False Feminist Narratives

Ben Cohen
In the wake of the Isla Vista massacre, many in the mainstream media pointed to misogyny as the primary cause of Elliot Rodger’s murderous rampage; this is a dangerous and counterproductive misdirection. The feminist narrative sees the massacre as the most extreme manifestation of everyday misogyny, linking it to issues like street harassment, and campus rape. While Elliot Rodger expressed considerable misogyny in his manifesto, his misogyny was the byproduct of mental illness and sexual frustration. The feminist narrative is a distraction from the more serious issues surrounding mental illness. 

“Elliot Rodger targeted women out of entitlement, their male partners out of jealousy, and unrelated male bystanders out of expedience. This is not ammunition for an argument that he was a misandrist at heart -- it’s evidence of the horrific extent of misogyny’s cultural reach.”– Amanda Hess, Slate

But did misogyny really cause Elliot Rodger’s shooting, or was misogyny a byproduct of sexual jealousy and underlying psychological problems? Ann Coulter made a fairly persuasive case that Elliot Rodger was schizophrenic, pointing to his prescription for anti-psychotic medication. Daniel Greenfield made a case that Elliot Rodger was sane, but amoral, evil and narcissistic. Personally I don’t think one can posthumously diagnose mental illness with any degree of certainty. Still, given that very few people commit mass murder, and of that tiny group many are known to be mentally ill, mental illness seems a likely cause.

From what we know about Elliot Rodger it seems his misogyny has far more to do with personal problems, and less to do with any ideological beliefs. Judging based on what those who knew him say, along with his manifesto, Elliot Rodger had experienced intense social anxiety from a young age. His social anxiety was particularly acute around the opposite sex. His inability to connect with the opposite sex led to feelings of intense loneliness, rejection, jealousy, and finally anger. It also must be pointed out that Elliot Rodger’s manifesto suggests the onset of schizophrenia, or similar mental illness.

As deplorable as his attitude toward women became, should a therapist encountering a young man expressing similar sentiments give him a lecture on misogyny, or attempt to help him with his underlying problems? If his therapist delivered such a lecture, would Elliot Rodger have been more or less likely to listen to his advice? In order to be effective, a therapist needs to have some ability to empathize with the patient. Seeing feelings of rejection or jealousy as expressions of male sexual entitlement makes that impossible.

Perhaps nothing could have stopped such a massacre from occurring, (the rate of such massacres has remained remarkably stable). The problem with the feminist narrative is not simply that it’s a distraction, but that it is actively counterproductive. If one wants to stop massacres, one wants angry alienated young men to seek help. At best our focus on misogyny is a waste of time, at worst it makes such massacres more likely by discouraging young men from getting help.

In the wake of the Isla Vista massacre, many in the mainstream media pointed to misogyny as the primary cause of Elliot Rodger’s murderous rampage; this is a dangerous and counterproductive misdirection. The feminist narrative sees the massacre as the most extreme manifestation of everyday misogyny, linking it to issues like street harassment, and campus rape. While Elliot Rodger expressed considerable misogyny in his manifesto, his misogyny was the byproduct of mental illness and sexual frustration. The feminist narrative is a distraction from the more serious issues surrounding mental illness. 

“Elliot Rodger targeted women out of entitlement, their male partners out of jealousy, and unrelated male bystanders out of expedience. This is not ammunition for an argument that he was a misandrist at heart -- it’s evidence of the horrific extent of misogyny’s cultural reach.”– Amanda Hess, Slate

But did misogyny really cause Elliot Rodger’s shooting, or was misogyny a byproduct of sexual jealousy and underlying psychological problems? Ann Coulter made a fairly persuasive case that Elliot Rodger was schizophrenic, pointing to his prescription for anti-psychotic medication. Daniel Greenfield made a case that Elliot Rodger was sane, but amoral, evil and narcissistic. Personally I don’t think one can posthumously diagnose mental illness with any degree of certainty. Still, given that very few people commit mass murder, and of that tiny group many are known to be mentally ill, mental illness seems a likely cause.

From what we know about Elliot Rodger it seems his misogyny has far more to do with personal problems, and less to do with any ideological beliefs. Judging based on what those who knew him say, along with his manifesto, Elliot Rodger had experienced intense social anxiety from a young age. His social anxiety was particularly acute around the opposite sex. His inability to connect with the opposite sex led to feelings of intense loneliness, rejection, jealousy, and finally anger. It also must be pointed out that Elliot Rodger’s manifesto suggests the onset of schizophrenia, or similar mental illness.

As deplorable as his attitude toward women became, should a therapist encountering a young man expressing similar sentiments give him a lecture on misogyny, or attempt to help him with his underlying problems? If his therapist delivered such a lecture, would Elliot Rodger have been more or less likely to listen to his advice? In order to be effective, a therapist needs to have some ability to empathize with the patient. Seeing feelings of rejection or jealousy as expressions of male sexual entitlement makes that impossible.

Perhaps nothing could have stopped such a massacre from occurring, (the rate of such massacres has remained remarkably stable). The problem with the feminist narrative is not simply that it’s a distraction, but that it is actively counterproductive. If one wants to stop massacres, one wants angry alienated young men to seek help. At best our focus on misogyny is a waste of time, at worst it makes such massacres more likely by discouraging young men from getting help.