I’ve been watching this story about shooter Elliott Rodger closely. What I find particularly interesting is that this young man’s neurosis and mental health issues have been documented online and are still there for the world to see. Go over to his YouTube channel and try watching some of his videos without cringing – it’s practically impossible especially when you have someone talking to the camera and saying out loud things like “I’m magnificent” or “I’m so beautiful, how can these sluts not love me, it’s not fair. I’m a supreme gentleman”.
Much has already been written up online about his misogyny, his mental health issues, his involvement with “Men’s Rights Movement” forums, and how misogyny has been woven into the general culture, how some men feel entitled to the bodies of women at any time, any place, any how and the many, many insidious forms it can take.
What I would like to focus on is that I think there are many factors at fault here. Yes, the general cultural milieu we live in IS violent but to some extent I think many women have also internalized it and THAT needs to change.
There are many Elliot Rodgers out there and while I am in no way trying to downplay what happened in California, things like that are a fact of everyday life in other parts of the world. On a visit to my aunt and cousins place in Bangladesh during my teen years, I remember my cousins enthusiastically introduced me, their “Canadian cousin” to all their friends and one friend in particular I still remember very well. She was quite a beautiful girl if you were to look at her profile from her left side, but after seeing her entire face, you would have gasped. Half her face had been practically burned away by battery acid.
The story was that a local boy wanted to marry her (Bangladesh at that time was very, very socially conservative, no pre-marital sex whatsoever, no dating, if you’re interested in someone to hook up with, you have to marry them, arranged marriages were the norm, which is why girls were often married off at a very young age) but she wasn’t interested. Since the rejection or rebuff was not something he could deal with in such a patriarchal culture, he and his friend conspired together, broke into her home in the middle of the night and threw the battery acid on her face while she slept. He figured if he couldn’t have her, no one else could either. It was quite an epidemic for a while and finally when the government of Bangladesh finally criminalized the act with severe penalties, did the practice finally abate somewhat.
People often ask me why I didn’t stay on in Turkey and marry there given that Turkey is known for attracting thousands of women every year because of the availability of very handsome and willing men. The reason is that something like 40% of women in Turkey face domestic abuse. I had enough Turkish female friends there who were social workers tell me as much, that I would have been used for my Canadian passport and citizenship and then discarded. There was no way I was going to get involved and take that risk.
Now, some of you might say that Bangladesh and Turkey are Muslim countries, that’s part and parcel of Islam. Look at those assholes in Boko Haram in Nigeria or Female Genital Mutilation in Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance. That’s just not true. I have a friend who worked as a police officer in Sydney, Australia and domestic abuse is quite prevalent there as well among the Anglo-Aussies. I have another friend here in Montreal who, for a time worked as a 9-1-1 operator and dispatcher and the calls for domestic abuse came in from all quarters and the Number 1 category of domestic abuse incidents actually came from a White male/Asian female partnerships. When I did my stint as a spiritual caregiver in Washington, DC, I saw many, many cases of brutal domestic abuse in the trauma bay among African-American women. Mind you, these are anecdotal examples but it shows how widespread the problem is.
I had a wonderful economics professor in college, originally from the western tribal areas of Pakistan, close to Peshawar. She did her MA and PhD at the London School of Economics, was a devout Muslim, mother and wife, she was also quite a feminist. I used to have long conversations in her office about why men, not just Muslim men, but many men abuse women. Her reply was that those men who brutalize and abuse women, deep down are scared, they’re scared of the day when women realize, that they don’t need these men as much as these men need the women. They’re afraid of being outed as needy, incompetent and therefore “weak”. It drives them crazy to see a woman who is free to make her own choices and doesn’t need or want anyone (i.e him) so the only way they can take back control of the situation is through violence to reinforce that message that the woman is “owned” and under control. Another part of the problem is that women in some cultures, are conditioned to treat their sons like some sort of prince, that the focus of attention within families is always the son, not the daughter (hence female infanticide in places like China and India) but if mothers were to shift or adjust their attitudes just a little, it would go a long way towards enforcing attitudes of gender equality and fostering respect towards girls.
Much of what I see in spiritual literature is about saying “Yes” to life and living our truth. While I don’t disagree with that, I also think part of saying “Yes” to life also means saying “NO” loudly and clearly and without any fear of blowback when the occasion calls for it. To otherwise muffle our voices ultimately holds us all back.