The breaking news sign flashed across the screen. “Shooting at UCSB.” The all-too familiar photos popped up across news sites. People comforting each other, crying, putting up memorials. Police measuring bullet holes, and, of course, the tarp-covered bodies. The next day’s headlines had already been written complete with subsequent Op-Eds. “Another shooting in the US,” “Pro-NRA vs Anti-NRA,” etcetera… etcetera.
Then came the video and the chilling 137 page manifesto:
“Women’s rejection of me is a declaration of war, and if it’s war they want, then war they shall have. It will be a war that will result in their complete and utter annihilation”
And then the story changed. For women this suddenly became incredibly personal.
It was all in this quote:
“You girls have never been attracted to me,” the killer said in his final video, “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice… I don’t know what you don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman.”
The manifesto drips with the chilling sense of male entitlement that permeates our culture and results in a man feeling that violence against a woman who rejects him is entirely justified. Then adding insult to injury, other men took to Twitter and message boards to express solidarity with the killer.
It was this that sparked the #YesAllWoman hashtag that took the Internet by storm with over 1.2 million tweets in just a few days. Initially starting in the U.S. but then moving worldwide, women united together in one voice to speak against the culture of male entitlement. As a participant, the closest analogue I’ve been able to find is of a mass Take Back the Night rally. The emotion was incredible and solidarity palpable. “Enough is enough,” we tweeted to each other. “It’s time for a change!”
Then on Monday we woke up to find #YesAllWoman had been replaced on the trending list by #ThingsGirlsSayDuringSex and the Internet laughed. Twitchy’s headline said it all: “Feminists angered to discover #YesAllWomen didn’t change the world… or even John Fugelsang.” The article goes on to say “Nothing is quite so devastating as logging on to social media only to discover that yesterday’s sanctimonious hashtag campaign didn’t change the world overnight.”
True—the adrenaline did wear off and reality came crashing through but this doesn’t mean that #YesAllWoman was a failure. Quite the opposite in fact. Overnight change isn’t the point of hashtag activism nor of activism in general. It takes a long and drawn out fight to accomplish change of any kind. That’s why activists must be motivated by an inner fire—a driving sense of the need to right an injustice. If that’s not there then a movement is dead before it starts. In the #YesAllWoman hashtag we found our collective voice. Sound overdramatic? Judge for yourself—read the Storify and you will see women reflecting on how empowered they feel to see that they are not alone. THAT is how the world gets changed.
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