The absolute dumbest argument I’ve heard in response to Elliot Rodger’s killing spree last weekend was this: Rodger killed more men than women, so this had nothing to do with misogyny (subtext: So shut your feminist pie-hole).
It takes a lot of logical leaps to make that conclusion when you look at the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, not least of all the fact that Rodger himself explicitly stated that he hated women, that his purpose was to kill as many women as he could, that he felt that women were less than human, that his motivation was that he felt spurned by women. To wit, from Rodger himself: “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it.”
It’s not important what the numbers are, to me. The ratio of men to women killed or injured is largely circumstantial, and they don’t mean anything anyway, because — despite what a fair number of people apparently believe — misogynists hate men, too.
Obviously, women don’t exist in a vacuum — we have platonic, familial, professional, sexual, and all manner of other sorts of relationships with other people. If a misogynist hates us, then he hates the people we associate ourselves with, too. That means that someone like Elliot Rodger not only hates the “dumb sluts” who turned him down, he also hates the “obnoxious brutes” for whom he was rejected. It could also mean that he would hate men who opt to be friends with women rather than necessarily pursuing us as sexual objects — in either situation, those men are closer to us than he was.
But it doesn’t end there. Hatred of women translates into hatred of men who in some way “act like” women, too. Expectations about gender and gender roles are at the heart of homophobia: If women are lesser than men, then men who are effeminate or who are attracted to other men are lesser by association. Women who upset gender stereotypes by displaying qualities that are supposed to be masculine, or who are attracted to other women, are out of line. And then that seeps into transphobia, as well, not to mention the rigid denial of any sexes existing outside of male and female, despite the evidence.
There’s an anti-feminist community out there that consists of men’s rights activists on the radical end, but also of plain, ordinary men and women who see feminism as being defensive only of women to the detriment of men. I’m not going to elaborate too much here on the idea that more harm has been done to women than to men, because I also think that trying to pick sides or create an injustice scorecard is the wrong idea. What I will say is this: Yes, shitty things have been done to men as a group. It’s not feminists who did it, though. The same rigid expectations about gender, sexuality, and identity that created an unfair playing field for women have very real consequences that affect men, too. And not in a good way.
Feminists care that men have been given an unrealistic body standard to live up to, that our society demands stoicism from men, that men are seen as suspect caregivers for children. We care that divorces end up being really unfair to husbands and fathers sometimes. We care that things are unequal, and there’s more than one side to inequality. Life is not always a walk in the park for men, we get that. We’re on the same side, and we’re exhausted and fed up with double-standards, too. But what we’re asking to have recognized is the fact — and it is a fact — that these horrible standards have stemmed from a hatred, mistrust, and denigration of women across societies and across the world that have left us without the same economic or political power and voice that men enjoy.
It would be better for everyone if we could share the mic. If it were possible for us to come to the conclusion that humanity isn’t divided into halves, that our expectations for both genders are bullshit and that they’ve only served to hurt us, maybe we wouldn’t have men like Elliot Rodger and his MRA cronies saying that women are garbage, and men who don’t agree with them are garbage too. Misogyny isn’t a scorecard or a competition — there are no points, there are certainly no winners.