The Federal Bureau of Investigation defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives.” So why don’t we consider the Santa Barbara shooter a terrorist?
Black guy shoot folks = thug. Brown guy shoots folks = terrorist. White guy guns down women = "nice guy who's mentally ill". #YesAllWomen— Charles Clymer (@cmclymer) May 25, 2014
On Friday, a 22-year-old gunman went on a shooting rampage in and around the area of the University of California at Santa Barbara, ultimately killing six people before committing suicide. (Note: I will not name the shooter, for reasons about which I have previously written.) Prior to the carnage, the shooter posted a YouTube video and distributed a 137-page manifesto largely attributing his violent anger to his inability to date and have sex with women.
But the shooter’s rant wasn’t merely woe-is-me self-pity. He actively blamed and condemned women—not just individually, but as a categorical whole—for his shortcomings. “It’s not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls have never been attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it,” the shooter said in the video.
In telegraphing his rampage, the shooter said he planned to “slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see.”
“If I can’t have you girls, I will destroy you,” said the shooter. “You will finally see that I am in truth the superior one. The true Alpha Male.”
As Elizabeth Plank and Jessica Valenti and several other writers have pointed out, the shooter’s rants are the very definition of misogyny. And the hatred of women is not a random personal twitch but a deeply ingrained worldview—let’s call it an ideology, even—with social and political implications. Misogyny is so real and dangerous that the Southern Poverty Law Center tracks extremist anti-women organizations among other threatening hate groups. Valenti writes:
According to his family, Rodger was seeking psychiatric treatment. But to dismiss this as a case of a lone “madman” would be a mistake.
Doing so not only stigmatizes the mentally ill—who are much more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it—but glosses over the role that misogyny and gun culture play (and just how foreseeable violence like this is) in a sexist society. After all, while it is unclear what role Rodger’s reportedly poor mental health played in the alleged crime, the role of misogyny is obvious.
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