“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
– Margaret Atwood.
This weekend, seven people were killed and seven injured because they were shot by a man who thought he was better than them. Because he thought he was entitled to what they had. To who they were. Because he believed he deserved things women chose not to share with him. Because he believed he had a right to their bodies and to their lives.
News media was quick to identify the shooter as mentally ill and that his actions could be explained and justified, however tragically; this is a perfectly delusional trap that excuses the social fact that being a woman is actually dangerous to a matter of one man’s psychosis. The embarrassing reality is that while one man was responsible for pulling the trigger, we all share in the responsibility for ending the lives of not just these seven, but millions of men and mostly women.
In a 140 page manifesto and a 7 minute YouTube video, Elliot Rodger gave us a frightening look at what a culture of rape and misogyny apologetics allows. Elliot Rodger was a 22 year old virgin who lamented the agony of never finding a girl who wanted to “give their affection and sex and love” to him. He believed that when he got to college, he’d access the right to have sex with women, and that he had gone two years without cashing in was, in fact, “torturous.” It was not “fair.” It was an “injustice.” It was a “crime.” Yes, he fervently believed the fact that women would not sleep with him was criminal.
A few years ago, I dated a man who crossed many physical and emotional boundaries because he felt entitled to me and I was afraid to deny him. He found out where I lived and forced himself in my house after I asked him to leave. I lived alone and he was physically stronger than me; I was afraid of the consequences of not letting him in, so I did. When he was in my house, he expected certain things to happen and was violently angry when I said no. He frequently showed up where I worked and spent hours waiting until I was ready to leave, and then kept me there until everyone else was gone. He texted me every hour for weeks wanting to know where I was and who I was with and when he would see me again. I feared answering my phone and often left it home. I just didn’t want to deal with it. I tried to end things, but he had plans of marrying me. I moved, and he found where I lived. I changed my number, and he tracked it down. I started a new job, and he followed me there, too. One time, he pinned me against my car when I tried to leave him.
I was afraid of this man, and I was afraid of asking for help. He hadn’t raped me, so I believed that there was nothing anyone could do for me, and that asking for help might provoke him to seek revenge. Ultimately, I believed that because he had never raped me, my fears were not yet justified. I am terrified that there is a reality in which a woman feels like she had to be raped in order to feel justified in asking for help, and even then might not be taken seriously. It is terrifying that there is a reality in which man will slaughter woman because she turned him down.
Soon after we learned the name of the man who shot and killed women because they were women, social media responded with the contemporary tool around which my generation is best able to discuss global issues: hashtags.
One man posted on Facebook about #allwomen:
“I feel really bad for him, rejection is agony. I’m glad he did what he did. Women are destroying society. Women NEED to be woken up to the fact that their actions cause men to go crazy. Women attack people psychologically as they cannot use physicality. The only way a man can fight back is physically. I applaud what this guy did and encourage more young men to take women’s lives, it’s the only way we can fight feminism. Women have declared war on us guys, we have to fight back. Well done Rodger, what you did was the right things to do. More women have to die.”
And then, a conversation emerged and illuminated the fact that this is not the product of one or two mentally ill men, but a consequence of a world that says men are entitled to the sex and to the lives of women. I have never told anyone my story because I’ve known women for whom this experience was much more devastating and ended very differently. I thought it was not worth telling my story because it wasn’t as bad as others endured.
I share it now because it is important that we recognize that what I experienced, and what many women experience, happened because we permit men to treat women as if they have a right to her body. It’s because we are still teaching women to not be raped, and that if she is, it was ultimately her fault. We teach women to act and dress and speak a certain way to not only protect themselves, but also to protect men. Why? Because boys will be boys and boys cannot help themselves. I am so beyond over the slut-shaming victim-blaming that excuses men to rape women.
#YesAllWomen ignites the storytelling of women’s shared experiences: the assaults we are afraid of, the stories we don’t tell, and the realities that make us nod because we are women.I forgot how long I was afraid of what that man might do to me until I scrolled through thousands of these tweets. I remember that fear of being the last person to leave work and needing to walk to my car in a dark parking lot. I remember that one of my best friends was kidnapped and raped and there was nothing she could have, or should have, done to prevent it.
Elliot Rodger, an entitled asshole, said about women, “All I ever wanted was to love you, and to be loved by you. I’ve wanted a girlfriend, I’ve wanted sex, and I’ve wanted love, affection, adoration. You think I’m unworthy of it. That’s a crime that can never be forgiven. If I can’t have you, I will destroy you.”
It is horrifying that we live in a world where women ultimately have two options when a man wants to have sex and she isn’t interested: she must choose between rape and death. The terrifying words and deadly actions of one 22-year old man tells us that this is true.
I’m afraid and I’m angry. I’m afraid of walking to my car alone, of living in a first floor apartment, that saying no to a man could get me killed. I’m angry, infuriatingly and agonizingly angry, that we still have to talk about this shit. I’m pissed that men and boys can record themselves raping a girl or woman, share it on social media, and still be found innocent. How many women have to be raped and beaten and killed before we are ready to have a conversation that we are responsible for this toxic and deadly global community?
#YesAllWomen: Listen to these stories, trust their words and experiences, and be angry with them. Know that just because you’ve never seen it, done it, or experienced it, it doesn’t mean it’s not real. Be pissed when people make rape jokes; tell people how backwards it is when we tell girls to cover up because it might distract boys; fight for the women who have survived the words you are reading. Don’t tolerate a world in which Elliot Rodger is free to be Elliot Rodger.
My life depends on it.