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The reaction to Elliot Rodger on social media has reminded me of the racist, sexist, classist culture that I can barely navigate myself, let alone raise a kid in. But there’s hope.
I don’t have children. And I’m at the age where whether I give birth to or adopt kids, I need to start making some decisions fast or else I’ll be one of those parents tethered to an oxygen tank at my kid’s high school graduation.
It’s already hard enough to have a kid -- the expense, the time, the poopy diapers. Now, after the tragic events in Isla Vista of this weekend, I also have to wonder if my hypothetical child will be safe when I send them to school, or worse, if despite my best efforts, they become a mass murderer.
I resisted watching the Elliot Rodger videos and reading his 137-page manifesto. But like a moth to a flame, I got pulled in by the heartbreaking tweets of #YesAllWomen and wanted to understand more of the misogyny that provoked Rodger to so violently punish all women for “denying” him sex.
I’m guilty of doing what the rest of the internet is doing -- playing faux psychologist and speculating why this happened. It’s only made me more angry and confused, and I can’t help but flash back to the worst parts of human existence.
I also find myself incredibly wary of pursuing parenting. Yes, it’s absolutely myopic to decide whether or not to have babies because of one sick mass murderer who obviously does not represent the actions of every mixed race or privileged man on this planet. Rather, Elliot Rodger, and the reaction to him on social media, represents the racist, sexist, classist culture that I can barely navigate myself, let alone raise a kid in.
So here are my six pre-existing anxieties about parenting a kid in the selfie age, now magnified after reading Elliot Rodger’s writing (and below, what I’m going to do about it if I ever have kids).
1. If I have a daughter, I will have to teach her how to avoid rape. Because nobody seems to be teaching their son to stop rape.
Nothing is more stomach-turning than reading how Rodger refers to the acquisition of a blonde woman like she’s an accessory he is entitled to. But even worse is how many YouTube commenters on Elliot’s final video chimed in that had a woman just given him sex, nobody would have had to die. Because men just learning to respect women is that impossible?
2. No matter how much money you throw at a situation, it will not get better.
Unlike Elliot Rodger, I did not come from the same degree of jet-set wealth. Hell, my kid will be lucky if they get their own bedroom! But the fact that Elliot bemoans his life, despite having travelled the world, attended private schools, and had access to wealth-- privilege doesn’t ever replicate good mental health care and having a social community that supports good values on gender.
3. My child will hate being Asian or part-Asian.
Elliot, who is consistently referenced as a “white male” in the media, is actually half Chinese on his mother side, and the self-hatred of his Asian side, and other people of color is well documented by SPLC.
As a Chinese American, I’ve often dealt with my own self-hatred issues (wanting to fit in with white standards of beauty and minimize the “foreignness” of my appearance). I am often at odds with how I’ll teach my child to love his/her body and the heritage he/she comes from. But the rest of the world will always show them otherwise. How do I challenge a predominantly white male narrative in mainstream culture for my kids? How much of my hyper-disciplined Chinese upbringing do I pass on? Will my child resent me and implicate my parenting skills in essays on xoJane about being miserable?
4. Pursue your own creativity and your kids will resent you for being selfish.
My worst fears about balancing a family and creative career, without sacrificing one for the other, were triggered when Elliot writes about how his father, film director Peter Rodger, squandered money by making a documentary called “Oh My God” which Elliot infers is a failure because it didn’t make money.
5. Systems for dealing with the mentally ill either don’t exist or are not working. And people who are very mentally ill can buy guns and use them when angry.
Rodger flashed countless warning signs. So many public videos posted. A social worker, a life coach, and a therapist, a police visit… and still this happens.
6. People are too tired to challenge oppressive systems, thus reinforcing racism.
Some reactions I’ve heard when writing this essay were: “Better raising a kid here than in Darfur!” and from my mixed race Asian friend: “My daughters are more white than Asian so that puts them at an advantage.”
This survivalist mentality where we take what privilege we can get, run with it, and leave others behind, actually makes us complicit with white supremacy. Where are the people who will challenge these systems rather than just hide within them? Or are they just too tired changing diapers to manage that too?
I am finding hope.
The oppressions never seem to end. I feel like every hashtag campaign sounds like a conversation that happened in a classroom ten years ago. But I have hope that the online conversation grows wider, goes offline and actually makes an impact on the systems of oppression. I’d like to see a world where “feminism” is not a dirty word. I want to see a world where “being a man” means dismantling patriarchy.
I want to see women celebrated on social media for the great ideas they put into the world, not how many half naked photos they post. I want a culture where mental healthcare is easier to access, not stigmatizing to pursue.
I want to live in a world where my only worry about having kids is how to wipe the throw up off my shoulder. Am I dreaming?