As some of you may be aware, (and if you’re not, where have you been?) there has been one particular hashtag which has been trending on Twitter continuously for the last few days and that is the #YesAllWomen tag. As a feminist, or even as a woman in general, this is something very close to me and something which I would really like to discuss.
The #YesAllWomen tag started May 24th after the news of the Elliot Rodgers incident went viral. Elliot Rodgers was a 22 year old male who posted videos online in which he discussed the cruelty of women and how all of his sexual advances towards women had been rejected which had led him to a ‘live a life of loneliness’ which he wanted girls to be ‘punished’ for. He admitted his plans to ‘slaughter’ women and fulfilled said plans in Isla Vista, California on Friday 23rd May with a shoot out which killed six people and hospitalised seven more.
The general reaction to the so called ‘retribution’ of Elliot Rodgers has been divided; with some people stating that this highlights the issue and effects of misogyny in today’s society whilst others excuse Rodgers behaviour as being an effect of his mental illness (Aspergers Syndrome).
Nonetheless, women took to Twitter and created the #YesAllWomen tag to share their experiences of sexism and male entitlement and it has been trending ever since.
Those of you that follow my Twitter may have seen that I took part in this tag and shared my own experiences and opinions:
So I’m giving my #YesAllWomen for all the times I have been groped and grabbed at in a club by males who think they are entitled to my body.
#YesAllWomen because of all the men who have ever said ‘Oh don’t be like that’ when girls shake off sexual advances in a club.
The #YesAllWomen tag is so important because it is enlightening women into realising that the experiences of every day life which they have always just ‘put up with’ are actually wrong, sexist and misogynistic. Several really valid points have been made within the tag. Examples include the fact that girls are told from a young age that boys are mean because they like you- firstly, this excuses the bad behaviour of boys from a young age which allows them to know they can get away with this behaviour throughout the rest of their life and secondly it encourages girls to accept it without question.
Another example of society excusing the misogyny of men can be seen in the phrase ‘Boys will be boys’. This phrase is regularly used to dismiss any negative behaviour from boys and/or toward women by suggesting that is is part of their gender and natural. I propose we drop this excuse and say ‘Boys should be held responsible for their actions’! I have experienced the negative, and almost unbelievable, effects of this whilst at sixth form, three years ago. The head of sixth form held an assembly for girls in order to discuss the dress code for girls in the summer weather. He said that girls would be allowed to wear skirts and shorts only if they agreed not to complain about any unruly reactions from fellow male classmates because ‘boys will be boys’, instead of holding a male assembly and teaching them to control their sexual behaviour and avoid harassment of females. Additionally, he even said that we cannot blame male teachers even for staring at our bodies because they ‘re ‘only human’! This is surely wrong and just highlights how accepted misogyny and male entitlement is today!
Sexual inequality is deeply ingrained into society and I believe that education is partly to blame because of the things it teaches children from a small age. In addition to the experiences mentioned above, I think sexual inequality is first introduced and excused during the sex education classes taught in schools. For example, girls are taught about the dangers of rape and how to avoid it but the boys are not taught not to rape and how to control themselves. The fact that we accept rape as part of everyday life is even more chilling. Young girls are given rape alarms but young boys are not taught that it is wrong. Boys even grow up playing video games in which the mistreatment of women is deemed so normal to society that its a feature of these games which they can abuse as they wish!
How rape and harassment is handled is another issue mentioned in the #YesAllWomen tag. Many people were furious with one particular question asked of every rape incident: ‘What were you wearing?’ and rape is often excused by people who believe that a girl can ‘ask for it’ if she is dressed in a way which they would deem inappropriate. This can also be seen as an issue in a more general sense; it is an outrage that it has become a trending opinion that what a girl wears determines the amount of respect that she deserves- instead of it being the case that a woman deserves respect regardless!
One of the most frustrating things about sexism and misogyny to me is the obliviousness of men who don’t even realise that they support it because of how accepted it is within society and because they are never taught that they are wrong. For example, some men complained in the #YesAllWomen tag that women should not make an effort to look good if they are going to avoid and ignore men who make sexual advances toward them. This in itself highlights male entitlement and a bigot attitude because it demonstrates that men assume that women only try and look good for the acceptance of men and to be aesthetically pleasing to them which is simply not the case. We try and look good because we want to feel good in ourselves so we do things for the benefit of ourselves individually and the fact that this thought did not occur to some men just emphasises their ignorance and beliefs of entitlement.
Furthermore, feminists of the tag were abused on Twitter by men who called them ‘fat’, ‘ugly’ and assumed that they were ‘single’ and ‘insecure’. Firstly, by referring to the appearances of women and participators of the tag, many men were saying that their choice to listen, accept or dismiss arguments was based on how aesthetically pleasing the source of the argument was which is, in itself, wrong. Secondly, it assumed that the only women who had something to complain about were single and that people who were in relationships and/or attractive did not experience sexism or anything worth sharing on the tag which is also incorrect. Additionally, it assumes that if a woman has a male partner, they need not complain at all which further highlights a bigot attitude and encourages a dependence on men. The latter insult that feminists must be ‘insecure’ has stirred me to write about why women might be insecure and why this is an effect misogyny and not a characteristic of feminism itself.
From Page Three of the national newspaper, The Sun, to the fully stocked shelves of pornography across the country is further evidence that sexual objectification of women is widely accepted in society. The pinning up of nude or semi-nude and photoshopped models is also widely accepted. Women are told, at every turn of their every day lives, that this is the image of perfection which they must strive to be if to be considered attractive or successful. Firstly, it is wrong to do, secondly, the image is often unattainable, unhealthy or entirely impossible because these images are edited and in no way natural and thirdly, of course women might become insecure with themselves as a result. So this particular argument on Twitter was not an insult but further evidence of the misogyny of males and mistreatment of women. Men idolise the wrong features of women by choosing to worship physical attributes instead of things like intelligence and what’s more, they disrespect real women.
There are many more things I could say on the topic of sexism, misogyny, male entitlement, rape culture and the objectification of women but I will leave it there for today. Regardless of the controversy surrounding the #YesAllWomen tag, one thing is clear: this is one of the most important trending tags I have ever seen and it is essential that it continues to be discussed if we can ever hope for a safer environment and the negative abuse that has been given in a response to the tag only further highlights the fact that there is a problem and that it needs to be resolved.
Over and out,
If any of you wish to take part in the #YesAllWomen tag to keep it trending and to share your experiences of misogyny and why this discussion is important to you then please do check it out at: https://twitter.com/hashtag/YesAllWomen and if you wish to follow me you can at @Hannahshappy