Misogyny Kills

Published: 3 June 2014

Country: US

Rodger_photoReporting on the reasons behind the recent shooting in California, media published not only the letter of the young man Elliot Rodger who killed six people and himself, but also supported the misogynist context without questioning the hate message towards women who apparently rejected him. Media present the women exactly how Rodger and so many others saw them: guilty.

“Yes, Rodger was a misogynist. He also very likely had mental difficulties, and to say so doesn’t diminish the part a misogynistic culture played in this tragedy. If anything, it emphasises precisely why this culture is so dangerous,” writes Hadley Freeman in the Guardian.

“The aspiring model whose childhood rejection of Elliot Rodger lit the fuse that turned him into a murderous madman barely remembers him, her dad told The Post on Monday”, writes the New York Post featuring in its front-page a young blond woman wearing bikini and sitting next to the pool.

Both the New York Post and the Daily Mail published the name and the picture of the woman who according to Rodger’s manifesto inspired his hate against women. The Telegraph also posted a photo of the young girl entitling the article “Schoolgirl blamed by Elliot Rodger for hatred of women doesn’t remember him”.

“The images of a young woman in a bikini published by the New York Post and the Daily Mail are clearly designed to titillate readers, trivialising the reporting of this incredibly serious crime,” Sarah Mathewson, campaigns manager at Object, a UK-based organization that challenges the sexual objectification of women, told the Guardian. Salon describes the appearance of the girl in the media as a persistent public narrative which “skews the story to one of the frustrated male and the oblivious females who ignored his pain and desire, until he lost control”. “It fuels that pervasive, too often unquestioned notion that men lash out because women say no. And it’s toxic and an irresponsible, sorry excuse for journalism”, says the author of the article in Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams.

Ignoring the misogynist content of Rodger’s manifesto, Fox contributor Erick Erickson wrote at RedState that the attitude of the killer is actually a perfect example of the impact of the “War on Masculinity” that is going on in our modern societies. “Society used to expect men to open doors, protect their families, and be champions of modesty and virtue. But chivalry is dead. Instead of men and women complimenting each other, they’re supposed to be perfectly equal even if they are not. The hook up culture, instant gratification, and selfishness pervade our culture”.

Apart from the gender perspective though, the media coverage of the fatal spree also revealed the different and even biased approach of media towards mass murders of different nationalities. The Guardian’s commentator Freeman writes quoting a feminist writer Erin Gloria Ryan: ”When a man from the Middle East kills people, the western media immediately ascribes it to terrorism; when a black man kills people, it’s put down to cultural thuggery; but when a white man kills people, it is dismissed as a freak mental illness”.

Providing the right context, content and analysis when reporting on mass killings and school shootings remains one of the most important journalistic virtues. Isolating Elliot Rodger’s act from misogyny and racism – as in his manifesto he refers both to women and ethnic minorities as inferior- only reproduces the negative stereotypes and make public blind to the danger and seriousness of these issues.