A couple of weeks ago I was having a conversation via text with a close friend.
She was talking about how much she hated taking classes at night because of how dangerous it is for women to walk alone. She told me something that left me perplexed: one of her main goals at the beginning of the semester was to make male friends, so that they could walk her to her car safely. I was confused. I could not believe that she “needed” a man to walk her around. How could a woman’s first goal at an institution of higher education be to befriend male students so she can feel protected?
Recent events may explain why.
On May 23, 22 year old Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured thirteen before taking his own life near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus in Isla Vista, California. Many were quick to label him as “mentally ill,” , incapable of comprehending the gravity of his actions, almost as if they were justifying this atrocity by labeling him.
Rodger posted a Youtube video before the spree in which he expressed his misogynistic motives for the shooting, ones that were also expressed in his manifesto, “My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger”: “it is such a shameful pity that my ideal world cannot be created … such a thing will never become a reality for me, but it did give me something to fantasize about as I burned with hatred towards all women for rejecting me … all of those beautiful girls I’ve desired so much in my life, but can never have because they despise and oath me, I will destroy.”
Rodger knew what he was doing and why he wanted to do it.
Rodger actions are indicative of a surging trend for women in the United States: rape culture, an atmosphere which sexual violence is somehow normalized and accepted, one that tells victims to avoid sexual violence, but doesn’t tell perpetrators not to violate.
Rape culture is real and you could be contributing to its growth.
Campus harassment, or cat-calling on campus, can be a daily experience for women and this only strengthens the atmosphere of oppression and violence against women. It’s our duty as righteous human beings to respect women, but it’s equally important to not blame victims for their experiences.
Telling victims that it was their fault for walking home alone, wearing that provocative dress, drinking too much, smiling to a random guy, being friendly, or simply being themselves is tantamount to praising the perpetrator.
The consequences of reporting assault is the main challenge for victims that want to publicize perpetrators. A January report released by the White House’s Council on Women and Girls says that, on college campuses, one in five women are assaulted but only one in eight reports the assault. Victims are afraid of speaking out, fearing retaliation by the aggressor or school officials. Many victims even fear being treated with hostility by law enforcement or having their testimonies met with disbelief.
It’s clear that rape culture is all around us and we must challenge it everywhere we see it. It is our duty as members of this society. Rodger’s ideas of having been owed something by the females he sought after shouldn’t be grounds for misogynistic violence.
Neither should my friend be so preoccupied with finding a male bodyguard.