Isla Vista and the Dangerous Effects of Misogyny


Isabelle Geczy

Misogyny, as the residents of Isla Vista have learned, kills. A perpetuation of hate, misogyny devalues and subjugates women in a toxic way.

Last week, my home of IV was rocked by what can only be described as a vicious, homicidal spree. The killer left six of my fellow Gauchos dead, and 13 wounded. He also left behind an array of sickening videos about his plans for “retribution” against the women who “scorned him,” in addition to a 141-page-long diatribe that is an incendiary combination of misogyny, racism, and classism. I made the mistake of watching the videos and reading the manuscript, which was a wretched idea, because his hatred seemed like a personal attack. He hated the community I live in and the people I love, and everything about his acts and the massive pain he caused makes my skin crawl. Through my complete and total revulsion toward him, though, I can’t help but feel anger at those who refuse to acknowledge the blatant misogyny behind the actions.

At a base level, the killer was motivated by the fact that he felt ignored by women. That much is apparent in reading his florid rantings on life’s injustices. In a flourish of showmanship, he was dubbed the “Virgin Killer” by the media, because he obsessed over the fact that at 22 years of age he had not yet had sex with a woman. The killer was enraged by this fact, because, through the skewed lenses of objectification and misogyny, he felt that he was owed attention and pleasure from women. Now, it is very easy to say that this is an extreme, one-of-a-kind case, and that the killer was clearly mentally unstable. But were his feelings so out of the ordinary? Unfortunately, I think not.

As a resident of IV, I can think of countless negative interactions with men at parties—all from guys who felt that my fellow women and I owed them attention. Women in IV deal with wandering, aggressive hands on the dance floor; being cornered and subjected to pushy, suggestive monologues; and, worst of all, being called a “feminazi”–or more insulting, foul terms–for checking up on very drunk women stumbling into alleys with sober-seeming men. These are all disappointing situations I have found myself in. That is not to say that every drunk, raucous “bro” who treats a woman disrespectfully at a party is a possible psycho-killer; however, such instances are symptomatic of a permissive culture that condones the objectification of women and sexual entitlement. This culture grows from misogynistic foundations and permeates our societal norms.

Unfortunately, women in IV have to quickly learn to navigate the very pervasive rape culture fueled by alcohol and kept alive by denial. At a party during my freshman year, I remember seeing it all up close. I was standing outside on the lawn of my friend’s house on Sueno, talking to a guy I had just met. We were chatting about something mundane—classes, Gauchoball, or the like— for maybe 10 minutes, and a group of other college-aged males walked down the street in front of the house. They saw us talking, and the group of guys began clapping and yelling things like “I’d hit that!” The man I was speaking to then laughed and wrapped his arm around me, before kissing my cheek. Everything about this interaction upset me. The guys walking down the street didn’t even see me as a person, but, instead, as a “that”—an impersonal object to use as they saw fit. Furthermore, the seemingly thoughtful guy I had been talking to was so grateful for the public approval of obtaining female attention, that to sustain it he completely devalued my space and comfort. All I felt was betrayal, because nothing about my interactions indicated that I wanted him to touch me, let alone try and kiss me. I was left disturbed and distrusting from the interaction;  I can only imagine how the many women in IV with heartbreaking anecdotes much worse than mine, must feel.

It is for these reasons that I am so put off by the statements made in ignorance that populate the comment sections of articles about the killing, that are made in classroom discussions, or are said on Twitter; they completely invalidate the experiences of women through their intolerance. Offensive statements include, but are not limited to, “that not all men are like that,” or in relation to recent events, that “misogyny really isn’t the issue in the case of the IV killer, because he killed more men than women.” These statements are demonstrative of only one thing—intellectual blinders that prevent people from recognizing how prevalent and dangerous misogyny really is.

Certainly there are men who support the rights of women and respect women, but their existence doesn’t diminish the havoc misogyny can wreak. Although not all men actively seek to harm women, there are those who do, and women must constantly be vigilant. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in a survey of violent crimes from 1980-2008, 63.7 percent of victims of intimate killings were women, and 81.7 percent of victims in sex-related killings were women. With such facts in mind, the end body count is nothing but a cruel reminder of the loss of life caused by a disturbed, misogynistic killer. The inductive reasoning that the killer was not a misogynist because more men than women were killed is overwhelmingly irrational, and signifies a complete dismissal of the hate-filled testimonials he spewed.

As a young woman, I am shaken by the recent killings. They have made me question the security of my surroundings, the validity of my beliefs, and my faith in others. But in this insecurity and instability, I have managed to find solid ground. I have found it in my peers, who have agreed that we must combat misogyny through activism. I have found it in my male classmates, who have been willing to listen, understand, and often agree about the problems women face. We as a community can redefine our culture by firmly standing up to those who exploit women, and refusing to allow them to do so anymore. By calling out those who objectify women, reporting rapes and sexual assaults, and not condoning misogynistic acts, we can start to deconstruct our harmful culture. Misogyny has harmed and killed many we have loved, and now we must fight to keep it from doing so ever again.