A few days after the UCSB shooting, in which a 22-year old gunman killed six people and injured 13 others, I sat down at a comedy open mic and flipped through my notes. A male comic sat down next to me. We chatted about normal comedy business things and then he said, “It took me longer to get booked at a venue because three girls who were pretty but not funny were booked before me. The bookers wanted to get laid. Isn’t that female privilege?”
He said this. To me. A female comic. Previous to this conversation I had participated nonstop in the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter and Facebook. I had posted obsessively about misogyny, the awfulness of men’s rights activists, male privilege, entitlement and the shooter at Isla Vista.
It’s been a month since the #YesAllWomen hashtag peaked on social media. The intention of this hashtag was to provide a forum for women to express the sexist encounters they have daily—street harassment, violence and even sexual assault. For many, participating in this hashtag was cathartic and terrifying. Comedian Jen Kirkman tweeted, “I've been mugged, attempted date rape [sic], groped—public transit/bars, flashed, street comments, ‘smile,’ paid less, death threats #YesAllWomen” prefacing with, “I'm too afraid to even participate in this hashtag because of the hate/threats/sexual tweets I'll wake up to tomorrow. #YesAllWomen.”
As all activist hashtags are, #YesAllWomen was criticized for being useless. Comic Chris D’Elia took the criticism further and said, “I think it's a little bit shitty to what actually happened. I think that what happened was terrible, people died, and somebody's like 'a guy looked at my butt, people died, yes all women.' I think that's kind of rude to the people who lost their lives.” What D’Elia, and others who share his viewpoint, doesn’t understand is that the shooter explicitly stated he hated women and wanted to kill them all. In his manifesto he states, “I cannot kill every single female on earth, but I can deliver a devastating blow that will shake all of them to the core of their wicked hearts.” He was clearly mentally ill, but the way his illness manifested was through his hatred of women. If it weren’t for the constant and daily affirmations of this hatred, perhaps it would have manifested another way. But it didn’t.
It’s been a month since the #YesAllWomen hashtag peaked on social media. The intention of this hashtag was to provide a forum for women to express the sexist encounters they have daily—street harassment, violence and even sexual assault. For many, participating in this hashtag was cathartic and terrifying.
This is the conversation we have to have. A conversation about how we, yes all of us men and women, participate in the marginalization of females. We are the patriarchy, and how dare we allow a man like this shooter to exist and murder innocent people because of his easy access to guns and his deep-seated hatred of all things female.
I don’t want to use the shooter’s name. This is not because I don’t think he’s at fault for what he did. He was an “incel,” a name given to the involuntarily celibate men who frequent “pick up artist” (PUA) websites in the hopes of finding ways to manipulate women into sleeping with them. When that didn’t work, he used violence to seek what he called “retribution.” He recounted his plan in a 141-page manifesto stating, “The Second Phase will represent my War on Women. I will punish all females for the crime of depriving me of sex. They have starved me of sex for my entire youth, and gave that pleasure to other men. In doing so, they took many years of my life away.” Using his name only adds to his online profile and fame in “men’s rights activist” websites. I refuse to do that. So instead I want to talk about how someone like this shooter is created.
We contribute to misogyny every day. I did not expect the comic I spoke to, a man I respect, to very clearly say that women get booked because men want to have sex with them. But it happened. I tried to combat this, and I told him, “Did you call out the bookers who were treating women like a thing to barter sex from?” He said, “I was trying to get booked. How could I call them out?” And I retorted, “Yeah so were those girls. You think it was easy for them after the show? Trying to get away from dudes who wanted to sleep with them because they felt owed it somehow? That is not a privilege.” And that was the end of the conversation.
As soon as misogyny is brought up, like in this incident, people don't seem to want to engage in a dialogue. They instead want to blame the woman. Maybe it’s because misogyny can be implicit and visceral. It’s hard to articulate a thing, especially violent discrimination, if you’ve never felt it. The male comic who said the awful thing about some female comics is not a bad man. He is funny, cares about his girlfriend and loves his mother. And yet even he did not see this statement as perpetuating the mistreatment of women. And that’s the problem. We justify inaction against sexism because we don’t want to admit that we perpetuate it. And so through our inaction we have created a world where an armed man can say he shot people because he hated women, and yet we refuse to believe him.
From now on, let’s take him at his word.