Elliot Rodger at the Sometimes Troubling Intersection of Race and Gender

Updated Jul 23, 2014



Many have now heard of Elliot Rodger, the self-hating, misogynistic 22-year-old man who shot more than a dozen people and murdered six in Isla Vista, Calif., before turning the gun on himself and ending his own life. After this latest chapter of “angry young White male gone mad,” columnists, bloggers, psychologists and others weighed in with their views. Predictably, there were some websites ― primarily right of center ones like Paul Bois of Truth Revolt ― that tried to promote the argument that, since the majority of Rodger’s victims were male, critics who were denouncing his behavior by pointing out his history of misogyny were misguided in their viewpoints.

Others argued that certain feminists and some other women were playing the “gender card.” Some political commentators like RedState founder Erick Erickson offered the explanation that tragedies like the irrational shooting and the behavior of young millennial men like Elliot Rodger are a result of the “decline of chivalry” as well as society’s rejection of Victorian values. While such intellectually dishonest responses are laughable, they also have to be taken seriously due to the fact that there are more than a few people, including a large number of men, who take explanations such as those given by Bois, Erickson and similar responses as valid.

The fact is that Elliot Rodger was a very frighteningly disturbed young man who hated himself and most of those around him. He shared a notable commonality with Adam Lanza, Kip Kinkel, Eric Harris and Dylan Kleblod and others. They were young, hostile, often socially isolated White men who were angry at the world for their own social insecurities, failures and misfortunes. To be sure, I am certainly not making the case that mass violence is the sole domain of young White men. That being said, it is clear that a disproportionate number of recent mass shootings have been committed by young White men. In the case of Rodger, a biracial White man.

This is where it gets more intense and complicated. The fact is that Rodger was the product of an interracial marriage ― White British father and ethnic Chinese Malaysian mother. He did not see himself as a person of color or mixed heritage and, rather, identified as White. This was evident in his demonstrably disturbing commentary on racist blogs such as PU Hate. This notorious website (PU Hate) has since been dismantled but not before a number of people lauded him as a martyr. The ample level of brimming rage that simmered within Elliot Rodger was evident in his rhetoric such as:

· Today I drove through the area near my college and saw some things that were really rage-inducing.

· I passed by this restaurant and I saw this Black guy chilling with four hot White girls. He didn’t even look good.

· Then later on in the day I was shopping at Trader Joe’s and saw an Indian guy with two above average White girls!!!

· White girls are disgusted by you, silly little Asian.

These were just a few of the much racially inflammatory commentary posted by Rodger. His mindset demonstrated a person who saw himself as White, male, wealthy, privileged and therefore entitled to all the perks that supposedly come along with such a status ― money, women, power, etc. The fact that he had been deprived of most all these opportunities enraged him. That some Black and other non-White men were successful in achieving what he had failed to accomplish drove him into a level of embittered rage that resulted in psychotic behavior.

His mindset was reminiscent of certain segments of White men of earlier eras who believed that their race and gender afforded them special privileges that were “rightly” theirs for the taking and, when deprived of such perceived entitlements, resorted to violence and other sorts of wanton and oppressive behavior. The number of times that Rodger ranted that he was a man who had been chronically rejected by women in his disoriented online postings spoke to a larger issue of a person who felt disempowered and emasculated by a society that places great emphasis on such factors. He had been conditioned to believe that real men (in fact, he uses the term alpha male in one of his posts) are strong, handsome, sexually active, robust, and desired by beautiful women. Moreover, in his myopic world, they were supposed to be White.

The sad reality is that the lives of many families have been permanently damaged and disrupted by this senseless tragedy. This includes Rodger’s parents as well. They will never see their son again. What is undeniable here is the fact that Elliot Rodger’s actions personified the, at times, dangerous and troubling intersection of race and gender when disregarded and abused by arrogant, self-absorbed and self-righteous men whether they be young, middle aged or old.