Why We Should Keep the #YesAllWomen Conversation Going

by June 2, 2014
filed under Activism


From feminists and women trying to prove their arguments, to horrible recounts of male rape, Twitter has been abuzz with controversy, compassion and a call for change since the #YesAllWomen conversation peaked on Monday evening. Thus far, I have abstained from searching and engaging with the #YesAllWomen trend on Twitter and Facebook to avoid reading stories I know too well and the horrendous and sexist rebuttal of #NotAllMen. Not only has the conversation spun into many different directions, some good some bad, but the articles written by major news sources have mostly failed to hit the mark. Where major media is quick to claim mental health issues, women writers (such as here and here and this amazing Tumblr) have given voice to some contentious issues this occurrence has brought to the limelight: Male entitlement and the shrinking space for women in the public sphere.

Since the Isla Vista misogynist-driven shooting, we have heard many stories that aim to pathologize what a patriarchal culture deems an individual flaw rather than a systemic function – none of which come as any surprise. From claiming the killer suffered mental illness, to his transcripted YouTube videos making headlines on large media outlets, none of the behavior of the killer himself, nor the behavior inspired by this event has come as a shock to a gurl who has spent the past four years sitting in the ivory tower waxing feminism. Here are the few reasons why I’m not surprised by the #YesAllWomen conversation, the #NotAllMen reaction and the grave incident that inspired these conversations to take hold of Twitter for last week.

Men Are Entitled

This is called privilege. All men have it. It comes in many forms and is exacerbated by whiteness, undoubtedly. The killer made it quite clear in his YouTube videos and musings that yes, he felt entitled to women’s bodies and yes, resented women for ‘withholding’ from him what he felt was naturally, rightfully his. He also resented other men for taking what he believed was rightfully his (women’s bodies) and acted out of this resentment in his murdering of men during his shooting spree. These aren’t some sick musings of a madman; I believe it’s what men are taught in a society dominated by patriarchal values and laws: Men are entitled to the bodies of women. Without such a belief, would rape exist? Would abortion and birth control be continually under fire? Would all representations of women be sexualized or ‘mother-ized’? Would 2009 have seen over 400,000 instances of sexual assault reported, while only 8% of rapes or assault are reported? You do the math.

A woman’s body is taught, to both men and women, to be a tool for male enjoyment and pleasure, a puppet for the musings of male desire and voyeurism. The script written on a woman’s body are that of lesser freedoms than men, a sexualized existence that passively receives sex and penetration until it births a child and becomes sexless, and a host of unmeasured emotional insanity which carries hormones and a smaller brain. Misogyny is a deeply rooted belief in our culture, our political schema, our economic paradigm and the way we live our daily lives.

The #YesAllWomen Response

Sexual assault in our culture is immeasurable. It carries with it shame, guilt, anger and fear. It’s no surprise that in response to such horrendous crimes, women of the world took to a platform for free speech to voice their own experience. While this has elicited a seemingly non-violent response from men (which I will argue below), the #YesAllWomen conversation, spoken from every corner of the world, proves that each and every woman has at one point experience violence, misogyny, assault or harassment for the simple fact that she is a woman.

The #YesAllWomen conversation aims to claim a space in the public sphere for a dialogue on the assault women experience on a daily basis.

The #NotAllMen Rebuttal

This is where words become violence. The #NotAllMen rebuttal both misses the point and is an aggressive act of masculinity flailing in the face of ‘maybe, perhaps, sort of but not really’ loosing some public space that it so feels entitled to. Of course not all men rape or assault, but all women – and it has been said again and again throughout this conversation – experience assault, harassment and rape at the hands of men.

The fear elicited by the women-led conversation on twitter is a reaction based purely in the desire to maintain and control male privilege; it’s a fear that believes there isn’t enough space for us all and if women begin to gain rights and control over their bodies and destinies then what will have to those rights and entitlements that were previously reserved for men in our patriarchal culture? Words begin to enact violence as the #NotAllMen aims to take over the #YesAllWomen conversation to reserve the entitlement to speech and public space for men, male conversation and men’s rights.

This is why we need to continue the #YesAllWomen conversation. What are your thoughts on the movement? Let us know in the comments below.

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