End the Blame Game: Is Cultural Misogyny to Blame for Mass Murders?


On Friday 23rd May, yet another tragedy occurred in the USA, as Elliot Rodger was thought to have gone on a shooting spree in California, killing six people and injuring seven more before dying of bullet wounds himself. Tragically, this incident is not isolated, as  much of the media would have us believe that shooting sprees are verging on common place in USA, but one of the most disturbing things about this case, is Rodger’s blatant agenda to seek revenge on a society that had denied him sex, as he discusses in his Youtube videos.

The uncomfortable links the tragedy draws between individual psychopathy and cultural misogyny has forged a huge debate about the source of ‘blame’ for hate crimes against women such as this: was this a lone madman, an incarnation of misogynist society, or are we simply looking at it in the wrong way?

I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me but I will punish you all for it.

Elliot Rodger

The elements of misogyny in Rodger’s ‘retribution’ killing spree are clear to see, as he discusses how he will punish those who had sexually rejected him, giving them “exactly what you deserve”. It is undeniably terrifying and abhorrent to consider that Rodger may have committed these murders with the belief that he was owed sexual activity from women, and equally disturbing to observe cultural elements of misogynist culture appearing in his vengeful manifesto. But, I just can’t agree that a wider social misogyny is to blame for this hate crime, as others have suggested. I believe it is reductionist and deterministic to attribute Rodger’s killings to a misogynist teaching that women owe men sex- after all, Rodger murdered men too.

elliot rodgerIt has emerged that Rodger was seeking psychiatric treatment, and that he had Asperger syndrome, a form of autism that can make social imagination, communication, and interaction difficult. I’m in no way advocating that Aspergers, or even mental health difficulties are excuses or explanations for the shooting spree, but I can’t help but feel that these aspects overshadow cultural misogyny in the reasons behind the incident.

After all, your stereotypical misogynist may crack a few sexist jokes and read Nuts, but heAPTOPIX College Community Shooting won’t seek murderous revenge because he feels he has been unfairly rebuked by women. Now it may seem that I am trivialising aspects of misogyny, but I am in no way trying to downplay the fact that it breeds extremely damaging and unfair attitudes and behaviours. Misogyny continues to be a huge and dangerous issue, I just don’t think it can be ‘blamed’ for this hate crime. On the flip side, it is also true that not every sufferer of mental health issues or Asperger syndrome will become a mass murderer, but I do feel that these elements are more instrumental in the make up of a killer than cultural gender injustice. Someone who is in the mindset of committing premeditated ‘retributional’ killings may delusionally take any aspect of society in which they believe they have been wronged as justification. If we lived in a misogyny-free society these killings may just have easily been fed by racism, or bullying, or any other reasoning that may lead a delusionally murderous individual to believe they require revenge.

For example, a key part of Rodger’s video often missed by those who point the finger at a women-hating culture, is the fact that he has grandiose illusions of being ‘superior’ to other men, and that he would take ‘great pleasure’ in exacting his ‘revenge against humanity’ which he calls a ‘disgusting, wretched, depraved’ species. It is clear then, that Rodger has more issues then simply hating just women for sexually rejecting him.

Obviously, this debate is just one example in the age old discussion surrounding mass muders and killing sprees: are they lone madmen or culturally fed extremists? Indeed it seems fair to argue that both misogyny and an individual mental sickness played a part in Rodger’s killings. But then I came across this video, and I realised that maybe even the way we look at and discuss crimes such as these is a huge part of the problem:



In the video, Charlie Brooker casts an enlightening and critical eye onto the way that we present horrific news stories such as this, exulting the killer into some kind of ‘nihilistic pin up boy’ whilst we fruitlessly question about Why Did This Happen. In placing focus on this, we miss the point that unfortunately there will always be killers, and what’s more, by blaming society for these murders, we give future murderers a reason for triggering their maniacal sprees. Focusing on stories like this in this way not only transforms sick tragedies into romantic legends, but also implies that murderers like this are inevitable products of an unjust or sick society, thus giving others fuel for their own interpretations of ‘justified’ revenge sprees.

Yes misogyny is a problem, and yes it obviously played some part in the California shooting, but more important was Rodgers’ unnatural delusions and perverse satisfaction in murderous revenge. Every time we look at  a news story in this way, we miss more important factors such as how the individual was not highlighted as a risk before, or how they were allowed weapons.

There will always be mass murders in this world, but blaming them as victims of cultural sicknesses like misogyny simply reaffirms a way of thinking that almost justifies killers, reductively attributing their shootings to an anti-heroic channelling of social injustice.



Discussion8 Comments

  1. avatar

    I like how you link to the Charlie Brooker video, which has the expert advice mentioning “Don’t show photos of the killer”, and still use a big photo of the killer in the article flow and Facebook preview image 🙂

  2. avatar

    Ignoring the misogynistic undertone of Elliot Rodger’s actions would be a huge mistake. Yes, he killed men as well – yes, he was clearly suffering from mental health issues, and he was clearly a narcissistic psychopath. No, most men wouldn’t go to this extreme in their hatred of women.

    But he DID do this, and in several videos and a 150 page manifesto, Elliot Rodger repeatedly describes his intense hatred for women, stemming purely and totally from the basis that he fancied girls who did not fancy him. He clearly believed that women existed to let men have sex with them. He describes hating men BECAUSE he saw them with “beautiful blonde white girls” who he believed should’ve been with him.

    Talking about this issue means bringing attention to the fact that women are subjected to misogynistic behaviour, or the fear of it, every single day.
    Every day someone stares at my breasts, or I get cat called, or my friends say “text me when you’re home so I know you’re safe”. I don’t think I have ever been out to a club without someone groping me. This all stems from the fact that men still believe they are entitled to a woman’s body. No, not all men behave this way – but a lot of them do. This is why it is still common to say that a girl is a cocktease – many men still don’t comprehend that even if a woman flirts with you, she has absolutely NO obligation to sleep with you, kiss you, whatever.

    You cannot overcome an issue if you ignore it. Things like this don’t just fade into the ether. Yes – there are other issues surrounding this crime, but misogyny and male privilege is one of those issues, arguably the most important one as if effects everyone, everywhere.

  3. avatar

    ‘your stereotypical misogynist may crack a few sexist jokes and read Nuts, but heAPTOPIX College Community Shooting won’t seek murderous revenge because he feels he has been unfairly rebuked by women’

    ..and your stereotypical Aspergers sufferer won’t seek murderous revenge because he feels he has been unfairly rebuked by women either.

  4. avatar

    Also – ‘your average misogynist won’t seek murderous revenge’. No, he won’t. But he will likely verbally abuse women; he’ll be the creep that won’t take no for an answer, or continues to stare at you despite doing everything to put him off. It is pretty likely that he will escalate to sexual assault, or rape. Or post damaging, horrible comments online that are intending to undermine women and the problems they face.

    These aren’t murder, but these behaviours are all unwelcome and the sort of thing that everybody, regardless of gender, should be trying to stop.

    Every man should be considering their mother, sister, friends – and future daughter. Every man should want to stop the women they love from suffering.

    • avatar

      Lacey when you state my friends say “text me when you’re home so I know you’re safe”. is it cause they are afraid that a man is going to attack you? it sounds like you are implying this. This in it self is misandry to suggest every time you go out that you will be raped or worst by a man. why aren’t the texting you to make sure you were not in a car crash or lost? than again as you stated so many of us (men) are misogynist that are slowly escalating to brain dead sex zombies.

      Also your average misandrynist will make blanket statements that men do not let women move up in jobs regardless of accomplishments or work done. They will constantly blame men of starting at there breasts thus putting fear in them or making them uncomfortable use words like creep as man that is only looking to rape them. Feeling that only Women can be true victims as it happens all the time and no one does anything… here in lies the problem with our current culture.

  5. avatar

    Yeah interesting feminists are so quick to leap on this as a misogynist attack and use it to further their argument, to the point where the likes of the Guardian publish articles referring to this exclusively as gendered violence.
    Never mind that the Asian victims who outnumbered the women killed 2 to 1.
    Never mind that these were all men.
    Never mind that he spoke of his deep-seated feelings of hatred against men and those of other races, over whom he felt superior.
    Never mind that if he hadn’t murdered any women, the media would make a beeline for his video game collection instead.
    Feminists complain in widely read articles in the popular press about how we’re all blind to misogyny like this, whilst ignorantly white-washing other victims.

  6. avatar

    Misogyny is not only about men killing women, altho we can certainly find factual accounts of that. It would be interesting to compare the stats of men killing women and women killing men. 🙂 Misogyny inspires all kinds of harms against women from the denial of equal pay, and equal bodily rights, to the abuse and subjugation of women in the porn and prostitution industries. Also, misogyny rears its ugly head in very subtle ways that are not easily proven.

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