The Week that was for #YesAllWomen

It has been just over one week since Santa Barbara, the state of California, the US and the world were shaken by a horrible violence act. The death toll included both male and female victims but the alleged perpetrator, Elliot Rodger made clear in a video posted to YouTube that women were to blame for the violence because they rejected him and men would be killed too because women chose them over him. His terrifying rants ultimately always came back to women and his message, loud and clear was “you did this to yourselves and to men, ladies.” In the week since, the coverage and conversation has changed from considering Elliott Rodger “a madman” to labeling this violence for what it was and is: misogyny.

I watched and read the coverage tentatively. I was on a vacation (staycation) from work and I wanted to decrease my exposure to violence against women. I say decrease because as a woman, violence against women haunts my everyday existence. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about the fact that I could be raped. I change my life and routine to take precautions against rape. Not because taking precautions is a 100% guarantee that I won’t be assaulted and not because if I didn’t do them, I’d be stupid and somehow responsible if I were to be attacked. But because these little precautions make me feel safe and give me more peace of mind. It’s a trade-off and one that no one should have to make.
So I took all the coverage in and then came the time I’d typically respond. But I couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. Initially, I thought I was unmotivated because I didn’t think I had anything to add to the conversation, when so many people had already brought up and articulated so many good points. But that wasn’t it. I pretty much always have something to say about everything no matter what. It’s how I am, how I roll. So why was I so unmotivated?
I’ll tell you why: I was exhausted and I was sick of this misogyny and this violence. Like literally sick. Since I went to the racism training last month, I’ve been acutely more aware of white supremacy and white privilege. This awareness has also led me to re-frame how I feel when someone says “but not all men are like that” or “what about male DV victims?” I understand that it’s patriarchy and male privilege that allow these statements and questions to come up repeatedly. And lest we forget that they come up repeatedly when to begin with, no one ever said men aren’t DV victims too or that every man is terrible. Never have I ever, ever said that nor have I heard anyone who’s truly a feminist say that. It’s true that there are male DV victims, sometimes by female partners and it’s irrefutably true that most men are good people. Furthermore no one, male or female, is a terrible person. But people do sometimes do bad things and make bad choices. And domestic violence/intimate partner abuse is overall caused by the bad things some men do to a lot of women. There is and should be room in DV discourse to discuss men, their involvement in ending violence against women and men who are victims of partner abuse. But because DV disproportionately impacts women, male victims and the feelings partner abuse brings up for men shouldn’t take over the conversation. The focus should largely be on women, whether their abusers are male or female.
And so a month after my heightened awareness, thanks to an immensely powerful training, I just couldn’t stomach male privilege hijacking an issue that mainly impacts women and has serious impacts on all women.
And then came #YesAllWomen. And learning of it made me feel a little less sick. Because no one ever said all men are abusive nor did anyone ever say that men are never abused. But what we are saying and have been saying for a long time now is that yes all women fear men’s violence against women. Yes all women have had an experience where a man acted on his belief that he is entitled to their bodies – I know this is true for me and all of my female friends and family. In addition, yes all women listen to men and remain patient as they air their male privilege with an attitude that they have every right to interrupt and to command the discussion rather than share and equally contribute and at least consider who should take the lead when it comes to talks on violence against women. This is not to say that all women are always patient – I certainly become impatient (though try not to be rude) sometimes when men demonstrate their privilege. But I, more often than not, listen patiently and respectfully. I swallow my pride and my words. My jaw is permanently tense from years of holding back my thoughts, opinions and beliefs. I don’t know about the jaw part but I know that yes all women have at some point been patient as men spewed male privilege in their direction. And you know what? If it happens that someone brings up a privileged-based concern and it can be respectfully discussed and moved on from then that’s okay. But it can’t keep coming up, five, seven, twenty times.
Yes all women need for men to listen to us and to respect us. We already know that some men do. But we all need all of you men to. Yes all women do.
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