Yes, All Women

picI wish I could be eloquent about this topic, because I’m a writer and eloquence is supposed to be my stock-in-trade.

But the fact is that for two days I have been following a Twitter conversation about how a woman-hating clot of wasted DNA thought he had the right to murder women because he felt rejected. This is not hyperbole – a friend read this individual’s entire 150-page manifesto (I don’t know how she stood doing so, the excerpts she posted made me feel sick) and that’s what it boiled down to.

Via Twitter, I have been watching woman after woman after woman relate story after story after story about sexual harassment, sexual assault, street harassment, discrimination, microaggression, rape, overt aggression, persecution, verbal assault and more and every single tweet I’ve seen applies directly either to me or to one of my friends.

I have been watching people – mostly men, but in a twist of internalized misogyny I can’t wrap my head around, some women, too – try to rip these women down for expressing the violence that has been perpetrated against them. I’ve watched my friends be condescended to, sworn at, insulted and threatened – and I’ve watched them refuse to back down.

I’ve been reading about allies, too – men who will boost the signal and commit to helping women fight back against systemic violence and oppression – and seen them called traitors and worse. I’ve seen women act as mouthpieces for those who cannot safely express themselves, passing on stories others don’t dare share in public. I’ve lost followers because I participated in the hashtag, but more importantly, I’ve gained new ones – and I know which side of that equation is more important to me.

Two days. For two days, this has been going on.

I’m struggling to find words to talk about how this conversation makes me feel. Angry isn’t enough. Frustrated isn’t enough. Maybe I’ll find the words, eventually, but right now all I can do is keep reading, retweeting and participating.

Here are some of what TIME magazine considered “The Most Powerful #YesAllWomen Tweets“. I saw others in my timeline that I consider even more upsetting and affecting. In among them, I also saw signs for hope: the mother who had just spent two hours reading through the tag with her 16-year-old son, or the father who vowed to raise his son as a woman-respecting feminist. (Of course, for every one of these, there were literally hundreds of people denigrating the tag and the women who chose to speak out on it.)

If you want to read this hashtag, which earlier today was clocking over sixty new tweets every thirty seconds, click here. Be advised that some tweets – particularly by those who feel the women having their say don’t have a right to speak their minds – are extremely graphic.

As of writing, the hashtag had already spread to Tumblr, and was trending on Facebook.

Edit: Original version of this post included a reference to the number of women murdered which was outdated by the time of posting. The number has been removed; it’s actually irrelevant.

Second edit, and I cannot believe I have to say this, if you’re going to leave a comment, go read this essay first, and make really f*cking sure that your comment doesn’t boil down to either “Not All Men” or “Women Need To Do Better.” That is not the conversation we’re having, and from here on out, comments that boil down to either of those approaches will be deleted.

15 responses to “Yes, All Women

  1. twitter_cdreimer

    This guy blamed women for the fact he was still a 22-year-old virgin when he died. That boggles my mind. I’ll be 45-years-old in August and STILL A VIRGIN. As a child, I saw my father smoke, my mother drink, and my older brother sowing his wild oats. As I grew older, I never smoked, I take six months to drink a six-pack, always with food and never when I’m driving, and felt no compulsion to sow my wild oats. I had many close relationships with women over the years, but I haven’t found a woman to intimately share my life with. My only regret is that I haven’t started a family before my parents passed away from cancer over the last ten years. It’s hard to imagine someone being so distraught about being a virgin to go on a murderous rampage.

    • Rachel / @girl_onthego

      Thanks for the comment, CD. Sadly, whatever role his sexual status actually played in what he did (and I think that’s a whole different conversation), our culture has so completely accepted misogyny as the way things are that nobody made any effective effort to stop him, despite his making his feelings and views about women (and the men who dated them) known multiple times in his manifesto. And the people he murdered paid the price for that.

  2. facebook_kristy.greefkes

    My husband and I have been talking about how our boys relate to girls and what we can do to make sure we raise them so they are allies and not perpetrators. Our boys are still young, 2 and 5, but stuff still comes up that we need to address. Two days ago a boy called our older son “a girl” as an insult. Right now our son gets upset if you call him anything other than what he actually is (i.e., he gets upset if you ask him if he’s a penguin or Iron Man,) but it’s not something that we can or should let go. And yet I find myself not really knowing how to explain to him that calling someone “a girl” is not an insult and why it’s not OK to say things like that and explain in a way that he’ll understand. We want to raise them to understand that being boys doesn’t make them better, but also that they understand that our society is biased towards them. I’d like to think that this will be an issue that our society will have worked out by the time they’re adults, but we can’t coast on optimism. We have to be realists, and prepare them.

    • Rachel / @girl_onthego

      Hi Kristy, thanks for commenting. I’m glad you and your husband have been having this conversation. I’m sure there must be resources out there that explain how to have these conversations with kids, too – and I can’t imagine how hard it would be to constantly have to undo the work society does every day to teach them that girls and women are “less than.”

      It would be great if society would “work out” this issue, but the hard truth is that isn’t going to happen unless parents of boys (young and old) take the line of educating their kids to take an active stand. It’s really encouraging to hear when parents do take those stances. Teaching your sons that they have privilege is also really admirable – as I read over and over, knowing you have privilege isn’t about making someone feel guilty, it’s about making them aware of the advantages they have in society. I’m glad you’re working to give them a strong foundation in this – if you start now, you’re giving them a great advantage in being able to treat all people with respect.

      I wish you all the success in the world with your efforts. 🙂

  3. If prostitution was legalized, it would help with all these lonely guys who cannot get a date. They get a prostitiute, get laid, life is better. They go home and go to sleep. Problem solved.

    • Rachel / @girl_onthego

      Hi Jason. I think there are a couple of mistaken assumptions in your comment, and I think they’re worth clearing up.

      First, as I saw one sex worker point out on Twitter over the weekend, it’s not a sex worker’s job to clean up society’s trash. They already deal with violent, abusive clients in many situations. Also, just because prostitution and other types of sex work aren’t legal in most of the United States doesn’t mean they don’t exist, and it doesn’t mean that going to a sex worker wasn’t an option for this individual.

      Second, and I think this is important to recognize, this kind of violence is actually not about sex – it’s about power. If it was just about him shooting his load, there are a myriad of options that could have substituted for murdering all those people (and remember, his victims included women and men).

      Legalized prostitution just isn’t a solution to internalized, monolithic, societal acceptance and encouragement of misogyny.

  4. So…here’s the problem. Every guy doesn’t do this crap, indeed most would never do anything like it, but virtually every woman has had it done to them multiple times. We’ve heard that. That is the message of “Yes, all women”.

    Here’s the flip side. Every single decent guy alive (the real ones like me, married to a spectacular woman who is also my best friend) has seen some jock with a nice haircut and abs or some “bad boy” walk up to the best looking woman in the room, the one with the most choices, and treat them like garbage, only to be rewarded with her company all night (at the party or whatever)…

    …or at least that’s what it looks like. Now, my wife tells me that this is actually the visible part of the nightmare scenario for most women. Mr. hyped-up-on-testosterone-creepy-guy-used-to-be-football-star-and-peaked-when-he-was-19-and-is-now-27 comes up all aggressive and starts hitting on her. What do you do? Most women just kinda take it, and act polite and hope they can construct the magic words to make the creep go away. Unfortunately if he’s a PUA or what they like to call “Naturals”, they don’t go away and may follow you out the door. Also if the girl is a little young or has some self-esteem issues (which get programmed in pretty young before she becomes that fabled “10” these guys obsess about) she may actually go home with him.

    So here is our problem. To most decent guys, the guys the PUA like to call “Betas”, which means they get laid less often, but eventually end up with families and homes instead of stories of one night stands, they see this whole thing as the following narrative:

    Women never pay much attention to me as soon as the flashy aggressive douchbag shows up. They always end up leaving with him, and then he treats them like garbage, and they go on the internet to complain on #AllMenSuck. Women *reward* and therefore *create* this behavior with their obvious sexual obsession with guys who treat them badly, and then blame all men for treating them badly. Stop sleeping with the jerks and this will all end!

    See the problem? Guys don’t get that women are often horrified by these jerks and mostly they score by harassing every woman they see until they get to one who is drunk enough or vulnerable enough to date rape. Their public displays make every encounter look like a success when it isn’t, and even when they do “succeed” all they have is a succession of one night stands, which is really cool when you are 19 and less so when you are 29.

    This is about perception. Women are always exposed to men who act like jerks and men are always exposed to women seeming to reward them for that behavior, followed by the bragging of the jerk in question talking about the hot blonde he nailed the night before (and if we saw him follow her to the door, we buy it every time). This is infuriating to every decent person on both sides, but no one is blaming the responsible party. It’s all “rape culture” or other diffuse unconquerable enemy groups. It’s never about the handful of roving narcissists.

    The nearest thing to a solution that I can conceive of is for women to call out out every single one of these douchbags when he makes her uncomfortable in a public place and all the decent men closing ranks and doing what we are supposed to do, Socially supporting her in whatever way is appropriate (including occasionally showing another dude the door). That’s good for everyone and keeps the incentives in the right places.

    This literally could be done 100% socially, simply by outing this crass behavior and making is socially acceptable to shame them, rather than having to sit their and fumble for the least-worse way to endure the incident.

    • Rachel / @girl_onthego

      Hi Phil, I appreciate your taking the time to leave some thoughts.

      I think one point from the #YesAllWomen tag is that the “nightmare scenario” (and your wife’s right, it is) above isn’t the majority of all situations where women feel threatened. Another point is that I think you may (unintentionally) be turning the situation around in a way that makes women complicit in the abuse.

      What if before the PUA/bad boy/whatever even walked in the door, all his guy friends were telling him that’s not an OK way to behave? What if when he told those stories about one night stands, the men around him started the shunning there? What if the default wasn’t, “this woman who feels endangered and doesn’t know who the men in the room are has to stand up” (and remember, she has no way of knowing if she’s in a room of guys who will back her up, or who will drag her out back and gang-rape her while somebody videos it on their cell phone for youtube), but for men to learn what behaviors to recognize as not okay, and nip them in the bud? What if decent guys went on PUA and MRA forums and shamed the jerks who posted there?

      Putting it on the woman to stop a situation that’s in progress isn’t fair. It isn’t good for everyone. It doesn’t keep the incentives in the right place. It leaves the woman in a position where she has to risk her own safety in order to speak up, and it lets the guys around her off the hook unless she does.

      There are definitely social solutions to the problem of rape culture (which isn’t just some “diffuse unconquerable enemy,” it’s a systemic obsession with constantly devaluing women’s agency and autonomy and right to decide what happens to their own bodies, and is practiced by every Judge who writes an opinion talking about how a survivor shares the blame for her rape, every police officer who questions a woman making a report about what she was wearing, every dad who tells his daughter not to blame an old man for forcing a kiss on her — and these aren’t hypotheticals, they’re are all examples that have either been covered in the news or were on the #YesAllWomen hashtag) and misogyny, but the onus shouldn’t be on women to put those social solutions in motion.

      We’ve stood up and identified the problems over and over and over, and nothing changes.

      Guys – guys like you, self-professed decent guys with families (or without them) who are upset by the idea of having to prove you’re “not one of the bad ones” – have to move on this. You have to move proactively. If you’re never in a situation where the men in your life act in ways you saw called out on the hashtag, then you’ve surrounded yourself with an incredible group of guys – but if you are, no matter how small, no matter how innocuous it may seem to you, you have got to call it out. Out for beers and a guy in your group comments on how he’d like to bang the waitress? Call him out. See someone catcall a girl in the street? Call him out. See someone attack react to a YouTube video by talking about whether or not they find the woman speaking is hot? Call them out in the comments section. Your daughter comes home and tells you one of the boys at school pushed her? Refrain from saying that’s how boys show they like girls, and call the school, and kick up a stink. Don’t let stuff like this go by without calling it out. Get your friends to call it out. Get your sons to call it out. Get your brothers and cousins and coworkers to call it out. It will be exhausting, but I promise you, it’s only a small fraction of the exhaustion that women encounter on a regular basis.

      I could give endless examples but the gist is the same: by the time you’re in the bar and the PUA sidles up to the 10 (and I have to say, even rating women on a scale is an example of misogyny at work), it’s too late. Maybe not for that woman, if somebody steps up and inserts themselves into the situation, if she’s feeling threatened (and yes, there are going to be misfires when she does actually want to be with the jerk, but the occasional misfire is the price one pays for being a decent human being), but for plenty of other women.

      These issues – misogyny, rape culture, violence – they aren’t problems with simple, one-point-of-entry solution. They’re holistic and systemic ways of thinking. And women can’t be the ones responsible for changing how men think.

      We need guys like you — all the guys like you — to step up and help change the conversation before anybody even gets to the bar. Or nothing is ever going to change.

      • This is actually a really interesting discussion. I know *exactly* what you are asking for. You want me and guys like me (who I assure you are the vast majority in my upper-middle class circles) to meet in our smoke filled man-caves and decide to quit egging each other on to hassle women.

        I wish we could, but I don’t know those a$$holes.

        No one in my circle, indeed no man I would ever socialize with would ever act in this manner. I don’t think that’s incredible at all. I would be appalled if anyone I know would ever be so rude, even in college when we were young and stupid. It takes real entitlement to ever treat another human being like that, or to not be horrified if some comment or action was misconstrued in that way, (and guys, “misconstrued” happens once in a very great while, not every time you go to the bar). I’ve only ever seen what might be this sort of behavior from across the room in bars (which I don’t frequent).

        The thing is, I know these guys are out there, even without having seen it. I know exactly who they are, and I could probably point out the cluster of them who were my peer in my youth, 10% or 15% of the guys in my high school yearbook. A lot of them were jocks, and they were all entitled narcissistic creeps who each had some characteristic that adolescent girls who hadn’t yet figured out that handsome and insolent didn’t equal decent were ga ga over. They learned early that they were “wanted” and didn’t have to work too hard for it. They also learned that there exists a class of person who has esteem issues and will take any level of abuse and keep coming back, and that’s their pattern.

        If you are not the kind of woman who will roll over for this, you get hit on, groped, made to feel threatened and hopefully no more. But no matter what, once they peg you for strong, they go away, and you just have to deal with the next jerk. They also hunt in packs of the like minded.

        I neither know nor want to know these guys. I don’t know anyone who wants to know them, but they are around. Now we have the Pick Up Artist community, who has thoroughly analyzed their bad behavior and duplicated it but without the hard core physical abuse or roid rages.

        I remember about four guys on the wrestling team, and a half dozen of the football/basketball jocks from high school. I also recall a half dozen nasty rednecks and a few more sharper guys with really nasty streaks of misogyny. They were all mean as snakes and really abusive to the other guys, particularly the ones they thought wouldn’t fight back. They were classic bullies of the male sort.

        I’ll bet they did this crap every weekend for years and years and some probably still are. Guess what, they were aggressive scumbags toward US when we were in high school, and some of them even kept it up in college, but mostly these guys avoid anyone who might fight back, and they only measure that physically. That why women are their targets.

        I would love to influence their behavior, but frankly, “rape culture” exists, but only in their little corner of the swamp. I can’t stop them before they get to the bar. I don’t like them, they don’t come to my house or sit in my man cave. They wouldn’t be welcome. My father ceased speaking to his best friend because he had an affair and divorced his wife, and in dad’s words “treated his wife and kids contemptibly.” That’s how I was raised.

        I and my friends can help, but only in the bar, and only if we know it’s happening. I’m sorry, but guys aren’t all in a big club, as helpful as that might be…

        • Rachel / @girl_onthego

          It might be an interesting discussion for you, but it’s a conversation I’ve had too many times for that to be the case on this side.

          And you don’t know exactly what I’m asking for, because I am aware that #NotAllMen gather in Man Caves to discuss how to oppress women.

          What I’m asking for is that guys like you (and your friends) pay attention when you’re out and step in when you see situations where people are being treated badly because of their gender. Just like any decent human being would do.

          If you truly live in a world where you never encounter that, then please let the rest of us know where this safe, feminist utopia is. Or open your eyes wider and look a little harder.

          Otherwise, get over this idea that these acts are only perpetrated by jocks and PUAs (not sure where you got that idea or obsession from) and start actively being aware that the things talked about on #YesAllWomen are taking place around you every day, and you probably don’t even realize it.

          That’s all I have to say on the matter. If you want to discuss it further I recommend you check out Phil Plait’s essay, “Not All Men: How discussing women’s issues gets derailed.” I’m sure there are plenty of people in the comments over there who would be happy to have this conversation for the billionth time in their life, but I’m not one of them.

      • PS: The whole rating of women this is repulsive as it is done by the PUA community. Most of those guys are Hannibal Lecter ought to eat them rude…

  5. I’ve read a lot of anger directed at “men” because of a minority. I certainly was taught not to rape. I’ve a loving family. I’ve never raped or assaulted a woman. Its important that a common female experience is contextualized against the vast majority of men who have never and will never do any of the things discussed.

  6. Can I just rant a second?

    What annoys me most, is that when a man grabs your boob and laughs with his mate. I react, he tells ME I have problems!

    He puts his hand up my skirt. Again, it was just a laugh.

    I tell him I’m a lesbian. It’s a challenge.

    I tell him I have a girlfriend. He wants to join in.

    I tell him I’m not interested. I’m delusional.

    I’m a natural flirt. I’m gagging for it, so it’s an excuse for him to lay his hands on me.

    I hang around with men. He assumes I am a slag and slept with them all, so I’ll sleep with him.

    Apparently, we have such a thing as equality in this country. Unfortunately, we will never be equal to men. We complain about these sexual assaults, because they are assaults, we are told that “it’s a little bit of fun that got out of hand”. It’s never “Sorry sir, but you have sexually assaulted this woman…” and so on.

    With regards to rape, I completely agree with what I read from someone else, it shouldn’t be that we as women are petrified to go out late at night because we might get raped. It should be that some men respect women. I am very fortunate enough to be surrounded by a number of men that KNOW how to respect me as a woman, and are more than gentlemen around me. Who says that these men can get away with raping women or degrading women with vile comments?

    I know that there are women out there that do this to men, but why should we stand for it? Why can’t we all respect each other equally and remember what our mothers taught us? “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

    Rant over. Sorry if some of this doesn’t make sense. I am a little angry, but glad to get it out of my system and see it happens to others.

    R x

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