Yet, for Elliot Rodger, this narrative is complicated by Rodger’s own tangled and confusing relationship with his racial identity: one that defies simple categorization as Rodger being straightforwardly White, or otherwise.
For those who aren’t familiar, pick-up artistry is basically what would happen if a self-help motivational speaker had a love-child with a mens’ rights advocate. Pick-up artistry is a system of taught social interactions designed to seduce women. Associated with the self-described seduction community, pick-up artists charge between $2000-$3000 for a multi-day workshop targeted towards single men, and promises to train men to improve their sexual and romantic success. To gauge the degree to which men are improving their seductive abilities, workshop attendees are taught to treat women as targets, and to rank us on an “objective” (not to mention objectifying, and often racialized) scale of attractiveness. Men are taught to value their own self-worth based on the ranking of the women they are able to target (sound familiar?), and the workshops promise to improve the “caliber” of woman they can seduce by several points on this scale: the expert claims to be able to easily seduce women of ranking 9 or 10 under any situation, and this is proposed to be the eventual goal of anyone who adopts the “pick-up artist lifestyle”.
Supporters of the pick-up artist system (which include some of my personal friends), claim that pick-up artistry isn’t about sex; it’s really intended to be about bolstering male self-confidence through bravado. When a (heterosexual) man is able to “pull” hotter women, so the thinking goes, their own self-image improves. Furthermore, pick-up artistry claims that its skillset is applicable to business and other platonic relationships by teaching language and self-awareness, not to mention grooming and eye contact. And, to be clear, a self-help program for socially awkward men and women that teaches a few basics of social interactions like eye contact and how to hold a conversation doesn’t bother me.
The problem is that pick-up artistry isn’t just that. Pick-up artistry is, at its core, about manipulating and objectifying women for the purposes of sexual and/or social exploitation. Period.
Julien Blanc isn’t the exception in the pick-up artist community. He’s the rule.
I concluded that while misogyny, masculinity and misogylinity is America’s problem at-large, it is Asian America’s problem, too. In some corners of Asian America, radical misogyny incubates virtually unchecked.
Yesterday, a 23-year-old South Asian American man by the name of Keshav Mukund Bhide was arrested and held on $150,001 bail after posting numerous online comments idolizing Isla Vista shooter Elliot Rodger through YouTube and Google+, the latter through his account name “Foss Dark”. Bhide is a student at the University of Washington.
Bhide posted several comments calling Rodger’s “Day of Retribution” “perfectly justified”, and threatening to follow in Rodger’s footsteps. On May 30, Bhide wrote a comment on his own sharing of a YouTube video, saying that he “would have done exactly the same shit” but that he “would have killed only women”.
In explanation for his misogyny, Bhide cited a trope that again is all-too-familiar within the Asian American community: he rationalized his anger against women for society’s rejection of men who are “short” and who have an “ugly face”.
On Friday evening in the residential neighbourhood of Isla Vista in Santa Barbara, California, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger stabbed his three young Asian American housemates – George Chen, 19 , Weihan “David” Wang, 20, and Chen Yuan “James” Hong, 20 – to death while they slept. Rodger then drove his luxury BMW coupe to the Alpha Phi sorority where he opened fire with two legally purchased handguns on three female passersby; two – Katherine Cooper, 22 and Veronica Weiss, 19 – were killed, while a third is recovering in hospital. Rodger proceeded to the nearby I.V. Deli Mart and fired randomly into the store, killing Christopher Michael-Martinez, 20. He then drove through the streets of Isla Vista, shooting randomly at pedestrians and striking two cyclists with his car; by the end of the night, he had wounded 13. A brief firefight ensued between him and sheriff deputies, which ended when Rodger crashed his car into another vehicle. Rodger was found dead in the drivers’ seat of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
I have over the last four days stayed silent on the UCSB shooting as I tried to parse my own thoughts on Friday’s violent attack. I watched some of the YouTube videos and read Rodger’s manifesto.
In the end, I couldn’t shake the same chilling reaction I felt when I first read about Friday night’s violence: I had seen Elliot Rodger’s brand of radical hatred before. I had seen it within the comments section of my own site for a decade. I had seen it from members of my own community.