I take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one, the true alpha male.
-Elliot Rodger’s Retribution
Just before the Isla Vista Killings on May 23, 2014, assailant Elliot Rodger posted a video on his YouTube channel that outlined his plans to punish the women who “have never been attracted to [him]”, which he dubs “an injustice [and] a crime”. With a Glock 34 pistol, two SIG Sauer P226 pistols, two machetes, a hammer and knife in tow, Rodger actualized his “War on Women” by stabbing three male students at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and committing a series of drive-by shootings, killing two women and one man in the process.
Why did this “War on Women” break out? Rodger was frustrated that women didn’t want to date or have sex with him and desired to live up to his self-proclaimed “true alpha male” status, a status that apparently can only be achieved by having sex with or shooting women. His classification of romantic or sexual rejection as an “injustice” or “crime” deserving of retribution reflects a dangerously narrow notion of “masculinity”, which no doubt fostered a false sense of entitlement that translated into violence.
In the wake of these killings, calls for mental healthcare improvements have been renewed, yet, grossly overlooked is the reality that this senseless Santa Barbara massacre and its roots are also symptomatic of a wider cultural epidemic – normalized violence against women in a misogynistic social climate. Violence against women has reached pandemic proportions, and the universal nature of gender-based violence is underscored in the Twitter hashtag #YesAllWomen, which has offered people of both genders across the world a forum for discussion about the impacts of misogyny and the ramifications of failing to recognize these discriminatory attitudes.
#YesAllWomen has provided a medium for impassioned tirades against gender-oriented violence, a norm that has for too long, been perpetuated. This prolongation is evidenced by, among other things, the fact that it is 2014 and we are still having a debate on Twitter about whether women should consent to unwanted sex with a stranger or dating partner, the fact that despite extensive education about sexual violence there is never any doubt whether a man means “no” when he says it, and the fact that rape survivors are stigmatized yet some rapists are lionized. From this, it’s easy to conclude that gender inequalities still abound everywhere, our society has failed to curb these inequalities, and that perverse cultural expectations must change for the better.
Not ALL men harass women. But ALL women have, at some point, been harassed by men. Food for thought. #YesAllWomen
— Adelaide Kane (@AdelaideKane) May 27, 2014
#YesAllWomen because women have to avoid eye-contact with men in public in order not to “lead them on”
— Kaylee Anna (@_KayleeAnna_) May 27, 2014
it’d be so rad if i could go running alone at night without worrying the whole time about all the ways i could get killed #yesallwomen
— Alice Wilder (@Alice_Wilder) May 27, 2014
Because we are taught to wear clothing that doesn’t provoke men, instead of teaching men that women aren’t objects #YesAllWomen
— emma (@emmaa_pins) May 26, 2014
The 1,200,000+ tweets under #YesAllWomen are incontrovertible proofs that violence against women is not endemic to specific regions – it is a problem that occurs everywhere and must be stopped. Although only a minority of men can be called “rapists” or “perpetrators”, all women have to deal with workplace sexual harassment, “casual” rape jokes, or anxieties about getting shot, assaulted or beaten when they reject prospective dating partners.
That only a few men are rapists – which is the basis for #YesAllWomen’s criticism – cannot be used as an excuse to ignore or deny the fact that universally, women are subjected to gender-based violence. It also cannot be used as a bargaining chip to put the blame of violence on women. Violence against women and girls is never, ever a woman or girl’s fault. It is also never, ever something that women or girls should be ashamed of or receive negative judgment for. Instead of teaching women how to dress and be safe, society must teach men that violence against women in all its forms is an egregious violation of human rights and is never, under any circumstances, acceptable.
#YesAllWomen’s message is a call to action: to bring to the fore that violence against women is never justifiable, to declare that women never have to owe anyone access to their bodies, to put an end to longstanding discrimination that sees women vilified and attacked based on the clothes they wear, the makeup they apply or the sheer fact that they are women. Jimmy Carter’s words capture #YesAllWomen’s philosophy for change:
The abuse of women and girls is the most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation on earth.
Are you ready to address and prevent these appalling human rights violations?
Let’s not allow flawed logic and silly excuses to stop us from having important conversations about gender-based violence. Let’s not silence the women who want to come forward and share their experiences with misogyny and assault. Let’s not perpetuate violence against women by turning blind eyes to behavior that dehumanizes women and makes them inevitable targets of rape and abuse. Instead, let’s ignite positive action to challenge and change the harmful laws and practices that condone sex-directed violence.