I’ve been thinking long and hard about this. I agree with most of what it has to say and don’t deny any of it. However, I have a few issues with the movement, and I say that as a woman, a feminist, and someone reasonably well-versed in the realities and psychology of rape culture.
First, I feel like #YesAllWomen is dangerously close to straight up fear-mongering. Every woman has her own quiver of experience with sexual harassment and assault, and I am no exception to that. There are certain realities in our culture that absolutely should be addressed and changed. But do I really walk around every day in fear of being assaulted or harassed? Do I really view every man as a potential rapist, as many of these activists are claiming I do? Hell no! And what a sad, misguided way to look at the world and to teach our daughters, especially in privileged American society (which is where many of these voices are coming from.) Now, if I lived in India or South Africa, or even in the American inner city, it would be a different story. But I don’t – so why are you insisting that all women live in some sort of fearful haze? I know I am not the only one who doesn’t.
Secondly, there seems to be an underlying effort to undermine the notion of common sense. I think we all know that while we should be able to dress however we want, wearing a miniskirt with condoms in my purse will be more inviting for some rapists in the same way that leaving my car unlocked with the iPod in the glove compartment will entice more burglars. Awareness and acknowledgement of this reality does not make me anti-feminist or victim blaming. It just makes me not naive. However, it must also be noted that while I’ve been harassed when dressed like a skank at a party, I’ve also been harassed when dressed like a prude at the library (and even at church!) So I completely agree that wardrobe choices are a dumb point of burden in rape cases and the question should not even exist when a violent crime has been committed against you. #YesAllWomen is right in this way. However, I feel like the movement is encouraging women to stop being aware of these things, and to do whatever we want – that we can walk around naked with our legs spread without consequence, and that it’s a form of victim blaming to learn self defense because it puts the burden of prevention on the woman, not the man. Huh? That makes no sense to me! It ends up just sounding really ridiculous – as if we were telling people we should leave our doors unlocked with the gun on the table because the murderers should just stop murdering. You don’t say.
#YesAllWomen is shaming an entire gender in the hopes of eliminating rapists worldwide by emphasizing the fear that women apparently live with every day. It spreads the message that all men fall on the Rapey & Misogynistic spectrum somewhere, and that it’s anti-feminist for us to make our own decisions and use common sense on how to best protect ourselves from this omnipresent threat. “View every man as a threat – but don’t do anything logical to calm your fear because that’s not your responsibility and it’s not how the world should work! Let’s just change the Rapey Male Species with our hashtag of guilt and then we can walk around freely from fear… naked.”
In all seriousness… I completely agree that we should teach our boys not to rape, rather than blame the victim for getting raped. You can count on the fact that my boys (if I have them), will be taught to respect women for their intelligence and humanity, and both my hypothetical sons and daughters will be taught the power of “no.” I want to balance their worldview with ideals of how things should be, but also the reality of what is, and how to deal with that. Candy is delicious and it should be okay to take some from an old stranger… but it’s not… so get your own candy. I want them to know that alcohol can make both men and women do things that are out of character and potentially dangerous, and the decisions made while intoxicated can ruin lives. I don’t want them to be afraid or to shelter themselves, or to blame themselves when something goes wrong – I just want to help them be smart. And while #YesAllWomen no doubt agrees with all these things, I feel that it focuses too much on instilling fear and resentment by telling women they don’t have to be (or shouldn’t have to be) smart anymore. While I get the idealism behind that point, it still irks me.
Portraying all men as rapists and all women as victims is NOT the answer. All men are not potential rapists – the same way all black men aren’t thugs, all Muslims aren’t terrorists, all gay people don’t have AIDS, and all teenaged girls aren’t bullies. Sweeping generalizations never do anyone any good. There are better ways to empower and instill change!