The first rule about being a woman on the Internet is: don’t be a woman on the Internet. But over the weekend, women and men stormed Twitter and, by viral effect, the larger Web, to call attention to violence against women with the trending hashtag #YesAllWomen. The trending topic arose in response to the mass shooting in Santa Barbara on Friday—or rather, it was created in response to the outpouring of #NotAllMen tweets that attempted to derail a conversation about violence against women.
On Friday, 22-year-old Elliot Roger went on a shooting spree on the UC Santa Barbara campus and the surrounding neighborhoods, killing six and wounding 13. He left behind a disturbing 141-page manifesto and several YouTube videos in which he ranted about being a virgin despite being the “ultimate gentleman.”
Roger detailed his plans in his last YouTube video, in which he revealed that he would go to “the hottest sorority house” on campus and would take pleasure in “slaughtering” every “spoiled, stuck-up blond slut” present. He spoke of the “river of blood” that would be the punishment meted out to all those women for not having sex with him.
Roger’s reason for the attack:
“I don't know why you girls have never been attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It's an injustice, a crime, because I don't know what you don't see in me. I'm the perfect guy, and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men, instead of me, the supreme gentleman."
Roger’s shooting spree was very clearly motivated by misogyny, but that didn’t stop a number of people from taking to Twitter to insist that #NotAllMen rape and murder women—the standard response from Men’s Rights Activists to larger discussions of violence against women. But it’s a response that automatically characterizes instances of violence against women as somehow abnormal or unique. In the case of Elliot Roger, the #NotAllMen response implies that the shooting spree was the simple act of a madman—and indeed, there have been plenty of stories emphasizing that Roger was being treated by a psychiatrist and had high-functioning Asperger’s Syndrome.
The #NotAllWomen hashtag was created as a twist on the #NotAllMen Twitter outpouring, and the topic has gone viral around the world, with women tweeting from every continent about their experiences with sexism, misogyny, and sexual assault.
The tweets range from instances of everyday sexism at work and school to sexual assaults and public harassment—followed by apologies to the woman’s boyfriend or husband, since the implication is that the harassed woman’s “keeper” has been insulted.
Celebrities from Mia and Ronan Farrow to Aimee Mann have joined in the conversation with their own stories.
Why is #YesAllWomen necessary? Click on any one of the stories shared by women—seriously, do it now, at random—and read the vitriolic responses from men calling them names or insisting that rape culture is not a real thing, women aren’t victimized at such high rates, etc. etc.
The creator of the #YesAllWomen hashtag has since disabled her Twitter account and essentially gone into hiding following a barrage of rape and violence threats.
Since the hashtag’s creation over the weekend, it’s been included in more than 1.5 million tweets. This heatmap shows how the hashtag has progressed around the world.
Image source: eonline.com