WOMAN AS REASON: Isla Vista murders fueled by misogyny

From the July-August 2014 issue of News & Letters

by Terry Moon

On May 23, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger murdered six people and injured seven more in Isla Vista, Calif., in a rampage fueled by hatred of women—a hatred so deep that he wanted to confine all women in concentration camps and starve them to death while he would “oversee the entire concentration camp and gleefully watch them all die.” He made it so clear that he was murdering people because he hated them and hated women most of all, that when women started talking of the fear that we live with every day there suddenly appeared the hashtag, #NotAllMen. Perhaps this was meant to say that not all men hate women and want to kill them—but it also meant that women, here read “feminists,” blame all men for what only a few “deranged” men do.

What followed was a new hashtag, “#YesAllWomen.” It doesn’t mean all women are raped. It means we are all in danger of being raped; we are all in danger of street violence perpetuated by NotAllMen; it means that violent men, but NotAllMen, have restricted AllWomen’sLives. And it means that NotAllMen have not made it a priority to stop those supposedly few who do rape, batter, demean, harass, and kill women. Those few men, those exceptions, who rape a woman in the U.S. every three minutes, and who beat women so frequently that battering is the major cause of women’s injuries exceeding rapes, muggings and auto accidents combined.


Twenty-five years ago, on Dec. 6, 1989, a similar rampage took place in Canada. This is part of what we wrote at the time in the December 1989 issue of News & Letters:

“The first reports of 14 women murdered at the University of Montreal in Canada have just reached us as we go to press. They were gunned down in their engineering classroom by a man who yelled, ‘You’re all a bunch of fucking feminists!’ The picture in the newspaper shows a young woman, shot in the head, lying in blood. 

“Why? Not because she was a feminist. Her murderer didn’t know what she believed. Was he trying to kill the idea of feminism—the idea that women are full human beings, that women have the right to go to college and to be engineers? 

“These horrible murders force us to face the reality of what it means to be a woman in this society. It is devastating. It is to be despised, it is to be reduced by anti-abortion fanatics to a ‘walking womb,’ it is to be raped, and it is to be murdered if you dare—if you dare—to try and change what it means….”

Less than a week after the murders in Isla Vista, on May 28 in rural Katra village in Uttar Pradesh state in India, villagers found two girls, 12 and 14, who had been gang-raped, strangled and then hung by their scarves from a tree. Since then, two other women in India have been found in the same condition.

Why hang a woman you’ve raped and murdered from a tree? Reminiscent of lynching in the U.S., was it done for the same reason? To show off? To intimidate all women? To let the world know how proud the murderers are for what they’ve done? To reveal their contempt for those they’ve murdered in such a cowardly and brutal way? They are trying to turn the bodies of girls and women into their trophies, another notch on their guns, a head on their wall.


When you are despised for who you are—and women are not the only ones on a list that includes any differently sexed person, immigrants and all minorities but especially Blacks, people with disabilities, and that’s only in the U.S.—then a revolution has to be more than an economic change, it even has to be more than “from each according to his or her ability, to each according to his or her need.” Revolution has to be so deep and total that all human relationships are transformed. To do so, it must be total from the start, and revolutionaries must make clear what they are for from the start: a new society based on totally new, human relationships.

In response to all those who would say that we’ll get to women’s liberation after the revolution, Raya Dunayevskaya, the founder of Marxist-Humanism, responded: “Social revolution does come first, provided it is not—indeed revolution cannot be—without Women’s Liberation or behind women’s backs, or by using them only as helpmates….It is precisely because Women’s Liberationists are both revolutionary force and Reason that they are crucial. If we are to achieve success in the new revolutions, we have to see that the uprooting of the old is total from the start.”

These murders, from campuses in the U.S. and Canada to the fields in rural India, reveal what women worldwide—#YesALLWomen—are facing: violence, intimidation, rape and fear of rape, abuse and dehumanization, and revolutions that never get around to freeing us or anyone else for that matter. It is precisely that depth of dehumanization and the violence that accompanies it that make clear the necessity for the totality of revolution that Marxist-Humanism calls for.

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