#YesALLWomen Hashtag Sparking Gender Violence Conversations

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Yes. All. Women. If there is no other phrase that sticks in your mind, let it be this one.

On May 23, college student Elliot Rodger went on a gun rampage in Santa Barbara, California, killing 6 people, before being shot in the head himself. He was only a young guy, but very deeply troubled.

Two of the people he shot were sorority girls from UCSB, and it was them plus other women (which he was unsuccessful in reaching) he was targeting. The men who were shot included his 3 housemates and a random man walking along the street. That information alone is tragedy enough. But more information about the killer surfaced since the incident which has made the internet look very differently at this story.

Elliot has Aspergers, but that really doesn’t have anything to do with the story, despite what the media and society is saying. Gun control? Yes, that is a very real issue surrounding this story which cannot be ignored any longer. But what about the issue of gender-based violence? Does that get top billing in most news headlines? Or would the media rather focus on the killer, just like the Boston Marathon bomber whose picture was given a Rollingstone Magazine cover. Sickening.

Before he went on a killing spree, Elliot posted numerous videos online detailing how “unfair” it was that the women in his college didn’t want to have sex with him, even though he was a “nice guy”. The very last video he made was called ‘Retribution’ and laid out how he wanted to exact his revenge on the sorority girls who rejected his advances. He wanted to “punish” the women “who’ve ignored or rejected him over the past eight years.”

The story sparked a hashtag on twitter called #notallmen which basically sent the message that not all men think of women as sexual objects purely designed to fulfill the needs of man. Not all men are prone to violence against women. And we agree. But that hashtag sparked another, #yesallwomen started by twitter user @Gildedspine, because it was as if all the attention on gender violence and the girls who were mercilessly killed, was taken away in favor of having to defend men on social media.

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The campaign’s point was that while not all men are guilty of crimes to women, all women are affected by misogyny. Many more women joined the conversation and made it a heavily trending topic for a few solid days after the shooting.

“Guys, I’m going to be tweeting under the #YesAllWomen hashtag. Let’s discuss what “not all men” might do, but women must fear,” tweeted @gildedspine.

At its peak, 51,000 tweets an hour called out the harassment, threats, and abuse that women face from men who are taught to feel entitled to women’s bodies.

It brings up the topic of how women’s issues are not easily brought to the forefront of mainstream media, especially in a story like this where there are so many issues at play that can be used as a scape-goat theory (him having Asperger’s Syndrome, for one.)

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But it also shows why feminism is more relevant than ever, and in the digital age we live in, we have a duty and a reason to raise our voices.

We always think something like this will never happen to us. It’s the kind of tragedy that affects women in other parts of the world: gender-based violence. In India, Pakistan and parts of the Middle East, women have acid thrown on them by men when the women reject their advances. A 24 year old woman named Laxmi was awarded the ‘International Woman of Courage‘ award by the US Dept. of State for her work campaigning the Indian government to change their laws about prosecuting the husbands who attack their wives. She herself was a victim of an acid attack at the age of 16, and because she didn’t die, this brave young woman took it as a sign that she had to dedicate her life to raising awareness and stopping men from getting away with this.

Elsewhere in the same countries, as well as in Europe, young women face the terrors of honor killings. An honor killing is the homicide of a member of a family or social group by other members, due to the perpetrators’ belief that the victim has brought shame or dishonor upon the family or community, usually for reasons such as refusing to enter an arranged marriage, being in a relationship that is disapproved by their relatives, having sex outside marriage, becoming the victim of rape, dressing in ways which are deemed inappropriate, or engaging in homosexual relations.” That is the Wikipedia definition.

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How are honor killings and acid attacks any different from what Elliot Rodgers did? It isn’t, because the aim was to oppress, hurt and kill women. Because violence against the opposite gender is the only “logical” step in some men’s eyes to getting what they want. In our eyes that makes them weak. They do not value women, they do not value humanity, and live only to serve their own selfish desires. Everyone else is expendable.

The #yesallwomen trending hashtag reminds us a little of the “I need Feminism” photography campaign which saw many men and women holding up signs giving their reasons for needing this movement today. It is social movement started by the people, for the people, in an effort to raise awareness and start discussions that are worth talking about.

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It’s not longer a viable option to rely on news media to give us the starting points we need. They have a different purpose: to share the facts and to make money. So what do we do about that? We use the resources that we have at our fingertips, and engage our fellow sisters and fellow citizens. Social media has been a prime platform for sharing topics where everyday people want to have their say. Social media has been instrumental in showing us all that our voices can have an impact, and possibly influence the older institutions such as the police force, healthcare systems and at the very least governments.

If an 18 year old British student can start a #nomakeupselfie campaign that goes viral for a good cause, imagine the power of something like #yesallwomen and how it will set a benchmark in the minds for young men and women who regularly engage each other on social media platforms such as twitter.

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The Santa Barbara shooting is a horrible tragedy, but it is not about the killer. It is about an issue that has for far too long been ignored when tragedies happen. It is about the power of the voice of the people who will not stand by silently when authorities and media brush off the gender violence label, because the facts speak for themselves. This story is also about an epidemic that sadly still lurks close by in our society, whereby young men view women as less than, and choose to treat them accordingly.

So ladies, let’s keep the conversation going. We don’t need a crazed gunman going on a rampage for us to talk about issues that affect us. We don’t need an excuse to support each other and use our voices to change society. Because yes, we are all women, and we have a responsibility to continue to fight for equality.

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9 Comments

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