#YesAllWomen: Violence at the Intersections
#YesAllWomen is a collection of this same story over and over and over again. Individually, these stories and experiences are actually a collective experience. Women are objectified, treated as property, and physically and sexually assaulted. I want to believe that race should not matter in this conversation, but then I began to read some of Elliott Rodger’s manifesto.
“College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. In those years I’ve had to rot in loneliness, it’s not fair… You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me but I will punish you all for it.” Because he felt entitled to feel women’s attraction, he wrote of his plans to “slaughter every single spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut.”
It’s here I remembered “Men in Dialogue.”
A couple months ago, I attended the Annual Meeting of the American Education Research Association (AERA). I found myself at a presentation on preventing dating violence, and I was excited to see a man presenting research on work being done with men through an organization called “Men in Dialogue” to curb violence against women.
Then, this came up on the projection screen.
“There are many groups of egalitarian men, but for me, in MiD we have to point out that the idea is not to focus on blaming men for all the abuse and battering that women have suffered throughout history. Rather we must remember that there have been egalitarian men throughout history. And today there are many, and what we need to do is promote the fact that they, we… egalitarian men are attractive.”
I had to read it again. The words on the screen did not change. I thought, here, at AERA, this couldn’t possibly be true. This man could not be suggesting that the problem of violence against women could be solved if men were made to feel more attractive.
He continued, however, saying that this alternative construction of masculinity could really solve how men felt about being violent toward women. When he concluded, I thought I might challenge him to think about another way masculinity was constructed. I asked him if he perceived race as playing a role in this alternative construction of masculinity. He dismissed my question. “Domestic violence is a problem for every race, so there’s no need to think about the problem in those terms.”
I stopped asking questions. It was a mostly empty room, anyway, I told myself. Another time, I told myself, I would have said “Fuck you. We should, in fact, focus on blaming men for choosing to be violent.” I didn’t. I gave up. Besides, I told myself, this man clearly did not and would not take me seriously. I gave in because I was tired. I didn’t want to be an advocate. I was over it.
It’s 2014, and Elliott Rodger has killed six people because he felt entitled to have sex with “blond sluts.” I am a woman of color who has learned to be watchful of my surroundings. I have learned being an Asian women means that I will be objectified differently than white women or black women or Latino women or Native American women. Yes, objectification is objectification, but violence is shaped by something more. We have constructed a world where we think that class should trump race, that gender should trump race, that class should trump gender, and that none of these constructions impact sexuality. These different systems of power do not exist in neat and tidy boxes that can be broken down. They overlap and intersect and promote violence. They result in tragedy.
Uncomfortably, I step into Elliott Rodger’s shoes. I think about how he came to believe that murder was the only way he could identify himself as powerful. He made the choice to kill because he constructed a world where he was entitled to sex, where he was entitled to think about women as objects rather than human beings. I don’t for a second believe that this world he constructed wasn’t influenced by our larger reality where society is structured through the complex intersections of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality.
#YesAllWomen brings to light that we need to focus on those people who are choosing violence and what we as a society have done to contribute to those choices. Violence against women is a problem that has resulted from how we ALL construct masculinity, femininity, gender, class, and, yes, race and ethnicity, too.