For the past 24 hours the hashtag "YesAllWomen" has been trending on Twitter as feminists, including women and men, have been sharing their experiences of sexism, bias, and misogyny. This outpouring of sadness, frustration and even anger is a response to the horrific shooting on Friday in Ilsa Vista, California, an act of violence perpetrated by a young man in an effort to "get back" at women for supposedly rejecting him. His hatred of women is well documented in his 140-page manifesto and YouTube videos. In one video blog he wrote, as quoted in The Daily Mail, "Once women are brought to their knees, things can be reformed. The sooner this happens, the better."
The thing is, the shooter didn't bring women to their knees. Instead, he brought many women, as well as men who identify with women, to Twitter, the virtual public square. In this public space people are sharing stories of oppression and instances of bias, revealing a network of shared experiences that unify many women.
Actress Martha Plimpton commented:
#YesAllWomen gives me hope that ALL women will feel able to share each others experiences & gain strength in unity w one another.
— Martha Plimpton (@MarthaPlimpton) May 26, 2014
Through the process of "unveiling" a network of shared oppression, many have become uncomfortable. Some tweeters have made it a point to assert that not all men are oppressors and misogynists, something to which #YesAllWomen tweeters are responding:
#yesallwomen because too many people are acting like this hashtag is a personal attack, instead of a frank discussion of reality.
— Meg (@cantkillheros) May 26, 2014
Others try to "correct" tweeters of the #YesAllWomen hashtag to let them know that their perception of reality is incorrect or their logic is flawed. Still others jeer at those sharing their experiences of oppression, ironically proving the points they mock. A few even resort to threats of violence, including the threat of sexual violence, in an effort to silence these voices. Those in opposition to the #YesAllWomen hashtag have created the competing hashtags #YesAllPeople as a way of, seemingly, trying to drown on the chorus of those naming and pushing against the system of patriarchy.
As someone who studies and writes about the Book of Revelation (the final book of the Christian canon), I am struck by the similarity between the revelatory effect of #YesAllWomen and that of Revelation. In both cases, we are audience to the unveiling of a great Beast.
For those who have not read Revelation in some time or even ever, the "Beast" is the figure the author uses to describe of religious-political-social systems that stand in opposition to the Divine. In John's day this system was the Roman Empire, but interpreters throughout history have found that the system continually rears its ugly heads. In fact, its nature as a system, rather than an individual actor, is suggested through its multiple heads, including one that appears to have died and been resurrected (Rev. 13:3). The Beast, most importantly, exercises authority and power, symbolized in its multiple crowns and horns over all the earth. It does so in a way that the earth's inhabitants don't seem to recognize as evil and oppressive. People don't question the Beast, they simply gaze at the wonders it and its representatives create. In the meantime, those who worship the Beast fail to see how they are controlled by it (Rev. 13:17). Highlighting the inability of those who privilege from participating in the Beast to see its true nature, South African theologian Allan Boesak approached the image of the Beast as manifest in the system of Apartheid in South Africa, a system that many white Christians failed to recognize.
It is the Beast's pervasive and pernicious nature, as well as its tendency to destroy those who are innocent, that Revelation seeks to reveal and ultimately resist. It is patriarchy's pervasive and pernicious nature, as well as its tendency to destroy the innocent, that #YesAllWomen seeks to reveal and ultimately resist. Of course Beasts, or in this case systems of oppression, don't go down without a fight. However, Revelation's promise is that those who do fight the beast are on the side of Divine good and justice and that's a side I want to be on.
One of the things to recognize is the way #YesAllWomen is different than Revelation. While Revelation imagines the ultimate destruction of the Beast and its associates, #YesAllWomen has, arguably, tried to resist the tendency to replicate the violence of patriarchy. In this way, it is not a perfect parallel, as #YesAllWomen continues to reveal oppression and misogyny in hope that seeing the system will persuade us all to disentangle ourselves from it many heads and horns.