Women are sharing their experiences of sexual assault, harassment and violence on Twitter under the hashtag #YesAllWomen. This hashtag started after Elliot Rodger murdered 6 people in Isla Vista, California before shooting himself. When the news broke out, Rodger’s YouTube videos and a manifesto came to light, which showcased his extreme hatred for women, his sense of entitlement and the need to dominate women. He was socially isolated. He was possibly battling with mental illness. He spent lots of time with “men’s rights groups”. I’m sure there are many other possible triggers for his violent outburst. Despite the variety of explanations we have heard recently in the media, his hatred for women and his sense of entitlement to dominate women, was real (the documentary Tough Guise: Violence, Media and the Crisis in Masculinity immediately came to my mind).
There’s a word for men like him – misogynists. While feminists have been discussing misogyny for decades, there are people who don’t know its definition and if they do, don’t understand its greater socio-cultural significance. Misogyny literally means to hate women in Greek, but it also signifies the conditioned prejudices against women in our society that have led to problems of violence against women, objectification of women, unequal pay, under-representation of women in politics, media, sports, etc. There are a myriad of problems stemming from misogyny rooted in the system of patriarchy that we live in. I could write essays on essays about this topic, but this article isn’t about feminism nor human history. This article is about the uniting force of sharing experiences and evoking dialogue through a simple hashtag.
I’ve been reading #YesAllWomen posts since the hashtag began last week and I’m simply shocked by the sheer number of stories/experiences shared by women from different walks of life. It’s not that I’m surprised women experience many instances of violence during their life time. Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. 67 per cent of Canadians personally know at least one woman who has been sexually or physically assaulted. These are just some of the facts about violence against women in Canada.
What shocked me the most is the volume of experiences being shared on Twitter alone and the common themes discussed – the rampant rape and victim-blaming culture or the myth of “boys being boys”. As I am glued to my Twitter feed reading these posts, I realized that #YesAllWomen is storytelling in mass numbers – uniting voices and raising awareness about vital issues facing half of the world’s population.
There is now a #YesAllWhiteWomen hashtag where racialized women and those marginalized from mainstream feminism are driving the conversation towards intersectionality (i.e. the varying degrees that women are oppressed and the multiple layers of issues like race, gender, class, ethnicity, geography that many women experience on a daily basis).
It’s not only women joining the conversation. Men from many walks of life are also taking a stand and raising their voices.
Yet not all men agree with #YesAllWomen. Some men are so stunned that they have started using #NotAllMen hashtag (which ironically existed before and was used by men to discredit feminist views) to speak up for men that aren’t all violent, misogynist and sexist. Unsurprisingly, women are also using the #NotAllMen to further reiterate their points. The #NotAllMen hashtag is however counterproductive in many ways and I urge you to read “#NotAllMen: How not to Derail Discussions of Women’s Issues” by Phil Plait to learn why.
The variations of this hashtag demonstrates that #YesAllWomen has reached its goal of creating awareness and continuing a robust dialogue about women’s issues, gender inequality and every day sexism.
For a few more in-depth articles on this topic:
“The Power of #YesAllWomen” by Sasha Weiss
“#YesAllWomen reveals the constant barrage of sexism that women face” by Jessica Valenti
“When killers target women, why do moderate men stand silent?” by Denise Balkissoon