Four men and two women were killed by a clearly disturbed individual whose deranged and evil rants indicated he hated humanity in general and women in particular. University of California at Santa Barbara students Cheng Yuan Hong, George Chen, and Weihan Wang were stabbed multiple times before they died. UC Santa Barbara students Katherine Cooper and Veronika Weiss were shot and killed. And Christopher Michaels-Martinez was shot and killed before the mad man killed himself. He also injured others during his rampage.
Social media responded by accepting the murderer’s hate-filled screed as a legitimate point of discourse and the starting point for a massive act of hashtag activism: #YesAllWomen. Traditional media followed suit: the narrative was found. Eleventy billion tweets describing how all women were victims of men spread throughout the U.S. and Europe and the media breathlessly covered the exercise in narcissism. They all agreed it was “powerful.”
Andrea Mitchell reportedly said, “Even 140 characters can be very powerful in times like these.” BuzzFeed declared “The tragedy in California has stirred a powerful reaction on social media.” A Washington Post columnist gushed “#YesAllWomen: Elliot Rodger’s misogynistic ravings inspire a powerful response on Twitter.” And Glamour gave examples of “Thought-Provoking, Powerful #YesAllWomen Tweets in Response to Santa Barbara Tragedy,” including one that said “because when a girl is harassed or even groped by a stranger in public, we’re told to “take it as a compliment.” Which would be thought-provoking or powerful if it were something other than a sexist straw-men generalization that isn’t true.
Anyway, here are the ten most asinine things about #YesAllWomen:
1) It Claims To Speak For All Women
One of the tweets that got things going was someone quoting Margaret Atwood’s line: “Men’s greatest fear is that women will laugh at them, while women’s greatest fear is that men will kill them.” This was the general approach taken by the crowd: gross and untrue generalizations.
While certain strains of feminism largely do train women to think of themselves as victims, wallowing in their grievances, pitting them against men, #NotAllWomen are into that! I’m not! I love the men in my life — I have a wonderful husband, the world’s best brother, a dad I adore, a father-in-law I’m close to, a pastor who beautifully tends to my spiritual needs, colleagues who rock, friends I confide in, and great neighbors to boot.
Yes, people sin against each other every day in all kinds of ways, but the idea that “all women” are into grievance culture is patronizing and offensive.
2) It Quickly Led To Blaming Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow For Mass Murder
Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday argued that movies should depict only good looking men getting the girl unless we want more shootings to follow. Or something. In a piece about the killer’s videotaped screed being “a sad reflection of the sexist stories we so often see on screen,” she wrote:
How many students watch outsized frat-boy fantasies like “Neighbors” and feel, as Rodger did, unjustly shut out of college life that should be full of “sex and fun and pleasure”? How many men, raised on a steady diet of Judd Apatow comedies in which the shlubby arrested adolescent always gets the girl, find that those happy endings constantly elude them and conclude, “It’s not fair”?
One might give a film critic props for assiduously avoiding mentioning the fact that the murderer’s own father directs movies where teen homicides occur for our entertainment. But yeah, Seth Rogen. History’s greatest monster. Excellent point. And let’s ignore the fact that Apatow, with films encouraging males to leave adolescence behind, is doing more to popularize respectful treatment of women than most other directors combined.
3) A Hashtag So “Powerful” It Was Easily Co-Opted By Islamist Theocrats
This was a real tweet from Iran’s supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei:
1 of west’s problems which gnaws at foundations of western civilization is promoting sexual sins which ruins families. 02/20/96 #YesAllWomen
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) May 26, 2014
Well that’s uncomfortable.
4) Struggle Sessions Dishonor Victims And Avoid Responsibility
What’s a struggle session? The Washington Post story describes the origin of the term:
During Mao Zedong’s totalitarian and often ruthless rule over China, from the early 1950s through 1976, one of the Communist Party’s most unpleasant tactics for maintaining control was something called a “struggle session.” On the surface, the idea was that everyone had to suss out “class enemies” and try to better their own commitment to the Communist revolution by attending regular “struggle session” meetings where they’d admit their own revolutionary failures and try to do better as individuals and communities. In practice, though, it was a form of self-reinforcing terror, a means of purging political enemies real and imagined, a tactic for working people into ideological fervor, sometimes in mass “sessions” with thousands of people.
Struggle sessions are great for working people into ideological fervor. They are not a great way to honor actual victims of murder sprees or to hold actual people responsible for murder sprees. Consider the focus on the real victims that has been lost in the #YesAllWomen competition to see who is society’s most aggrieved (and who we can catch thinking improper thoughts).
5) This Was Retweeted And Favorited Thousands Of Times
Trigger alert: insanity and profanity.
— J U N I O R S (@The2015Seniors) May 27, 2014
Note: If you believe this to be even remotely true, you are an idiot.
6) It’s A Mockery Of The Real Problems Women Face Throughout The World
As the #YesAllWomen craze spread, a woman was stoned by her family in Pakistan for marrying someone of her choice as opposed to someone of their arrangement. While the #YesAllWomen crowds talked about the unbearable horror of being whistled at on the street, annoyingly being told to smile, and being given gendered McDonald’s toys, more than 200 Nigerian girls remained in slavery to Islamist extremist rebels. While we turn the murder of six into a narcissistic contest of victimhood, a Sudanese Christian woman married to an American Christian man gave birth to a daughter in prison. She awaits her martyrdom for supposedly converting from Islam (because her father, who left her family, had been Muslim). While we complain that women are expected to be considerate, Saudi women aren’t legally allowed to drive cars. While we are outraged that people treat us poorly if we’re wearing a sheer shirt and short shorts, 100 million girls have been killed in utero for the crime of being female. A bit of perspective — which I found hard to find in my visits to the #YesAllWomen hashtag — is in order.
7) It Conflicts With The Message That The Sexes Are Interchangeable
A wise scholar I know said she thought current rhetoric about Taking Back The Night, slut walks, and Vagina Monologues (is that still a thing?) appealed to college-aged women because it’s basically the only game in town that recognizes women’s vulnerability, albeit in a way that doesn’t fully acknowledge what’s going on. But it all does seem almost Victorian. Or as another put it:
If you were arguing for a traditional view of how men need to protect the weaker sex, it’d sound exactly like #YesAllWomen
— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) May 27, 2014
8) It Spreads Misinformation About Violence Against Women
Just by way of example, check out this tweet from a site that claims to “explain” the news:
— Vox (@voxdotcom) May 26, 2014
The link sends you to a piece by Sarah Kliff headlined “Eight facts about violence against women everyone should know.” The eight things, complete with Vox’s expected graphs, include “Nearly one-quarter of women experience a physical or sexual assault by an intimate partner,” “Seven in ten assaults against women are perpetrated by an intimate partner,” and “Eighteen percent of mass shooters have a domestic violence charge.”
If we really wanted to help women avoid violence, one wonders why the following graph (via Department of Justice) wasn’t also included:
Being a single mother turns out to be an incredibly risky scenario! And the safest relationship for women is marriage! Why in the hell would we not be blaring that in a listing of eight facts about violence against women?
9) It Disparages Men In Grotesquely Unfair Fashion
“Our society raises men to believe that they are entitled to a woman’s body.” – college student on CNN. Must have missed those lessons.
— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) May 27, 2014
College student on CNN also assets that men are taught to “punish those who deny us or take what we feel entitled to forcibly.”
— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) May 27, 2014
Not sure you could make the sweeping, disparaging generalizations we’ve been privy to this last few days about any other group but young men
— Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman) May 27, 2014
When we talk about masculinity, we’re talking about qualities, characteristics or roles generally considered typical of, or appropriate to, a man. While some would like to pretend that masculinity is simply a cultural construct, the evidence suggests masculinity is based in biological distinctions.
Feminist Christina Hoff Sommers worries about attempts to pathologize healthy masculinity. In a January article in Time responding to attacks on masculinity, she urged people to “Appreciate the difference between healthy and pathological masculinity.” Yes, some males are bullies and worse. But “most boys evince healthy masculinity.” They build things, they protect things, they defend people.
Is it really healthy to obsess over every grievance and put the worst construction on all masculine behavior? If this were being done against women, the outrage would be nuclear.
10) Speaking Of Nuclear …
The image at the top is a screenshot of a time-elapse map showing how #YesAllWomen spread throughout the world. Except, like Twitter, it mostly shows, in the parlance of the perpetually aggrieved, where privilege lives. I was teasing the #YesAllWomen herd about that when someone responded that the image “Looks like ‘global thermonuclear war’ — a strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”
What a sad state of affairs. Rather than seeing each other as men and women with inherent dignity, #YesAllWomen encourages a war where we see each other as enemies to be fought.
Let’s put down the arms and speak well of one another, see the best in one another, respect one another, and love one another.