This has been a hell of a weekend for 51 percent of the population. An angry, disturbed young man with firearms took out his rage and resentment at women by killing six innocent people. Predictably, a meaningful discussion on gun control has not followed. This is America, how dare we blame drugs for yet another mass shooting, how dare we. This is not to say we don’t also need better, stronger mental health care in this country. We do, we desperately do. But the most encouraging thing – if anything can be encouraging in such a senseless tragedy – is the #YesAllWomen hashtag that has emerged in the wake of such ugliness.
I am normally not one to jump on board with hashtag activism. It can be a glib, lazy way to out of actually doing something to address real problems. But this hashtag is different. Because instead of just parroting a flavor-of-the-day causes (like #StopKony) or at worst proliferating knee-jerk outrage (like #CancelColbert), it seeks to educate. The best #YesAllWomen posts are bracing in their honesty. But their intent is not to preach to the choir. Their intent is to open the eyes of the other 49 percent of the world.
Women don’t owe men anything – dates, sex, smiles. Yet this culture of entitlement to our bodies persists. This outmoded idea that women are still prizes for men to collect. That we are ornaments for their entertainment. That all successful men deserve our adoration. And if we don’t give those things, then we’re somehow to blame.
Still, what #YesAllWomen is about isn’t just the blatant misogyny – the hatred toward women that in this case and too many others literally kills – that we have to worry about. It’s the little things, the fact that even the simple act of walking to our cars alone at night is a different experience for men than women – that matters. How we have all told the lie that we have a boyfriend to get a guy to quit bugging us. How we have all learned how to carry our keys like Wolverine claws. How we all have been asked to smile by strange men on the street.
In this respect (and many, many others), I am so grateful to be gay. So don’t have to try to explain that, yes, things are different for women. Because she knows. She knows already that things are different for us largely because of men.
As novelist Margaret Atwood said so succinctly: Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.
And, yes, yes – Not All Men. But that is never what we’ve been saying. And, if you immediately feel defensive about women asking you to be compassionate about how unsafe and unwelcome we feel at times, wow. I don’t know what else to say, dude.
I still don’t think a hashtag can change the world. But if men take the time to stop and see how the other 51 percent feels, maybe it can start to make a different. And if that doesn’t work, ladies, might I suggest lesbianism*.
*Kidding, kidding – we don’t actually recruit. Much.