Unless you’ve been hiding yourself away for the past week, you can’t possibly have missed the news of Elliot Rodger’s killing spree in Santa Barbara last Friday, and if you’re on social media, it will have been all but impossible not to notice the backlash from women who have simply had enough. Rodger’s manifesto was that he was going to slaughter all the ‘sluts’ who wouldn’t (read ‘didn’t want to’) have sex with him. So he showed them that he was the ‘supreme gentleman’ by murdering some people. Then he (apparently – just legally covering my arse, here) killed himself.
Those who are not aware of the level of misogyny in the Western world in the 21st century have been quick to point out that he killed more men than he did women. OK. So he was a misanthrope, more than he was a misogynist. Well, no, actually.
After the murders happened on Friday, women all over the world responded by posting of their experiences, some of them speaking out for the first time in their lives, using a specially created hashtag, #YesAllWomen, garnering hundreds of thousands of tweets over the following weekend. It went viral almost immediately. A week later, the creator of the hashtag has requested that we use #EachEveryWoman instead, as she has been getting rape and death threats. I may be going out on a limb, here, but I suspect those vile threats have come from men who themselves feel threatened by this backlash, and who blame her for starting it. (As if she’s the first woman ever to think, “You know what? Fuck this shit.” It may come as a surprise to a lot of men that she’s really, really not.)
Why do they feel threatened, I wonder? Well, for one thing, most men just don’t understand, no matter how hard they may try, why women have to be on our guard ALL THE FUCKING TIME. No matter where we are, if we’re in a public place among people we don’t know, we have to be careful. For far too many women, even being among men they do know can become dangerous. I’d be willing to bet that not many men (if any) have let out a sigh of relief when a guy passes in front of them when he’s previously been walking behind – because that means he wasn’t following them. I’d also be willing to bet that few (if any) men have taken their keys from their pockets (or wherever they keep them) and put the sharpest one between two fingers before balling that hand into a fist, as a makeshift weapon, in case someone attacks them.
To be fair, some men (rather a lot, I suspect) do have an idea of what it’s like for us. Gay men, men who are not white, men who are disabled, undoubtedly, all have some idea of what it’s like for women. They’re marginalised in a similar way. But it’s not the same, and they can never truly know what it’s like to be marginalised just because of their sex, and the very best of those men will acknowledge this.
Another hashtag, #NotAllMen, has also been used. Men feel threatened by this backlash. Their first reaction has been ‘Not all men are like that!’ No. They’re right. But, and here’s the thing… WE FUCKING KNOW THAT!!! ‘Not all men are like that’ is, whether you like it or not, mansplaining. Men thinking, yet again, that it’s OK to tell women what we should and shouldn’t think / feel / believe / fear (delete as appropriate). The reason they feel it’s OK to tell women it’s not all men is because they have never had to experience anything like it themselves. Girls grow up knowing that most men are nice, but some are a threat. Do boys grow up thinking women are dangerous to them? Hmm. I doubt it. Do boys grow up thinking they shouldn’t wear certain clothes because it might get them unwanted (and unwarranted) attention from the opposite sex? And that this attention will invariably come in the form of catcalls, wolf whistles, guys telling them to ‘Cheer up’, ‘Smile,’ or, in one of my more recent experiences, ‘WHORE!’ Hm? Anyone? I thought not. (And for those of you now asking yourselves what I was wearing when the guys in the car yelled that at me, I was wearing a BIG FUCKING WINTER COAT, JEANS AND HUGE BOOTS. Not that it matters a fuck. I just thought I’d better clear that up before going any further.)
Women have to be careful with their drinks, to make sure they’re not spiked. Women often text friends to let them know they arrived home safely (as opposed to, you know, getting raped and murdered on the way). We’re raised in a culture that prizes appearance above anything else. Brains, in women at least, matter less. What use are brains, after all, if you have a hot, fuckable body and a pretty face? And we are still paid less than men for doing the same work. Hell, there’s even a prize especially for women writers – because, of course, we can’t possibly compete on equal terms with men.
In short, Western society, no matter how much you try to spin it, sees women as inferior beings.
Below are two remarks I got (yes, one after the other), reacting to this tweet:
Charming, huh? Oh, I knew I was inviting that kind of abuse by posting with the #YesAllWomen hashtag as much as I have been. (And I’ve been posting as much as I have because, well, there’s a lot to say.) And I knew it was likely a case of when, not if, I ended up with one like that in my timeline. I retweeted it, so people could see what this cunt had said to me, then blocked him. (And, for the record, those who know me are well aware that I don’t use that word often. But in this case, it’s the only one that fits.) But I’ve been silent for far too long. Fear of reprisals has made me keep my mouth shut and made me delete tweets rather than posting them. I’m afraid, OK? There. I’ve fucking said it. I’m afraid.
And I’m afraid of the sort of comments this post will probably get, but I’m saying it anyway, because it needs to be said.
I’ve had enough. Women the world over have had enough. We are fifty per cent of the world’s population, or thereabouts. Fifty per cent of the world’s population who have been oppressed by the other fifty per cent for far too long. And this is me having my say.
To all my male friends, and my kung fu brothers: nothing has changed. All I’m asking for is a little understanding. I’m sure that, with most, if not all of you, I already have it, and I’m thankful.
I have been practising white crane kung fu now for more than six years. I began because I wanted to get fit without getting bored. I continued because it’s fun and addictive, no matter how hard and painful it is at the time. And I’m glad I carried on because the more misogyny and sexism I see, the more I fear that, one day, I’ll need to use some of the blocks and strikes that my instructor has taught me during those six years. I do wish that I hadn’t been so shocked, when years of emotional abuse slid dangerously close to physical, before I finally walked out on my ex, that my brain switched off. I wish now that I had broken the fucker’s nose, but all I could think of at the time was getting away, stopping him from dragging me backwards through the flat. (His flat, as I was constantly reminded. His.) And even that didn’t make me leave him. But by then, it was all but finished, anyway. And yes: this is the first time most of my friends will have heard about that, coz you know what? I kept it to my fucking self.
I’m going to mostly stay away from the discussion on Twitter, now. I’ve had the inevitable ‘rape and death wish’ from a random stranger, and one, believe me, is more than enough. I’m not willing to go back for more. But this fight has not yet been won. Misogyny has not yet been stamped out. And so the battle goes on.