Socialism is the Best Medicine

Socialism is the Best Medicine

“Misogynist” Violence?

May 27, 2014

Elliot Rodger clearly hated the women who rejected him. However, it’s a mistake to portray the Santa Barbara massacre as the result of misogynist violence alone.

Rodger stated that he wanted respect as an “alpha male,” and he chose to establish his masculinity by killing people – women and men. Such twisted thinking is cultivated in a society that depends on rigid gender stereotypes and on the oppression of women.

The concept that ‘real men’ are strong and aggressive and ‘real women’ are manipulative and submissive is not based on biology. These gender roles are imposed by a capitalist family system that relies on women’s unpaid labor in the home – financially valued at more than $11 trillion world-wide. That’s 11 trillion reasons to keep women oppressed. The family system also traps men in the home by making them legally obligated to support women and children financially.

The family is the most violent social institution for both women and men. A 2010 survey found that 1 in 4 American women and 1 in 7 American men have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their life, meaning being hit with a fist or something hard, beaten, or slammed against something.

Violence is learned behavior. Sons of violent parents are 1,000 times more likely to batter their partners, and daughters of violent parents are 600 times more likely to batter their partners.

Interpersonal violence can only be understood in its social context. Capitalism is the most violent social system ever devised, channeling the vast bulk of society’s wealth into means of destruction.

The capitalist class stay in power by systematically attacking oppressed groups and by directing the victims of the system to attack each other. Researcher Jillian Peterson describes the typical profile of mass shooters:

“They’re angry and they’re suicidal and they’ve had traumatic childhoods and these hard lives, and they get to a point and they find something or someone to blame,”

Rodger could have turned his rage at being a social failure against any oppressed group: Blacks, gays, immigrants, Muslims, etc. Failing socially is not a personal problem, nor is it caused by women. In a class-divided society, the majority are set up to fail.

Rebecca Solnit is wrong when she states, “Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.”

Violence most certainly has a class, the capitalist class. Capital accumulation results in hazardous working conditions, environmental pollution, poverty, racism, and war – all of which kill women and men. Class inequality on its own is a major killer of both sexes.

Violence does not have a gender. In his book Violence: Our Deadly Epidemic and its Causes, James Gilligan dismantles the myth that most perpetrators of violence are men and most victims are women.

Men are the predominate victims of murder. Overall, men die violent deaths from two to five times more often than women. While the seriousness of violence against women should never be minimized, it must be put into social context.

Rising interpersonal violence is a sign of how desperate life has become under capitalist rule, so desperate that almost a million people kill themselves every year. Many more women die from suicide than die from murder.

Dave Zirin is wrong to argue that men have a “collective responsibility” to end violence against  women. Men, on their own, cannot solve a problem that is embedded in the capitalist system, and not all men have an interest in solving it. Men (and women) in the capitalist class profit from all forms of violence, systemic and inter-personal. Removing them from power is the only real solution.


1 Comment

  1. In my view, sexual abuse and misogyny are the inevitable outcome of social systems based on domination, as are racism, xenophobia, religious hatred, homophobia, ageism, disablism, poverty and ecocide.

    I work as a disability policy officer in the UK. My work is underpinned by the Social Model of Disability. This recognises that disablement is caused by the institutional, environmental and attitudinal barriers to equality and inclusion that arise from the way that we organise society, and which are imposed on people *on top of* their impairments and chronic health conditions.

    This understanding of disability provides the basis for the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which the USA has yet to ratify.

    The Social Model does not deny the impact that impairments and health conditions have on people’s lives. But viewed through its lens, disability is perceived as a structural problem which we have a collective responsibility to eradicate. In other words, to get rid of disablement we need to change society.

    As individuals we obviously have a personal responsibility to challenge our own ingrained attitudes and behaviours and, when appropriate, the attitudes and behaviours of others. But ridding ourselves of the scourge of sexism, misogyny, sexual abuse, disablism and all the rest of it demands that we transform the structures and institutions of our increasingly globalised society.

    I suggest that intense competition, exploitation, domination and short-termism are the deep causes of the multitude of problems that we face as a civilization…including sexual abuse and anthropogenic global warming.

    If we recognise this and focus our efforts on building a society based on cooperation, partnership, ecological sustainability and on fulfilling our responsibilities to future generations, we may yet dodge the bullet.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts