We label them as crazy, but fail to acknowledge why they may be said “crazy.” Elliott Rodgers may have been a victim, but it wasn’t to himself. It was patriarchy, and the false entitlement many men have led themselves to believe comes with it, that killed. And unknowingly, we facilitate such a process everyday.
Over a year ago, I wrote an article on rape culture, and men’s role, after this last month, its clear more needs to be added to the discourse.
Just last week, on my evening commute home from the school I work at, a confrontation erupted between the bus driver, a woman, and a male trying to board the bus. I don’t know the exact details of how it started, but by the time I actually tuned in, the man was contesting his case that he had already paid his fare. Within less than a minute, what was a simple dispute, became a man yelling provocative language and threatening the bus driver, calling her a “b*tch” repeatedly.
The whole time I wanted someone to act. I waited for a coalition to rise up and tell this man that he needed to calm down, or get off, but that never happened. I remember telling myself that I should intervene, but fear restrained me. Eventually a man siting behind me gave him a dollar, the crazy man’s response: “Thank you, sir. I apologize for this cunt of a bus driver.”
I went home and have never been quite the same since. I have continually replayed the whole event in my head, and always think of what could I have said. If anything, I should have told him to never refer to a woman with the language he was using. It was that language that made every woman on board the bus feel unsafe. It was as though I just didn’t abandon the women who were on the bus, but also the women who weren’t–my mother, sisters, friends, etc….
I’m telling this story because I know what happened in Santa Barbara has opened my eyes. I feel confident in saying that the fear I sensed on the bus is the same fear that follows women everywhere and everyday; and a small selfish part of me wants to redeem myself for that instance on the bus, when I was a coward.
Its a type of cowardice that can’t be erased through a single post, or a single person. But these last couple of weeks we have seen the internet explode with meaningful dialogue and personal narratives of sexual violence and gender inequality under the #YesAllWomen hashtag. It’s breathtaking, also unfortunate, but still an inspiration to witness such solidarity from such a moment. Yet, “not all men,” is the repeated response to such a unified and forward thinking coalition.. “Not all men,” is the response men use to help themselves navigate through a world where sexism and gender still matter, but where we can just so easily put it in the back of our minds. “Not all men,” is just another way we distort the reality. Its true, “not all men” rape women, call them cunts on buses, or don’t take no for an answer. But every women leaves their home with a level of fear in knowing the unpredictable is never in their favor.
We’d be lying to ourselves if we didn’t see in Elliot Rogers an adequate representation of our culture. He represents a growing number of men who feel a sense of entitlement. An entitlement that isn’t anything new, but a legacy that this country has intentionally rooted its origins in: Patriarchy. We’d be lying to ourselves if that entitlement was only present in one whack job, and as if if we didn’t see that entitlement everywhere. At every frat party we’ve gone to. When we’re alone with the fellas, and all the horrible connotations they use to describe women, or their views towards them. It’s not a matter of if Elliot Rogers was mentally ill, its the fact that we need to be honest about the culture that molded someone so mentally vulnerable. Elliott Rogers wasn’t the first, and if we don’t start bringing ourselves to account, he won’t be the last.
I’ve spent the last 9 months writing a 70 page thesis on institutional racism, and how it is still very much real. I argue how this country’s origins are planted in the notion of white supremacy. And I still stand behind that. But this country wasn’t just founded on an infallible whiteness, but also an undeniable maleness. That is the legacy young boys pick up. And it creates a false sense of entitlement that becomes almost impossible to debunk. And its everywhere, from when the president openly objectifies another women in power on her looks, when we victimize the rapist, and when we silence the woman through belittling their experiences within an openly sexist culture dominated by males’ false notions of superiority. When we tell a girl not to dress a certain way or she’ll be raped, we are doing anything BUT protecting her, we are creating a space everyday with our words that will make leaving her house, going on the internet, more and more dangerous.
Yes, not all men rape women, but close to all men were like me last week. Close to all men stand by when another man refers to a girl as bitch for no other reason than just that, and they say nothing. Most to all men allow other men at bars to make passes at women who clearly are not interested, men who refuse to take no for an answer, and we sit by and watch in amusement. Sure, I may not rape women, I may not assault them, I may take no for meaning just that, but I’ve also facilitated patriarchy in more than one instance by maybe not doing the wrong thing, but also not doing the right.