In the wake of the violence in Santa Barbara this past weekend, media are doing that thing where they rush to figure out causes and prevention methods. How do mentally ill people predisposed to violence continue to get guns? How can we prevent suicide/mass shootings or at least reduce the risk of their taking place? How do we recognize elevated risk factors and intervene?
Getting weapons out of the hands of violent people seems to be the way to go, but it’s also worth discussing the role that misogyny plays in these forms of mass violence. The vast majority of men who suffer from mental illness don’t commit suicide/mass shootings. Most men who drink don’t rape women. These behaviors don’t come out of nowhere — they aren’t invented out of thin air, but are expressions of cultural practices and moments.
College, Elliott Rodgers said in his video, should be a time for men to have “sex, fun, and pleasure.” When, I wonder, did college become a kind of rumspringa for privileged mainly white men, who believe that they are entitled to unlimited sex, fun, and pleasure and that these things, moreover, are somehow their right?
These kinds of ideas drive the party culture on college campuses — a culture facilitated by sports, the Greek system and college administrations. This culture creates “party pathways” whose cost is high in terms of alcoholism, sexual assault, street harassment, and debt, as Elizabeth A. Armstrong and Laura T. Hamilton illustrate in Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality. These party pathways are also grounded in misogyny — in silencing women who have been injured by this culture (and sororities play a very powerful role in doing this) and fostering conditions in which hatred of, and violence against, women can flourish.