Marrone: What the UC Santa Barbara shootings tell us about the consequences of misogyny, and why we should care

On Friday night, six people were killed near the University of California at Santa Barbara in a drive-by shooting. The gunman’s reasons for doing so are no mystery: He wrote a manifesto and posted videos online hours and days before the shooting detailing the rage he felt. He wanted sex and attention from “hot, blonde girls” who didn’t want him. He wanted one of them, and since he couldn’t “have one,” he sought revenge.

I won’t name him because I believe his identity is irrelevant. What his motivations represent matter more than anything else: Misogyny, a strong sense of entitlement, a sense that “having” women reinforces one’s manhood. Because he had a nice car, designer clothes and believed he was attractive, he felt entitled to women and their bodies. When they didn’t “give it” to him, he felt they deserved punishment of the worst kind.

In this sense, this mass shooting is unlike many others. It’s a gendered act of violence. And I feel sick — sick because, though his attitudes were taken to the extreme, this man doesn’t seem unfamiliar to me. I have met him before. Once at a club in high school, when a man got angry with me for refusing to dance with him and later grabbed my arm, insisting that his desire for me was more important than my disinterest.

I met this kind of man again, at a bar recently, when a guy took my best friend aside and, assuming he was my boyfriend, applauded him for landing such a “beautiful girl.” He said this as casually as if my friend had won a raffle — and I was the prize. I know, from many, many conversations with women that my experiences are not unique.

When mass killings occur, a large debate happens (in journalism, and otherwise) in which we question the amount of attention we grant the killer. It is a legitimate conversation, and one we should have. I often lean on the side of not giving attention. Our fascination with the killer risks turning him into the celebrity he wanted to be.

But I feel slightly different about this case, mainly because of its disturbing familiarity — to me and to so many other women. The discussions this case should arouse should go beyond mental illness and gun control (though worthy discussions in their own right).

We must evaluate the patriarchal culture in which we live that justified and validated the gunman’s motivations. Because it did. Our culture does equate manhood with robust sexuality. Our society does communicate messages that portray women as objects, objects be acquired. So we can’t treat this tragedy as merely a “freak case” — not when we see messages that reaffirm his misogynistic ideas in our movies, in our televisions, in our magazines, in our bars and clubs and homes.

Women are not prizes to be won. Dating is not a sign of status or wealth. Your sense of worth doesn’t entitle you to others. I have a right to not dance with you. I am not a reason a man should be patted on the back. Our bodies should not be advertised as mere sexual objects, in magazines, in television.

We must do it for our men and boys, so that they can live in a culture that sees their value as more than their number of sexual partners. We must do it for our women and girls so that they can grow up feeling empowered to say no, and not scared of the possible repercussions.

If nothing else, we must do it for for the victims of Friday night and their families, so that their deaths will never be forgotten and so that the ideas that fueled his actions will never be validated. If we don’t, we fail not just those so wrongly killed. We fail each other.

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Katherine Marrone

Katherine Marrone

Katherine Marrone is the sex and relationships writer for the Emerald. A feminist and activist, she likes writing about gender issues and social justice.