#YesAllWomen

A few months ago, I applied for a great job at a boutique near my school in downtown Boston. But between polishing my resume and selecting a killer interview outfit, I worried about something seemingly inconsequential: the walk home from work. If I landed the job, I would be working past dusk most days and would therefore have to tackle the 15-minute, solo commute in the dark. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, right?

But to me, it was. And I think that many, if not most women, would agree.

From parents’ warnings about “stranger danger” to friends’ horror stories of sexual assault at parties, I’ve always been taught to fear being alone in the dark. More specifically, I’ve been taught to fear men. This week, I was given yet another reason to be afraid when a privileged, entitled, and clearly mentally disturbed man murdered six young people because in his mind, the women who didn’t respond to his advances were worthless and deserved to die. All women, really, were worthless and deserved to die. As my friend Kennedy, a student in New York City who has followed the recent events, said:

“I think that [the Isla Vista] shooting also has to do with media influences, but I don’t think that’s an excuse for someone’s behavior. Violent video games and movies don’t shoot people, people do. [The shooting] was misogynistic.”

Our culture teaches men to be dominant, macho, alpha males who have the right to use women however they please. Meanwhile, we women are taught to travel in packs, give fake phone numbers to overbearing guys, and grip our keys between our knuckles when we walk to our cars at night. We don’t have the right to say no to a man without fear of verbal or physical retaliation.

You’re probably aware that the Internet has absolutely exploded since the Isla Vista shooting. Women around the world (and their male allies) are sounding off about misogyny, rape culture, street harassment, and other forms of gender-based violence.  This is an incredible opportunity to educate others, especially men, about the injustices women face every day. In the days after the Isla Vista shooting, I tried to explain to my boyfriend exactly how I was feeling and why (without simply resorting to “I am absolutely terrified of all men”). His response, while not exactly eloquent (“Oh my God. That’s fucked up”), really struck me: this guy truly has no idea what it’s like to live in fear or to constantly feel like there’s a target on his back and to maneuver his life around the actions and impulses of the opposite sex. Most men don’t. But thankfully, most men are willing to listen and learn.

The now-viral hashtag #YesAllWomen (which emerged in response to #NotAllMen…. talk about a virtual foot in the mouth) has served as a battle cry for those inspired to share their stories and feelings after the shooting. Although #YesAllWomen is a giant step in the right direction (reading tweets and posts with the tag will both bring you to tears and make you want to single-handedly destroy the patriarchy), we still have a ways to go. #YesAllWomen reveals the pain, frustration, and fear that comes with being regarded as inferior, but it isn’t really emphasizing the idea that women are equal to men – the core principle of feminism. Kennedy pointed out this interesting caveat to me, explaining.

“I think awareness [of the ways misogyny affects women’s lives] is important. With that though, the idea of #YesAllWomen isn’t feminism, and I don’t think it helps people understand what feminism actually is. A lot of  people have been tweeting #YesAllPeople, and I think that’s more appropriate. A lot of people don’t realize that feminism is equality for both sexes and both face obstacles and both are included in creating these obstacles.”

Despite its flaws, #YesAllWomen is sparking a conversation we should have had decades ago. We’re angry and we’re taking action. And honestly, many of us are scared and hurt, both by what happened in Isla Vista and by our own experiences. I can’t help but think of all the gropey dudes I’ve had to elbow away at clubs and music festivals – what if they were more persistent and weren’t deterred by a shove and a “fuck off”? What if they had been armed? What if my friends hadn’t been around to look out for me? Maybe #YesAllWomen is just an instrument to bring us together and allow us to express the things we’re feeling before the next (and possibly last) fight for women’s equality really begins. It may be just a hashtag, but I really, really hope that social media is only the beginning, because I am so goddamn tired of being afraid to walk home in the dark.

ANON absolutely 100% stands with #YesAllWomen and all of the incredible feminists out there working to create real equality between men, women, and all people. Here are a few of our favorite recent tweets and posts featuring the viral tag.

Defined LuckyNegotiate SomoneMediaPrison

Drugged

Kennedy also recommended this video, which offers another great perspective on the issue:

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