Jess Fink posted a pretty hard-hitting piece earlier about dealing with misogyny in her family. After the tragedy at UCSB this weekend, social media has lit up with some much-needed and frank conversation about just how prolific, sinister and culturally accepted it is for men to openly hate women. Twitter users have taken to the #YesAllWomen hashtag to talk about their experiences with sexism, women especially speaking to their personal experiences on the much-ignored topic. The #YesAllWomen hashtag comes in response to men who, when called out on issues of gender inequality or abuse, throw out the “not all men” response instead of actually listening or bettering themselves. IE, no, not all men harass women, but yes, all women have experienced some form of harassment from men.
It’s a really important topic that so many women are terrified to talk about for any number of reasons; the backlash, the fear of being labelled a nuisance, the ostracism. We live in a world of catcalls, of threats, of holding our keys like knives on the way home from the grocery store because society has told us it is our job not to get raped, not the job of men not to rape. Not only this, but we are pressured not to talk about it, for fear of being thought of as fear-mongering man-haters. It’s a cultural trap we all fall for every day.
Quick overview, for anyone who hasn’t seen - 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, a rich white virgin who borrowed heavily from the beliefs of the MRA community, took to YouTube to record a video about his plans to kill a bunch of women as vengeance for them “rejecting” him, then went and killed a bunch of people. It’s horrific. The fact that it happened was horrific. The response has been horrific. Everything about it should not have happened, but it did. Rodger was “driven” to his actions because, in his mind, women would not sleep with him, even though he describes them with all the respect one ascribes a foot fungus. Because he was, supposedly, a nice guy, women should have been throwing themselves at him. Since they didn’t, he felt justified in taking their lives.
At this point, news media has been quick to call him mentally ill. Whether or not he really was, we don’t yet know. What we do know is that he was a misogynist whose beliefs were encouraged and excused by some groups online who have, instead of immediately apologizing and distancing themselves from his digusting actions, taken to defending him by attacking women (and men) speaking out against the tragedy. Not all men, they say. Not all men do this. That’s true. But yes, all women have dealt in some way with men who shared that ideology of sexual entitlement. And we are allowed to speak.
Jess’ experiences with attitudes that dismiss women as if they were less than people is not uncommon. I don’t want to get too far off track here, so this is my own experience: When I was twelve, I rode the bus home from school and a man sat down next to me. He was wearing a track suit and squished me up against the window by spreading his legs. He then reached down under his drawstring and started to masturbate, asking me if I liked it. I had no idea what to do. If I said anything, he might hurt me. If I tried to leave, he might follow me. Society had raised me to keep quiet, and the fear of retribution left me shaking with silent rage.
When I was fifteen, it happened again. It was a different man. I was riding the bus to my boyfriend’s house and some asshole sat next to me, pulled out his dick, and started to jerk himself off. He told me I was pretty. I got up to get off the bus, two stops early, because once again the fear of violence if I said anything overwhelmed me. He followed me off the bus, and up the street. I ran. I ran as hard as I could to my boyfriend’s house and banged on the door. I was shaking and crying not because a man had touched himself in front of me - the anger came from my inability to punch this fuckhead’s lights out or call the bus driver to get the police. My boyfriend didn’t understand. It’s impossible to understand something you aren’t forced to subtly consider every single day.
I’m 25 now. Two months ago I rode the bus to work and some adult man in a UPS uniform sat next to me. I had my headphones on. He spread his legs as far apart as he could, forcing me to squish up against the window. I’d fucking had it. I hit his knee back as hard as I could with my leg, pulled out my headphones and said “YOUR DICK DOESN’T NEED THAT MUCH ROOM.” He quietly called me a bitch, and pulled his legs back together. Asked what my problem was. I stood up and switched seats because fuck that guy and all the guys like him.
So many MRAs claim to be the one nice guy, the gentleman in a sea of assholes, while simultaneously comparing women to furniture they have the right to penetrate. How dare a woman not sleep with me? I held the door open for her! Not for two seconds do they stop to consider that maybe, like me, a hell of a lot of women have spent their entire lives dealing with guys like the ones I had the misfortune of sitting next to on the bus. They can’t imagine a world wherein they are constantly being treated differently or worse because of their gender. Yes, all women can.
Read this over. If you feel like I’m attacking you, personally, and your instinct is to attack me, then go ahead. Point yourself out. You’ve established an inability to see reason or feel empathy, and I’d be glad to know who to block. I am way past the point in my life where I feel the need to stay silent about this attitude and mistreatment.
No, not all men are monsters.
But yes, all women deserve to be heard.