Since I heard news of the UCSB massacre I’ve had a hard time putting my feelings into words. I think I’ve passed from an emotional response and into a sort of numbing phase of confusion, anger, and defensiveness. I’m deeply disturbed by Friday’s events on top of the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls more than a month ago. The trend #YesAllWomen over the last few days has unveiled a massive outpouring of tweets spreading awareness of discrimination, violence, and sexual violence against women, and while I’ve been re-tweeting a storm, I’ve only composed one #YesAllWomen tweet thus far.
I have plenty of things to say, experiences to share, but I haven’t been able to put them into words, and like many other women, I’m afraid to put forth an opinion on the internet that may be too “big” or “bold” or have repercussions on my life (the woman who started the #YesAllWomen trend has since privatized her Twitter account, which I have both utter respect and sadness for). This fear alone, of expressing an opinion that may be construed as “feminist” and could result in backlash and even online attacks from strangers, is an example of the long journey women still have towards the world of gender equality. We shouldn’t be afraid to express opinions, to be labelled as the dreaded f-word, to be made fun of, looked down on, or seen as overreacting or ridiculous.
Normally I’m pretty tolerant of my friends making “feminist” jokes, because I know they’re not terrible people and simply taking advantage of my good sense of humour, but these last few days have been different. I was horrified. Did they realize what happened only days ago? Did they know one man felt so sexually entitled to have women that he killed six people over ten crime scenes and left a haunting YouTube video detailing his hatred towards women? Did they know someone made a Facebook fanpage for the killer (which I along with many others have reported for removal to no avail)? Have they seen the reactions from women (and men) around the globe? Why is it funny to make fun of a group of people who are fighting for gender equality at any time, let alone in this time of tragedy? Why is it humourous to jokingly insult someone who believes in women’s rights, improvement of women’s standing in the social scheme, who openly talks about the media maltreatment of women and girls and proudly calls herself a feminist? There are certain things you can poke fun at, and advocating women’s rights and opposing hatred and violence against women is not one of them.
And why didn’t I tell my friends this? Why did I paste on a half-hearted grimace like I usually do? I brushed off a jab that “jokingly” demeans a massive human rights movement and insults the memory of the victims of the UCSB attack. Feminism is not funny. Societal attitudes towards women as objects, sex toys, submissive wives, and men-pleasers are not funny. Mass murder is not funny.
I recommend taking the time to read through some of the #YesAllWomen tweets.