The #YesAllWomen Hashtag: Addressing a Social Problem After the Santa Barbara Killings
On May 23, America was yet again shocked by the latest mass murder to hit the headlines. This time, it was a 22-year-old boy named Elliot Rodger who killed six people in Santa Barbara and ended up possibly killing himself.
Naturally, there was a viral and strong reaction against the violence. And again, as with every school shooting and mass murder in recent history, people wanted to know what caused the crime. What drove an average and even privileged young man to commit multiple murders? What is interesting about this case is that the suspect left behind a sizable amount of videos and written content online which remained accessible—and unsurprisingly became viral—after the murder.
Based on his online identity, the suspect was clearly a misogynist who felt entitled to receive love and sexual pleasure from women and reacted violently when he failed to receive what he thought was his right. The support and encouragement he received from other like minded communities online certainly didn't help his state of mind.
THE ONLINE DEBATE
The chilling videos and violence resulted in substantial debates and arguments online, particularly on Twitter. A lot of men started defending themselves, saying not all men share Rodger's sentiments and misogyny. As a response to this #NotAllMen trend, the #YesAllWomen hashtag began.
It is the obvious truth that not all men share the killer's beliefs and tendencies—that is not even the issue. What the #YesAllWomen hashtag wishes to express is the fact that all women, on the other hand, have experienced a form of sexism and misogyny at one time or another. The hashtag encourages women to share these experiences online under the hashtag. For instance, singer Aimee Mann shared her experience about being attacked and going through an attempted rape. When she reported the harassment to authorities, the cops questioned her about what she was wearing, clearly implying that she might have had been at fault by “provoking” the perpetrators with her choice of clothing.
It's true that an online “battle of the sexes” is hardly the solution to violent crimes such as the Santa Barbara shooting. However, it cannot be denied that #YesAllWomen shines a light on the truth that society is partly responsible for what happened. Simply put, we live in a society where a disturbingly large number of men (such as the men's right's groups that the suspect belonged to) still believe that it is perfectly acceptable to objectify and harass women. This kind of belief may not have pulled the trigger and killed the victims directly, but it certainly drove the suspect to think it was all right to do so.
In the end, the #YesToAllWomen hashtag is not about bashing men, but about women finding the space and courage to share everyday misogynistic and sexist acts—no matter how petty—that have seemingly become acceptable in society.