The recent killings of Mike Brown and Eric Garner were tragic events that sparked national protests and a collective outrage towards police brutality. This outrage served to further discussions on racism in a supposedly post-racial society. The Twitter hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, began trending to remind us that black people have been deprived of their basic human rights and dignity when confronted with police violence and structural racism. Without fail, people who haven’t experienced this level of “othering” started their own hashtag: #AllLivesMatter.
The #AllLivesMatter response was similar to that of the #NotAllMen hashtag. In May 2014, a gunman went on a killing spree to get “revenge” for the women who didn’t want to have sex with him. It was clear from the gunman’s manifesto that the killings were targeted at women due to his misogynistic view of them. The #YesAllWomen hashtag was started to depict the everyday sexism women face at the hands of men. #NotAllMen responded, saying that “not all men are like” the ones being described by the women in the #YesAllWomen hashtag.
#AllLivesMatter and #NotAllMen are actually harmful to their countermovements, whether they are intended to create this harm, or not. What these hashtags do is refuse to acknowledge that police violence against blacks and gender violence happen far too often, while simultaneously taking the focus off of the perpetrators of these types of violence. It also enables the problems of police and gender violence, while rejecting the notion that “good guys” can allow this to happen. The conversation is then switched from the problem of violence and those that experience it, to the hurt feelings of the “othered” populations.
From the conversations held by #BlackLivesMatter and #YesAllWomen, it is clear that those using the hashtags understand that “all lives matter” and that “not all men are like that.” However, they want to focus their attentions and their energies on the present problems they regularly face, not the hurt feelings of others. By focusing on their individualized problems of police and gender violence, they are speaking out against injustice and discrimination that is otherwise unnoticed and/or unaddressed. Raising awareness about social justice problems is supposed to be uncomfortable because awareness brings a direct challenge to an established way of life. Those who profit from said established way of life would do well to listen to those speaking out, and modify their own behavior so they don’t enable injustice against others.
We call our warships “she.” The earth is commonly named “Mother Earth” because of its ability to both create and destroy. Women are routinely compared to black widows, vipers, lionesses and tigresses. Pick any female comic book character, and you will see the innate power of the names given to these women. They are called Black Widow, Poison Ivy, Asp, Black Mamba, Queen Bee, Cheetah, and Fatality. All of these comparisons show the raging strength and power of women. Why, then, are we expected to hold back in the “real world?”
There is an interesting double standard for men and women when it comes to showing rage and aggression. When men break their cool facade in an explosion of anger, we naturally assume his feelings are valid and deserved. We listen when a man is angry because we respect that anger. When women become angry and project their feelings outward, society assumes she is menstruating or hysterical. Her feelings are somehow invalidated because of her sex. A woman’s anger is not respected, but rather gaslighted and viewed as irrational.
How many times have we been asked if we were ok? And responded that we were fine so we didn’t appear to be emotional or irrational, even when we clearly weren’t fine? It’s been too many times to count at this point. Too many damn times have we pushed our own feelings aside to make others feel comfortable. It’s time for this to change.
We cannot allow ourselves to hold our anger back when we experience injustice like society wants. When women become angry, we claim our space in the world. Anita Sarkeesian, Anita Hill, Emma Sulkowicz, and Elizabeth Warren have all become angry about injustices they have personally faced, or that they see on a daily basis. We need more of these women. We need more women unafraid to speak out against injustice and to push back against restrictive societal norms. When women face injustice, like harassment or sexual abuse, we have two options. We can either say nothing, or we can speak out. Speaking out is our only option, even though it might be difficult. Injustice and violence against women cannot continue.
It’s time to (enter really awesome female comic book character name here) up, and get angry.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. As a survivor, it is really amazing to see all the events planned throughout the month to raise awareness for an issue that not a lot of people want to discuss. The Take Back the Night walk, the #SurvivorLoveLetters, and Denim Day all help survivors heal, and removes some of the stigma that comes with being sexually assaulted. These events are usually emotionally charged, as survivors recount their assaults, and share their stories.
For the 3rd year in a row, the Red My Lips campaign has promoted the idea that the problem of sexual assault does not lie with the women who are assaulted. Instead, the crime is in the actions of the perpetrator. Red lipstick symbolizes “slutty” attire that is commonly believed to cause rapists to lash out at their victims. By encouraging women to wear red lipstick throughout the month of April, Red My Lips seeks to end the belief that the women’s choice of clothing causes rape.
For more information, go check out their website! http://redmylips.org/About.html