Here in El Dorado Hills, California, we have large rock on the side of a busy street that is often painted with well wishes, and congratulations to friends in the community. Today on my walk, this is what was painted on the rock.
Last week's killing rampage at UC, Santa Barbara, by Elliot Rodger sparked a new campaign called #YesAllWomen. The clearly troubled Rodger blamed all of women in society for not giving him the sex and admiration he felt he deserved. He claimed that this killing spree was his retribution. Seven people were killed, and thirteen more were injured in this horrible tragedy. As a mother of two college students, this breaks my heart for the families of the victims, and scares me to death.
#YesAllWomen is in response to the "not all men" defense sometimes used against feminist arguments, and has quickly spread through Twitter and other social medias. I believe the point of the campaign is to show that although certainly not all men practice violence, all women live with the threat of male violence on a regular basis. I really don't know any woman who hasn't felt this threat, multiple times in her lifetime. This can mean anything from a cat call and sleazy stares, to an actual assault.
I remember once when I was about 19 years old, I was on a trip with my boyfriend's (who is now my husband) family to Catalina. We were on a ferry boat to head over to the island, and I got up to go use the bathroom. On my way back, this really disgusting man pressed himself up against me so that I could feel his completely inappropriate "excitement". I apologized (like I did something wrong) and wiggled my way out from under his pressure. I never told my boyfriend, or his parents, and I do remember feeling embarrassed and maybe even a little ashamed. Did I do something wrong? Was I sending a signal? I feel bad for my 19 year old self, that these were the thoughts going through my head, instead of calling this man out for the creep that he was.
I would like to think that my daughter, now 20, would react differently if this happened to her. But have I done enough to teach her this? Maybe that is what this #YesAllWomen campaign is all about. It's not about bashing men. It's about teaching our girls that this exists, and that they do not have to tolerate it. And maybe even more importantly, teaching our boys that it is completely wrong to make girls feel this way.
I think it's appropriate to close this post with a quote from my very favorite author, Maya Angelou, who passed away just this morning. She is an inspiration to so many people, and she will be missed. I think she would totally approve of the #YesAllWomen campaign.