Hi my name is Magie and I am a Feminist.
Not that anyone in my immediate life is at all surprised but I figured I’d get that out-of-the-way.
When I first heard about the terrible events that happened in Santa Barbra on Friday, May 23rd, 2014 I was saddened and shocked. When I heard, from the killer’s mouth, why it happened I was angry.
Innocent people were dead because of a spoiled, entitled, and misogynist. Those are facts and I am not here to discuss them further. If you feel you have a “but…” or “well…” or “actually…” at the tip of your tongue I in most cases would be willing to hear it for the sake of discussion and being open to differing opinions, but when the killer’s (I will not use his name or image because he doesn’t deserve to have any slight amount of increased attention that he so disparately craved and believed he was entitled to) own YouTube videos and manifesto outline his intentions for these actions was because he was a “22-year-old virgin” rejected by “spoiled, blonde, sluts” when he was the example of the “perfect alpha-male” the wiggle room for excuses disappears.
So when the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter was brought to my attention and I began to read I was put in the front car of an emotional roller coaster. I felt highs and lows and loop-de-loops. Frequently I found myself nodding along to tweet after tweet because it was something I had myself experienced or just knew to be a thing that nearly every woman in my life has had run through their mind. There was also a sick and scared feeling within my stomach while reading others that told the extreme tales of other women. And of course when I came across the anti tweets I was…frustrated.
To see something that I know is important and a step in a really positive direction towards a discussion that this society needs to have being misunderstood or attacked it makes me want to deflate. There was a time when I didn’t grasp the full concept of what it meant to be a Feminist, that to me it was a word that was regarded with disgust and mocking. But once I was educated I understood a lot more about the world and especially myself. Of course yes it shed light on things that make me mad and angry with the state of the world, but it gave me a better chance to help change those things and make the world I live in and that future generations will inhabit better. People have their definitions of Feminism and they are going to vary, mostly because there are different kinds of Feminism. So for the sake of my argument I want to explain to you what being a Feminist means to me; why I wear the label with pride.
Feminism is equalizing of all people. For me people are people and their sex, gender, orientation, race, class, etc doesn’t matter in terms of how we should be treated. Pay should be equal for equal work, marriages should be legal for any two consenting adults who love each other, your skin color or religion or estimated worth do not make you a better individual than the one next to you or across from you or down the street from you. None of these traits make us entitled to anything above others.
Which is a state of mind where the UCSB killer seemed to live. He believed (and was taught to do so) that because he was a male he was automatically privy to sex from women whom he found attractive. He thought that as long as he was a “nice guy” these women were lucky he even considered wanting to explore a sexual relationship with them. Their thoughts, opinions, and feelings did not matter to him, they were simply attractive objects meant to provide him with the sex he obviously deserved given his status.
And we are going to hear repeatedly about his mental health diagnosis, which okay we can have that conversation because our culture really needs to have an open and unbiased discussion on mental health and how it affects people who live with it. However to put all of the blame for his actions on that is unfair, untrue, and unacceptable. To sideline his obvious misogyny and lay it beneath bigger and more obvious targets is doing a massive disservice to every single person who hears about this story.
That’s why the #YesAllWomen hashtag is important. It allows for the door to be opened for a dialogue on what exactly the patriarchy does. Some people will say that it is a hashtag to create a movement where we generalize and attack a whole gender; and those people are wrong and part of the problem. The hashtag, and Feminism in general, is not about generalizing the behavior of men, those of us who have shared our stories within the hashtag or support it are not saying we believe these common traits of all men or that all men act this way. We are simply saying because of the patriarchy and it’s impact on our culture we have been taught or experience that we have to be constantly on alert for the chance of it happening.
From personal experience I know that not all men are rapists or abusers or believe them to be better than me and all women simply because they are a man. I’ve gone to school and interacted and worked with men who are kind and respectful of myself and other women, who hold us in equal respect to themselves and who speak out on behalf of women and even identify themselves as Feminists and strive for the same things I discussed above.
But I have also gone to school and interacted and worked with men who appear nice and normal but will crack a rape joke thinking it is no big deal, will talk down on or about women, who will continue to pursue a woman even after she has politely said she is not interested, who have thrown a girl on the ground for “ignoring them” or who call their children “fuck trophies”.
#YesAllWomen is a chance for women to say these are the things we experience because we are female in a male dominated society. It is not us saying we believe all men are inherently bad or evil or animals who can’t control themselves; in fact we already know these are things you learn from just growing up under the influence of the patriarchy. It has said to you, and in some regards us, that men are better. They are smarter and more powerful and deserving of more. It has implied that we women are objects, things to conquer and control. As this article says; Misogyny Is Poison, And You’re Drinking It.
So if anything this hashtag and movement, if you will, is the opportunity for learning. Some people will learn what women experience in day-to-day life, some will learn they’ve been conditioned to act a certain way and that it’s hurtful, some will learn that they’ve been a victim of unfair harassment but didn’t know it because the behavior has been normalized, some people will learn that they are Feminists, some people will learn they are misogynist, and some people will learn that misogyny is an actual thing and that it kills.
I write this not because I want to scream about wickedness of the patriarchy (even if it is an added bonus and sub-hobby of mine) or to focus on the negative. I write this because I am passionate about it. I want to live to see a world were gender roles and expectations are a thing of the past and not excuses for mistreatment and possible violence against one another. And if I can’t live to see that day I damn sure want to make sure that I can at least say I made a valiant effort for that eventual possibility.
Which that means it comes down to this; don’t judge or throw away the #YesAllWomen hashtag as a “man hating movement” or as an excuse for women to complain. Take this opportunity as men and women or however you identify to listen and to learn. The UCSB shooting is not an isolated incident; it has happened before and as sad as it is to say could happen again. However this hashtag gives us as a civilization the opportunity to have a dialogue and alter our beliefs and behavior so that maybe it doesn’t have to happen again. “What matters is what we do about it.” were the words Jessica Valenti said really well in the closing line of her article on the topic for The Guardian and to me that rings really true.