Standing in the way of control: Elliot Rodger, #YesAllWomen and the culture of misogyny

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When #YesAllWomen began as a hashtag on Twitter over the weekend, I sat back for a while and observed. As a woman who writes for the Internet -- and often writes about misogyny, feminism and the world I experience as a woman -- I have learned that you don't always jump right into conversations online. It's dangerous: You have to be ready and willing to be torn down for what you look like, how you act and what you think, even if it is irrelevant to the conversation at hand.

Often, being a woman and being online sucks. Though #YesAllWomen was a hashtag created to be, however temporarily, a safe space for conversation in the wake of Elliot Rodger's self-justified misogyny-driven murders, it quickly became a place where women had to defend themselves for expressing what it is like to live in a culture of fear. Not a fear of just men like Rodger, but a fear of being held accountable for other people's actions toward us.

See also: Dismantling sexist culture, one irrelevant strip-club sign at a time

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Message exchange with a man who didn't take my lack of interaction with him well.
I call it the "asking for it" culture, or just straight-up rape culture. It is the culture that has taught me to carry my car key between my knuckles when walking alone, because I am not safe from others' actions. It is the culture that has taught me to lie about why I am not interested in interacting with a man. It is a culture that has taught me that if I am a woman who is not careful, I may be a victim of someone else's violent actions -- and ultimately, it may be my fault. It is a culture that has taught me to make men comfortable even when they are threatening my personal safety and making me feel unsafe. It is a culture that has taught me that if I act or present myself in a certain way, contrary to what I might say, my actions and clothing can express consent to a man. Consent that I do not give.

When debating with myself about participating in the #YesAllWomen hashtag, I started to think about all of the times in the last few years that I have experienced a man assuming his power over me in an online forum (this is not counting all of the times it has happened in real life, or in my entire 33 years on the planet). I wrote a piece about being trolled online and in real life by a person I know; this situation was terrifying, but I handled it. The person trolling me eventually apologized in person and the situation -- unlike most involving online harassment -- came to suitable conclusion.

But then I remembered a message I received on Facebook last year (see the above screenshot). It was from a person I had gone to high school with, someone whom I considered an acquaintance, even though he made me uncomfortable. I knew that he had feelings for me in some capacity, but I feigned ignorance in the name of ambiguous online friendship -- he often posted what I'm sure he saw to be "complimentary" comments on my photos and stories that I posted, but they made me uncomfortable. Still, I chose not to do anything (because if there is anything I have learned about this culture of fear I was raised in, it is to not wake a sleeping giant).


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16 comments
Phisher McFlintstone
Phisher McFlintstone

Hashtag statements are stupid and this one might be the worst. How do you take a tragedy that spurred from a spoiled kid with Asperger's Disease (a form of autism) who had no social skills and neglectful parents killing 6 people (4 of whom were men) and make it about women being discriminated against for all kinds of crazy reasons?!?

Chris Nigro
Chris Nigro

Some of our Radio "personalities" should heed this.

Heatha Purrkins
Heatha Purrkins

Frankly, if I had to choose between a priority seat on a lifeboat and a lifetime of equal pay (which on average would net me approx. $500,000-$1 million more in my lifetime), I'd choose equality any day. Wow, speaking of denying privilege in the pursuit of equality, I don't see many men writing checks to give up 23% of their income in order to even the decks. Still begrudge us that lifeboat scenario? Didn't think so.

Heatha Purrkins
Heatha Purrkins

I understood the point he was trying to make, which was that the author's desire for equality is (he assumes) conditional and therefore frivolous and worthy of derision. I disagree on all fronts. And I find it telling that he had to reach for such an obscure and unlikely scenario to find a situation where a woman might be confronted with the decision to take advantage of gender based privilege. He certainly would not have had to look far and wide for such an opportunity if he had chosen to examine his own decisions to accept outcomes influenced by his privilege.

christopher168
christopher168

The question we ought to be wondering is how is that such degrees of hate or feeling of belittlement amongst men that have led to some forums championing and applauding individuals such as Elliot Rodger and to what degree the killer's actions represent seething tensions amongst men who feel that  on some level they are being overlooked, disregarded, even oppressed by women, which our society often reminds us are the ones that who are really being oppressed…..but are they?


http://scallywagandvagabond.com/2014/05/elliot-rodger-hailed-a-hero-on-puahate-women-hating-pick-up-artist-site/

Shannon Paplow-Gayton
Shannon Paplow-Gayton

This is so silly ....it's about mental illness not respecting just woman kids aren't safe pets aren't safe people are nuts and always on the edge. Close to my house a guy went bananas over the smell of tanning lotion and stabbed up a lady he was crazy. More and more people kill their own kids and spouses being a feminist or whatever isn't going to help.

Heatha Purrkins
Heatha Purrkins

Regardless of the origins of the phrase, its introduction here was an attempt to belittle the author's point and mock her for having the temerity to object to poor treatment because of her gender. This type of comment is ubiquitous on every article of this sort. Sadly, their presence just confirms her thesis.

Michael Roque
Michael Roque

Actually, you're very wrong on your claim that women and children were let off first due to them being valued more as breeders than individuals. The first mention of "women and children first" came from a book back in the 19th century called, "Harrington: A Story of True Love". It is also in that book that the notion of a captain going down with his ship is first mentioned. They let off women and children first due to them wanting to get the vulnerable people off the ships as lifeboats were limited. Men could swim, whereas women and children couldn't. Today, it applies to anybody who is vulnerable, such as the elderly, injured, sick etc. When it was used on the Titanic, only 20% of the men aboard the ship were saved while 74% of women were saved. It has nothing to do with the breeding capabilities, especially since women needed men to breed as well. You can save all the women you want but they'll still need men to continue life. It takes two.

Heatha Purrkins
Heatha Purrkins

Your sinking ship comments show two things: 1. any article a woman writes about sexist harassment by men will be immediately answered with harassing sexist comments by men, and 2. you need reminding the old tradition of women and children first exists because women were (are?) valued more as breeders than individuals.

Michael Poplin
Michael Poplin

Correct, because tradition insists they go first with the children. Call for change on principal alone? Sure, why not.

The Anti-Notoriety Campaign
The Anti-Notoriety Campaign

Let us honor the victims and grieving friends and family by denying notoriety to the assailant! Media should adopt a policy of never promoting the photo, name or any self-promotional videos or documents of the perpetrator. Let's make this change NOW! Join the campaign! #NoNotoriety #NoSensationalism http://www.facebook.com/antinotorietycampaign

A Chris Heismann
A Chris Heismann

When I started reading your piece here Bree, I thought I was going to be reading yet another piece that blames "culture" or "society." I was glad to see that your solution was not to blame culture or society, but to hold people accountable for their actions. We cannot change a society by addressing the culture - you have to address it one person at a time, by making people responsible for their actions - and holding them accountable for them. "I blame the _______ culture" isn't nearly as effective in affecting change as simply holding individuals accountable is. The more people who get that, the faster we can have equality.

Andrew Padbury
Andrew Padbury

There are no Feminists on sinking ships or in burning buildings.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

... in an Avalanche, every individual snowflake claims innocence.


Think about it.


DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

... ships wrecked, and fires started ... by ... MEN!

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