We've talked a bunch on this site about 'nice guys,' Men's Rights Activists and misogyny. There's a not insubstantial overlap between the kinds of guys who consume the same sort of pop culture that we like and the kinds of guys who subscribe to these virulent, hateful philosophies, and I've felt like it's been my responsibility to speak out about this stuff. This weekend one of those guys went on a shooting rampage in the California town of Isla Vista, in Santa Barbara County, and killed six people, injuring more. It appears that he took his own life. He left behind a digital trail fllled with creepy, hateful videos that explained his deep disdain for women, who he felt owed him sex and love. He could not understand why he was being rejected by women, who he saw as existing only for his pleasure and needs.
What this creep did was extreme, but his views are all too common. They're reflected in 'the manosphere,' websites that are dedicated to pick-up artists and 'Game.' They're reflected in the Men's Rights Movement, an inherently misogynistic reaction to modern strides in equality. They're reflected in strange subcultures like 'incel' - men who claim they are 'involuntarily celibate' - and Reddit's TheRedPill subreddit, a community of woman-haters who believe only they see the reality of the world, which is against them.
His views are reflected by those who complain about being put in 'the friend zone,' as if not wanting to have sex with you is a punishment women are inflicting. They're reflected by those who downplay misogynistic hate speech online, saying that the women who get rape threats need a thicker skin. They're reflected by all those who deny we live in a rape culture. And they're reflected by those who say 'Not all men.'
As discussion of the rampant and accepted misogyny in our society has gotten louder, 'not all men' has become such a stupid stock reply that it has turned into a meme. The premise behind 'not all men' is that the speaker is distancing himself from the discussion of rape culture and woman hate by saying 'not all men behave that way.' It's a pathetic deflection that is about avoiding the responsibility that all men share to stand up and speak out against other men who behave like this. 'Not all men' is what men who are 100% part of the problem say.
Every now and again something magical happens on Twitter. We complain about it, it's dumb and it's often a waste of time, but we originally got excited about Twitter because it held a real promise of unparalleled communication and understanding. In the wake of the Isla Vista shooting, as it became clear that the shooter was a hateful misogynist, a hashtag called #YesAllWomen appeared. A play on the 'Not all men,' #YesAllWomen became a place for women to share - in short, stark bursts - the daily reality of living in a world where they are often seen as objects to own, as vending machines for sex and are fair game for abuse and violence. Here are some examples:
The *mildly* feminist issues I've tweeted about have resulted in rape threats, ridicule, & real world career consequences. #YesAllWomen— Sara Schaefer (@saraschaefer1) May 25, 2014
Because I was mugged and the first things I was asked were "what were you wearing" and "why were you walking alone" #YesAllWomen— Monika Scott (@MightyMonika) May 25, 2014
#YesAllWomen because when a girl is harassed or even groped by a stranger in public, we're told to "take it as a compliment"— AB (@bottrill) May 25, 2014
In college, a police officer told us to scream FIRE if we were in danger of being assaulted otherwise people won't get involved #YesAllWomen— Carrie K. (@OneBookishMom) May 24, 2014
Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them - Magaret Atwood #yesallwomen— Selin Kara (@Selintifada) May 25, 2014
Domestic violence is the leading cause of injuries to women in the United States - more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. Violence against women isn't something just done by the Elliot Rodgers of the world, it's done by spouses and fathers and boyfriends.
I urge you to check out the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter - you don't even need an account to do it, just click this link.
One last thing: yes, Elliot Rodger was mentally ill, but millions of mentally ill people don't go on shooting rampages after leaving behind manifestos that complain about sluts, that explicitly say the killer will target women because they have turned him down. Laurie Penny says in The New Statesman:
Violent extremism always attracts the lost, the broken, young men full of rage at the hand they’ve been dealt. Violent extremism entices those who long to lash out at a system they believe has cheated them, but lack they courage to think for themselves, beyond the easy answers they are offered by pedlars of hate. Misogynist extremism is no different. For some time now misogynist extremism has been excused, as all acts of terrorism committed by white men are excused, as an aberration, as the work of random loons, not real men at all. The pattern is repeatedly denied: these are the words and actions of the disturbed.
But Rodger is just the latest - George Sodini killed three women in a Pittsburgh gym in 2009, leaving behind a manifesto not unlike Rodger's, and in 1989 Marc Lepine went on a shooting spree in Canada to 'fight feminism.' It takes a disturbed person to go on a shooting rampage against sorority girls, just as it takes a disturbed person to explode themselves in a crowded market. To label one the act of a madman and the other the act of a terrorist is actually underselling just how prevalent and accepted this violent misogyny is.