This weekend, the #YesAllWomen hashtag has been trending enormously after the horrific homicide of Elliot Rodger. Six victims lost their lives thanks to the boy deranged with a sense of inadequacy. I wrote my dissertation on the same inferiority complex present in the works of Edgar Allan Poe – for Rodger, these fictional deaths of women became gruesome reality.
We can discuss how disgusting and psychopathic this crime is, the numerous parallels Rodger’s ego draws with We Need to Talk About Kevin or simply how the lavish, image focused lifestyle that a society governed by Facebook photos and instagram gloating has backfired tremendously on youth mental health – but right now, I want to focus on the YesAllWomen trend. Because the male reactions to this horror are almost as gruesome as the crime itself.
I think part of the problem with this backlash is that there exists a male voice that demands the female voice to be silenced. To be refused an opinion and a platform from which to speak. “Shut up and look pretty” comes to mind. We live in a world where “I have a boyfriend” becomes a more respected response than “Don’t touch me.” Where pretending to be a lesbian becomes a state of protection. If you’re wearing figure revealing clothing, that sends connotations about both your body and your sexual attitudes. We reside in a society where inside the space of a club, men are expected to put their hands on us and we, because we are wearing makeup and dresses, are expected to feel flattered.
We are taught how not to get raped, rather than not to rape in the first place. Wear certain clothing to impress boys – too much and you’ll be branded a “slut” for god forbid, showing your body in the way expected of us in the first place. Sexual violence – in both physical and mental forms, exists everywhere. I meet more girls that have been sexually assaulted in some form than not. I’ve grown up with it. Imagine waking up aged 15, too drunk at a house party, to find some strange boy’s hands crawling over you. A close friend of mine witnessed her father beat her mother repeatedly, only to have her brother hold a knife to her throat 15 years later. It’s shocking because to admit it is almost as bad as the crime itself. Car horns. Yelled comments. Lewd remarks in bars. At 18, I dated a boy who called me a ‘frigid virgin’ because I dumped him after several appalling dates. The “friend zone” becomes a male ego-nursing space to justify rejection.
It exists – I refuse to be told it doesn’t. And the anxiety that is provoked is expected to remain silent – we’re not allowed to speak about it. The same goes for sexual promiscuity. The same goes for gender-associated terminology. There exists a huge number of derogatory terms for the female – bitch, slut, wench, whore, cow, skank, to name a few. Far less for men. The divide within language is incredibly evident.
Which leads me back to the Rodger’s case, who, in his disturbing video posted before the shootings, admitted his disgust with remaining a virgin at the age of 22. How dare he, the dominant, wealthy, successful male, be denied what he wanted. The boy with the $300 Armani sunglasses. He declared he’d “slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see.” This psychopathic super inflated sense of self-esteem makes me question to what extent this is a crime of Rodger’s madness, or a crime driven by a socially-provoked mental state. Are we as forward as we think within society? Or we as oppressed as ever, just shrouded behind instagram filters and false shows of equality.
You’d be a fool to think that gender equality exists throughout the world. You’d be even more of a fool to think feminism is not as vital as it was 100 years ago, when Suffragrettes struggled for the vote in Britain. Take the Contagious Diseases Act of 1864 into account. Veneral disease was declared female fault – prostitutes underwent horrific treatment (up to three months) to be treated for a disease that male sailors were happily walking around with, re-spreading to the women suffering for their employment. This is only one example of thousands. Culture has continually made the female body the culprit. In today’s world, the female body is as contained as it was in the works of Poe. Except, this time, social media has given us the voice that refuses to be deleted. All women experience it. Whilst not all men demonstrate it, all women continue to experience it. In other words, this ISN’T about you.
Just because we don’t speak, tweet, or scream about it doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. And, as disgusting as this murder spree is, misogyny will happen again, again, and again.