A killing spree by a college student who felt shoved into the "friend zone" by one too many women had men's rights groups shouting, "Not all men!" A nineteen-year-old woman's response was brilliant: a #YesAllWomen hashtag.
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"I've spent 19 yrs teaching my daughter how not to be raped. How long have you spent teaching your son not to rape? #yesallwomen" Deanna Raybourn's tweet is just one of hundreds of thousands that drew me into Twitter Sunday night, and I'm not alone. The #YesAllWomen hashtag, created as a response to the "Not all men" (hurt women) outcry, has been trending for over 24 hours. In the time I tried to come up with a title for this article, 300 new tweets using the hashtag loaded onto my feed. That's 300 individual women with a story to tell about misogyny, rape culture and, ultimately, fear — in a matter of minutes. Let's discuss how that's even possible.

Misogyny kills

On Friday night, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six people, hurt seven others, then killed himself; but women are to blame for that. Confused? Me, too. Rodger created a series of videos lamenting all of the rejections he's received over the years saying, "If I can’t have you girls, I will destroy you.” And that's exactly what he tried to do — with an attempted break-in into a sorority house.

Rodger believed that he was owed female attention. In the last video, posted to YouTube one day before the killings, he says, "You forced me to suffer all my life, now I will make you all suffer. I waited a long time for this. I'll give you exactly what you deserve, all of you. All you girls who rejected me, looked down upon me, you know, treated me like scum while you gave yourselves to other men."

This isn't a case of mental health

Rodger was receiving psychological help, but it would be a huge mistake to dismiss this as one man's problem, a lone case or "just" a mental health issue. This spree is symptomatic of misogyny that's alive and well in our culture. Misogyny is defined poignantly as hating women, and 500,000 tweets under the #YesAllWomen hashtag in less than 24 hours say one thing: This is an issue.

Tracie Nall is the voice behind From Tracie, a personal blog where she writes about life, humor, parenting, surviving childhood trauma and personal growth. She writes — and speaks — out loud about being an abuse survivor. Nall says, "[Women are] told from a young age that a boy being mean to us means he likes us. And from that point, we are served a dizzying array of mixed messages about relationships and navigating life as a woman."

Making history

A nineteen-year-old Twitter user, who has asked us to remove her identifying information as she wishes to protect her privacy, made history in fewer than 140 characters on Saturday tweeting: Guys, I’m going to be tweeting under the #YesAllWomen hashtag. Let’s discuss what “not all men” might do, but women must fear.

Kaye has since made her account private, but the hashtag has taken on a life of its own. Women and men have been sharing tweets like this:

#YesAllWomen

Things like being followed, aggressive advances, being groped, threats and the prevalent rape culture. Women are expected to dismiss these things. But these experiences do matter, and they wound our spirits.

Nall says, "#Yesallwomen is really about our shared experiences of women when it comes to assault, harassment and fear. The statistics are sobering: 1 in 4 girls will be sexually assaulted before they turn 18, and 1 out of 6 women will be the victim of completed or attempted rape. But there are other moments in the lives of women, so easily dismissed as "not a big deal." Things like being followed, aggressive advances, being groped, threats and the prevalent rape culture. Women are expected to dismiss these things. But these experiences do matter, and they wound our spirits."

The emotional response to reading #YesAllWomen has varied from minimal annoyance (which I'm not even going to give attention to), to anger, sadness, empowerment and solidarity. What women aren't feeling is surprise. Here's why: When a woman shares what Nall described as the all-too-often-dismissed as "not a big deal" moments with other women, she's met with "me, too" stories — every single time.

Creating change

Nall says, "As I read through the hashtag, I grieved, because I saw so many moments in my own life reflected in those shared stories, and so many of the fears I have as the mother of a daughter. But I couldn't turn away from those stories, because we need to speak about our experiences if we want to see a change in the way women are treated and perceived."

And that's what this hashtag is about. It's using Twitter for its intended purpose as an open conversation and, in this case, to create change. #YesAllWomen has been called the most important hashtag tweeters have ever seen. Veronica I. Arreola, a professional feminist, writer and a mom who blogs at Viva la Feminista, says, "[It's] online activism that's resulting from tragedy."

The killings that occurred were the result of many things, one of which was clearly a hatred of women who have the gall to tell a man no.

Arreola explains, "The killings that occurred were the result of many things, one of which was clearly a hatred of women who have the gall to tell a man no. As a woman, that fact wounds me deeply. The pain is something that requires a scream and today that scream often comes out in the form of a tweet and a hashtag. I hope people who are reading #yesallwomen understand that many of those statements come from a place of outrage that comes from living with the threats so many women face every day."

What you can do

Start by following the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter. It's time to listen to women who share these stories. You don't need to argue, respond or even retweet — just listen and take note of what women are saying is a common everyday part of their lives.

Then, take it upon yourself to change the conversation. Teach the boys in your life that no one belongs to them, and correct the men in your life who blame women for any of their actions.

Tell us!^

What's your reaction to #YesAllWomen? Share with us in the comment section.

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