Monday, September 23

Alexandra Tashman: Isla Vista shooting reinforces need to reflect on cultural misogyny

Hundreds of students and members of the UCLA community gathered at Royce Quad on Monday to honor the victims of a recent Isla Vista shooting near the UC Santa Barbara campus that left seven people dead and 13 wounded. (Brandon Choe/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Hundreds of students and members of the UCLA community gathered at Royce Quad on Monday to honor the victims of a recent Isla Vista shooting near the UC Santa Barbara campus that left seven people dead and 13 wounded. (Brandon Choe/Daily Bruin senior staff)

On Friday, a student at Santa Barbara City College went on a shooting rampage, targeting women throughout Isla Vista and leaving seven dead.

This tragedy, like so many other shootings our nation witnesses, was horrifying, senseless and disturbing.

For University of California students, however, it was particularly devastating. Six of our peers were taken from their communities, each a friend, classmate and relative.

Last week’s violence reiterates once again to students across the state that efforts to improve campus safety and combat gender-based violence must be doubled.

Over the course of the last year, California students have pushed, both on their campuses and in Sacramento, to bring the issue of campus safety to the forefront.

Between the state audit of several public university campuses, including UCLA, for Title IX violations, the federal complaints filed against Occidental College, USC and UC Berkeley, and the 7000 in Solidarity campaign here on our own campus, student safety is front and center at institutions of higher education.

Despite all this attention, it is clear that we, as students, are still not safe.

The shooter proved this to the Isla Vista community Friday night. His actions demonstrated that we are not safe to walk around our college town, to live in our sorority houses, to visit our local deli.

Even more significantly, perhaps, the shooter’s motives send an explicit message to women on college campuses around the state and the nation: You are not safe to make autonomous decisions.

In a self-proclaimed manifesto titled “My Twisted World,” the shooter laid out a detailed plan for “retribution” against women. He wrote about his anger toward them, anger that they had sex with other men and not him, claiming that such choices condemned him to a miserable existence. He said he wished he could put women in concentration camps and watch them starve.

The shooter is not simply a lone, unstable individual who snapped. His decision to target women, his manifesto and everything he wrote or put in video is indicative of a broader problem. His decision to kill was not merely a mental health issue – it’s an issue of cultural misogyny.

This shooting is the worst-case scenario for students who are concerned that campus cultures allowing gender-based violence, whether sexual assault or otherwise, will continue to go unchecked.

In the aftermath of the shooting, debates over mental health resources and gun legislation ran rampant in both print and television media.

But the discussion we need to have about what happened in Isla Vista on Friday is more than just a discussion about mental health care or access to firearms – the shooter purchased his guns legally, waiting the 10-day period and passing a background check. He even evaded police intervention after a welfare check.

The discussion we must have is about college and youth culture. It’s acknowledging how millennials and our society at large view and act out gender roles. It’s the question of how we have arrived at a place, culturally speaking, in which sex is cast as a badge of validity and identity in young men and a source of shame and harm for women.

Evidence of the need for real, difficult soul-searching on these questions is all around us.

It can be seen in the number of sexual assaults that still go unreported on our campus every year. It can be heard when classmates throw out the word “slut,” or say they “raped” a test. It can be seen in the multiple gang rapes that have happened on UCSB’s campus this year.

But even more, it can be seen in the fact that people feel so entitled to sex that they’re willing to force themselves on others or even kill if they don’t get what they want.

Unfortunately, it seems like it is only in the wake of such a tragedy that many finally feel the urgent need to have this type of discussion.

As students, millennials and decent people, we need to reflect on the cultural norms that made the shooter feel his actions were justified. That made him feel that being a virgin at 22 years old was something worth killing over.

Writer’s Note: I chose not to refer to the shooter by name in this column to avoid perpetuating media attention on the individual, which only serves to glorify his disturbed worldview. This attention is better spent focusing on the victims and communities harmed.

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  • Whatever

    Oh be quiet. This narrative that all men are evil and that they are just all misogynists is stupid. Let me guess, all women are just these innocent little angels that NEVER do anything wrong. This is stupid and pathetic. You do realize men were killed in this incident right?? You are a disgusting opportunist Alexandra.

    • radiolarian

      Hm maybe re-read the article. I think you are missing the point, dear.

      • Elon

        Whatever has a good point that the shooting didn’t prove anything about women being less safe. Or rather I suppose it shows that all people have to fear the very rare homicidal maniac.

        Nor would all the culture education in the world have changed the shooter. Indeed he was a disgusting narcissist who felt enraged that the he didn’t get the “objects” he felt entitled to, but it was certainly not because he didn’t realize women weren’t suppose to be treated that way. I don’t think it would actually change the students who engage in date rape and violence, either. There is a certain percentage of men who happen to be empathy-less psychopaths and serial abusers, and they’d likely see any attempt to change the culture as a joke.

        Though, there is a major problem with men who do not actively engage in violence against women, but also have no problems demeaning and sometimes harassing them. Or ignoring and brushing off cries for help when their friends need them. Or lashing out with vicious words in anger instead of understanding. Whatever kind of proves that as well.

    • A. Sirina

      Oh, goody. Another “not all men” rant. Must you be coddled at every turn? Must there be a disclaimer above every article on the subject? Nowhere did Alexandra say that ALL men are evil. She did not say ALL men are misogynists. It seems from your comments lashing out at Alexandra that you are one though. Perhaps this hit too close to home?

      And did you miss the part where the killer clearly stated his motive to be “retribution” against women? Even the men he attacked and killed were, in his words, being punished for enjoying the sex and women he felt he deserved.

      Stop trying to derail a much-needed conversation.

      • Whatever

        Ah the radical leftist feminist. Misandry is just as bad as misogyny.

  • I don’t think you got this one

    I don’t think this is made clear enough in the article why this shooting relates to misogyny, which may be why “Whatever” is critical of that claim. Here are the reasons why I believe this is a gender issue.

    The shooter’s own youtube video claims that his motive for the shooting was to punish women for rejecting him. For me, this demonstrates that the shooter thought of women as objects. He wanted women to love him and have sex with him, but seemed to think of them as one interchangeable entity that wouldn’t accept him, rather than individual people. When he went on a shooting rampage, all women were objects to him again because they served as potential targets, whether they had personally rejected him or not. He held the expectation that he was deserving of female attention in general, no matter how he treated them, when in fact, the shooter’s treatment of women and attitude toward them may have been the reason they rejected him in the first place.

    So yes, this is a gender issue. It would never have happened if our society had not instilled in the shooter such a misogynist mentality.

    • Elon

      “He held the expectation that he was deserving of female attention in general, no matter how he treated them, when in fact, the shooter’s treatment of women and attitude toward them may have been the reason they rejected him in the first place.”
      This is true. In fact, I assume it probably was exactly the reason they rejected him. That, and that he was an antisocial creep. He treated everyone as objects and stereotypes, particularly women. But did society instill such in him, or did he turn out that way in spite of his upbringing? No one is sure what causes narcissistic personality disorder. That is why I said we may not be responsible for the basket cases and the violent, but we do glorify the objectification of women to a degree.

      • I don’t think you got this one

        You make an interesting point. It’s unfortunate that it’s one that I don’t think can be proven one way or another. When society does instill such beliefs in so many people, though, the likelihood that widespread misogyny caused him to develop such a mentality still seems fairly likely to me.

        I do disagree a bit with the idea that we “glorify the objectification of women” though I appreciate that you add “to a degree.” Though it is of course true that both women AND men are objectified, it is a far greater and more common problem with women. In my opinion, there is no way to speak out about any inequality like this too much, until equality is achieved. If people did not make such a fuss about it until then, changes would never be made.

      • colby rasmus

        He basically never talked a girl after 6th grade. They “rejected” him because he was completely socially inept and it seems like he had been since he was a little kid. I wouldn’t say that his objectification of people was the reason for his social isolation, I’d say his social isolation (caused likely by some developmental disorder like Aspergers, with which he was diagnosed) combined with a sociopathic inability to own up to his own failures was what lead to his extreme viewpoints.

        I agree that the real question is whether or not this was caused by society or by the specifics of his life.

  • colby rasmus

    While I agree that cultural misogyny exists and that this tragedy was caused by the shooter’s hatred of women, that doesn’t necessarily mean there is a link between those two truths.

    The question is whether or not this guys misogyny (hatred of women) was caused by societal factors (rape culture, male entitlement prevalent in tv shows, movies, etc.,) or caused by the specific circumstances of this guys upbringing.

    According to his manifesto, like most boys after hitting puberty, he had an extremely high sex drive and girls were the thing he wanted most in life. Unlike most people, however, he was incredibly socially inept (he basically had 1 or 2 friends his entire life). He was diagnosed with Aspergers. I have two close friends who went to middle school with Rodger; one claims that whenever someone would try to talk to him he would look down at his feet and say nothing, the other claims that he was outwardly repulsive in terms of his mannerisms (try to guess which one of these kids has had a better social life and more success with the opposite sex, btw).

    Now most people who exhibit these traits eventually break out of it and find a way to relate to other people and have some form of intimacy in their lives. Rodger was never able to, and instead of reacting with sadness and acceptance of his failure as a human being (in that area) he reacted with anger and self righteousness. He built up an alternate reality where he was the perfect man and women were acting criminal in not flocking to him. It’s called a god complex and is a classic sign of sociopathy and mental illness.

    He blamed women for his misery and hated them for it, but I don’t really see how *societal* notions of misogyny play a role here. This guy did not have women because of porn or because of fratboy culture. He hated women because they were what he desired most in life and instead of blaming himself, he blamed them.

  • Ham Sammy

    He is the exception, not the rule. You are safe to go to the Deli and make autonomous decisions. Otherwise, he-who-apparently-must-not-be-named has won.

  • Okaro

    “Targeting women and leaving seven dead.” Only two of the seven were women.