#YesAll Women, #YesAllPeople and the Dangers of Misunderstanding Feminism
Yesterday, something kind of beautiful happened on Twitter of all places. Women spent a beautiful Memorial Day sharing stories—stories we all share. Stories of harassment and abuse and the risk that comes with just living as a women. In this hashtag, #YesAllWomen, we took the power from these stories and gave that power to each other. And it was spectacular. In the strangest, smallest way, it felt like revolution.
Then, another hashtag started: #YesAllPeople. #YesAllPeople, seeming as well-intentioned as it was misguided, purported to be about the end of oppression for everyone—not just women—and the championing of equality for everyone.
And here’s why that was bullshit.
Here is what I said on Twitter in response to #YesAllPeople:
Later in the day, I made a series of mistakes. Mistake 1: I engaged with one of the #YesAllPeople tweeters who called me sexist (in a sea of positivity, there were only a few who called me out directly). I attempted to reason with him. I told him I agreed with him on several of his points and tried to use this common ground to get him to see eye to eye with me, saying essentially “women have certain, unique experiences, as do races, sexualities, etc. That’s what this is about.” He responded, saying essentially, “unless you are referring to child birth and puberty, I don’t see any other differences.”
I knew that there existed people who did not believe in misogyny. But this was the first time I recall really seeing it, and I was so caught off-guard by the complete inability and refusal to see it. So I made Mistake 2: I deleted all my tweets to this person, then blocked him. I don’t regret that second part. I didn’t delete them because I couldn’t win this argument, but because I was mad at myself. Because I did exactly what I had just complained about earlier—in an effort to make a man see my side, I was accommodating, gentle and diminishing my point to get him to see some semblance of it. And I hated myself for doing that. So I committed the cardinal sin of communications and deleted my tweets. Because I had embarrassed myself by acting the way I’ve been trained my whole life while lamenting the way women are trained their whole lives.
Granted, this is not a unique female experience. This is more of a reasonable person-trying-to-talk-to-an-asshole experience. But it is part of what it has meant to me being a woman. Trying desperately to scream my angers and frustrations and not being heard. So we talk more softly, gently, praying someone will hear us in the quiet. And all we succeed in is quieting ourselves, making ourselves fit more comfortably into a world that will not listen.
The idea behind #YesAllPeople, in my brief experience browsing that hashtag, honestly seemed to come from a good place, in the way women who refuse to call themselves feminists come from a good place. To the uninformed, it seemed more inclusive to love everyone. We’re all in this together. Let’s hold hands, sing Kumbaya and pass the dutchie ‘round the left-hand side.
But someone sharing their unique, specific experiences does not diminish anyone else’s. Being a feminist does not diminish the role of men in the world. Feminism, at its core, is about elevating women all the way up to equal. #YesAllWomen was, at its core, about screaming into the void of Twitter, I’ve been hurt and I don’t know what else to do, and a man hated women so much he killed six people. And I want to be heard and we want to be heard and so many people did hear, but so many people just wanted us to be quiet, to accept that men should be heard too and they missed the point and all the points and my heart aches and my eyes burn and I went from hopeful to despair all in one Memorial Day.
All I want in the world is for something to change. I want to be loud. I don’t want to accommodate. I want to be heard. We want to be heard. Please. Someone please listen.
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