Why #YesAllWomen is not just about women

Wednesday, 28 May 2014 22:14 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Reducing what happened in Santa Barbara to just misogyny would be a big mistake. This tragedy touches on everything from gun control to mental health. Rodger didn’t just hate women, he hated humanity

Over two years ago in Britain, a woman named Laura Bates got fed up with everyday catcalls and men’s sexist behavior and started the Twitter account @EverydaySexism where women could voice their anger, frustration, humiliation and whatever else they felt when objectified by men.

 Bates’ initiative quickly became a phenomenon and sparked a national conversation, not only on sexism and misogynist attitudes, but also on the broader issues of gender equality and violence against women.

Now, it seems like Americans are ready to do the same.

 However, the story behind the YesAllWomen hashtag that has taken over the internet and started a national discussion about violence against women and sexism makes what’s happening in the U.S. fundamentally different: Less about women and more about the culture of a nation.

 The tragic event that triggered the #YesAllWomen Twitter campaign happened on May 24 in Santa Barbara, California, where 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured several others, then took his own life, allegedly because he was frustrated that women wouldn’t date him.

He vented his anger in a video posted to YouTube that was later removed. "I feel so invisible as I walk through my college. Your revealing shorts, your cascading blonde hair, your pretty faces. I want one for a girlfriend," Rodger said in the video, as reported by Vox.com.

 "I am polite. I am the ultimate gentleman. And yet, you girls never give me a chance. I don't know why," he added.

 In the aftermath of the shooting, some people put the blame on the women Rodger could not get a date with, and that caused an immediate backlash on Twitter.  The hashtag  #YesAllWomen, referring to the idea that all women at some point have been harassed by men, has been tweeted over 1.5 million times in response to #NotAllMen, a tag used to fight the idea that all men are violent towards women.

 “#YesAllWomen deserve to live free from threats of domestic violence & sexual assault. We must shine a bright light on such despicable crimes,” tweeted former Speaker of the House of Representatives and current California congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.

 “Not ALL men harass women. But ALL women have, at some point, been harassed by men. Food for thought. #YesAllWomen,” tweeted actress Adelaide Kane.

 Shortly after the killings, it emerged that Rodger had written a disturbing “manifesto” in which he describes his whole life in maniacal detail, almost year by year, laments a lonely childhood and elaborates on his resentment towards girls and women.

 As he had no or few friends, Rodger retreated online. He soon developed an obsession with videogames and started joining chat rooms and forums that give advice on how to pick up women and are generally misogynist. (And he drew some hateful responses from some guys on those websites, too.)

However, reducing what happened in Santa Barbara to just misogyny would be a big mistake. This tragedy touches on so many other issues, from gun control legislation to mental health. And it brings to mind painful memories of many similar mass murders in recent U.S. history: Columbine, Virginia Tech and Newtown, which had nothing to do with misogyny.

Rodger didn’t just hate women, he hated humanity. In his manifesto, he stated he wasn’t “part of humanity” and at times he seemed to be angrier at some specific men and at couples, rather than at women.

The outrage prompted by his act and the subsequent outpouring of articles in the media and debates on television about the rights of women, sexism, rape, domestic violence and gun control – among other issues – are manifestations of a conversation America needs to have.

As comedian John Oliver put it, “One failed attempt at a shoe bomb, and we all take off our shoes at the airport,” he said on his show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. “Thirty one school shootings since Columbine and no change in the regulation of guns.”

 But this is nothing like a woman being catcalled on her way to work. This is a guy with serious issues who committed multiple murders. He wasn’t just a misogynist or a sexist man who thinks women are objects owned by men. Rodger fits the profile of a sociopath.




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