Last Friday’s massacre in Santa Barbara, allegedly the work of 22-year-old student Elliot Rodger, was senseless and horrific. But what really alarmed me was how Rodger’s rationalization for the murders felt so familiar.
I recognized his belief that “gentlemanliness” entitled him to sexual and romantic attention—because I see a subtler version of it all the time. From being called a bitch for not reciprocating romantic interest, to being asked to smile when I walk down the street, I’ve long felt expected to show affection and warmth on command.
Rodger’s self-perceived ownership of women’s bodies is nothing new. Many other women have taken to the web to write about the literally deadly impact of misogyny. One was Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday, who called out frat pack flicks for furthering the “guy has lots of sex and gets the girl” wish fulfillment narrative that seems to have influenced Rodger’s alleged act. Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen took to Twitter to denounce Hornaday’s article, calling it “horribly insulting and misinformed.”
Apatow and Rogen distanced themselves from their complicity in the patriarchy rather than engaging in a dialogue about how many men can, in fact, do better. In the wake of this tragedy, I hoped to see men sharing articles that call out Rodger’s misogyny and having meaningful discussions about what can be done to make the world safer for everyone—but I ended up hearing a whole lot of silence.
So step up, men. (Kudos to those who already have.) Have tough conversations. Call each other out. Let this scare you like it scares us. It’s not easy to admit your privilege, I get that. But it’s also not easy wondering whether someone with an entitlement complex and a gun is going to off me because he feels spurned.