As a feminist, I’ve known of the Men’s Rights Activist Movement, or the MRAs, for awhile. They’re men that believe women owe them something. They believe feminism is a scourge on the earth. They believe that they are superior to women and that it’s the fault of women that they can’t get laid, and they don’t feel respected. And they hate us. Violently and perniciously. Read The Belle Jar’s description of MRAs here.
Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old man who shot up a sorority house in California this week, killed and injured a number of young women because he believed that they owed him sex and admiration. He believed in and was wholly part of the MRA movement, and as such, decided to carry out their manifesto. The media, and the general population, is treating Rodger’s act of violence as a one-off. They believe that this was caused by mental illness, or the fact that Rodger was autistic (he had Asperger’s syndrome).
This is not a one-off. This happens daily, multiple times a day.
The Twitter hashtag, #YesAllWomen, was created last night as a response to Rodger’s act and to give women a place to tell their stories. Because this isn’t the first act of violence against women, and it won’t be the last. The vast online community of MRAs is simply growing larger and larger as the voices of feminists are growing. It’s frightening and it needs to be known. These are your sons, your brothers, your cousins, your boyfriends and husbands. They are a group of sometimes hurt, sometimes ill, and sometimes plain angry men who want to hurt and kill women.
Every woman has a story about being threatened by a man. MRAs like to pretend that we make this up, but the fact is, rape culture is real, violence against women is real, and every woman has experienced a part of this in some way.
I have been followed home by men, received unwanted physical contact from men, and been called names by men. I’ve been given death threats for writing here on my blog. I’ve been asked to justify and give examples of all of those things, and then told that I’m “too uppity” and “too picky” when I write about my real fear regarding the man who slung his arm around me and tried to steer me into an alley last year when I walked home from work. I was walking on a well-lit street. It was late, but there were many people around. No one came to my aid or tried to stop this man, who then started running after me when I managed to break away from him and duck into a convenience store.
This happens every day to women.
There are women who are questioned about abusive relationships and acts committed by men against them. They’re asked to justify and “prove” that the men hurt them in some way, threatened them in some way. Women are outright blamed for staying in abusive relationships, and they’re outright blamed for leaving, especially if they have children. For years, I wondered if it was my fault that I was assaulted as a child. That I should have put up more of a fight. I did not wonder why the man who did it to me did not stop when I asked him to until I was much older.
Women are systematically discriminated against. They are still paid less than men for the same job. They are frowned upon if they get pregnant and leave the workforce. There are countries that offer no paid maternity leave at all. Women have been passed over for jobs and promotions simply because they have a family.
Women are politically discriminated against when our rights are curtailed by politicians, and the question of legal abortion is still a question in 2014.
There are women who insist that because we’re equal now to men (not true), that we no longer need feminism. Women insist this. That’s how ingrained the patriarchial culture is.
And MRAs believe that the reason feminism exists is because women hate men. This is so blatantly untrue. Most women do not hate men in any way. They simply want to be treated equally to men. They simply want to feel safe in their own worlds.
If you are a man and reading this, you might be thinking “But not all men are MRAs. Not all men would hurt women.” That’s true. Not all men would. But all women have been dehumanized by a man. That’s what’s forgotten in this conversation – there’s so much defensiveness from men. Please listen to what we have to say. We’re telling you that this happens enough that every woman has a story. Not all men do this, but enough men do that the default is to be distrustful and wary around men.
Elliot Rodger may have been mentally ill. He did have Asperger’s syndrome. But to believe he killed and harmed those women because of those things is wrong and increases stigma about autism and mental illness. Rodger killed those women because he believed he was superior to them. He believed in the lies the MRA movement told him. And the pain of being rejected, plus an outlet to channel that rejection into and get it validated, drove him to do this.
He will not be the only man to do this. He has not been the only man to do this.
We need to change our culture. This will not stop happening to women until we do.