Why Elliot Rodger is a wake up call for young feminists

It’s been more than a week since Elliot Rodger went on a misogyny-fueled killing spree in California. For the past week, the media and society has tried to process what happened all over the interwebs everywhere from the comment section of Jezebel to the hallowed walls of Tumblr to the streaming hashtags of Twitter. There have been conversations about gun laws, mental health and of course hating women and what it means to live as #yesallwomen in a world where Elliot Rodger existed. Despite some criticism, I think many of these conversations have been productive and productively uncomfortable. This tragedy has forced Americans to talk about gender and violence in a more honest way; the gunning down young men and women in Isla Vista goes beyond debating Chris Brown’s fucked up song lyrics or the disturbingly violent rapes on Game of Thrones. We can’t pretend Elliot Rodger is a lone madman and we can’t pretend misogyny isn’t real.

For me personally it has been a wake-up call, reminding me of the tangible reasons I’m a feminist. For the feminist movement, especially for the new wave of young feminists, I hope this horrific crime is also a wake-up shout: We HAVE TO include young men in this generation’s feminist movement.

We have to start addressing the fucked-up way we teach young men to be “masculine” in the same way we are trying to change the way young women look at femininity. We need to stop the dichotomy of #notallmen and #yesallwomen, and start to see how the challenges both genders face come from the exact same disgusting source: strict gender roles and ridiculous gendered expectations based solely on if your genitalia is an innie or an outie.

Elliot believed his entire self-worth was tied up in whether or not “hot” women would sleep with him. He believed he “deserved” to sleep with hot women because he was a good man. He is operating within a dichotomously-gendered world we have created: men get women as a reward.  Of course this sucks for women – we are little more than objects to bestowed on deserving men – but it also blows for men who begin to believe they are less than if they can’t “score with the ladies.”

And if men can’t get women, their only socially approved outlet of emotion is anger and aggression. Society doesn’t let “manly men” feel sad or god-forbid talk about their feelings. They are allowed to rage and that is all; rage until they have to vomit their anger out in all sorts of cringe-worthy ways. And while all this anger may fuel the threads of Reddit, it is not helping any young men find lasting happiness and equality in the world.

#YesAllWomen deserve to live in a world free of fear of misogyny; and also #YesAllMen deserve to be able to live beyond the expectations of masculinity. Men too need a movement to break these ridiculously strict gender roles and I believe our generation of feminism should be that movement.

Feminists still have to constantly fight against the ridiculous stereotype that feminists are “man-haters.” The past discourse of the second wave often pitted women against men in a ridiculous fight we both lost.

In the next generation we need to embrace men into the cause; with men we need to address issues of masculinity and the harm it does. This will not take away from the feminist movement, it can only strengthen it.

But it is not just about embracing men’s issues and addressing masculinity. We need to actively and vocally invite men into the feminist movement. We need more men on our chapter boards of NOW. We need more men writing feminist pieces in major news outlets. We need more feminist men in our ivory towers. We need more men who identify as feminist knowing the struggle is not just that of their sisters, mothers, girlfriends or partners, but that of their own. We need men invested in the feminist fight because, as we saw with Elliot Rodger, this is men’s fight too.


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