My thoughts, then, on the #YesAllWomen trend, because let’s face it – this here is a bandwagon worth jumping on – we’ve all heard the story and been shocked by it. We’ve seen the cause taken up in favour of women’s freedom/rights/sexual expression/anti-misogyny/whatever…but now what?
That this one guy, by his appalling actions, has sparked such outrage, is justifiable but faintly ridiculous given the sheer number of overlooked ways misogyny oppresses women every. single. day. These other, more insidious or hidden ways should also lead to outrage, yet they fly under the collective radar, stirring relatively few ripples in the pool of collective thought.
Perhaps because these other oppressions are not to the point of death, as was the case for the two women killed by Rodgers. Or if to the point of death, perhaps because it is in not so (I hate to say it) glamorous a way as being knifed/gunned down by a man who considered himself a spurned would-be lover. Regardless, women are pushed far, far beyond the point of harm, on a daily basis, due in part to a society which (in the West) prizes attractiveness over integrity, men over women, and suggests that everyone is entitled to sex.
Elsewhere it’s even more clear-cut; women’s sexuality is something which should be controlled by men. Women are lesser. The end.
To take some obvious examples:
Models – who start young and have to stay skinny (in spite of the outcries of those who would rather see clothes on women who don’t look like pre-pubescent boys) to feed the media’s maw.
Prostitutes – who end up in the profession any number of ways, selling their bodies to those men whose false sense of entitlement to sex can be appeased with enough cash and an hour or so with a stranger.
Girls – who, depending on their culture, might be subjected to such practices as female genital mutilation, or be forced to hide under layers of clothing to mark them as the inferior sex, and to control their sexuality.
Slaves – sex trafficking…baby trafficking…factory workers in tiny sweat-shops…anyone remember those Nigerian schoolgirls? They seem to have fallen out of the media spotlight now, to make way for this new and more interesting crime against humanity.
Where is the outrage for these? Where is the backlash? Where is the action?
No, this goes far beyond a simple case of a man buoyed on by his equally deluded buddies, thinking that he was owed sexytime with a girl – the rot is deeper and far more insidious – and it’s not just to do with women.
It’s to do with all of us, and I feel very strongly that #YesAllWomen should be changed to #YesAll.
Why are we so determined to allow this to become a Men vs Women issue, as opposed to working together to combat the attitudes? Why are we so focussed on the problems thrust on us by the media instead of addressing the hidden ones? Where is the desire to channel the outrage into constructive action, rather than squabbling over the apportioning of blame?
History has given us an impressive, global precedent of men taking what they want, when they want, and yes – it still goes on.
I have heard all sides of the argument from women, and a number of nuances in between (I do not agree with all of them, and some I agree with parts of, but I have heard them said):
-Why should I stop sharing about my sex life in public? If people feel uncomfortable, they don’t have to listen!
-I’ll dress how I want – men should learn to be self-controlled. Just because I have a short skirt on doesn’t mean I’m up for it.
-I’ll let them go as far as I’m comfortable with, and then say no. And I expect them to heed that – no means no.
-Men are done no favours by the assumption that they are little more than mindless beasts, ruled by their dicks and their hormones.
-Men need to take responsibility for teaching their sons about respect for women.
-I, and my behaviour, cannot be held responsible for the feelings or reactions of another person.
This latter point is, I feel, most pertinent (you can draw your own conclusions about the right-or-wrongness of the others), after all, the only thing we have the right and ability to control is our own behaviour, and regardless of what our behaviour is – the fact remains we all have a choice. We can choose to behave in a manner which respectfully acknowledges sexuality, both in ourselves and others. We can choose to behave in a manner which encourages appropriate interaction, shows clear boundaries and engenders trust. We can choose to behave in a manner which promotes our own dignity.
Or we can choose not to.
And when we choose not to – if instead we choose to tease or behave alluringly – no, we should not be subject to being ridden roughshod over by ANYONE for their understanding of the implications (no matter how unfair our behaviour might appear to have been). No means no. Period.
However, in all this furore, the thing which worries me is that while we choose to turn to the media for sensational stories on how men have wronged women or how women have wronged men, we forget to pay attention to those around us, who either rely on us for suitable role models, or who are hidden from us and in need of rescue from oppression (of whatever kind). We are being reactive, but not active.
This kind of issue is something which affects us all – we are all knowingly and/or unknowingly buying into far more oppression than we care to admit, and whilst we are busy choosing to jump in and shout our opinion from the hilltops about the rights and wrongs of each new tragedy, and to blast those we deem responsible, we often forget to DO anything more than spill our words and get amped up on the strength of our own opinions.
#YesAll have a responsibility to set a good example for the next generation.
#YesAll have a responsibility to make choices which don’t make themselves, or others, vulnerable.
#YesAll have a responsibility to afford one another some basic respect.
#YesAll because we’re all in it together, and the solution needs to be one which unites us.
History has given us an impressive precedent of men taking what they want, when they want and it really DOES still go on.
And what I have seen since this story hit the news and the hashtag started trending is a lot of people shouting at each other, reinforcing an ‘us vs them’ division, or proclaiming their opinions and experiences into the ether, with no real change occurring.
Why are we choosing this?
What results do we truly expect from behaviour which achieves little other than a fleeting spotlight on our opinions and the chance to express them from the safety of our own circumstances?
So my challenge is this: if you’re not already involved and you truly want to start tipping the balance towards equality, find something to DO, and lend your support.
We can combat this.
We can beat it.
And it should be something everyone’s part of.
So, here – to kickstart the opportunities to DO something, just take a look:
The A21 Campaign seeks to bring an end to human trafficking through prevention, protection, prosecution and partnerships.
Daughters of Eve is a non-profit organisation that works to advance and protect the physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health rights of young people from FGM-practicing communities.
The Model Community Project combats current media/fashion trends for unrealistic physiques by enabling the expression of more diverse bodies
Building Boys is an online community dedicated to understanding, nurturing and building boys!
ECPAT is a global network dedicated to protecting children; co-ordinating research, advocacy and action to end the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Where do you stand? Do you think this is a problem for all of us to solve together? Do you think we can? Do you have a favourite organisation which acts for social justice (feel free to share it in the comments, along with a description of what it stands for)