On Violence and Womanhood: Reacting to Elliot Rodger

This weekend, seven people were murdered because Elliot Rodger, a wealthy 22-year-old California resident, thought women owed him sex.

I concluded that women are flawed. There is something mentally wrong with the way their brains are wired, as if they haven’t evolved from animal-like
They are incapable of reason or thinking rationally. They are like animals, completely controlled by their primal, depraved emotions and impulses. That is why they are attracted to barbaric, wild, beast-like men. They are beasts themselves. Beasts should not be able to have any rights in a civilized society. If their wickedness is not contained, the whole of humanity will be held back from advancement to a more civilized state. Women should not have the right to choose who to mate with. That choice should be made for them by civilized men of intelligence. If women had the freedom to choose which men to mate with, like they do today, they would breed with stupid, degenerate men, which would only produce stupid, degenerate offspring. This in turn would hinder the advancement of humanity. Not only hinder it, but devolve humanity completely. Women are like a plague that must be quarantined.”Excerpt from My Twisted World, The Story of Elliot Rodger.

I’ve never wanted to be a man. Not once.

I delight in womanhood. I find it to be a great pleasure, one that has come only over time and work, of finding a way to love myself and my womanhood, in the way that we must after being taught to hate ourselves for so very long. At some point, we come to a crossroads: choose to love ourselves radically, despite being told in every which way that we are, indeed, wrong, that we are not worthy, that we are lucky to exist. Or we succumb to the self-hate, that we believe wholeheartedly the things that they tell us, and we let these things eat us alive, taking only the scraps we can afford. To be comfortable being the butt of jokes, to be comfortable being held responsible for all that society puts on us, just for being women. To be the sacrificial offering of a culture that is unwell. These are the only two choices I have found. If there is a middle ground, I would be delighted to know I am wrong.

I have never wished to be a man, but I will honestly tell you that I would go great lengths to occupy a man’s head space, albeit temporarily. To taste this, even just once. Let me tell you this truth. Let me tell you what it means to want that.

As women, we are taught many things about ourselves, none of which are true, all of which take so much time to unlearn. I would love to tell you that even as an adult woman; one who has read bell hooks, screamed at rallies, and learned when it is good to bite my tongue while men reveal their ignorance and when it appropriate to unleash my wrath, that I, and really, we, will ever be fully able to shake off the full impact of this. Frankly, most of us are really unsure of how deeply that impact goes and with this, we fight with each other over what it could possibly mean. But we muddle through, we push forward. We do what we can to become the fully developed people that we are so intended to be, the ones with big hearts and minds, not with suspicions to our male counterparts, not with distrust to what it is they think they know. We do this so that we can be full people, not people rendered to back drops, to one-liners, to wives or daughters. We do this so we can be paid equally or treated equally. We do this so we can exist outside of small boxes, that we can be both sexual beings and capable beings, both intelligent and possessed beings. We do this to be what we have always wanted from the very start: to be considered whole beings, or beings at all.

So when I say that I want to know what it is like to live in a man’s headspace, even for a moment, I mean that I want to know what it is to live like without carrying around the compartmentalization we’ve been burdened with. I want to know what it is like to live with an ethereal confidence and acceptance of whatever it is you do. To be granted space to not only exist, but to thrive. To be both sexual and intellectual, without ever having any sort of poking or prodding at why you could be the two, and not only the one. To be able to be given things. To have a cultural trust solely based on existing in box marked “M.”

I want to know what it is like to not think about womanhood.

 The mere sight of them enjoying their happy lives was an insult to me, because I deserve it more than them. – Elliot Rodger

What is to be said of the 22-year-old man named Elliot Rodger who killed seven, including himself, and left another seven injured? What can be further said of the entirety of something that is so startling, yet all together so expected that it is almost baffling when an entire culture that knows full well of how we treat our women, throws up its hands and acts confused? Why is it that we are time and time again confused by the destruction of individuals like Elliot Rodger or the undeserved deaths like that of Maren Sanchez or better yet, just one of the many nameless, faceless deaths of violence perpetuated against women everyday, the kind that only make it into statistics manuals, with names and faces only left behind for those intimately connected? Why are we confused that when women say no, they are met with violence, anger, or ridicule? Why are we confused at all?

To be comfortable with womanhood is to be comfortable with the fact that you are a casualty at all times. You must be comfortable waiting for when your time comes. You must learn how to accept it. Not because you want to or deserve to. Because that’s what you are taught.

 “I will punish all of you for it,” Elliot Rodger

I do not believe that the struggle for equality is solely a woman’s burden, but here we are. It is easy to pontificate on the ills of men and frankly, it seems that is why we have such a reaction to “I am a feminist.” We over-explain the position as if it is an embarrassing mistake, one that we just so happen to fall into. “Oh, I’m not a feminist, but I believe in equality. I’m not a feminist; I think woman can do anything they want. I’m not a feminist, I don’t think we need to do anything more.” Men, it seems, need to be protected from the idea that we are protecting ourselves, that we are standing up for ourselves, which is by far the strangest thing I’ve ever witnessed. When did we learn to coddle the feelings of those who aimed to hurt us? When did we get to the point that it was better to have their acceptance than it was to challenge what they knew? I am a feminist, yes, but I cannot do this alone, none of us can. When will men come to grips with the reality that that which is done to us, has an equal and opposite reaction of their own humanity? That the same forces which push us down into the very small boxes in which we are allowed to take up space are the same little boxes that make up the insidious, toxic nature of what “masculinity” is meant to be. That to dehumanize one, is to dehumanize yourself. That to do this to womanhood is to do so without realizing that it just happens to not be on your front lawn yet.

I need men. I do. I need men to understand what it is to stare at a counterpart and realize that I am equal and whole and undeserved of violence solely for box marked “womanhood.” That box marked “masculinity” is just as much violence on them, too.

I will slaughter every single spoiled stuck up blonde slut I see inside there. All those girls that I’ve desired so much, they would have all rejected me and looked down upon me as an inferior man if I ever made a sexual advance towards them. While they throw themselves at these obnoxious brutes. 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. Elliot Rodger

I once said out loud to a man, “I would trade almost everything I have to live in the world of a man, just for a day. To see what it tastes like.” I can’t remember how he reacted, but it went somewhere along the lines of being reminded that we create our own chains, which, I wanted to believe was true. Every fiber of my body wanted to believe that it was solely up to me to let everything that had ever happened go and I would be fine. Liberated. That internal resistance to struggle is all just an ego block and that maybe the accountability of such a radical healing is too much for me to understand, too great a power and responsibility. Healing is hard work, not for the faint of heart. I wanted to believe him, I really did. Mostly because I know he said it out of good faith and he is a man I care deeply for, one who is wholly human, wholly caring, wholly empathetic towards the struggles of women.

But I couldn’t believe what he said because I knew it to be very untrue.

 I concluded that women are flawed. There is something mentally wrong with the way their brains are wired, as if they haven’t evolved from animal-like thinking. They are incapable of reason or thinking rationally. They are like animals, completely controlled by their primal, depraved emotions and impulses. That is why they are attracted to barbaric, wild, beast-like men. They are beasts themselves. Beasts should not be able to have any rights in a civilized society

I can confidently conclude with Rodger that indeed, women are flawed, and thank god that someone has recognized this. Women for so long have been rendered to pedestal or mule, the scapegoat for all societies sins blanketed or held higher than any actually attainability, perfect thinness, perfect white skin, perfect amount of space given to her, only to exist for the consumption of dollars and men’s taste. To be flawed is to be real. To be flawed is to be granted autonomy, to not have to represent a million different voices and experiences behind you, as if one woman could be granted the magical pass of being every woman, though as many of us realize, each of our choices or not choices are supposed to be what holds us all up, as if the only glue were are allowed to have is that which is easy for the world to swallow. Womanhood is not a unified experience. We are only unified through the reaction to our womanhood.

And what is left to say after such violence? I can only counter with this, my own manifesto of what it means to be of “womanhood,” to be rested with the unending knowledge of what that brings. If I am a beast, so be it. Beasts have more reproductive rights than women in my home state of Georgia and if I am to turn into a pig or a cow, to be granted bodily autonomy and choice, than perhaps that is what I must do.

If I am barbaric, so be it. To be barbaric is to be free, and it is the utmost privilege to be free. To be free is delicious, which women must take careful steps to find. So often it is when we are running free in the grass, across the world, on stages with little to no clothing, in streets with shorts because it is summer and we are hot, wearing almost all our clothing, that we are met with questioning, with violence, with force. We are reminded that we are public consumption, that we do not exist solely for ourselves. When we show ourselves not to be just pieta or just whore, but actually somewhere, someone in between, that we defy what it is that has been expected of us. We defy entitlement to what our bodies offer.

If being a woman means that I am only to breed with “stupid, degenerate men, which would only produce stupid, degenerate offspring,” then so be it, because who I fuck is wholly my choice and I demand the privilege of making bad mistakes. I demand a life that is not restricted to what men think I should do with my sexual self.

And I demand to breed or not breed if I want. If I am to be made into an animal that “breeds,” then so be it, because at least animals are rendered neutral in the eyes of our culture. When have you ever heard of a woman, her body, or her choices being something so normal as neutral?

Finally, if I am a plague that must be quarantined, then so be it. If this is what you do when you cannot control me, or her, or any woman, any longer, then you have only just realized what has been done for years upon years upon years. If I am that uncontrollable, that being resented for being something you cannot put your finger on and dictate how and when my autonomy enacts, then so be it. Those who subscribe by “womanhood” have known this from the very beginning. That is, if we dare defy what was set up for us, there will be dire consequences. We know this is our struggle, and yet, as men reach just the very tip of their own, they react out of violence, threats, of scapegoating who is closest. When I think back to the man I care about who tells me to break my own chains, I think to myself, but I cannot do this unless you are willing to do the same. And how can you do the same if you do not even know?

I can neither fathom nor explain the Elliot Rodgers of the world, other than the very simple explanation that they hate women. They hate womanhood. Why, I do not know. They just do. Margaret Atwood once said that she asked her own male friend why men were so threatened by women, as men were bigger, stronger, and more powerful. “They’re afraid women will laugh at them,” he replied. It is this I cling to, hopefully offering some sort of clarity, because when Atwood asked women why they were threatened by men, women replied, “ They might kill me.”

Women cannot completely heal men, nor can men completely heal women, but I would hope that together we could undo what it is that lives so nefariously in the basements of our existence, the boogeyman of our tracked relations. We women are down there in that mucky basement, confronting the boogeyman that terrifies us so, and when we turn around to see where men are, they are nowhere to be found. Perhaps they are in the kitchen, feasting on fruit, busy yelling at us in the basement that there is no such thing as the boogeyman. It is notoriously difficult to try and kill the boogeyman if you tell me it is not real. Because in telling me that it is not real, you deny the possibility of looking at me and see something more than just a little box marked womanhood. You deny me of empathy, of personhood. Of me seeing you something more than a threat. You deny the violence that sews women together, a fraught chord that goes through our hearts and weakens them with each passing act of violence, whether it is a 22-year-old who resents women for not fucking him or it is our father telling a bad joke, or it is our intimate partners asking us to drop it, or well-meaning men telling us that we must just shake our chains off. To get over. To let go.

I want to let go. Allow me to. Until then, “womanhood” is well and occupied, counting the bodies as they go.


8 thoughts on “On Violence and Womanhood: Reacting to Elliot Rodger”

  1. What breaks my heart and simultaneously raises my blood pressure is all the men trying to silence conversation on the killer’s misogyny. “Its not about women. He was just psycho.” I swear, even if he exclusively murdered women, they’d downplay it by claiming men like him are a minority when in reality, its the mass slaughter that separates him from most misogynists.

  2. ALL OF THIS. I was up until 2 a.m. tweeting, retweeting, following, sharing, supporting, and even as a woman, it still opened my eyes. It was both heartwarming and heartbreaking to see all of the “Yes, me too” tweets. The common denominator among most, if not all, of the tweets is that women do not feel safe. Not in their own homes, not on the job, not in the classroom, not on the Internet, and certainly not on the street.

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