The Next Wave of the Feminist Movement and What #YesAllWomen Really Means

1 Jun

Photo Credit: Fotolia

The use of the hashtag “#YesAllWomen” is generating heated and necessary debate among social media users with regard to the recent UCSB massacre.  Elliott Rodger, the perpetrator of three stabbing deaths of his roommates, three shooting deaths of two women and one man, the serious injuries of several others, and his last act of suicide, is gaining public momentum due to his multiple YouTube videos and 140 page manifesto geared toward “retribution” against women who he felt rejected him his entire life.  Rodger felt entitled to many things, and the greatest of them was sex from beautiful women, which he was denied, in his own mind.

Rodger also specifically named one woman as the brunt of his reasoning for committing his final violent acts.  Rodger, who self-identified as an “incel,” or “involuntary celibate,” blamed his repeated rejections by women on the reasoning for his final maniac rampage.  The fact that the term “incel” exists should be infuriating enough on its own, because sex is not something that people are automatically entitled to.  This attitude of entitlement is what led Rodgers to kill, and it is quite similar to the entitlement felt by many men that all too often leads to acts of sexual harassment and assault.  Here is the truth about sex: sex is not something anyone, including men or women, has any entitlement toward.

A conversation about what rape culture really is, and how it affects the lives of all women, including your sisters, wives, girlfriends, mothers, daughters, and friends appears to be opening up in the mainstream.  However, there appear to be those who simply do not understand what the concept of “rape culture” really tries to accomplish, and one sickening article by Caroline Kitchens appearing in Time in late March called for ending “Rape Culture Hysteria”.  Ms. Kitchens’ use of the word “hysteria” to describe what she calls the outrage present on feminist blogs and other media outlets harkens to centuries past, when “hysteria” was often the go-to medical diagnosis of a woman experiencing any sort of emotional reaction.  Also formerly known as the “widow’s disease,” hysteria was once thought to be caused by retaining female sexual fluids, and in order to be cured, a woman must release them through intercourse.  “Hysteria” is not the proper term to use when discussing the cultural norms that perpetuate sexual abuse and harassment.

Kitchens misses the point and includes this quote by RAINN: “Rape is caused not by cultural factors but by the conscious decisions, of a small percentage of the community, to commit a violent crime”.  Surely, this may be true, but where did the values held by a rapist come from? Surely they were instilled by those among him.  This is a symptom of a cultural link to the values that promote sexual harassment and violence.  Although the term “rape culture” is rather jarring, it is clear that there is a sometimes invisible mode of violence set against women in this country and beyond.  Currently, there is no real conversation about misogyny and its effects on the women who are privy to it.  Misogyny runs deep through our society, and its most subtle touches may be seen in nearly every moment.

There are three distinct waves of feminism as defined by modern sociology, with the third wave referring to the period beginning in the early 1990s and lasting through the present.  Third Wave feminism incorporates queer theory and women-of-color corollaries.  Second Wave feminism focused on simply what was good or not good for women. The Third Wave maintains gender violence as one of its foci, and the reclamation of terms such as “slut” or “whore” is popular amongst third wave feminists. However, it appears that this reclamation is no longer appropriate in the face of what happened at UCSB.  In fact, there may be a backlash against sexual reclamation.  It is almost as though we are clamoring backward and saying, “Oh wait, there is actually no such thing as a slut!!”  This reconfiguring of Third Wave values may be leading to a Fourth Wave.

Let’s not forget every moment at which women are vulnerable to the stares and sexual whims of men.  Men have masturbated to me on the subway and in places that are supposed to be safe, like the library.  On one occasion I chased a man out of a college university library while simultaneously calling the police on my phone.  Someone I asked for assistance did not take what I was saying seriously enough.  This is the world we live in. A world where women remain in perpetuity as objects and men have every right to stare and please themselves as they do it.  A world where “she was asking for it”.  This needs to end now.

What the hashtag #YesAllWomen attempts to carry out is not a front against men.  True feminists do not hate men, and the term “feminist” is not a threat to masculinity.  What it means to be feminist is to believe that women have the same rights as men.  It is not a pitchfork term meant to intimidate and terrorize men.  As a new wave of feminism appears to be approaching, it is critical to realize that this wave is about setting the status quo and aiming to make the world a safer place for all women.  Acts such as those committed by Elliot Rodger, although cowardly and a shock to the country, do not need to happen again.  There is a way of changing how we treat women, and it begins with taking a hard look at how the abuse of women by men in is perpetuated in our society.

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One Response to “The Next Wave of the Feminist Movement and What #YesAllWomen Really Means”

  1. shoutabyss June 2, 2014 at 9:25 AM #

    I couldn’t agree more. And when I first became aware that a term like “incel” even existed I was filled with despair. Just when you think it can’t get any worse humanity reaches new lows. Incredible. A brilliant bit of writing here. I hope it is widely read.

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