering one hundred percent preventable, and the onus is on law enforcement to make sure that rape survivors do not have to experience this.

I often hear people complain that they don’t think that rape culture exists, or else that it’s just a clever term with no real meaning. Well, if you need evidence of rape culture, here it is, contained perfectly in a single picture:

evidence bag

Rape culture is the fact that no one thought twice about having a teenager come pick up the outfit she was raped in. Rape culture is the fact this teenager was summoned to come pick up her “evidence” with a little blue postcard that gave absolutely no indication of what was waiting for her at the sheriff’s office. Rape culture is the fact that the manager of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office had no response for Lori other than “it’s procedure” when Lori called to ask why this had happened. Rape culture is the fact that the manager sounded bored when Lori told her that their standard procedure was “horrible and wrong.” Rape culture is the fact that Josie’s rapist is still out there somewhere, free and easy, while Josie can barely get out of bed.

That’s rape culture.

Halifax man sentenced to only five years in prison after years of rape and abuse of young girl

9 Sep

TW for rape, child abuse, victim-blaming

There is a story in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald today about a woman who was sexually abused by her mother and her mother’s common-law boyfriend from the age of eleven. It started with the man coming into the girl’s bedroom at night and reaching up under her nightie to fondle her; she screamed for her mother, but her mother was too drunk to respond. When the girl was twelve, her mother – her own mother – coached her on giving blow jobs to this man. The abuse continued until the girl was fifteen, often taking the form of, in her words, a “sick threesome” with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend.

When the girl was fifteen she told her mother’s boyfriend that she would report him to the police. He told her that she couldn’t, because her mother was too deeply implicated. “How could you do this to your own mother?” were his exact words.

After that the abuse stopped. Eleven years later the girl, now married with children of her own, pressed charges against her abusers.

Both the girl’s mother and the man, who separated several years ago, plead guilty. The mother was supposed to be sentenced this week, but her case was adjourned until the end of the month. The man was sentenced recently in a Halifax provincial court to five years in prison.

Five. Years.

This man preyed on a young girl – a young girl who also happened to be his live-in girlfriend’s daughter – for four years. For three of those years he demanded oral sex from her almost every day. From a twelve year old. With her mother’s “help.” As a child – and I cannot emphasize enough that she was a child throughout all of this – she spent four years being raped on a near-daily basis.

I can’t even imagine the toll that this has taken on her. She will live with the emotional and physical fallout of these experiences for the rest of her life.

And him? The rapist? Well, he’ll be free as a bird in five years’ time. 

Why only five years? Because, according to Crown attorney Chris Nicholson, the man was smart enough to plead guilty and he had no previous criminal record.

I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that a person required a previous criminal record in order to receive adequate sentencing for years of abuse and rape of a minor. 

This story has received almost no attention. A friend of mine in Halifax tried to contact the national media, but they just took her name and number and said they would call her back. They never called her back. They either just weren’t interested or else felt that it was too contentious – but given the high-profile treatment other rape cases have received in the media, the latter doesn’t seem very likely, does it? Perhaps they were put off by the fact that the complainant’s identity is protected by a publication ban but, again, that didn’t stop anyone when it came to Steubenville’s Jane Doe, did it? And anyway what’s important here isn’t who the complainant is, but the fact that our court system seems to have so little regard for what happened to her. What’s important is that other young girls (and boys, for that matter) feel safe coming forward with these types of accusations. A sentence of five years will not make anyone feel safe.

The unbelievably light sentencing and the lack of media attention shows how little we value the safety of young girls. I mean, we’re happy to provide them with all kinds of tips on how not to get raped, but when they are assaulted – often, as in this case, in their own home and by someone they know and trust – we check out. We’re done. We stop talking about it. Because maybe she somehow provoked it, or maybe she didn’t fight him off hard enough, or maybe it’s just too sad and uncomfortable and we don’t want to think about it. We don’t want to accept that this type of abuse is the reality for so many kids out there.

Five years in prison, you guys. That is what our court system thinks is an adequate punishment for repeatedly raping a young girl from the time she was eleven until she was fifteen. Five years for a lifetime of shame and hurt, and the media doesn’t care. No one seems to care. 

This is what rape culture looks like. 

Halifax courthouse

Halifax courthouse

What Happened To Jennifer Lawrence Was Sexual Assault

2 Sep

TW for talk of sexual assault, victim blaming, misogyny

You’ve probably heard about the nude photographs of Jennifer Lawrence that were leaked online yesterday. The leak also included nude pictures of Kirsten Dunst, Ariana Grande, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and several other women, but, naturally, it’s Lawrence who’s drawing most of the heat because she’s super-famous right now. She’s also known for being charmingly awkward and honestly if I had to place any bets I would guess that most people were hoping that she would respond to this with some kind of hilariously crass Real Talk about sex and her body and being naked. I keep seeing comments by people who want her to provide the punchline to this joke; what they don’t seem to understand is that this is not a joke, this is a form of sexual assault.

Jennifer Lawrence and the other women involved in this leak were photographed in the nude with their consent – however, they did not consent to having those pictures published publicly. And just to be very, very clear here because the last thing that I want is for someone to misunderstand what I’m saying: lack of consent in a sexual act – in this case sharing nude photographs against someone’s will – is what makes this sexual assault. The person or people who leaked these photographs committed a sex crime, and it should be treated as one. Anyone who chooses to look at those photographs is complicit in that crime. Unless Jennifer Lawrence has specifically given you permission to look at these specific nude pictures of her, doing so violates her privacy. It doesn’t matter that she’s famous, or that you don’t know her personally. It double doesn’t matter that she’s hot. Looking at those photographs is a violation of her person, end of sentence, full stop.

Another thing that we need to be very clear about: this leak was not Jennifer Lawrence’s fault, or the fault of anyone else whose nude pictures were shared without their consent. It did not happen because they had nude pictures stored on their phones or in iCloud. It did not happen because their passwords weren’t good enough. It was not an accident. It happened because someone decided to deliberately commit a theft of personal property. It happened because someone leaked that private personal property online. It happened because of an illegal act committed on purpose by one or several people. It did not happen because some hot famous women just weren’t careful enough.

But women can never be careful enough, can we? If we take naked pictures of ourselves, we’re asking for it. If someone can manage to hack into our accounts, we’re asking for it. If we’re not wearing anti-rape nail polish, we’re asking for it. If we don’t take self-defence classes, we’re asking for it. If we get drunk, we’re asking for it. If our skirts are too short, we’re asking for it. If we pass out at a party, we’re asking for it. If we are not hyper-vigilant every single fucking second of every single fucking day, we are asking for it. Even when we are hyper-vigilant, we’re still asking for it. The fact that we exist is asking for it.

This is what rape culture looks like.

This is what misogyny looks like.

They look like Perez Hilton posting Jennifer Lawrence’s nude photographs on his site, and then refusing to take them down because the story is “too big to ignore,” and anyway the pictures are “no big deal” and “HOT.”

They look like this dude, whose response to one of the leak victims was to tell her that he masturbated to her pictures:

ETA: @zaiger has apparently deleted his tweet, but it was in response to this:

They look like this notice on Reddit, where the nude photographs are being shared without any consequences, forbidding anyone from posting information about the people who leaked the photographs.

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 8.12.37 PM

And these are just a few small samples. If you need more evidence of how disgusting people are being, feel free to search for “Jennifer Lawrence” on twitter and take a quick gander at how many people are blaming her for being the victim of a crime, or else celebrating the fact that they have access to pictures of her that she had intended to keep private. Many people are doing both in the same fucking tweet, because that’s the world we live in. Because it’s fine to participate in a sex crime as long as you think it was the victim’s fault. Because women are just never careful enough, and they deserve whatever’s coming to them. After all, that’s the real message here, isn’t it?

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Robin Thicke and the Dynamics of Abuse

23 Jun

TW for domestic violence, abuse and rape

Robin Thicke is gross.

I mean, we knew that already, of course.

But today he has somehow managed to surpass his former grossitude and shot up through the I Can’t Even atmosphere and into the Outer Space Repository of Hella Gross Dudes.

But what could possibly have caused this intense leveling-up, you may well ask. How could he have done something worse than penning the summer’s unofficial rape album?

Well, for starters, he announced the release and official track list of his new album, Paula. Paula, by the way, refers to his estranged wife, Paula Patton. She recently left him. This album is his attempt to win her back.

Let’s take a look at the song titles, shall we?
1. “You’re My Fantasy”

2. “Get Her Back”

3. “Still Madly Crazy”

4. “Lock the Door”

5. “Whatever I Want”

6. “Living in New York City”

7. “Love Can Grow Back”

8. “Black Tar Cloud”

9. “Too Little Too Late”

10. “Tippy Toes”

11. “Something Bad”

12. “The Opposite of Me”

13. “Time of Your Life”

14. “Forever Love”

It’s honestly like reading an abuser’s check-list. She’s his fantasy. He needs to get her back. He’ll isolate her, maybe refuse to let her leave. He’ll lock the door. He’ll do whatever he wants. Because love can grow back. Because it’s a forever love.

These apologies, entreaties, promises and veiled threats are all a typical part of the cycle of abuse.  This is what psychologist Leonore E. Walker calls the “Reconciliation/Honeymoon Phase” – the abuser feels guilty, is contrite. He or she makes grand gestures of their affection, constructs elaborate apologies. They promise never to hurt their loved one again. They might promise to get help (though most likely they won’t). If that doesn’t work, they might threaten suicide or self-injury in order to gain sympathy or otherwise manipulate the situation. They will do literally anything they can to convince their victim not to leave them.

The cycle continues when the abused person, whether out of fear or out of genuine belief that things will get better, decides to reconcile.

All right, you might be saying, some of those track names are pretty questionable, but surely that doesn’t mean that Robin Thicke is an abusive partner, does it?

Well, take that track list in conjunction with the video for his new single “Get Her Back” that Thicke released today, and you might find yourself feeling a little more convinced.

The video is filled with texts that were, we are supposed to believe, exchanged by Thicke and Patton.

Here are the texts supposedly sent by Patton:

“I kept trying to warn you you were pushing me too far…”

“We had everything.”

“Why Why Why Why Why???”

“You drink too much.”

“You embarrassed me.”

“I can’t make love to you anymore.”

“I don’t even know who you are.”

“You ruined everything.”

“I have to go.”

“How could you do that to me?”

“you’re reckless”

And here are Thicke’s texts:

“I’m sorry.”

“Can I talk to you?”

“I hate myself.”

“Can I come see you?” (to which Patton apparently replies “It’s too soon.”)

“I wrote a whole album about you.” (which elicits the response “I don’t care.”)

“I miss u”

“This is just the beginning.”

That last text, by the way, is posted over a blurry image of Thicke walking away, his posture tense, ready for a fight. The words read very much like a threat.

This video is not romantic. It is an attempt by Thicke to use his huge public platform to manipulate and shame his wife into getting back together with him. Now, if she says no, she becomes the bad guy, and he becomes the victim. In fact, he’s already making himself out to be the victim – between his sad I’m-so-awful-and-pathetic texts, and the fact that his face is cut and bloody in the video, he’s doing his best to come off as the poor, heartbroken, sensitive man who’s been left by his mean, unrelenting wife. Sure he may have done some things that contributed to the breakup, but look how sorry he is. Look how willing to make amends. How could she be so cold and hard? And what about their children, don’t they deserve to have their father around?

What Robin Thicke is doing is trying to coerce his wife into coming back to him, by publicly shaming and humiliating her. I have no idea whether the texts in the video were actually from her (though I really, really hope that they’re not), but it doesn’t really matter, because he’s presenting them as hers. He is, as @middle_ladle said on twitter, punishing her for leaving him quietly. He’s exposing her to the world, looking for sympathy. He’s making it harder and hard for her to say no.

In fact, she keeps telling him no, over and over in those texts, and he ignores her requests to leave her alone and just keeps pushing. Because her needs don’t matter to him. All that matters is getting what he wants.

Leaving an abusive partner is the part of the cycle of abuse during which the victim is most vulnerable. Because after they’ve left, the abuser often feels like they have nothing left to lose. This is the point in the cycle when the abused is most likely to be hurt or killed. People wonder why so many victims of domestic violence go back to their abusers, but the sad truth is that often that choice is safer. Leaving is incredibly risky.

What Thicke is doing is threatening and frightening and we need to stop treating it as the ultimate in romance. This is not romantic, not in the slightest. This is abusive, coercive and manipulative. This is what domestic violence looks like, and we’re so accustomed to this type of behaviour that by now it seems totally normal and healthy to us.

It’s not. And we need to acknowledge that.

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Elliot Rodger And Men Who Hate Women

24 May

TW for violence against women, misogynistic language, violent language, talk of rape

Last night, a 22 year old man named Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured seven more in what most news outlets are describing as a “shooting rampage.” Rodger died later that night from a gunshot wound to his head, though it’s still unclear as to whether or not it was self-inflicted or from responding deputies shooting back after he opened fire on them.

Almost everything I’ve read about him has referred to him as a “madman” or “mentally ill.”

No. We have no evidence yet that he suffered from any kind of mental illness or was seeking any sort of treatment. Immediately claiming that with no proof to back that fact up leads to the further stigmatization of the mentally ill, and contributes to the (incorrect) assumption that mental illness equals violence, and vice versa.

We don’t know whether Elliot Rodger was mentally ill. What we do know is that he was a Men’s Rights Activist, or MRA.

He was an active member of the “PUAhate,” an online forum (which has been down since the shootings) dedicated to “revealing the scams, deception and misleading marketing techniques used by dating gurus and the seduction community to mislead men and profit from them.” And just to clarify, they’re not revealing these scams because of how vile and misogynistic they are, but rather because these men have tried these techniques and still failed to trick women into sleeping with them. These are men who both feel entitled to have sex with women and also blame all women everywhere for not fucking them. See, they want to have sex with a woman because that’s what they deserve just for being dudes, but they also hate women for withholding what they view as rightfully theirs. And I mean, boy do they ever hate women. The PUAhate forum has, according to an article on The Hairpin, threads with titles like “Are ugly women completely useless to society?” and “Have any hot women ever committed suicide?”

Rodger also subscribed to several YouTube channels on how to be a ‘pick up artist,’ including The Player Supreme Show and RSDfreetour as well as multiple MRA channels.

Last night, shortly before going on his killing spree, Rodger posted a video on YouTube to serve as his manifesto. In it, he declares that he’s a 22 year old virgin, and then goes on to say:

‘College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. But in those years I’ve had to rot in loneliness. It’s not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. But I will punish you all for it,’ he says in the video, which runs to almost seven minutes.
>‘I’m going to enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB and I will slaughter every single spoilt, stuck-up, blonde slut that I see inside there. All those girls that I’ve desired so much, they would’ve all rejected me and looked down on me as an inferior man if I ever made a sexual advance towards them,’ 

‘I’ll take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one. The true alpha male …’

This is what the Men’s Rights Movement teaches its members. Especially vulnerable, lonely young men who have a hard time relating to women. It teaches them that women, and especially feminist women, are to blame for their unhappiness. It teaches them that women lie, and that women are naturally predisposed to cheat, trick and manipulate. It teaches them that men as a social class are dominant over women and that they are entitled to women’s bodies. It teaches them that women who won’t give them what they want deserve some kind of punishment.

We need to talk about this. The media, especially, needs to address this. We live in a culture that constantly devalues women in a million little different ways, and that culture has evolved to include a vast online community of men who take that devaluation to its natural conclusion: brutal, violent hatred of women. And I don’t mean that all these men have been physically violent towards women, but rather that they use violent, degrading, dehumanizing language when discussing women. Whose bodies, just as a reminder, they feel completely entitled to.

Another reminder: this isn’t an isolated incident. Not by a long shot. No, most men don’t go out in a blaze of glory after shooting up in a sorority house, but there are so many examples of men becoming violent towards women after being rejected. Like the kid last month who stabbed a girl to death because she wouldn’t go to the prom with him. The threat of violence is the main reason why many women feel unable to leave an abusive relationship – because after leaving is when they are at their most vulnerable. When you look the statistics on violence against women, Elliot Rodger’s act doesn’t seem so much like a one-off incident. He was participating, albeit in a grandiose public way, in the time-honoured tradition of controlling women with violence and punishing them when they don’t behave as desired.

We don’t know if Elliot Rodger was mentally ill. We don’t know if he was a “madman.” We do know that he was desperately lonely and unhappy, and that the Men’s Rights Movement convinced him that his loneliness and unhappiness was intentionally caused by women. Because this is what the Men’s Rights Movement does: it spreads misogyny, it spreads violence, and most of all it spreads a sense of entitlement towards women’s bodies. Pretending that this is the a rare act perpetrated by a “crazy” person is disingenuous and also does nothing to address the threat of violence that women face every day. We can’t just write this one off – we need to talk about all of the fucked up parts of our culture, especially the movements that teach men that they have the right to dominate and intimidate and violate women, and we need to change things. Because if we don’t, I guarantee that this will happen again. And again. And again.

‘”Why do men feel threatened by women?” I asked a male friend of mine. So this male friend of mine, who does by the way exist, conveniently entered into the following dialogue. “I mean,” I said, “men are bigger, most of the time, they can run faster, strangle better, and they have on the average a lot more money and power.” “They’re afraid women will laugh at them,” he said. “Undercut their world view.” Then I asked some women students in a quickie poetry seminar I was giving, “Why do women feel threatened by men?” “They’re afraid of being killed,” they said.’

Margaret Atwood, Writing the Male Character (1982)

ETA: A few people have been commenting to tell me that I’m wrong about Elliot not having a mental illness, as his family members have reported to the media that he had Asperger syndrome. Asperger syndrome is not a mental illness – it is a neurological condition, and it does not predispose people to violence. Correlating Asperger’s with violence is wrong and uninformed and you are doing more harm than good by saying that.

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