The case of Elliot Rodger sent a shiver down the spine of people both inside and out of the feminist movement. This callous slaughter erupted from a mind so confident in its twisted perspective that the perpetrator seemed to view the act as entirely just. It’s not often that we get to see a detailed video of a murderer explaining his motives and the video Rodgers shot before taking innocent lives seemed to confirm the fears feminists have about male entitlement, slut-shaming and the patriarchy in general. In fact, news analysis seemed to, perhaps uniquely, speak with one voice: we live in a misogynistic society and this is what happens when young boys are brought up to believe that they are owed sex.
However, poke into the darker corners of the internet and a different narrative becomes clear. Return of Kings, a self-described site for “masculine men” released a statement that would have been viewed as an incitement of violence were it targeted at any of group. They claimed that unless “more sexual options” were made available for “beta-males”, these kind of killings would become more and more prevalent. Later analysis of the event described Rodgers as the “first feminist mass-murderer” and blamed his university education for “pussifying” him. As far as the writers and patrons of this and many other men’s rights activist (MRA) sites were concerned, Rodger was a Frankenstein creation of the feminist movement and it was the fault of women for undermining the family unit and reaching beyond what was natural for them.
These are sites that masquerade as supportive communities for “masculine” men, but instead consist of little more than dangerous hate-speech.
David Wong of Cracked analysed several MRA websites and concluded that the most striking thing about them was that they said very little about men. In fact, take the eight community beliefs that Return of Kings claims the be founded upon and you will realise that seven of them are about the place of women or the effects of feminism on families and only one of them actually has anything to do with men. Look down the front page and you will find a few scattered posts about something they call “self-improvement” (the innovative idea that people should work on themselves: clearly absent from any non-MRA websites) amongst hundreds and hundreds of poorly researched, poorly worded and logically flawed posts about women. These are sites that masquerade as supportive communities for “masculine” men, but instead consist of little more than dangerous hate-speech. These sites aren’t for people who want to support men; they are for people that hate women.
Occasionally a valid point about gender inequality that negatively effects men will be made. Men do more time in prison for the same crimes as women, men are systematically discriminated against in the nursing and childcare professions, men are expected by society to be promiscuous and, if they are not, they are ridiculed and shamed – yet all of this gets buried by a swamp of childish misogyny and aggression. A question we need to ask of ourselves is why men with legitimate concerns about discrimination against their sex find themselves writing for these websites, or killing women in Isla Vista.
feminism has managed to achieve so much that it is hard to define our current society as one ruled by me
We do, undoubtedly, live under a system of patriarchy, but it is a somewhat different patriarchy than has existed in the past. When women were legally little more than property and prevented from living independently this was a straightforward case of rule by men, but feminism has managed to achieve so much that it is hard to define our current society as one ruled by men. Instead, modern patriarchy is a much more perverse and all-encompassing drain on dignity: rule by an idealised masculinity.
Men are taught that they are to be valued for their physical prowess, the number of women they sleep with and their wit and intellect. Feminism has managed to highlight that women who are strong, intelligent and capable should be valued for these traits, but they are always compared negatively to this masculine ideal. While Feminism has worked hard to discredit this comparison, there has been no comparable movement to unshackle men from these expectations.
How many times do you hear a man being told to “be a man”, “man up” or “grow a pair”? They aren’t being told to get hold of a Y chromosome or put some testes seeds in their groin; they are being told to live up to the masculine ideal or be ridiculed and shamed for failing to do so. We are teaching men to value themselves by their promiscuity, their capacity for violence and their lack of “feminine” feelings.
Mass-murderers don’t just spring out of holes in the ground, they are shaped and moulded by the social processes that surround them.
Elliot Rodger was a virgin at 22: society taught him to be ashamed of that, he was lonely; society told him that made him weak and he had access to a gun and knew how to use it, which society told him made him a man. Mass-murderers don’t just spring out of holes in the ground, they are shaped and moulded by the social processes that surround them.
A profound misunderstanding of Feminism is that it focuses purely on white, middle-class, cis women’s issues. I can’t say for certain that this is the reason why so many men who have concerns about their gender end up writing for dangerous sites like Return of Kings, but what I can say for certain is that the liberation of all women requires an understanding that the patriarchy takes dignity and liberty from all genders.