On May 23, a man committed a massacre in Isla Vista, Calif., near the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara, targeting students attending that university. The motives of the attacker were detailed in several videos and manifestos, which also indicated that the attacker was receiving treatment, in the form of prescription drugs, for an undisclosed mental illness. In addition, according to lawyers, the attacker had been diagnosed with a form of highly functional Aspergers Syndrome. The manifestos and videos detail the thinking of a man who struggled from both mental illness and social isolation, a man who was bullied and treated as an outcast, by both males and females.
Usually, mass killings in the United States receive responses based on the characteristics of the attacker. After attacks by white men, those on the left argue primarily for gun control and those on the right argue for a reassessment of how society views and treats mental illness. After attacks by non-white men, the discussions generally focus on terroristic motives, primarily led by the right, with responses against stereotyping from the left. However, the response to this massacre has been unique: a coalition of the right and the media have focused on the mental illness and social struggles of the attacker, while twitter activists and left-wing and feminist writers insist that the massacre was a symptom of sex/gender issues present in America.
It is interesting that members of the left, who preach tolerance, diversity, and non-stereotyping when the motives of a non-white mass murderer are questioned, are so eager to denounce the opinions and ideas of the Isla Vista attacker and cry calls-to-arms against the “misogynistic” societal ideals they claim led to the attacks.
Were the attacker Muslim, it would be seen as prejudiced and ignorant to denounce the attacker’s Islamic beliefs and cry a call-to-arms against the radical ideas the attacker may have derived from Islam. To insist that an attack by a Muslim is a symptom of the issues present in Islam is seen as intolerant, but to say the same general statement in regards to the Isla Vista massacre is praised. Massacres and attacks do not have one single cause. They result from a combination of mental illness, motive (usually from a radical or fundamentalist belief), and a culture of violence, specifically in relation to guns. This doesn’t change depending on the physical characteristics of the attacker. While the right is wrong to only focus on mental illness (for whites) and motive (for non-whites), the left is hypocritical to argue against discussing motive in some cases and then openly argue for motive-based action in other cases, such as the one at issue presently.
On top of the inherent hypocrisy in the politicizing of this massacre, there is another issue in the message sent out, primarily by the hashtag #YesAllWomen. The message is one that the feminist movement uses as a base: one that portrays all women as victims or possible victims, therefore portraying all men as attackers or possible attackers. This stereotyping is not without foundation: 99% of convicted and imprisoned rapists in the United States are male, and it is important to acknowledge that information. However, it must also be acknowledged that this overwhelming majority of rapes by men arises from the ability of men to rape, not an instinct. What I mean by that is that when men rape it is because they can, not because they are hard-wired to. There is no instinct in males to rape. Most men understand that it is wrong to rape. Most men understand that it is wrong to force a woman to have sex, that sex requires proper consent from both parties. Most men are not rapists. Men do not need to be taught not to rape.
To take the rant of a mentally ill murderer as the belief of all men is to do a great injustice. To stereotype all men is wrong.
There is work to be done in the United States in the areas of mental illness and gun control. There is work to be done in the issues brought up by feminists. However, pointing fingers won’t get anything done. Blaming all men for the problems of women won’t solve those problems. There are aspects of society as a whole, such as the ideas of masculinity and femininity, that are not the fault of one group. Gender stereotypes hurt everyone. To portray women as the only group hurt is to belittle the problems faced by men. It draws disdain for movements of equality. Women are hurt by unwanted sexualization just as men are hurt by rejection. To move forward, we must work together. We shouldn’t treat women as objects and we shouldn’t treat men as pigs. We are all human, and we are all equal.