Thursday, May 29, 2014

My #YesAllWomen Post

Look. It's been a big week, full of emotionally-charged news, and I'm just having trouble sitting still right now.

Whenever a massive act of violence occurs, there is that sick sensation that gathers in the pits of our stomachs as we try to digest the horrific news. Word of Friday's shooting in Isla Vista was accompanied by that terrible feeling, that deep-down frightening and sad voice that seems to say, "My God, it's happened again." We mourned innocent lives taken by a sick, depraved human being. We read articles expelling details of his manifesto, which revealed that he wanted to seek revenge on women for not sleeping with him. We sat there baffled that any person's mind could actually exist with such high volumes of toxicity.

And then a conversation began.

Perhaps I am being a bit optimistic, but the #YesAllWomen conversation is encouraging to me. If you don't know what it's all about -- in the days following Friday's shooting, the hashtag #NotAllMen began circulating on Twitter. It was created as an attempt for men to distance themselves from the psychopathy and blatant misogyny of Elliot Rodger. In response came #YesAllWomen, a statement intended to declare that certainly not all men are harassers, but all women, every single one, are the regular targets of harassment.

Abuse, both verbal and physical. Unwanted sexual advances. Violence. Rape. Discrimination in professional environments. Discrepancies in pay. Barriers in religious settings. Being seen as simply less.

These issues are ones that span all of womankind. Yes, all of womankind.

Elliot Rodger's mind was completely contaminated. We know that. But in many ways, his worldview can be seen as a heightened version of the way some men really see the women in their lives -- as objects to which they are entitled, as beings which owe them certain servitudes: sex, devotion, laughter.

I have many examples of this in my own life, but one of the most consistent illustrations for me would probably have to be the parade of spectator-men I face every day while walking to the subway. Just about every woman in New York City (or any city with considerable foot-traffic) deals with this. Of course, the comments range from the very gross ("I want to put your feet in my mouth") to the almost-cliche ("Hey baby, I love to see you smile"). What I find fascinating about street harassment is that if I am with my husband, it ceases completely. The same man who would ordinarily be tormenting me on my daily commute is suddenly silent. I feel like the boy who cried wolf. "I swear he usually wants me to put my feet in his mouth!"

That is part of why some men remain oblivious to the continued plight of women. Those who would normally be the aggressors of harassment only seize the opportunity when other men aren't around (Slate ran a great article on this phenomenon yesterday). Because of this, men who don't cat-call women or actively attempt to hurt them (or at least they don't think they do), these men are often able to escape the sad reality which has affected their wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, and friends for centuries.

But that is why, even though it may be a sometimes flawed conversation, I appreciate the spirit of #YesAllWomen. I love the totality of it, the boldness of it. By popularizing a message that says that, yes, all women deal with some form of misogyny, we effectively take away the blind-eye excuse. The word is out there. It's your move, world.

My husband, who, like me, considers himself a feminist, asked me a really cool question regarding #YesAllWomen that I've been thinking about a lot today: "So what should I be doing, like, right now?"

Great question. The answer I had for him, and the answer I have for all men, is first to listen to the women in your lives. Ask them how they have been personally affected by sexism, how they have felt harassed, how they have been made to feel like less than what they are. Allow yourself to be shocked as you hear their stories. Have empathy for them, and resolve to live as a champion for their rights. Partner with the women you know and commit to making a real difference. Be bold enough to say, "Enough is enough."

Again, it's possible that I believe far too strongly in the power of a hashtag like #YesAllWomen. We all know we have seen this before. People get excited about a branding strategy for a human rights issue, and then it falls by the wayside. To a degree, I completely understand the cynicism that surrounds hashtag activism. 

But even though I know it will cease trending on Twitter in just a few days time, I can't help but be excited about words which so powerfully encapsulate the essence of this truth -- that all women, whether they even realize it or not, are the targets of a flawed belief that has persisted for far too long. And it will take the commitment of all women and all men to really put an end to it.

I know these aren't the usual issues discussed on this blog, and I promise I will get you back to cat photo shoots and breakfast posts as soon as possible, but I just couldn't stomach being silent on this platform. In the same way that I encourage men to listen to the women in their lives, I think it is important for women to share their stories with each other. I would love to hear your thoughts on #YesAllWomen. Leave a comment below with some of your experiences.


  1. I'm 60 now, but was a professional in NYC in the 80's. It was no different then. That is why I've been tweeting to TALK TO YOUR GRANDMOTHERS! This is intergenerational, which means not much has changed unfortunately.

  2. This is the one thing I struggle with in NYC. Only in NYC do you get men harassing women, saying inappropriate and embarrassing things to women and making women feel so uncomfortable while doing something as simple as walking down the street. It's disgusting and I get appalled by it. I've never had this happen in any other city. Why, inappropriate men of NYC, do you feel it's acceptable to talk to women like that? Why???

    1. It's not just NYC. Every city I've lived in I've experienced street harassment in some form or fashion. #YesAllWomen

  3. I just wanted to say that I'm so glad that I checked back into Avoiding Atrophy today. What a smart, opinionated and most importantly beautifully written piece Christy!! So glad to see or "read" (hardy har) that you're doing so well and keeping the writing dream alive :) I can say I knew you when!!! XOXOXOXO

  4. Because at 4, I wasn't asking for it, I wasn't dressed inappropriately, and I didn't want to kiss his privates. I didn't want his tongue in my mouth or licking my privates.

    Because from 5-15, "no" didn't mean "no" to the man who fondled me, fingered me, made me the object of his desire.

    Because I want my children, girls and boys, to feel safe. To live in a world that is equal in deed as well as in promised words.

    Because no one protected me. Even after I confessed my reality, those men were welcomed into my parent's home.

    Because I'm more than my body.

    Because I'm more than what my mouth, hands, and vagina can do for a man.

    Because I'm hurt, and angry, that every one in the #notallmen group turned a blind eye.

    Because still, many men AND WOMEN turn away, dismiss, deny, and marginalize not only me, but #YesEveryWoman.

    Because I want to be heard and accepted instead of ignored and rejected by the people who claim that they love me.

  5. Great writing. I appreciate your thoughts. I do take issue with the hashtag however, as I believe that it plays the "victim card" outright. This shooter was obviously psychotic, but he didn't have a "political agenda" that the hashtag attempts to promulgate. Frankly, it seems that all feminism can be summed-up as repeatedly playing the victim card. Women will cease to be victims when they cease to find their identity as a victim. If your life is threatened, fight back. If you are offended, carry on. I am offended by things I see everyday, the reason I can remain calm and collected in life is because I focus on what I can control and forget the rest. There is a remedy for violent psychos who hate women and are endangering life: carry a weapon, fight back. The remedy for a man cat-calling (as much as I hate when men do it): roll your eyes and move on. Complaining about men gawking or saying dumb things will just perpetuate the behavior as it will continue to get its desired effect: a response. Just my thoughts.

    1. Don't play the perpetrator card. #YesAllWomen is empowering women who have been attacked -- by a perpetrator who is a man. This is what fighting back looks like. When we share, we're complaining or victims? Bullshit! We're owning our power.

    2. Yours is the same crap mentality that has caused rape defense classes, self defense classes. That is perpetuating the victim mentality.
      This is fighting back, finally DEMANDING that instead of teaching women how not to get raped, now NOT to dress to get catcalled, how not to walk home so as not to get jumped, that MEN are taught,
      not to rape.
      not to cat call.
      not to jump us.
      by respecting us as people, and not objects, or defined in relation to them.
      That no matter what we do or what our behavior is, doesn't mean we are 'asking for it'.
      And I don't think it's asking anything for men to take account for their own behavior.

    3. What you're saying, effectively, is that women just need to "get over it." That men will behave like this until the end of time, and we all just have to live with it. Do you really think men are so pathetic, so self-interested, so clueless about the plight of their sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts, nieces, female friends and cousins that they cannot, in any foreseeable way, change and stop this harassment? That's pathetic and, assuming you're a man, is embarrassing for you. You can do better. We can all do better.

  6. I love the hashtag and spent a looooonog time on Twitter reading everyone's tweets/thoughts. I think that a lot of men (and women) like to think that harassment and abuse DOESN'T happen to the women they know and love, but it does and ignoring that reality isn't helping anyone.

  7. I read this amazing post recently and thought you would appreciate it as well. It deals with the same issue. Not all men may be terrible, but that interrupts the conversation instead of allowing women to be heard.

  8. oh wow. You put so perfectly into words what I have been struggling to string together for a blog post. Like, I feel like I can't even write one now because it would be exactly what you said! but you worded it better! Lol. But in all seriousness it warms my heart to hear you expressing the same sentiments, and spreading the word and trying to educate even though SOME people (including in this very thread) stillll don't get it. I participated in the hashtag quite a bit on twitter.

  9. It's so important for us as women to share our stories so that we know we're not alone and men realize what we go through. I plan on writing my own post later today, but I just wanted to share something here. You said that men never call at you when you're with your husband. That makes sense. Well, I had a weird experience with my boyfriend a few months ago. We were walking back to his apartment (in Southern California, btw) when two guys in a truck drove by. The guy on the passenger side yelled "slut" really loud. It was a little unnerving. I don't know who he was or why he would say that. We were just holding hands, not making out or anything. I was wearing jeans, a t shirt and a jacket. Either he thought I was someone else or thought it was funny. But it wasn't funny to us. It was odd.

  10. I didn't pay much attention to the #YesAllWomen crusade at first. But my sister emailed me today and all of a sudden I realized, it's not that I've been unaffected by misogyny, it's that I've experienced casual harassment for so long that I don't notice it or think of it as unusual (my #YesAllWomen post if you're interested). And that is a huge part of the problem.

    Maybe awareness won't solve the problem today. Maybe there's not a way to solve it. But we're the ones raising the next generation, and maybe if we're aware, we can raise them to act differently.

    Jenn | Business, Life & Design


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