Updated: One of the people criticized in this piece has already thrown a fit and accused me of suggesting he supports woman-killing. Now anyone with basic reading comprehension skills would see that I not only did not say that I believe any of these folks approve of woman-killing, but I explicitly labeled woman-killing as “something so bad that conservatives can’t get behind it”, right there in the first paragraph. The point of the piece is that they are afraid that woman-killing, which is a bad thing (they agree), might negatively impact the reputation of misogyny. I find this kind of comical, because I came to this with the pre-existing belief that misogyny is pretty bad, and am startled to see anyone trying to protect its good name from suggestions that it’s associated with murder. By the way, 1.3 million women are violently assaulted by men every year in this country for not doing or being what those men want them to be, so Rodger’s misogynist violence really is just the most extreme example of what relentlessly teaching young men that women exist to serve them gets you in terms of violence.
I’ll add that to be super duper clear, I am deeply offended that Warner Todd Huston tried to divert attention away from male entitlement towards the issue of young people having consensual sex. While he did try to sound gender-neutral about it, everyone with two brain cells they can rub together knows that women are considered the “guilty” parties to anyone who believes sex is inherently naughty. Elliot Rodger was furious at all the couples having consensual sex, and aimed most of his rage at the women for “giving” it to the men. Subsequently, I can’t help but think it’s a form of victim-blaming to scold young people for having sex in the aftermath, which implies they somehow brought this on themselves by having interpersonal relationships that didn’t actually involve Rodger or any other asshole, including Warner Todd Huston, who apparently believes that young people are having sex at them.
When some bigot does something so bad that conservatives can’t get behind it—whether it’s go on a misogyny-inspired killing spree or said something so inarguably racist that it can’t be hand waved away (see: Donald Sterling)—I’m always curious how they’re going to distance themselves. There are three basic reactions: 1) Utter silence, which is usually the smartest move but also the hardest to pull off for many a bullshit artist 2) Writing off the bad person as a “true” example of a loathed bigotry while maintaining they aren’t bigots themselves, no sirree or 3) Or play the victim while doubling down on your bigotry. This is invariably a stupid move, since it, at best, makes you look insensitive and, at worst, makes it sound like you’re not actually distancing yourself.
Elliot Rodger’s manifesto was so misogynist that it really did rival even the ugliest, most entitled whining of MRAs, PUAs, and anti-PUAs on the internet, which is saying a lot. The man actually suggested that women be killed off, with a few left in concentration camps for breeding purposes. Even if he hadn’t killed anyone, throwing his ideas under the bus with speed should be a no-brainer. The smart move would have absolutely been for conservatives to pull faces and say, “Wow, that’s what real misogyny looks like,” and to exploit this horror show from here until the end of the time as cover for lesser forms of misogyny.
Instead, for some reason, I’m seeing another response coalesce. I call it the “How dare you besmirch the good name of misogyny?!” gambit. The idea is to deny and deny and deny that Rodger was motivated by misogyny. Which is weird. Since 95-99% of misogynists deny they are misogynists, what’s it to them to admit that he was motivated by misogyny? The only reason I can think to deny he’s a misogynist is that you secretly know damn well you are a misogynist, and you want to deny that your misogynist ideology played any role in the killings.
Some variations I’ve spotted:
Rich Lowry: “Even without any of that background, it is obvious that Rodger’s final YouTube video and his 140-page manifesto promising to exact vengeance upon the women who spurned him are the ravings of a deranged person; as such, it is the derangement itself, not the content of the ravings, that is most important.” Translation: Misogyny is clearly blameless here, and the fact that it showed up in Rodger’s rantings should be regarded as utterly irrelevant.
Warner Todd Huston: “You see, college is not ’the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure.’ College is the time to learn, to study, and to prepare yourself for your life as an adult.” Not only is misogyny blameless, in Huston’s eyes, but it kind of seems that he’s proposing more sex-phobia—which inevitably translates into misogyny—as a solution. He seems to believe the blame for Rodger’s behavior lay not with Rodger’s overblown sense of entitlement, but on the shoulders of the kids who dared live their own lives and have fun. Interestingly enough, this is also who Rodger blamed, so much so that he decided to kill them.
Ann Althouse: “Subscribing to channels makes it somewhat likely that Rodger ‘watched’ and ‘listened,’ but we don’t know that he did. To what extent did the language used on those channels correspond to the language in Rodger’s rant? And is “Men’s Rights Movement” the right umbrella term for the “pickup artist” genre? The goal of lots of sex is different from the goal of getting rights.” Translation: You can’t blame misogyny because LOOK A SQUIRREL.
Then there was the sub-genre of the “how dare you besmirch the good name of misogyny” gambit, which I call the “just because that guy killed someone doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with misogyny generally” argument. This card was played in response to women pointing out that Rodger’s spree was simply the worst manifestation of a constant drumbeat of male entitlement and anger when it’s thwarted, a combination commonly known as “misogyny”.
Katie Pavlich: “This issue is not about women and I think it’s kind of insulting for women to go on Twitter and talk about how them getting hit on in the bar is equal to being shot in the street, because it’s not.” Translation: Misogyny is utterly blameless and just because this one guy shot someone doesn’t mean anything. Misogynists who enjoy making life hard on women, carry on, so long as you make sure to stop short of violence. (By the way, no one talked about merely being hit on in bars. They talked about being harassed, which means being hit on by a man who is not going to take no for an answer.)
Glenn Beck, also in response to women speaking out against all forms of misogyny, even those that don’t involve murder: “Nothing like turning a tragic shooting into a chance for some good, old-fashioned man-bashing.” Translation: Okay, I’ll grant you that mass murder is wrong, but if you complain about any other misogynist violence—the tweets he quoted mentioned rape, sexual harassment, fear of murder, and fear of stalking—then you need to shut the fuck up. Objecting to rape is “man-bashing”, you see. By the same token, objecting to having someone kick you is nothing more than foot-bashing.
Then there were the people who claimed Rodger couldn’t have been misogynist because he killed men. Translation: I may never achieve basic reading comprehension skills, but I know I love misogyny too much to let its good name be tarnished by this awful killing.
Let’s be clear: Anyone who accuses you of hating “men” when you are explicitly critiquing misogyny is rather unsubtly arguing that all men are inherently misogynists
Let me restart that: The argument that critiquing misogyny is the equivalent of “man-hating” implicitly argues that all men are inherently misogynists, and that this is an immoveable and, indeed, defining feature of being a “man”. It’s a little bit of three card monte to try to shut down any criticism of misogyny, because, clearly, the goal here is to defend misogyny as an ideology. If it weren’t, they’d be happy to admit that Rodger was a misogynist. Instead, the instinct here it to protect and shield misogyny from criticism.
It’s just weird is all. Whenever some celebrity does something like drop an N-bomb, conservatives immediately scramble to say, “See, I don’t use words like that, so clearly I can’t be a racist!” You’d think they’d use the same tactic, saying, “See, I don’t shoot up a college town, so I can’t be a misogynist!” Instead, the strategy appears to be, “He shot up a college town, so he clearly can’t be a misogynist, since misogyny is simply too good an ideology to associate with terrible people like that.” Dumb move.