Yes, All Women

by | May 26, 2014
filed under Feminism

yesallwomenby Roxanna Bennett

Content Note: Discussion of violent misogyny

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” - Margaret Atwood

I do not want to write this, it physically sickens me. I have watched the YouTube video Elliot Rodger posted before he started murdering people. I have read excerpts of police responses. I have read comments from Rodger’s family. I have seen photos of the victims. I have spent most of my weekend discussing rape culture and male entitlement and the constant daily terror all women live in, with my partner and son. I have cried. I have vomited. I have been triggered.

In his final YouTube post titled “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution” (which has been removed because it violates YouTube’s policy about violence., but you can find in many news reports), said: “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me but I will punish you all for it.”

“On the day of retribution, I am going to enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB, and I will slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see inside there.”

It has been pointed out, repeatedly, that Rodgers didn’t kill women exclusively. He did stab three men in his apartment before he went to a local sorority, where, thankfully, his aggressive attempts to get into the building were ignored. Rodger’s particular problem with other men was with those who were not virgins: “All of you sexually active men, I hate you,” he stated.

What was abundantly clear from the very first report that I read about Rodger from The Guardian was that he hated women. He wanted to punish them for rejecting him. He wanted to punish the world for the fact that he was still a virgin. He felt entitled. He felt he was owed. He felt that his anger, his, as he said, “loneliness, rejection, and unfulfilled desires” were a perfectly reasonable catalyst to his wanting to murder everyone in his path. He called himself “the supreme gentlemen” and repeatedly blamed “you girls” for not giving him attention, affection, adoration and sexual fulfillment.

He said: “When you hit puberty, life either becomes heaven on earth or a living hell. It all depends on how many girls like you, or if girls like you at all. My life turned into a living hell. No girls liked me, and I hate them all for it.”

Elliot Rodgers was a misogynist. He was a follower of the Men’s Rights Movement, he was a member of the Pick Up Artist community. He felt that being an “incel” which is short for involuntary celibate, justified his considerable rage.

After the news I, along with what felt like half the planet watched the hashtag #YesAllWomen, started by @gildedspine trend around the world. As I write this it is now 2:30 Monday afternoon and it’s still trending. #YesAllWomen was created in response to the quick and tired response that gets trotted out whenever a high-profile crime with misogyny at its centre is committed: “not all men.”

Screen capture of tweets about #YesAllWomen by @gildedspine

This excuse, this reason, that we hear automatically whenever anyone dares to point to the fact that we live in a toxic culture of male entitlement is that “not all men are like that.” No one said they were. But our culture, on an almost global scale, reminds us every day that men are privileged and women are obligated.

Tweet by Soraya Chemaly that reads "#notallmen practice violence against women but #YesAllWomen live with the threat of male violence. Every. Single. Day. All over the world."Somewhere in deconstructing the motive for such an abhorrent crime it must be acknowledged that Rodgers did what he did because he hated women. In 24 years as a feminist, it has never once crossed my mind that “all men are potential rapists”, which is a favourite argument that gets pulled into “debate” (it’s never really a debate when a stranger jumps on your Twitter feed to tell you that you are illogical or hysterical).

I find that statement particularly rankling because I am the mother of an 18-year-old boy who I have taught to never touch people without their permission or enthusiastic consent. It wasn’t a hard lesson to teach. I don’t think my son is a potential rapist. I don’t think my partner is a potential rapist. I don’t think any of my cis-het-male friends are potential rapists. I do believe that all women, queer, trans* women, lesbians, cis-women, live in constant physical threat and in a permanent state of hyper-vigilance.

As the hashtag grew, the commonalities in experiences were striking. There are engrained survival strategies that women employ almost instinctively even though they are learned. They have been passed down to us for so long I don’t know if anyone will ever figure out their origins. Some of the advice we’ve been given kept cropping up again and again:

 

Very quickly, and sadly not shockingly, the hashtag began filling up with hate for feminism, women, and any attempt to discuss the structural misogyny at the heart of our culture. Which proves the point that we live in a culture that reinforces this sense of male entitlement.

Here are a few recent tweets I pulled in about 10 minutes of checking Twitter in the last half hour:

Tweet by @Future_Reich reads "#YesAllWomen Women stop crying about getting raped cuz your wearing a sexy out fit and just wear something less revealing"

Tweet by @KristalDGarcia reads #YesAllWomen pit men against each other because, vaginaTweet by @savemale reads #yesallwomen hate women who think outside of the feminist brainwashing

Tweet by @PhilJefferson1 reads #YesAllWomen They've discoverred internet outside the kitchen? The prophecies were correct, 2014 is the end."

I didn’t want to write this but I felt I had to. I know there are probably other posts around the world and on the news right now about the public response to the murders and articulate discussions about the #YesAllWomen hashtag. The Round-Up Jarrah posted here yesterday is full of thoughtful, excellent posts about the killings.

This entire post might be woefully inadequate at expressing my agony over this, our shared experience of lives lived in fear. I don’t have anything new to add to the discussion except, please listen. If you find the hashtag makes you feel defensive, if you feel your entire gender is being attacked because not all men are murderers, rapists, pick-up artists or violent, you are the people who need to read and listen the most. We need you to hear us. We need our culture, our shared culture, to change.

(Full disclosure, at one point I had tweeted that Rodger was not an isolated “madman” but the product of a phallocentric culture and was quickly checked by @politiquestions and reminded that some women have penises and therefore my language/argument was bigoted and inaccurate. I apologized and deleted the tweet because they were absolutely correct.)

 


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  • http://www.envisioningtheamericandream.com Sally Edelstein

    Would you believe there was once a time when it was ok to run an advertisement with the headline asking “Is It Always Illegal to Kill a Woman?” In what may be the most misogynist ad ever, this ad that ran in mainstream publications like Saturday Evening Post, Fortune etc was just one of a legion of ads and media messages that were once so prevalent that reinforced the powerful male and submissive female. The scary thing is some of these misogynist views continue to exist with dire consequences.
    http://envisioningtheamericandream.com/2014/05/28/the-most-sexist-ad-ever/

  • Roxanna Bennett

    I wish it was more shocking.

  • Egalitarian

    There’s no proof at all that Elliot Rodger was involved in the men’s rights movement.

    The forums he’s been found to have posted to, a bodybuilder forum and “PUAhate”, are not connected to the men’s rights movement.

    His youtube subscriptions, cited as proof of a connection, do not include a single men’s rights channel.

    Furthermore, none of his beliefs have anything to do with men’s rights views.

    There’s a reason why no source has been able to point to even one specific example of a connection to the men’s rights movement. There is no such connection.

  • Roxanna Bennett

    All of his beliefs have everything to do with the Men’s Rights Movement. The shared philosophy of the Men’s Rights Movement and PUA’s with its inherently misogynistic, entitled world view absolutely contributed to his actions.

    • JoMRA

      That’s one hell of a self serving false equivocation their Roxanna. Men’s Rights has nothing to do with hating women unlike feminism which is a marxist class warfare schema and requires a hatred of men.

      • Jennifer

        Why would a feminist group be considered a class warfare? Are you saying women are in a lower class than men? That seems to be what you are saying.

  • Nate

    This comment has been removed because it violates this site’s comments policy.

    • Lou

      This comment has been removed because it violates this site’s comments policy.

    • Emil

      Your main point is that women’s fear of getting raped, abused or killed is comparable to your fear that a woman may have an abortion??? I don’t know if I should laugh or cry.

      Also, feeling entitled to dictate what women deserve and how they should feel? Way to prove the author’s point…

    • Jarrah Hodge

      Lewis' Law: The comments on any article about feminism justify the existence of feminism

      • JoMRA

        Lewis’ Law is also a Kafkatrap and seeing it used is a giant redflag that your dealing with bigots/zealots.

        • JoMRA

          Just to save anyone reading this some time a kafkatrap is a kind of logical fallacy reduced to essence, runs like this: “Your refusal to acknowledge that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…} confirms that you are guilty of {sin,racism,sexism, homophobia,oppression…}.”

          In this case Your refusal to share my worldview is proof that my worldview is correct.

          • Jennifer

            No. The fact that women cannot even share their experiences with other women without a strange man barging in to put her down, proves the discussion is needed.

    • Val

      Just curious, but are you implying in this post that not being sexually assaulted is a privilege that a woman has to earn?

      • Roxanna Bennett

        Nope. I don’t even understand how you would draw that conclusion.

  • Roxanna Bennett

    Well, Nate, since we’re apparently on a first name basis, let me share some facts about myself with you, and respond to your comments one at a time because you had so much to say.

    1. You are correct, I am entitled because I am white and therefore have less to fear in this world than queer women, trans* women, women of colour and people who live in places with oppressive regimes.
    2. I may be a bitch. Sometimes I might act like a bitch and sometimes I might not. Just as you, Nate, might act like a bastard and sometimes you might not. Bitch is an all-purpose gender specific insult.
    3. I don’t live in fear of men. I live in fear of being assaulted, which has been my personal experience and is also part of the culture in which we are raised. We are TAUGHT to fear men, via mediums like TV, as you said. We live in a fearful culture.
    4. I’m not sure what you mean by “respectable” specifically. I don’t want to make a sweeping generalization but I think you might mean women who are married perhaps or who have children and are generally agreeable and dress modestly and are kind. I don’t think any of those things are indicative of respectability necessarily, one needs self-respect to treat others with respect.
    5. Any guy who dates me would have to negotiate that with myself and my partner of 8 years. Not that it’s any of your business but I am in a happy domestic partnership with a cis-heterosexual man who is athletic and can build things and is generally quite masculine in whatever your definition of masculinity is, which again, making a generalization, based on your use of the word respectability earlier, probably means you have some kind of stereotypical idea of what a man is or is meant to be. See my post for ways in which our culture is toxic to masculinity.
    6. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect, even you, Nate, who feels the need to be stunningly ill-mannered to a stranger on the internet.
    7. Like many people, I feel accountable for my own feelings and actions. No one else is responsible for my feelings except for me.
    8. Not alone or frustrated, see point 5. I’ve been with my partner 8 years which is a long enough time to feel very secure in the “alone and frustrated” department.
    9. You’re right Nate, no one likes to spend time around adults who are fearful and insecure, although fear is a healthy survival mechanism that evolution built into our central nervous systems to help us evolve and survive. But it sounds like you are are fearful and insecure. Why are you so fearful and insecure Nate? Is it because someone on the internet said something you don’t like?
    10. I’m 42 Nate, since you asked, or implied that I was not an adult.
    11. There is no totem pole.
    12. I didn’t ask you to treat me in any particular way because I don’t know you. I would like to think that you treat all people with respect but I believe you have stated many times by now that you don’t treat people respectfully or in a way that you would like to be treated.
    13. There is no ladder.
    14. Submissive to whom?
    15. Please show me the study and statistics and the double-blind peer-reviewed proof that this group of “submissive” women are happier than those who are not.
    16. I do not live in America or an Asian country so I can’t speak to either of those cultures except in the broadest terms. I am Canadian and we are inundated with American popular culture which is quite toxic.
    17. My state of mind is quite ordered. See this list I am writing?
    18. Where is this bread chaos of which you speak? Might I please make you a sandwich from it?
    19. Prove it. Show me the studies that show a direct correlation between men being raised by single mothers and the rise of violent crime.
    20. Did you grand-mother pass this wisdom to you? Where did you hear that life was better and women were less promiscuous before….before when exactly? Again, prove it.
    21. I don’t bash men. You bash women though. A lot. Why is that? Did someone hurt your feelings?
    22. I kind of missed the part where I stated that all men are predators. Can you please point that out for me because it’s not something that I believe.
    23. Baby killers what? Who are these baby killers of which you speak? Why are you afraid of them? Do you have a baby that you worry about? Are you a baby who is afraid of being killed by a woman?
    24. I think it’s quite evident that you are irrational.
    25. If you think that your belief system will impact your mental health then I’d like to suggest you contact a mental health professional who can help you.
    26. I look forward to 40 more years of my healthy relationship and loving friends and family, and I wish the same for you Nate. I sincerely do.

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  • Roxanna Bennett

    Oh, addendum to my own thoughtlessness, point 16 is wrong. I did not mean to state that there is one specific Asian culture.

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  • Roxanna Bennett

    JoMRA, do you believe all people deserve equal treatment?That’s what feminism stand for.

    Do you believe one gender should dominate another? That’s what Men’s Rights Activism stands for.

    • JoMRA

      Roxanna your just trying to “define your way to victory” there are bad people in every movement true but feminism is unique in that it perpetuates blatent misandry and even seeks to justify, normalize, and institutionalize it. Where as men’s rights has some mysoginists in it.

  • Roxanna Bennett

    What victory would that be? Safety and equality for all people?

    You are wrong, feminism does not equal misandry.

  • Tyler

    When I first saw Elliot Rodger’s video, I lost all patience. I was sickened that this happened; that he thought the had the entitlement to either be sexually active, or he could kill people if he wanted to. For me, personally, I have the constant mindset that I will be forever alone, simply because of my poor social skills. I accepted that fact, and I decided to live with it.

    Despite being sixteen, I decided that my life is not nearly as important as others’, so I will do anything I can to help out other people, and ESPECIALLY to defend them. Thanks to this article, I know more about how a female feels about men, so I definitely want to keep an eye out so that I don’t see this happen in my area.

  • Roxanna Bennett

    Tyler, thank you so much for your comment.

    I would like to say this to you even though we have never met: you will not be forever alone.

    I don’t think you have poor social skills; if anything your comment demonstrates excellent social skills, empathy, generosity and kindness.

    It is easy for me to say, at 42 years old, with certainty, that I know you will find deeper connections and love but know that I was once 16 and felt the same way you do. I thought I would never find anyone to like me, or hear me, or see me, or listen to me, or to love me or accept me. I don’t feel that way anymore but it took a lot of time for me to find my place in the world. So know that this sort of loneliness or pain of the kind Rodger’s said he felt, is very universal. It’s how you choose to deal with that feeling that makes a difference.

    Your life is important. Everyone’s life is important. Thank you for having the wisdom to see that.

  • Susan

    Wow. So powerful. Thank you.

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