women silenced and gagged

The Santa Barbara shootings last week were, by hopefully anyone’s standards, equally shocking, wrong, absurd and unnecessary. A young boy ultimately felt rejected by a gender; taking his gun he used his feeling of rejection to fuel a revenge soaked gun crime which, although shocking, is sadly not so uncommon in a country rife with guns and associated violence. America.

Out of this atrocity, a strong and unapologetic hashtag began on what is now arguably the fastest and most connected media for breaking news and international concerns on the planet. Twitter. From what I can tell, this hashtag was started by one woman on Twitter (who has since changed her profile name) and this was an accidental move. It was definitely not started as some means to further her own promotion, online presence or bump up her follower numbers unlike so many other hashtags. The cynicism of the Twitter massive aside, the hashtag #YesAllWomen served to both unify women around the world and at the same time, send out a shockingly powerful message with one unwavering chorus. All women have at some time in their lives, suffered fear of, abuse and harassment from or inequality and disrespect from the patriarchal and still male dominated world in which we all live.

If you’re in any doubt about this, go visit the #YesAllWomen hashtag or even the long running @EverydaySexism Twitter account for plentiful examples. Ask the women around you. The women in your life. Your mother. Your sister. Your partner. Friends.

Elliot Rodger, the gunman, felt rejected by women. He was still a virgin in college and blamed women for this. No mention of any mocking or taunts from male acquaintances. Boys will be boys, after all. And boys need their sex. To deny them it is to deny them a fundamental right as a male. Women exist to service men, sexually; if they do not ‘put out’ and fuck men upon a simple request, they are of no use to anyone and their entire existence becomes invalid and questionable.

Sounds like madness? I agree. Horrifyingly, this is the type of attitude that men commented on this news story and web mentions of this crime with. Not even just sympathising with the gun man, but empathising with him. Comments along the lines of, ‘this is why women need to put out’, ‘this is a warning to all girls who reject a guy’, ‘I feel sorry for him, poor dude being a virgin no-one needs that’ absolutely blew me away with their caveman attitudes, lack of respect for women, sexism and backing this murderous crime which they blame women for. Not the guy turning a gun on women then himself; it was the women’s fault. They’re to blame.

I’d say it was positively medieval, but that would be disrespectful to the gentlemanly chivalry that is the allure of many to that particular period of history. Not totally, I grant you; but at least a veneer of manners and societal etiquette. This shooting has nothing. Just cold blooded anger, sexism and murder.

Instead of reading, listening to and sharing in the pain of women openly sharing their stories of abuse and suffering on Twitter through the hashtag #YesAllWomen, a lot of men responded with a fight instead of flight tactic. Seemingly unable to cope with the outpouring of pain and emotion, they built walls of aggressive defence with a hashtag rebuttal. #NotAllMen.

Not all men are assholes.

Not all men are rapists.

Not all men are gunmen.

Not all men are unchivalrous.

Not all men hate women.

ad infinitum.

The #YesAllWomen hashtag was not, though, stating that all men made all women feel the way they were tweeting they felt or had felt at some point in their lives. The #yesallwomen hashtag showed a shared thread amongst all of femininity, that ALL women had felt fear or or abuse from A man at some point in their life. Not from all men. Maybe just one man. Possibly two or three. it could be one event, it could be daily.

If a woman were telling you her rape story (and how sad it is that this is a common event, so common that I can phrase it as ‘her rape story’ as if all women must have one somewhere) would you respond with an angry, “well I’m not a rapist! How dare you share that story with me as if you’re blaming me for it!” No, I doubt you would. If you did, you’d be an asshole. Somehow though, from behind the chosen anonymity or at least semi-privacy of a keyboard, screen and internet, this type of response was deemed absolutely fine. Encouraged. As if all women were attacking all men, not sharing their utter and sheer sadness that even one man in the world acted horribly towards a woman and made her feel afraid for her mind, body or life. It is my opinion that the #NotAllMen hashtag needed not exist at all. Isn’t it enough that one man in the world saw fit to turn rejection of his advances into cold blooded murder? Isn’t it enough that violence towards women is so commonplace that a simple accidental hashtag resonated with enough women worldwide that it trended overnight and is still going strong a week later? No, not all men. But ALL women have felt the effects of some part of  masculine society that makes them afraid, abused or attacked. Whether it’s living knowing that you’re judged purely on your appearance, being seen to lose your value at the same time your perceived ‘looks’ go, being reminded to ‘get your body back’ after the wonderful experience that is childbirth, catcalls in the street or being taught how to walk home with your keys spread between your fingers to ram into the face of a would-be attacker – this is life for women.

Don’t bother responding. Just feel sad along with us. We have to live it, every single day. Acknowledge. Continue being the men that aren’t like that. Hopefully more will see you, your friends, your children. A new generation of respect between everyone, regardless of  gender. But an angry, aggressive defensive stance?

You’re just perpetuating the motion.

 

– Cara Sutra

One Response to “Yes all women deserve respect and a life free from fear; not all men need comment on this with aggressive defence”

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