The worst thing that relatively sane people can do is to take for granted that others have a similar appreciation for their sanity.
Take violence against women, for example. Some men of intelligence and good will, who would never condone beating up a woman, let alone raping one, seem to take for granted any civilized, decent man would feel similarly.
Unfortunately, there are enough men with civilized, well-bred social facades to prove that just looking down on all woman-beaters as “inbred trash” is too simplistic, and it doesn’t address the issue.
That’s why the #YesAllWomen Twitter hashtag has received so much attention in the traditional media.
Women from all walks of society are using it to sound off about the misogyny that infests our culture.
Some examples of posts include:
• Because when girls go to college they’re buying pepper spray and rape whistles while guys are buying condoms
• Because girls are taught to change how they dress, rather than boys being taught to control themselves
• Because if you’re too nice to them you’re “leading them on” and if you’re too rude you risk violence. Either way you’re a b****.
• Because I’ve seen more men angry at the hashtag rather than angry at the things happening to women.
One reason for #YesAllWomen’s existence is the prominent use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media for rape threats and other anti-woman remarks.
#NotAllMen has been created by someone who apparently felt defensive enough in the face of assertive women to tell the little ladies they were getting hysterical.
However, as Bill Moyers posted to #NotAllMen, “#NotAllMen are misogynists or rapists. That’s not the point. The point is #YesAllWomen live in fear of the ones that are.”
Here’s how author Rebecca Solnit describes the condescension women get from men who fail to see that the assumption of male privilege is just as sexist as more overt hostility:
A man acts on the belief that you have no right to speak and that you don’t get to define what’s going on. That could just mean cutting you off at the dinner table or the conference. It could also mean telling you to shut up, or threatening you if you open your mouth, or beating you for speaking, or killing you to silence you forever. He could be your husband, your father, your boss or editor, or the stranger at some meeting or on the train, or the guy you’ve never seen who’s mad at someone else but thinks “women” is a small enough category that you can stand in for “her.” He’s there to tell you that you have no rights.
That’s why dismissiveness is so powerful. Male privilege tells women that, as Solnit puts it, “they are not reliable witnesses to their own lives, that the truth is not their property, now or ever.”
As many a woman has found out in a staff meeting or executive board room, having a seat at the table doesn’t guarantee a voice at the table.