Elliot Rodger clearly hated the women who rejected him. However, portraying the Santa Barbara massacre as “misogynist” violence minimizes the problem and makes it harder to solve.
Rodger stated that he wanted respect as an “alpha male,” and he chose to establish his masculinity by killing people – women and men. Such twisted thinking is cultivated in a society that depends on the oppression of women and on gender stereotypes that help trap women (and men) in an oppressive family system.
The concept that real men are aggressive and real women are submissive is not based on biology. These gender roles are imposed by a capitalist family system that relies on women’s unpaid labor in the home – financially valued at more than $11 trillion world-wide. That’s 11 trillion reasons to keep women oppressed. The family system also traps men in the home with the legal obligation to financially support women and children, a responsibility that the ‘real man’ does not shirk.
Violence against women takes two forms: inside the family and outside the family.
The family is the most violent social institution for both women and men, caused by unrelenting stress that builds to the point of explosion. A 2010 survey found that 1 in 4 American women and 1 in 7 American men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their life, that means being hit with a fist or something hard, beaten, or slammed against something. Sons of violent parents are 1,000 times more likely to batter their partners. Daughters of violent parents are 600 times more likely to batter their partners.
Violence against women outside the family is part of the widespread violence that is directed towards members of all oppressed groups. Capitalism grinds us down, and our anger is misdirected against those who are weaker, not against the system itself. That is why we have a ‘culture’ of violence, sexism, racism, and war.
Rodger could have turned his rage at being a social failure against any oppressed group: Blacks, gays, immigrants, Muslims, etc. Failing socially is not a personal problem, nor is it caused by women. In a class-divided, hierarchical society, the majority are set up to fail.
Rebecca Solnit is wrong when she states, “Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.”
Violence certainly does have a class, the capitalist class. The process of capital accumulation results in hazardous working conditions, environmental pollution, poverty and war – all of which kill women and men. Class inequality on its own is a major killer of both sexes.
Violence does not have a gender. In Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and its Causes, James Gilligan dismantles the myth that most perpetrators of violence are men and most victims are women.
Men are also victims of domestic violence. More men and women kill men than they kill women. Overall, men die violent deaths from two to five times more often than women.
Inter-personal violence is a social problem, a sign of how desperate life is under capitalism, so desperate that 800,000 women and men kill themselves every year. Far more women die from suicide than from murder.
Dave Zirin is wrong to argue that men have a “collective responsibility” to end violence against women. Men, on their own, cannot solve a problem that is embedded in capitalism. And not all men have an interest in solving it. Men (and women) in the capitalist class enrich themselves by perpetrating all kinds of violence on the rest of us.
Why are violent attacks against women and gays increasing? Sexual assaults on women are at epidemic levels and a number of countries have passed virulent anti-gay laws (India, Russia, Uganda, etc.)
The more society relies on individual families to provide social services, the more it must reinforce sexist stereotypes like “women’s place is in the home” and “real men are heterosexual” (and financially responsible for women and children).
The social movements of the 1960s won increased funding for social services. Since then, the capitalist class has fought back, gutting, eliminating and privatizing most of these services. The result is an increased reliance on individual families, and especially on women, to provide unpaid services. This increased reliance on the family is the root cause of the increased sexism we see today.
During times when the working class is gaining strength, sexism, racism and homophobia diminish as people work together to solve their common problems. During times when the working class is weak, sexism, racism and homophobia increase.
The only effective solution to ending violence against women and gays is class solidarity, that is, for working-class women and men to unite against a capitalist system that immerses our lives in violence.