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In a YouTube video, Elliot Rodger describes loneliness and frustration because “girls have never been attracted to me.”

YouTube via Associated Press,

Rampage sparks anguished look at perception of women

  • Article by: JENNIFER MEDINA
  • New York Times
  • May 26, 2014 - 8:50 PM

– When a gunman obsessed with grievances toward women turned a postcard-perfect college town into a scene of mass slaying last week, he did more than leave many women here thinking back to catcalls, leers, and the fears of sexual violence that have them traveling in packs and carrying pepper spray in their purses.

Both on the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara, and in an explosion of anger and frustration on social media, the attack has set off a raw, anguished conversation about the ways women are perceived sexually and the violence against them that has reverberated around the country.

“If we don’t talk misogyny now, when are we going to talk about it?” Nancy Yang, a second-year global studies major, said as she stood a few feet from a memorial created in the wake of the rampage Friday night that left six plus the gunman dead and 13 injured.

“Yes, we have to have compassion, and we don’t know what this perpetrator was going through,” she said, “but there are underlying issues here. We can’t do that without thinking about the way we talk about and speak to women.”

Even as students are dealing with the shock of the attack, many are urging others to think about the implications. Of course, they say, a lewd look is not the same as a sexual assault. An unwanted comment is not the same as a gunshot. But many women said that some of the attitudes the gunman, Elliot Rodger, expressed against women in his perverse manifesto of rage are widely accepted and part of mainstream culture.

For many women here, the attacks were like a nightmarish caricature of the safety concerns they deal with regularly on a campus where a gang rape this spring prompted concerns about safety, and where an outsize reputation for alcohol-fueled parties led some to wonder if the campus culture in any way played into the violence.

Women voiced concerns about incessantly hearing jokes about rape or what physical features make a woman desirable. At some parties, several women said, their buttocks have been grabbed at the entry door.

“I do live in fear — this is a difficult part of our reality,” said Maddie Clerides, 19, a sophomore global studies major.

On Twitter and Facebook, women voiced their own experiences. There were postings from some who said they wore fake wedding rings to avoid advances from men. Others others wrote about boyfriends and husbands telling them they deserved being abused.

Jill Dunlap, a director of the Women’s Center at UC Santa Barbara, said that she hoped the discussions would help fuel a wider dialogue. She said, “This whole conversation is about acknowledging that, yes, women have gone very far, but there is still real inequity.”

© 2014 Star Tribune