The world is a strange, horrible, and hopeful place.
On Friday night, twenty-two-year-old Elliot Rodger went on a shooting spree near UC Santa Barbara which resulted in the deaths of six and the inuring of seven others. The young man had posted videos to YouTube and participated elsewhere on the internet as an outlet for his highly misogynistic views. He had nothing nice to say about women and was very explicit about what he wanted to do with women–all women–because he felt that women had something against him. He said so in a video posted the day of the shooting.
I don’t want to give that man’s venemous thoughts or violent acts any more airtime than it deserves, but what is worth shining a light on is how the internet, that same place the troubled Rodger turned to spew hate, has turned the tragedy into a bold and brave moment of honesty–and has opened up a conversation about the uneasy subject of gender bias, violence, and discrimination in our culture.
It started Saturday night on Twitter in response to Rodger’s entitled comments about women. Women from all over the world began posting in profound 140 character blurbs marked with #YesAllWomen. The hashtag? A response to a recent internet meme where men complained that only a few guys were bad. The posts? Real-life, real-world stories of what women endure. The short stories began to flow rapidly and heartbreakingly, some simple musings on what the shootings revealed about society, some confessions of crimes done against them, some simple statements on how twisted the status quo is for women. A much-quoted one, and probably my favorite one from emily (@emilyhuges): “Because every single woman I know has a story about a man feeling entitled to access to her body. Every. Single. One. #YesAllWomen”
It’s been amazing to see how so many women are chiming in with their stories. So many of the experiences are hauntingly familiar, something women on Twitter have noticed, leading to supportive comments, retweets, and in some cases open conversation about what we’ve all endured and how we’ve all lived our lives in the shadow of this subtle type of violence. Not all the response has been positive, however. As I followed the posts ever so often women would start posting about the occaisional “troll” that popped up in the conversation to mock, belittle, or even threaten women using the hastag. But for every hurtful reply there were a hundred positive ones as men started to come forward and join the conversation, trying to understand what it must be like to live in a world full of double standard and institutionalized oppression.
It’s Twitter, a place cluttered with what often amounts to idle boredom and sometimes the accidental start of rumors, a service where life is boiled down to a handful of characters. It’s the last place one would expect to find the silver lining in a moment of horrible violence and tragedy, but in the shadows of hate that is exactly what has happened: truth and understanding has begun pushing its way through the blackness to shed light, to spread light, and (hopefully) change things for the better.
Here’s to hoping that that’s what we take away from this horror, that women spoke up and the world changed. Here’s to hoping that #YesAllWomen is the change our world needs. Let’s learn with hope and let the monster fade away in the blackness of his own cowardice.
I choose hope.