Violence in Male Entitlement
By: Amber Reumont
The tragic shooting at the University of California, Santa Barbara has stimulated nation-wide discussion, particularly on Twitter, regarding the culture of masculine entitlement and its alarming impact on women. Many of the mainstream discussions occurring on major news sources are focused on mental illness and gun control. Jumping to the conclusion that the gunman is mentally ill stigmatizes mentally ill people as prone to violence while also drawing attention away from an aspect of his personality that was made clear through his justification for his actions; that is, his immensely misogynistic attitude. It has been revealed that the alleged gunman, Elliot Rodger, contributed his tales of rejection to online men’s discussion groups in which he demeaned women that did not show romantic interest in him.
Prior to the attack, Rodger extensively documented his difficulties garnering attention from women through a manifesto and videos. He feels he deserved their attention and that women were entirely at fault for his actions. Rodger declares on page 94 of his manifesto, “I needed a girl’s love. I needed to feel worthy as a male. For so long I have felt worthless, and it’s all girls’ fault. No girl wanted to be my girlfriend.” Attaching a man’s worth to his sexual experiences is certainly a factor contributing to the objectification of women in our society, but it is a minute segment of a massive problem. Rodgers’s sense of entitlement and superiority toward women highlights this issue. If a man believes that he has the right to take a woman’s life simply because she has not given him what he feels entitled to, it is clear that misogyny goes beyond the realm of politics and internet hate groups; lives are in danger.
Although Rodger’s actions are an extreme example of the dangers of misogyny, feelings of entitlement toward a woman’s body are all too common; this attack is not the only recent example of a man reacting violently to a woman’s rejection. We need only go back to the end of April to find another case, in which a high school boy murdered a girl for rejecting his invitation to prom. Unable to confirm their masculinity through their relationships with women, these attackers feel the need to prove the extent of their dominance through violence. The hostile, dehumanizing language these men promoted also expresses the ever-present threat of violence that affects all women.
Such language is not out of the ordinary for forums such as PUAHate and the Men’s Rights Activists. PUAHate is a discussion board for men who feel scammed by the pick up artist business, as the techniques pick up artists sanction fail to attract women. On the other hand, men’s rights activists are drawn together by their mutual loathing of the feminist movement. The contributors of both forums tend to blame pick up artists and feminists for their difficulties relating to women. The beliefs of the men’s rights activists, MRAs, are particularly disturbing, as they feel feminism has entirely diminished their status as males. Additionally, MRAs embrace male entitlement; many MRAs believe that most rape cases are false accusations. In particular, Rodger gravitated to these groups because he felt pick up artists and feminism hindered his ability to truly achieve the “alpha male” identity for which he strived.
Not only should this attack revitalize discussions about the objectification of women through society and the media, it should also excite discussions about how we judge masculinity. Our society is in turmoil over how women are treated and how men are judged for it. To leave behind the belief that “boys will be boys” men must be held accountable for their treatment of women. Additionally, men must be empowered to value women rather than objectify them.
The effects of male entitlement and rape culture are far-reaching. They can be heard on the street when a woman is catcalled, just as they can be heard in the courtroom when a rape victim is forced to prove her own innocence before she is worthy of being labeled a victim. These are merely two effects of society’s praise for extreme masculinity, and women live in fear of them everyday. Yet, many will be satisfied to declare Rodger’s attack the result of mental illness, and they will call for action to be taken for access to mental health care. However, the women who will continue to be victimized by men who feel entitled to their bodies will not be satisfied.
Women and men both took to social media to voice their frustrations with masculine entitlement. Many men counter Rodger’s violence with compassion, leaving reason to believe that the tides of male entitlement are currently receding. Men must be taught to empathize with the women in their lives in order to reconfigure the framework of masculinity. One father, Leo Babauta, details in a blog his own aspirations to teach his sons that masculinity need not be limited to its stereotype. He declares, “Let’s make this world a better place for our daughters, our mothers, our sisters, our friends. Our fellow human beings. Because every one of us deserves to feel respected, and safe.” Though there is hope that our culture’s sphere of masculinity and its treatment of women can be transformed, the fire sparked by this tragedy must continue to rage for change to be accomplished.
Likewise, an explosion of women bravely revealed their personal stories in a renewed discussion of rape culture on Twitter through #YesAllWomen, indicating that they are dedicated to encouraging their fellow women and men to contribute to the solution rather than the problem. They share encounters with men who feel their masculine identity commands respect and adoration. The stories that rush through this hash tag reveal the cold grip masculine entitlement has on our society. One tweet in particular speaks to Rodger’s attitudes towards women: “Because women are taught to hate themselves if men reject them, and men are taught to hate women if women reject them. #YesAllWomen” The hash tag phenomenon maintains that although all women feel the impact of male entitlement, they will not stand aside and allow rape culture to hijack their lives. Instead, they will continue to voice their discontent and uplift the value of women and men.