By Jonathan Janisse
There’s been a shit-storm of reactions and finger-pointing in the wake of last week’s shooting at University of California, Santa Barbara, an utterly embarrassing moment for the human race. And of course, that’s to be expected. Issues like gun control and violence in the media have been raised, and are not without relevance.
Many men of the web began to huddle behind the notallmen hashtag, an unsolicited declaration of innocence in reaction to an indictment aimed at both everyone in general and no one in particular. They wanted the world to know they weren’t Elliot Rodger, who gunned down six people at UCSB before shooting himself. But you know what? It’s not enough that “not all men are like that.” The problem is much bigger than most men are willing to admit.
My time as an adolescent heterosexual male was, I’ve come to realize, pretty normal. At the time, it felt like anything but. Hormones were coursing through my veins at unprecedented levels. My social skills were, to say the least, unpolished. And all the while I was surrounded by girls. And they all seemed to want some guy who wasn’t me, or at least the ones I was after did. And, I’m ashamed to admit, I kind of resented them for it. It just seemed so unfair.
Unfair. That’s how Rodger put it.
You see, certain socio-cultural pressures (let’s say the beliefs and behaviours of friends and family and also what movies and television taught me to expect from life) led me to invest in certain “truths.” One of those “truths” in which I had become invested was that I deserved the attention and attraction of girls I was attracted to. I deserved it because I was smart. I was funny. Girls liked talking to me. I was a nice guy. I was Doug Freakin’ Funnie. I was the protagonist of my own epic story and the universe OWED me a Patti Mayonnaise.
Here’s where it gets interesting. There was a time where I never, not for one second, considered that any of those girls’ wants, feelings, problems, hopes or dreams were anywhere near as important or as complex as mine. That’s called objectification. I am ashamed and embarrassed for this. It’s why for much of my young life I missed out on any real, meaningful connection with the opposite sex. I was way too concerned with myself. The really scary thing about ignorance is that it’s often impossible to see in yourself.
Elliot Rodgers was a 22-year-old rich, white son of a film director (his father was the Assistant Director of The Hunger Games). He drove a BMW. According to what I, and millions of other men in the world have been taught, all these trappings of wealth and prestige and being a “gentleman” would win him the affection of the fairer sex. It didn’t. And it’s pretty clear now that that’s because he regarded women as objects and, generally speaking, neglecting someone else’s humanity can be a pretty big turn-off. It didn’t matter what they wanted or thought. He wanted them, he deserved them, and if they didn’t play by those rules, they were in the wrong.
Of course, Western society doesn’t teach its men that if women reject you you are well within your rights to kill them. But it also does a piss-poor job of conveying the simple idea that women are worth every little bit as men and that it’s worth it from time to time to put yourself in their heads.
#Notallmen are like that, but too many are.
Edit: A previous version of this story indicated that Rodgers’ father was a film producer. We have updated the story to more accurately reflect his profession.
Jonathan Janisse is a film and television technician living in Toronto. This post was originally published as a Facebook post to Jonathan’s personal Facebook page. It has been republished with permission from the author.