“Women have control over which men get sex and which men don’t, thus having control over which men breed and which men don’t. Feminism gave women the power over the future of the human species. Feminism is evil.” So concluded Elliot Rodger in a post at BodySpace before his deadly rampage in Isla Vista on May 23, 2014. Two years later, the Isla Vista community still struggles to understand the violence of a disturbed young man who had vowed “to destroy the entirety of Isla Vista, and kill every single person in it” because he believed that women “must be punished for their crimes of rejecting” him. From conversations he had with other sexually frustrated men at websites like PUAHate, Rodger developed the ideology “that women are flawed. … women are like a plague that must be quarantined”
More recently has come the “Feminism is Cancer” forum put on by UCSB Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) and the continuing conundrum posed by femininity for many young men. Having dubbed himself “chemo” for feminism, Milo Yanniopoulos made his entrance to Corwin Pavilion on a throne carried by his acolytes. They wore Trump’s signature red baseball cap (“Make America Great Again!”) while the theme for Team America World Police thundered in the background.
Once on stage, Yanniopoulos immediately introduced the next POTUS, a life-sized cardboard cutout of Donald Trump that drew wild applause and spirited cries of “USA! USA! USA!” from the predominately white male audience.
For the rest of his performance, Yanniopoulos affectionately referred to Trump as “daddy” and quipped with self-congratulatory smugness about the fun of doing his “dangerous faggot tour.” As Dominick DiCesare of Young Americans for Liberty put it, Yanniopoulos danced “the line between entertainer and academic” and in the process kindled a bromance with his audience.
Interestingly, despite the fact that Yanniopoulos openly celebrated his own homosexuality, he repeatedly denounced lesbians to the point of even denying their existence: “There aren’t really any lesbians … This is something that people don’t really understand about sexuality. You know men have been exclusively sleeping with men for the majority of their lives, since 2000 BC — Juvenal and Tacitus are very clear on this. Female sexuality, as we know from all studies that have ever been conducted on this subject, is much more malleable, its much more flexible. Women who sleep with women tend to have had relationships with men as well.”
Yanniopoulos launched into his discussion on the perils of feminism by deriding such “feminist lies” as the wage gap and rape culture. He disputed the number of rapes reported at UCSB in 2014 compared to national statistics and implied that most rape victims were hoaxers seeking media attention and money. He maintained that the frequently cited 1 in 4 rape statistic was not true — that “reality is a very long way away by what is claimed by feminism” — and rattled off a few numbers apparently taken from the Department of Justice in support of his view.
He discounted the wage gap as a failure of women to work as hard as men, or to do the difficult dangerous jobs that men do, or to choose challenging college subjects. “If women want to improve the wage gap … they should change their majors to engineering from feminist dance therapy” he declared. Deriding the “simple kind of babyish arithmetic” of feminists, he questioned their cognitive capabilities. He stated feminists were “illiterate liars” and postulated “feminists suffer from the conspiracy theory of patriarchy.”
Openly derisive of the “intersectional lunacy” of “third wave feminism,” Yanniopoulos enumerated feminism’s flaws: “misandry, lesbianism, facial piercings, blue hair, and many, many extra pounds” (the latter depicted graphically for the snorting audience). He quoted Rush Limbaugh: “Feminism is the way that ugly women get an entrance into public life,” and he disparaged Gender Studies professors as “dour lesbianic harpies” and “disgusting man-hating harridans.” Ever responsive to the laughter and groans of his audience, Yanniopoulos alternately smirked, sneered, and pouted, along with hand-flapping protestations of “just kidding! I don’t mean it!” whenever he seemed to cross too far over the line into hate and misogyny.
Despite his avowed intent to provide a critique of feminism, Yanniopoulos’s apparent issues with women’s weight came to dominate much of his discussion. With eye-rolling acerbity, he expressed disapproval for feminist styles in clothing, hair color, and body positivity. According to Yanniopoulos, the “hideous, sociopathic monsters” in Gender Studies departments have made him very angry by telling “young girls that they can be as fat as they want to; they can burp and fart and shit and turn themselves into Lena Dunham lookalikes.” Railing against body positivity for promoting “the idea that women can be healthy at any size,” Yanniopoulos mocked the obvious emotional consequences for women “not looking their best.” He lamented that, “if only feminists dedicated the same amount of time to losing weight as lying they might have happier lives.”
He also mocked “social justice in general [as] a movement populated by miserable people trying to make everyone else as unhappy as they are.” Apart from his many quips about his “equal opportunism” with regard to sexual relations with black and brown men, Yanniopoulos dismissed Black Lives Matter activists as unhappy with their “station in life.” He averred, “It’s very clear that a lot of social justice — whether it’s feminism, or progressivism in general or, yes, Black Lives Matter — comes from people who are very unhappy and miserable with their own circumstances.” He ended with the ringing declaration that “My dangerous faggot tour is the first wave of a fight back against [the social justice] movement!”
His audience responded with fist pumping yells of “Build the Wall! Build the Wall!”
During the Q&A session afterward, Yanniopoulos was asked why he focused more on women’s fitness than on feminism and was requested to provide the source for his statistics. Yanniopoulos’s apparent hostility to this prompted his followers to shout down the questioner, who was told to go stand back in line.
From this it might be gathered that YAL believes that some forms of free speech are freer than others.
In fact, these and other instances of YAL’s apparent selectivity about who gets to speak about what and when would suggest a less than principled stance on the issue of freedom of expression. It may even be argued that YAL’s claim to protect such constitutional liberties as free speech gives it the rhetorical cover to advance a hidden agenda of homophobia, misogyny, racism, and classism.
So how did YAL arrive at this sad offering to UCSB’s intellectual community?
Amid the controversy following the failed attempt to establish a White Student Union on campus (itself a reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement), the Young Americans for Liberty was formed with the stated goal to protect free speech and openness to ideas. But with such edifying contributions as “How the Left Exploits Transgender Laws” and “Feminism is Cancer” — not to mention a giant “free speech” beach ball periodically rolled through campus — YAL has succeeded in creating a circus-like atmosphere that allows it to badger anyone who falls outside its circle of elite, white, and male heteronormativity.
Yanniopoulos taunted Mexicans, Blacks, leftists, and the LGBTQ community in almost equal measure, and with a wink and nod to the Men’s Rights Movement that Rodger subscribed to, Yanniopoulos also normalized continued attacks on feminists.
At the end of the day, the “Feminism is Cancer” talk hosted by YAL and the self-styled “most fabulous supervillian on the Internet” Milo Yanniopoulos have brought bare-knuckled troll politics to UCSB.
So on May 23, while we commemorate the six students slain by a madman suffering from ideational hatred for women and non-whites, YAL has succeeded in legitimating the eerie ghost of Elliot Rodger. On May 26, he could almost be seen hovering at the fringes of the crowd in UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion.