#YesAllWomen, and Why We Need To Keep Discussing Sexism


[Content note: misogyny, shootings, violence]

I have a piece up at the Daily Dot about #YesAllWomen:

It seems to have taken a mass murder for this conversation to really take off, which is dismaying to those who hope to persuade people that “misogyny” isn’t just brutally slaughtering women for not having sex with you (though this, too, happens more often than many would like to think). It’s also telling women to prevent their own sexual assault by not dressing “like sluts.” It’s also blaming women for “friend zoning” men by not being sexually interested in them. It’s also dismissing the gendered threats and harassment that women receive online because it’s “just the Internet” or “just trolling.”

Some viewed the #YesAllWomen hashtag as an inappropriate “politicization” of a tragedy. This charge gets thrown out whenever people discuss the political ramifications of a tragic event within a time frame that’s subjectively deemed “too soon,” whether the actual subject is gender roles, gun control, police incompetence, or other relevant issues. (Mental healthcare, incidentally, is generally exempted from the “politicization” accusation—because many people are very, very vested in the idea of blaming violence on mental illness.)

In general, “Stop politicizing this tragedy” seems to mean, “I don’t like your conclusions about the causes of this tragedy.” Rodger made his motivations very clear before he carried out the shooting, and those motivations are political. Pretending they weren’t does nothing to respect the victims, nor to prevent future misogynistic violence. The women using #YesAllWomen to respond to the shooting are correctly pointing out its causes and the ways in which such horrific violence can grow out of more casual, everyday, seemingly harmless expressions of sexism.

Read the rest here.

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Comments

  1. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I can’t cite anything, but I have this feeling there’s a more insidious aspect to it. It sounds like the “stop politicizing it” and “too soon” jerks have this idea that political discussions and politics are basically a game, not actual debates over actual policies and programs and applied attitudes that affect actual people, and that it’s inappropriate to be “playing” while you’re supposed to be “in mourning.” As if the alternative doesn’t even enter their heads.

    • Ariel says

      It’s my impression as well. There is a lot of deep distrust (perhaps bordering on cynicism) behind this ‘more insidious aspect’ you mentioned. Viewed in this terms, “stop politicizing this tragedy” would mean not so much “I don’t like your conclusions”, as “I don’t trust your motivations”.

      Imo “I don’t trust your motivations” is worse indeed. You can have a reasonable discussion about conclusions, but if people don’t trust your motivations – e.g. if they strongly suspect that what you are really after is compromising your MRA opponents – then you are done and buried. Conclusions can be argued for – someone claiming that misogyny was not a factor in this crime can be (rather easily) shown to be out of touch with reality. On the other hand, how to deal with distrust and suspicion? Denying it seems pretty useless (“yeah, sure, they will deny it even if it’s true!”). Ignoring it provokes only more distrust and distaste. What follows? A stalemate. Of a particularly ugly kind.

      Indeed, my impression is that in all of this lots and lots of people distrust each other so much that “the alternative doesn’t even enter their heads”.

  2. smrnda says

    Arguments against ‘politicizing’ tragedies are usually just demands to cast a tragedy as a ‘random act of senseless violence’ rather than as an action which might have discernible motives which might be worth looking at in order to avoid tragedies in the future. This plays in with the idea that the violent perpetrators are ‘crazy’ as well – which (being that crazy is not a really meaningful term) is just a way of diverting attention away from motives, regardless of how clear.

    I note that people are rather selective in the whole ‘politicization’ angle – contrast this to what would happen if a violent act was performed by a Muslim.

  3. Ed says

    I agree that it’s ridiculous to deny the fact that Rodgers was deeply misogynistic and that this misogyny was encouraged by common ideas and themes in the culture–especially the subculture of young, entitled, sex-obsessed males. You are also right to point out that violent reactions by men to perceived slights by women are all too common.

    But I also believe that Rodgers was a mentally disturbed person and that the mental health element of this horrible event should also not be ignored any more than the issue of easily available weapons. Quality mental health treatment and intervention is tragically rare and anyone can arm themselves to the teeth.

    First, I realize that on average psychiatric problems do not usually people violent. I’m in treatment myself, need medication and have been hospitalized. But there are exceptions. The classic example is the person with paranoid delusions who “defends” themselves–I.e. attacks the person he/she erroneously believes is a threat. This particular does not apply directly to Rodgers, but I’m just using it to illustrate the principle.

    I also have a personal stake in this because I almost died because of negligence on the part of a psychiatrist who thought it was easier and more lucrative to give his patients about two to five minutes of his time and a prescription for sometimes seriously addictive drugs than to actually find out what was going on with us.

    I’ve read sections of Rodgers` infamous manuscript and think that I recognize tendencies in his basic thought patterns and way of looking at the world that should be recognized as pathological.

    –A sense of life as fundamentally painful.
    Rodgers seemed to sense nearly every aspect of living a human life as an excruciating ordeal. I have been suicidal and extremely depressed and it resonated with me–though I must point out that absolutely nothing in his belief system did.

    –Deep flaws in his reasoning.
    Putting aside for a moment the justifiable condemnation of the **content** of his thoughts that I hope every civilized person shares, I noticed serious problems with its structure. His ideas often did not flow reasonably from premise to conclusion and he made assumptions about the nature of reality which a person of his age and intelligence should have recognized as pure fantasy and nonsense.

    His perceived universal shunning by women was simply assumed. People who have read his whole book report that nowhere in it does he ever actually attempt anything resembling healthy interaction with a woman that might actually lead to a relationship. It would be like a scholar ranting that he doesn’t hold a position at any university despite his prestigious doctorate when he never even applied.

    He always just “knows” what women are thinking and it’s always about him and always bad. He also assumes that because there are sexually satisfied men in the world, he is doomed to be forever unsatisfied. This would only make some sense in a setting where males were a significant majority and relationships were permanent.

    By his own account, he had major problems with impulse control; expressing violent intentions on the internet where literally anyone on earth with access to a computer could see it (then being surprised that a few people were concerned) as well as getting into random violent alterations like starting a fight with a group of guys for no reason or throwing a drink on people in a cafe. Unfortunately, none of this lead to his arrest.

    The day of revenge scenario itself assumed almost godlike powers. He believed that he could eliminate large numbers of people in multiple locations, always staying a few steps ahead of the police until he was finally sated and chose to commit suicide. A person would have to be an experienced professional killer and a stunt driver to stand a chance. On that note, even his fantasies of power and plans for his great day were fundamentally nihilistic and suicidal.

    The desire to die on the part of a physically healthy person is usually considered one of the most serious mental health issues. Had he expressed the same dark ideas and sentiments but “only” planned an elaborate public suicide without the murders, he would have definitely been seen as a person in need of in depth psychiatric care.

    My point is to not make any aspect of this case taboo. It’s about misogyny, mental problems, guns and probably other things I haven’t thought of, too.

  4. K says

    You know what’s funny?

    Using socially conservative males’ same reasoning, we could argue that since men are prone to all sorts of delightful genetic perturbations owing to the absence of an extra X chromosome, and that since socially conservative males have had to play dirty pool with women to get any kind of power, that socially conservative males exist solely to give us X chromosomes for liberal daughters and to polish our heels.

  5. Gerard O says

    I’ve been critical of hardline (esp. sex negative feminists) but undoubtedly the Elliot Rodger killing spree was in fact a hate crime. To deny this is to deny the statements Rodger himself made, which were fairly blunt. I do baulk at the idea of ‘gender profiling’, which is insulting in its very nature, in particular the removal of men seated next to unaccompanied children on aeroplanes.