Debate Magazine

Campus Rape and the Santa Barbara Shooting: No Coincidence

Posted on the 12 June 2014 by Starofdavida
Campus Rape and the Santa Barbara Shooting: No Coincidence
America is still reeling from Santa Barbara City College student Elliot Rodger’s Memorial Day weekend shooting spree, in which he killed six others and injured thirteen. Many Americans have already brushed off this shooting spree as an isolated incident and Rodger as some crazy loner, as they have done after nearly every recent mass shooting. However, it is imperative that the Western world does not dismiss Rodger’s motives and behavior so flippantly. Although his actions were extreme, Rodger’s overall attitude towards women and feelings of entitlement to them are indicative of the larger culture of American collegiate society.
Although only two women died at his hand, Rodger’s actions were undoubtedly driven by a deep-rooted misogyny. “I don’t know why you girls have never been attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it,” he said in a YouTube video that he uploaded less than 24 hours before the massacre. Further investigation into his Internet history has revealed that he frequented male supremacy websites, leaving a virtual paper trail marked by sexism and racism: “It’s been my life struggle to get a beautiful, white girl,” Rodger posted in one online forum. He also wrote and uploaded a 140-page manifesto, in which he chronicled his memoirs and spewed his misogynistic attitudes.
Recently, activists on several college campuses have initiated a countrywide conversation about the widespread nature of on-campus rape, bringing this neglected issue to the national stage. Title IX complaints, alleging negligence in regard to creating an environment free of sexism and misogyny, have been filed against numerous colleges, and survivors of sexual assault have come forward with their stories in college as well as national newspapers.
This epidemic of sexual assault did not develop in a vacuum. Rather, it is indicative of a problem in society: a problem of men’s attitudes towards women.
Certainly, sexist attitudes have improved over the centuries. When the women’s rights movement began at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, activists were fighting the predominant view of women as chattel rather than people. Although contemporary feminists no longer have to take on a culture where women are second-class citizens, they still must fight against the prevailing belief that men possess some sort of inherent entitlement to women’s bodies. This belief was one that Rodger ascribed to: he made it clear in his YouTube video commentary as well as in the deeply misogynist rages that he posted on men’s rights forums throughout his college career.
And it is not coincidental that Rodger was a college student. As an undergrad, he lived in a world where 1 in 4 of his female classmates would experience sexual assault, where few administrators would be sympathetic to or even believe their stories, where only a tiny fraction of their rapists would ever see so much as the slightest punishment for their actions. As an American male, he lived in a world where he was told that women exist for his sexual gratification, and their rejection of him warrants a death sentence. Although Rodger’s attitudes and actions were extreme, they are part of the same mindset that leads collegiate men to devalue their female counterparts’ control of their own bodies to the point where they do not hesitate from taking sexual choice away from them.
It would be unfair to Rodger’s victims, to survivors of rape, and to women at large if America allows Rodger go down in history as a nice guy who just snapped one day. As people who care about the welfare of society and safety of womankind, we cannot forget what motivated his actions, as they prove that misogyny is an active killer of women. As college students living in a world where a quarter of our female friends will experience sexual assault, this lesson is doubly important.
As important as it is to raise awareness of this issue, we cannot simply give it lip service. Rather, we must do our part to end the pervasiveness of misogyny in American culture. We have to speak up, intervene, and otherwise show that we do not approve of sexism and will not tolerate expressions of it in our presence. It is unlikely that one person alone will be able to erase misogyny from the world, since it is so deeply entrenched into our culture. However, if we all dedicate ourselves to calling it out when we experience it, maybe we will stop some of the other Elliot Rodgers – from those who inhabit the dark corners of the Internet to those who swagger around on our campuses – from committing further atrocities.

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