Co-authored by Aimée Lagos.
"I will slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see inside there... I take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one, the true alpha male."
Those are the horrific and terrifying words of the man who went on a killing rampage in Isla Vista last week. Elliot Rodger went on to say he was waging a "war on women," and stated "I will attack the very girls who represent everything I hate in the female gender." He then drove to a sorority house where he shot three girls before continuing his rampage that left six people dead and 13 injured.
In the hours that followed, news outlets scurried to report the violence. On news stations around the nation, talking heads debated gun control, pontificated mental health issues and recounted incidents of random acts of violence around the country. They covered the story from many angles. And yet, in the immediate aftermath, most news coverage barely uttered the words "hatred toward women," and as awareness grew about how girls were targeted and hunted down, still, this crime was not classified as a hate crime.
Now take another look at the killer's statements. This time replace the words "blond slut," "women" and "female gender" with any racial slur you can think of. When you do, these horrible acts of violence are no longer classified as "random" -- they are seen as a hate crime, plain and simple. It is hatred against a specific group of people -- a people who have suffered oppression, discrimination and violence for no other reason than the fact that they belong to that group. If you were a member of that group, the hair on the back of your neck would stand on end to read those words because it would speak to a truth you know all too well -- that you are a target of hatred and violence.
As women and mothers of daughters, these bone-chilling words caused the hair on the back of our necks stand on end. For us, those words spoke truth -- that each day we, as women, face hatred and violence .
There is a war on women. The result? The horrific risk of rape, brutal violence and murder to ourselves and our daughters.
This killer's words are neither new nor unique. Instead, they are pervasive and normalized. This hatred can be seen deeply embedded in a culture that creates television dramas and movies that routinely open with the bloody corpse of a young woman. It is evidenced by the fact that one in five women will be sexually assaulted. One of four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Millions of girls and women will be sold each year into the commercial sex trade, where their bodies will be bought and sold by men and boys.
This hate culture exists, in part, because there is a persistent message that is delivered to boys that girls and women matter less and that they have a right to women's bodies -- that they are owed sexual pleasure and if they are not given that pleasure by a woman, then it is their right to take it, whether by purchase or by force. There is an anger that often results from this message and is widely accepted. It is an anger that occurs when boys and men are not given the attention and sex they have been told they have the right to -- the sex they have been told they should be getting. In the words and actions of this disturbed young man, we see where that anger can lead. We see in the astonishing numbers of women who are assaulted every day where that anger so frequently and so devastatingly leads.
There is a war on women and we can no longer afford to classify this gender-based violence as "random and isolated." We must put a name to these hate crimes. We must shine a light on a culture that puts our girls' lives, bodies and souls in grave danger.
It is time we stand up for our girls and put words to the reality they live each day. It's time we change the message to both boys and girls about sex and violence. It's time our girls had the freedom to walk the streets, go to parties and enjoy their lives without the persistent threat of violence against them for the simple reason that they are girls. It is time acknowledge these crimes that target women and girls for what they are: hate crimes. There is a war on women and it's time to fight back.
Aimée Lagos is an award-winning Hollywood screenwriter and director whose films include the award winning urban thriller 96 MINUTES and the upcoming domestic thriller NO GOOD DEED starring Taraji Henson and Idris Elba to be released by Sony Picture's Screen Gems in September 2014.