On Friday, a young man opened fire at the University of California Santa Barbara killing six people and injuring seven others. Not all of the victims were women – but the shooter's manifesto and Youtube video contained explicitly misogynist motivations for the act of violence.
As women on social media began to draw connections between the mass shooting and sexism in our society, they were met with a refrain of “not all men.” Not all men go on shooting rampages when they are rejected, the internet argued. The hashtag #YesAllWomen was started as a response – and then took on a life of it's own.
More on the relationship between gun violence, intimate partner violence, and sexism and the powerful perspective shown by #YesAllWomen below the jump.Recently, mass shootings have become an opportunity for the media to address the importance of mental health services and the intersection of mental illness and gun violence. In this instance, the argument for mental illness as a motivator of violence was played as a trump card: it wasn't misogyny that caused the shooter to act, it was his mental health. This kind of thinking ignores a whole host of statistics that show a disturbing connection between the sexism that underscores a continuing epidemic of gender-based violence and mass shootings like the one that occurred on Friday.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that eighteen percent of the shooters involved in the 93 mass shooting from 2009-2013 had a history of domestic violence. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, “Only approximately one quarter of all physical assaults, one fifth of all rapes, and one half of all stalkings perpetrated against females by intimate partners are reported to the police.” If we know that intimate partner violence is one of the most chronically under-reported crimes, then it is not a far jump to assume that the number of mass murderers with histories of domestic violence are, in reality, even higher.
Though the hashtag #YesAllWomen began as an attempt to address the refusal to talk about misogyny in this recent tragedy, it grew into an online forum to expose the omnipresence of gendered violence in women's lives.
"I have a boyfriend" is the easiest way to get a man to leave you alone. Because he respects another man more than you. #yesallwomen"
— R.M.S. (@RobinMCouch) May 25, 2014
Because there is a moment, daily, weekly, monthly, where you're in a situation where you think: "Is today the day I get raped?" #YesAllWomen
— Tess Sharpe (@sharpegirl) May 24, 2014
Because every single woman you know has been sexually harassed. Every single one. #YesAllWomen
— Nina Berry (@Ninaberry) May 24, 2014
#YesAllWomen were told to yell "FIRE" instead of "RAPE" because people would be more likely to respond.
— Karen (Tozzi) (@karentozzi) May 25, 2014
— Soraya Chemaly (@schemaly) May 24, 2014
Sorry if you don't like seeing female sexual/verbal assault on your timeline today. Women have to see/experience it every day. #YesAllWomen
— megan arnold (@_MeganArnold) May 25, 2014
Perhaps the best example of why #YesAllWomen is necessary was shown in the documentation of responses:
— Stacey Burns (@WentRogue) May 25, 2014
While it is true that not all men buy in to the vile and explicitly misogynist ideologies that the Isla Vista shooter believed, #YesAllWomen makes an important argument for the inclusion of sexism in our conversations about this tragedy – and the need to address the ways gender-based violence influences people across the world every single day.