In the wake of Elliot Rodger's killing spree on May 23rd in Isla Vista, a Twitter hashtag has emerged and continues to grow days later. The hashtag is #YesAllWomen, a clear response to Rodger's sense of sexual entitlement to women in the YouTube video he made a day before his planned "retribution" and commitment to "annihilating every single girl in the sorority house."
It took me a while to catch up when I saw this hashtag floating by in my Twitter stream Sunday evening. I didn't connect it immediately to the case, which has so many issues at play. Since this horrific tragedy, there has been discussion of the availability of firearms, the state of mental health care and the societal fostering of misogynistic beliefs.
The latter is the one that still hasn't fizzled out. Why? My guess is because it's the one that resonates the strongest with the majority of our country's population -- women. #YesAllWomen quickly became a megaphone for women to voice their experiences of violence, of fear of how men will react if they turn them down, of their distaste of being punished for putting someone in the "friendzone" and for living day to day "trying not get raped." Though Elliot Rodgers is an extreme case, the entitlement he expresses mirrors a large societal ill, and has spurred women by the hundreds of thousands to speak up about how it affects them and yes, all women.
It has taken on a life of it's own.
"When a man says no in this culture, it's the end of the discussion. When a woman says no, it's the beginning of a negotiation" #YesAllWomen
-- Emily Thomas (@emitoms) May 26, 2014
#yesallwomen because "I have a boyfriend" is more likely to get a guy to back off than "no", because they respect other men more than women -- ZAmmi (@ZAmmi) May 26, 2014
Because we teach girls to dress decent instead of teaching boys to act decent. #YesAllWomen
-- Laurène (@LaurneOrozco) May 25, 2014
The cops who asked me "Well, what were you wearing?" when I reported an attack and attempted rape. #YesAllWomen -- Aimee Mann (@aimeemann) May 25, 2014
a "cool story babe, now make me a sandwich" shirt doesn't break the school dress code. a girl's bra strap does. #yesallwomen
-- Yes All Women (@yesaIIwomen) May 26, 2014
When a woman makes a video, most comments are about tearing apart her looks. Or if they'd "do" her. With a man, almost none. #YesAllWomen -- Felicia Day (@feliciaday) May 26, 2014
Because every single woman I know has a story about a man feeling entitled to access to her body. Every. Single. One. #YesAllWomen
-- Emily (@emilyhughes) May 24, 2014
"Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them." - Margaret Atwood #yesallwomen -- Jen Kirkman (@JenKirkman) May 25, 2014
#YesAllWomen b/c misogyny is so ingrained that UCSB sorority girl thinks her actions contributed to the rampage. pic.twitter.com/xzmOAbKJ8MMen showed their support as well:
-- Alletta (@OohLaLaLeta) May 27, 2014
The #yesallwomen hashtag is filled with hard, true, sad and angry things. I can empathise & try to understand & know I never entirely will. -- Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) May 25, 2014
#YesAllWomen Because recognition of human dignity elevates all of us.Since starting on May 24th, the hashtag #YesAllWomen has been attached to over 1.2 million tweets (hashtags.org). Of course when something big happens that has the power to create change, there are those who want to squelch it. There was even a rebirth of the old hashtag #NotAllMen, because some people feel the need to defend themselves more than defend others. While I poured through the rush of tweets Sunday evening, I was tossed about by so many emotions. I felt scared for us all, I felt triggered, I felt sad, I felt empowered, and I felt overwhelmed by an ultimately unjust commonality that women share. Then I jumped in:
-- James Van Der Beek (@vanderjames) May 26, 2014
Sure #NotAllMen are misogynists and rapists. That's not the point. The point is that #YesAllWomen live in fear of the ones that are. -- Jenni Chiu (@MommyNaniBooboo) May 26, 2014And many of my friends did too:
The anger we have for assaults on us are expected to have both volume control & expiration dates. "Aren't you over it yet?" #YesAllWomen
-- Amanda Magee (@AmandaMagee) May 25, 2014
I've always had mixed emotions about what's been coined as "hashtag activism," and that term has definitely been thrown at this hashtag over the past few days. I've openly pondered before how much good social media hashtags to "raise awareness" actually does, and how slapping a hashtag on something is more often a quick way to pat oneself on the back for being moral than it is a true way to take action...
But #YesAllWomen is truly beyond awareness and hashtag activism...
because oppression and inequality thrive in silence...
because women everywhere are told not to speak up...
and because so many women feel the need to smash the silence and still preserve their self.
A hashtag can be safer than standing on the street corner with a bullhorn...
because in this non-third-world country that we live in, many women still fear for their lives.
The women who tweet with #YesAllWomen are not saying "help this or that cause."
The women who tweet with #YesAllWomen are saying "help me."
Help me live in a world where I am equal.
Help me walk down the street without being afraid.
Help raise sons who know they're not entitled to someone else's body.
Help change it.
#YesAllWomen is not hashtag activism.
#YesAllWomen is a battle cry...
and the troops continue to gather.
*This post originally appeared on MommyNaniBooboo.com
Follow Jenni Chiu on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MommyNaniBooboo