You know, I’ve been pondering so many blog posts related to the #YesAllWomen hashtag (Yes, all women experience feeling unsafe because of their gender, yes all women have experienced harassment, etc.) that has grown out of the Santa Barbara shootings and the discussion of cultural misogyny that has grown around it. I keep searching Twitter and reading the tweets from thousands and thousands of people, men and women, and their links to articles and blog posts. It’s been an obsession the last few days. And every time I think I have something to say… I find a post that says it better, more cogently and more coherently than I could.
As I type this blog entry, I can look to my typing stand on my work desk and see a large stack of what we call “gold forms” at my office. Gold forms are the forms we fill out whenever we receive a call or request for help from a sexual assault survivor. Part of my job every month is to compile all the sad, disheartening, tragic, enraging statistics from these forms. Some of these women and men I have met. Some I have not. But their stories are spelled out in brief and spartan handwriting on the double-sided pages. Every month, the gold forms pour in. Every. Single. Month.
And you know what? While some survivors are men – and deserve the same support and and belief and resources that women do! – most are women. Most… are always women. And so for that reason, I also say: #yesallwomen. After that, my ability to speak gracefully on the topic degrades a bit in comparison to the bloggers below, and so I think what I will do here is try to link to a few of these posts and recommend strongly that you read them if you’ve not already.
There is something fundamentally destructive about the way we socialize young men and boys. There is something fundamentally destructive about the way we socialize young girls and women. There is something broken in our cultural dialogue around gender, gender roles, sex, sexual roles… there is something broken. That something broken contributes to sexual assault… to domestic violence… and to the murders in Santa Barbara.*
*Please note that I am not saying it is the only contributing factor. One article I read quite rightly points out that the Santa Barbara tragedy can focus as a looking glass, with our perspective on what “caused” it shifting as our own focus or bias shifts – one could implicate gun culture, male socialization, mental health, and numerous other factors and probably not be wrong in any of these cases and more.
Rather than focus this set of links on the mass killing itself, I would like to look instead at the very popular Twitter hashtag and responses to it, and what this all says about the current state-of-the-society.
The first of the blog posts I’m linking to takes to task the common protest of “Not all men are like that!” that crops up whenever discussions turn to misogyny or street harassment or societal ways in which women are made to feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or simply bodies without minds and spirits inside them. In fact, #NotAllMen has become a common hashtag used to contradict the #YesAllWomen hashtag. While it is undeniably (thank goodness!) true that, indeed, “not all men are like that”… it can derail a very important and necessary conversation about how our culture expects men to behave that does and can contribute to violence.
This first post is written by a self-described white, cis-gender male. He really gets to the heart of why “Not all men are like that!” is an unhelpful and distracting response to a very real issue. I recommend it highly.
Over the weekend, as the discussion across Twitter turned to these horrible events, a lot of men started tweeting this, saying “not all men are like that.” It’s not an unexpected response. However, it’s also not a helpful one.
This next blog post talks specifically about the idea of nerd-culture and misogyny, but really what it’s discussing is the way we raise boys (who, of course, become men) to feel that their role in life is expected to involve the pursuit and conquest of women sexually at the expense of seeing women as the protagonists of their own stories and their own lives, with the power and right to make their own decisions:
I’ve heard and seen the stories that those of you who followed the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter have seen—women getting groped at cons, women getting vicious insults flung at them online, women getting stalked by creeps in college and told they should be “flattered.” I’ve heard Elliot Rodger’s voice before. I was expecting his manifesto to be incomprehensible madness—hoping for it to be—but it wasn’t. It’s a standard frustrated angry geeky guy manifesto, except for the part about mass murder.
This post by acclaimed science fiction writer John Scalzi on his blog goes into a sensitive and interesting dissection of the levels of discrimination in society and in the individual that pertains not only to sexism or misogyny, but racism, homophobia, etc.
I’ve been talking about sexism recently — my own and others — and I have to say I’ve found it increasingly exasperating to see the massively defensive response of “not all men are sexist” that inevitably follows. One, because it’s wrong (more on that in a bit), and two, because the more I see it, the more it’s obvious that it’s a derail, as in, “Holy shit any discussion of sexism makes me uncomfortable so I want to make it clear I am not sexist so I’ll just demand recognition that not all men are sexist so I can be lumped in with those men who are not sexist and I can be okay with myself.”
Finally, because sometimes a picture (or a cartoon) can be worth a thousand words, especially when it can connect with some humor as well as a visual, I leave you with two cartoons by Robot Hugs: