I don’t particularly like doing angry feministing for several reasons. It feels a bit reactive, and you never feel like you’re quite explaining it well. There are so many people doing it. And you get abused online for it.
Also, talking about this kind of stuff always seems to dismiss violence perpetrated against men by women, and that is an issue that also needs to be addressed.
But a tragedy has happened, driven by hatred towards women, and I’ve seen a bit too much on twitter and I just have so many feelings, ok?
Anyway, for anyone who has reacted to Elliot Rodger’s horrific act of violence in any way other than to say “this is an awful tragedy, those poor people, I hope there is something we as a society can learn from it that we may grow both as individuals and as a group,” here is a list of points to consider:
- When a women uses an example of this kind as an attempt to explain why women are sometimes a bit wary of being approached by men, she is not saying that any and all men will probably shoot women for rejecting them. She is saying that, when approached by a man she doesn’t know, she always, every time, thinks “is this a normal human man, or the kind who will turn ugly if I have the gall to not be attracted to him?”
- Yes, it’s statistically unlikely that any one woman will be the victim of a physical attack by a stranger driven by misogyny. We know this.
- When news of an attack of this kind comes a day after a friend is threatened with rape after objecting to sexual harassment, when it comes a week after another friend has a man mime jacking off onto her and then is abused online for complaining about it, when it comes after endless stories of women who are groped in bars and punched in the face when they object, when it comes after countless attempts to speak out are met with “shut up and take it,” the statistics no longer matter.
- When a women, at the end of this particular tether, cries out “WHY OH WHY ARE MEN SO AWFUL” she does not mean she thinks literally all men are awful. She is simply exhausted by the endless battle against all of the above.
We live in reactive times. We see events play out in real time, we establish opinions quickly, and we communicate them instantly. And the more we express an opinion the more we believe it, regardless of how much evidence we have in support of it. In addition, the more we believe something, the more we’re likely to only see evidence that supports our belief.
Here is a big problem that seems to have cropped up repeatedly on twitter: women get angry about what a (probably small, but definitely very vocal) group of men do to women. It’s not always about a physical attack, often it’s threats, emotional abuse, the general belief that women only exist to please them. So women get angry, and then men who believe they have the right to do so, try to correct their anger. They claim that these angry women are what causes misogyny. They claim that these angry women are bad at feminism, and that they, the male educator, are good at it.
Then, the angry women get angrier. Because it is SO FRUSTRATING to try and fight against something so horribly wrong and be met with condescension and censure. Before long, both sides are slinging all kinds of irrelevant “I’m better than you” branded mud and confirming each other’s views on how awful both men and women are. Other people chime in, it all goes crazy, and everyone ends up feeling awful and no one has learned anything.
A tragedy perpetrated by a lonely, unhappy, man whose mistaken views of the world were supported by the poisonous online forums devoted to misogyny should make us band together to prevent more attacks of its kind. Instead it is spawning divisive arguments.
The feminist movement needs men. Just as the civil rights movement needed the support of white people, just as equal marriage needed heterosexual campaigners, as people who still suffer because they are transgender need cisgender people on their side. Social change cannot happen without the support of the dominant social group. Every successful revolution had supporters within the fallen regime; even secondary languages will die if it’s only native speakers who value them.
It’s great that there are so many men who are supportive of all these issues, but some (yes, SOME) of these men need to remember that they are fighting for someone else. That when women talk about this stuff they are talking about their OWN FEARS and their OWN EXPERIENCES. That what may seem to you like an overreaction is actually just a cumulative one, and it is not your right to police it.
And some (again, SOME) women need to remember that most men have never experienced what you have. They can’t know what it feels like, they can’t know that they’re the millionth person to demonstrate how little they understand it. There may be men whose responses to this stuff are misguided. Sometimes they may need patience.
We are right to be angry. But (and I’m sorry for how wanky this is, which is very) we are not right to let our anger drive us apart.
We need more education. We need to take more time to think things through. We don’t all need to agree about everything, but we need to recognise each other as human beings.
We need to stop hating each other in 140 characters or less.