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#NotAllMen, #YesAllWomen: Let's keep talking.

Michelle Avenant's picture

The Isla Vista Killing is not the first incident of misogynistic mass murder in the US – but it is the first to stir up a social media storm of this magnitude.

For those of you who are still out of the loop: on Friday night (23 May), 22-year-old UCSB student Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured thirteen before turning the gun on himself.

Rodger’s killing spree was premeditated: he broadcasted his plans in a Youtube video, saying “All you girls who rejected me and looked down upon me and treated me like scum while you gave yourselves to other men. And all of you men, for living a better life than me - all of you sexually active men - I hate you. I hate all of you. I can't wait to give you exactly what you deserve: utter annihilation.”

Central to Rodger’s murderous manifesto is the idea that for constructing himself as the “ultimate gentleman”, Rodger deserves sexual gratification from women – and for not affording him this gratification, women deserve to be killed.

The surfacing of Rodger’s statements brought on a flurry of blog posts from the feminist community, citing this event as drastic proof of pervasive societal misogyny in desperate need of more urgent address.

This uproar is best summarized in Laurie Penny’s appeal: “For some time now, misogynist extremism has been excused, as all acts of terrorism committed by white men are excused, as an aberration, as the work of random loons, not real men at all. Why are we denying the existence of a pattern?”

…and, predictably, the Men’s Rights Activists burst in like a bad political cover-up chanting “#NotAllMen!

No, not all men pick up guns in a disgruntled reaction to the “Friend Zone” (which, by the way, is a sexist myth)… and yet, somehow, all women experience misogyny. Funny that.

…And then the storm hit. Twitter user @gildedspine tweeted* “I’m going to be tweeting under the #YesAllWomen hashtag. Let’s discuss what ‘not all men’ might do but women must fear.”

As I write this post, over 48 hours later, #YesAllWomen is still trending on twitter and has garnered what I can only guess to be millions of tweets. And they’re still coming; at a rate of about one tweet per second.

Even more miraculously, #NotAllMen tag has been completely taken over in a way that simultaneously decries misandry and protests misogyny.

And this is how we should be experiencing news: not as random incidents trotted out by news publications as reams of numbers, dates and facts, but as consequences of the ideas and behaviours we see and experience every day, and reasons to challenge these behaviours.

Every person has a telling voice and a role to play in bringing about social change, and - at least in this case - social media platforms like Twitter can facilitate the kinds of massive, global and intensely important conversations we desperately need to have.

*@gildedspine has since suspended her account due to unwanted media attention, and so her original tweet cannot be accessed. 

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Update (28.05.2014): over 72 hours later and #YesAllWomen is still trending.