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#YesAllWomen: Exhausted. Heartbroken. Not Backing Down.

There are about eighty different kinds of blog posts I could write about this tag, especially of the the subtle and well-meaning critiques of it that show just how important it is for it to exist. But I don’t have the energy, or an emotional reservoir deep enough, to handle it. I could barely get through writing this one. 

Like a lot of you, I’ve spent a lot of time reading about Elliot Rodger and all that that entails. There is certainly a lot to read. One of those links is a round-up post with fifteen+ more links. And that’s not even a fraction of the stuff covered by the #YesAllWomen hashtag.

The first day of the tag, I spent hours reading through it and I wept. My heart broke because I was not surprised by a single comment. I wasn’t surprised by what other women had been through, and I wasn’t surprised by the men who challenged the women who spoke up on the tag.

I read through these articles and I nod, over and over again. Here are just a select few quotes from some of the articles I’ve linked to. Emphasis mine throughout:

But he was an affluent, young, white man on a mission to murder women, so he’s just a depressed guy who understandably snapped after being rejected by women for too long.”

“…why don’t you ask the women you know who are in committed relationships how they’d feel about guys concocting elaborate ruses to have sex with them without their knowledge to “earn a chance” with them? Or how it feels to be chased by a real-life Steve Urkel, being harassed, accosted, ambushed in public places, have your boyfriend “challenged” and having all rejection met with a cheerful “I’m wearing you down!”? I know people who’ve been through that. And because life is not, in fact, a sitcom, it’s not the kind of thing that elicits a bemused eye roll followed by raucous laughter from the studio audience. It’s the kind of thing that induces pain, and fear.”

“Earlier, I mentioned that the conversation is about the men who are the problem, not the ones who aren’t. Well, at this point, a conversation needs to be had about them, too. Even though we may not be the direct problem, we still participate in the cultural problem. If we’re quiet, we’re part of the problem. If we don’t listen, if we don’t help, if we let things slide for whatever reason, then we’re part of the problem, too.”

“But I am saying that we cannot understand Elliot Rodger’s clear mental health issues and view of himself as the supremely forsaken victim here outside a context of racism, white supremacy and patriarchy. I’m also saying that white male privilege might be considered a mental health issue, because it allows these dudes to move through the world believing that their happiness, pleasure and well-being matters more than the death and suffering of others.”

“It was reported on Saturday that Rodger’s family had contacted the police about his violent and strange videos “weeks” before the shooting The family attorney said that police interviewed Rodger and thought he was a “perfectly polite, kind and wonderful human”. I have to wonder how much police dismissed Rodger’s video rants because of the expectation that violent misogyny in young men is normal and expected.”

“Killing women because women reject you is the act of a monster, but that monster isn’t Elliot Rodger. The monster was whispering in his ear that women owe men sex, and that those who don’t comply should be punished (along, let’s be clear here, with those who do). […] But its voice was also heard—is also heard—in more innocuous places, on and off the internet. It has spoken in Congress, where men tried to stake claims on the nation’s uteruses. It has joined Twitter conversations where some hack comedian or other bristled at being called out on his violent jokes. It has rung out over the music at a bar where a woman’s “no thanks” unleashed a torrent of abuse. It sounds jocular in movie trailers about men winning over reluctant women; it was a bit more threatening on the bus when that man kept saying “what are you reading? Hey, I’m talking to you!” but not so threatening that you said anything, probably. It hissed from your friend’s mouths when one of you punchlined “nothing, you already told her twice!” and the others laughed, or didn’t not laugh. It went to a children’s movie and called two young girls cunts.”

(For those of you who haven’t heard the joke that precedes the aforementioned punchline, it’s “What do you tell a woman with two black eyes?” Charming. I’ve heard it multiple times.)

I could keep going. I could easily have quoted each of these articles multiple times, and more that address the many different facets of this disturbing event and the pervasive ideologies that feed into both Rodger’s blatant manifesto and into our discomfort with discussing the role they play in our society.

Reading the #YesAllWomen tag, reading these articles, has pushed me closer to depression than I’ve been for years. It’s tapped into the desire for isolation that I spend a good deal of time and energy actively resisting. It has brought to the forefront my fear, my despair, and my utter exhaustion at having to explain over and over again to the good, smart men I love that we need to talk about misogyny and sexism, and that we deserve to be angry about misogyny and sexism, and that misogyny and sexism is not just made up of shootings and manifestos but also of the “Smile, sweetie” and the “Damn, honey, love them short shorts” and the fact that I have a boyfriend is more effective than I’m not interested and the stares and the jokes and the “Not all men” and the “Your activism is just calling attention to this and drawing unnecessary lines in the sand, most normal sane people couldn’t possibly be contributing to this ‘culture’ you speak of; anecdotal evidence isn’t enough.”

As ever, I could go on. Women went on, on the #YesAllWomen tag, for days, for a million plus tweets. They go on and on, on the @EverydaySexism account. And I cannot tell you how much I hate the fact that we can go on and on, talk about this until we’re blue in the face, and people–men–will still not believe that there is a problem. I hate the fact that I have friends, who know me and love me and respect me, who “normally unfollow anyone who posts stuff like this” and then persist in arguing that this can’t be nearly as widespread as we’re making it seem, people who somehow see me as separate from the other feminist writers who are “firing shots in a war that is only happening in their own minds.”

Comments like that just kill me.

So I keep reading. I keep writing. I keep sharing, and I feel like I lose part of myself every time. Why do I keep making myself sick reading all the things about the shooting? About feminism in general?

Because I keep hoping I’ll find that one post, that one article, that will make everyone see. 

I keep hoping I’ll find something that will hit home for someone, give them a lightbulb moment, make them actually see past their discomfort and look at the sheer number of women who are opening up about their experiences. I want to help people who aren’t affected by this, the ones who (as I characterized Mark Manson over two years ago) don’t experience it and don’t perpetrate it, see what it does to their friends and family right under their noses.

Though I have never been raped, I know too many women who have. And they know women who have. And those women know even more women who have been raped or sexually victimized.

And when we talk about the subtler sexism and/or misogyny, the subtler instances of societal demands on women (based on age-old male demands and allowed to persist because our male peers are uncritical or unseeing of them, despite all our work to expose them), the number of women who have experienced it explodes. That is what #YesAllWomen is about.

I will keep reading these articles. I will keep sharing them. I will keep writing them. Even though it hurts. Even though it makes it that much harder to resist the urge to shut down. I will read and write and share them until no one says to me (paraphrased from a whole discussion), “I don’t see how in an enlightened world, anyone can believe that Elliot Rodger’s manifesto is an amplification of widespread ideas about how men view women.”

4 thoughts on “#YesAllWomen: Exhausted. Heartbroken. Not Backing Down.

  1. LOVED YOUR POST.
    NICE WORK 🙂

    1. Thank you 🙂

  2. I agree with everything you’ve said here. I read through a lot of the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Saturday, and it both depressed me and made me want to punch the hell out of men who perpetuate everything that those women were talking about. I know that, as a guy, I need to do more than just treat women with respect – I need to speak up and make sure other guys know what they’re doing is wrong and that they need to stop. Because I know some guys will only listen to that, they’ll only even remotely consider it worth listening to, if it comes from another guy.

    It might not do much, it might not do anything. Or it might make some guy realize he’s being an asshole and get him to stop. So it’s worth doing.

  3. I’m in tears out of heartbreak and frustration. Thank you Caitlin for continuing this conversation. This needs to be something that we talk about openly and without fear of backlash.

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