On #YesAllWomen, and the Discomfort of ‘Good Men’

YesAllWomen

 

Following Elliot Rodger’s hate crime against women (yes, I know many news reports seem to have missed the misogynistic message he was sending, I know Wikipedia has decided to classify it as generic violence instead of violence against women, and I know The Good Men Project has decided it was really all about virginity, but make no mistake, it was a hate crime nonetheless), women all over the internet rose up with the hashtag #YesAllWomen, sharing stories of misogyny and sexual violence, pointing out how the little and not-so-little experiences that women are subjected to on a regular basis combine to create a society in which a killer like Rodger is made.

Somewhat predictably, there has been resistance from men reluctant to acknowledge the sexist culture that surrounds us; more specifically, they are uncomfortable with the idea that they, with their ‘harmless banter’ or only slightly sexist behaviour, could be complicit in a hate crime of such immense proportions.

One example of this is this piece by T.J Holmes, who believes that the hashtag is unfairly placing blame on men who consider themselves good men, who have never attacked women and probably never will, who are only guilty of what he sees as innocuous sexist behaviours, such as giving a woman their arm, or getting women to pass through doors before themselves. He states that “there is a huge gap between the man who catcalls a woman walking down the street and the man who opens fire on her”, and that #YesAllWomen has somehow led to a confused population of women who are unable to see the distinction between these two actions.

Yet, as someone who has followed the hashtag quite closely over the last week, I see no evidence of this “sense that all sexism is created equal”. There is nothing on the hashtag to suggest that shooting a woman is just the same as whistling at her on the street. What I have seen though, over and over again, is women asserting that we must connect the everyday sexism and harassment that women experience, with the underlying attitude of male entitlement to female bodies, thereby creating the conditions necessary for Rodger’s hatred of women to take root and flourish in that particular way. I have seen women point out how charged with fear many romantic / sexual interactions are for women, where it is often hard to tell if rejecting a man’s advances will lead to an uneventful evening, or an encounter with violence. I have seen women unite in their common experiences of being women in a man’s world, and call on men to take the responsibility of tackling the misogyny rampant in socialised masculinity. Nowhere have I witnessed the notion that a man who has regressive beliefs about being a “gentleman” is exactly the same as a mass murderer, which makes Holmes’ opening lines puzzling, to say the least.

And let’s not forget that we live in a world where women are brought up to expect and get over unwanted touching in bars and clubs, a world where a woman’s clothing and behaviour can be blamed for her rape, and where an unambiguously woman-hating killer is called a ‘madman’ rather than an extremist in a misogynistic society. Given this background, can you imagine that from now on, due to #YesAllWomen, any man who engages in sexist behaviour will be viewed and treated as no better than a mass murderer? Of course not. The idea that this is a serious concern for men is patently ludicrous.

I’m not surprised that many men are feeling uncomfortable after reading tweets on the #YesAllWomen hashtag. If one has lived one’s life completely oblivious to the systemic sexism that pervades everything we do, it can be a shock to suddenly realise that you, a well-meaning, kind-hearted man who would never hurt a fly, are complicit in a culture that has led to horrific instances of male violence against women. In fact, I’m glad of this discomfort. I would find it much more worrying if all men read about the harassment, fear and violence that women experience, and felt absolutely nothing. But don’t pretend that this discomfort is in anyway comparable to the actual lived reality of women’s oppression. Don’t ask women to censor their words and hide the truth because it makes some men feel unfairly blamed. Recognise how tiny sexist acts, while so seemingly harmless to you, can add up and add up and add up, to a culture where women are assigned inferior status, and hate crimes against women are a dime a dozen. Then take that discomfort and use it to drive change, rather than taking the easy path of denial.

About these ads

25 thoughts on “On #YesAllWomen, and the Discomfort of ‘Good Men’

  1. Equating our “discomfort” to being ignorant on the topic is a weak argument. In fact it is that we are “discomforted” by feminist that want to clump us with people that Rodger that is the rub. Or would all women care to be associated with mothers that slaughter their babies? But a woman did it… not the same thing to you? I figure it wouldn’t be, but that is the issue men have with feminist and women. They only want to see their view and they chalk up opposing views as “ignorance.” Whatever makes you feel better I suppose. I also find it odd you didn’t mention the Asians or the men killed in this attack either… biased much? Or do you just pick and choose what to care about. -OM

    • 1. Actually, I said the discomfort came from men’s unwillingness to see how their own behaviour could in any way be linked to Rodger’s feelings and actions. And your comment, on how feminists “want to clump [you] with people [like] Rodger” proves my point.

      2. I think you’ll find that the number of incidents of men killing their children is MUCH higher than of women doing the same.

      • What does your number 2 have to do with anything? We are speaking of associate a sex with an action. Do you then equate all men as baby killers since you came up with that random “fact.”

        • No, YOU have decided that you’re arguing against randomly associating a sex with a random action. Obviously I’m not suggesting that if one man likes banana ice cream, that means all men do.
          I am speaking of patterns of behaviour across a whole gender, and if you look up crime stats you’ll see that over 90% of violent crime (including killing spouses and children) is committed by men, not women. So we need to ask – why? What is it about the socialisation of men that is leading to this?

        • Men have always been more physical and violent as a sex, but that doesn’t mean ALL men are. That really is the basis of your post isn’t it? That you wish for other men to “recognize the potential” harm from their own kind and “bond” together with women in a united front? I will agree that humans are all equal and violence against women is awful, but I won’t accept the blame for some crazy ass kid that has nothing to do with me. The attempt by feminist and women to place that guilt on men “as a whole” is sad and pathetic.

        • See, that’s the difference between you and me. You think that the reason why so many men (ah, not ALL!) are violent is because they are naturally so, whereas I believe that these men are the product of society and are not born violent, and have the potential to be better.
          Why do you have such a low opinion of men?

        • There is a reason why men are used in war and used to kill. To deny those reasons is to deny the very basics of humanity, men show less emotion than women. You can show me your “facts” and I can in turn point you to EVERY military in the history of the world that has tested this fact. You realize that right? That it is possible to test this trait?

        • I love how you say “I can in turn point you to EVERY military in the history of the world that has tested this fact” as if it’s a major trump card. Do you really think “EVERY military in the history of the world” conducted rigorous scientific analysis into the violent propensities of male and female infants before deciding to exclude women from the military?
          Anyway, I can sense that this conversation isn’t going to be very productive, and I don’t want this thread to clog up the comments section, so am ending it now.

    • Please don’t link all feminists and women to this opinion. I am a feminist and woman and don’t personally support the claims of this article.

  2. Your post is brilliant and you nailed it when you wrote this –

    “. I would find it much more worrying if all men read about the harassment, fear and violence that women experience, and felt absolutely nothing. But don’t pretend that this discomfort is in anyway comparable to the actual lived reality of women’s oppression. Don’t ask women to censor their words and hide the truth because it makes some men feel unfairly blamed. Recognise how tiny sexist acts, while so seemingly harmless to you, can add up and add up and add up, to a culture where women are assigned inferior status, and hate crimes against women are a dime a dozen.”

    I’d really appreciate your feedback on – http://akritimattu.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/elliot-rodger-a-symptom-of-a-society-so-morally-warped/

    Might strike a chord :)

  3. Yes, it’s interesting how many people want to ignore the misogyny and patriarchy here.
    Here’s a paragraph I found on Feministe: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2014/05/30/revenge-rampages-obscuring-the-issue-and-missing-the-point/

    “How is that a man can leave a 140-page manifesto describing, in explicit detail, how much he hates women, why he hates women, why he thinks women deserve to be punished, and precisely how he plans to punish them — and then his subsequent killing spree is attributed to everything but misogyny?”

    I’ve noticed that my “intro to women’s studies” students can more easily see sexism when I show how the matter would sound if it were a problem of racism. So I reworded the above paragraph this way:

    “How is that a man can leave a 140-page manifesto describing, in explicit detail, how much he hates blacks, why he hates blacks, why he thinks blacks deserve to be punished, and precisely how he plans to punish them — and then his subsequent killing spree is attributed to everything but racism?”

    But I have a comment on your observation that “The Good Men Project has decided it was really all about virginity.”

    Feministe made an important critique of the blog and GMP has worked to rid itself of the offending concerns. The problem with continuing to criticize something that responds to criticism is a loss of incentive to make change. Because then what’s the point?

    True, the above post didn’t discuss Elliot Roger from a feminist perspective — although it was trying to keep men from attacking women. Yet GMP did post something with a feminist perspective, as well:

    Elliot Rodger: Blaming Women When Patriarchy is the Problem
    http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/elliot-rodger-blaming-women-when-patriarchy-is-the-problem-gmp/#sthash.FrK3hun5.dpuf

  4. You’re spot on. Shooting up a sorority house because you think women owe you sex isn’t the same as catcalling or unwanted contact, but I think it’s along the same scale of entitlement to women’s bodies and misogyny. Rodgers’ actions weren’t ‘crazy’ or ‘mad’, they were a logical progression of what he believed.

    I do think men’s discomfort with reading what’s been said on YesAllWomen may not always be that they were oblivious to it. My partner gets upset if I read out a few rape and violence against women statistics, and says he doesn’t want to hear it, because he feels powerless to do anything about it. It’s the same way I get really rage-y and hopeless after reading too many things like that, because what can one person really do.

    • I guess when I refer to the discomfort, I’m talking more of the knee-jerk defensive reaction of “Not all men are like that! I may do some sexist things but that has -nothing- to do with Elliot Rodger!” etc etc etc that many men have shown in response to #yesallwomen.
      Love your first paragraph, you put it very well.

      • I’ve never experienced the ‘not all men/not me’ as a knee-jerk from people I know, I find instead they tend to criticize feminism (‘feminazis’, ‘want to take over and subjugate men’, etc.), and when I calmly respond to all points and explain what feminism is, they just go silent. So they don’t even get to the part of pondering if they do display sexist behaviours.

        I do live in Australia, where everyday sexism like catcalling seems to be much less prevalent, but that doesn’t mean it’s widely recognised as a problem, even though you only have to look at what happened when we had a female PM to see how sexist and homophobic our culture is. Thankfully for every particularly sexist or knee-jerking guy, there’s a lovely one who wants to learn or already is a feminist :)

Say things here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s