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May 30, 2014

In Our Opinion: #YesAllWomen is everyone's concern

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The Daily Star

---- — If you feel like getting angry or depressed, do a search on Twitter for the hashtag #YesAllWomen. 

The #YesAllWomen hashtag, which offers a way to group together posts on social media on a particular topic, sprang up shortly after Elliot Rodger, who police said killed six people near the University of California campus in Santa Barbara a week ago. (The tag #NotAllMen experienced a surge in popularity, too, as people sought to distinguish Rodger’s horrifying actions from the mass of Y-chromosome holders who would never dream of doing something so awful). 

Rodger left behind a manifesto, which revealed his twisted views about the world, and about women in particular. “Females truly have something mentally wrong with them,” Rodger wrote. “Women are sexually attracted to the wrong type of man. This is a major flaw in the very foundation of humanity.” 

Rogers wrote over and over again about his dismay and frustration that the women he desired seemed to be attracted to men whom he deemed lesser than himself, whether because of manners, breeding or intelligence. 

“All I ever wanted was to love women, and in turn to be loved by them back,” he wrote. “Their behavior towards me has only earned my hatred, and rightfully so! I am the true victim in all of this. I am the good guy.” 

It would be easy to dismiss Rodger as simply a madman; an egomaniac whose exaggerated sense of self-importance led him to believe that he was being denied what he deserved. But his views, however extreme, stem from a mind-set that is all too prevalent. 

“The overall problem is one of a culture where instead of seeing women as, you know, people, ... men are taught that women are things to ‘earn,’ to ‘win.’ Like life is a video game and women, like money and status, are just part of the reward we get for doing well,” Arthur Chu wrote in a piece for The Daily Beast. 

Is this concept unique to men? Probably not; there are undoubtedly women who feel this way, too. But the angry, painful and frustrated voices of #YesAllWomen detail the consequences of a slice of our culture that rewards sexual aggression. Women write about being catcalled, groped, dismissed, abused, assaulted and more, in heartbreaking repetition.  

Certainly, “not all men” do these things. And bad things happen to men, too. But women who speak out against casual sexism, against attitudes like Rodger’s, however dilute, are not just playing the role of victim. They are seeking change. 

Regardless of gender, Rodger’s extreme viewpoint shows how poisonous it is for anyone to feel that he or she is entitled to affection from someone else. If there is any silver lining to be found from this tragedy, it is the conversation, however uncomfortable, taking place about this now.