If you aren’t on Twitter, or if you were off of Twitter over the weekend, you missed an incredibly important conversation. In the aftermath of the killing spree at UCSB, thousands of women (and some men) took to the social media platform to talk about misogyny, using the hashtag #yesallwomen.
I’m not usually one to get involved in these Twitter hashtag trends. I will read through ones I feel are interesting or thought provoking. Yet, #yesallwomen felt different for me.
It felt personal.
Tweet after tweet from women across the world described what life is like to grow up a woman, to be treated differently from a man, and to raise young women. These messages were absolutely mind blowing. If words can be heartbreaking and inspiring at one time, that’s what these were.
I read horror stories about women who were assaulted, attacked, and/or demeaned. I read about women who were reprimanded or fired at school or their workplaces for the way they dressed. I read the fears of mothers and fathers who are raising young girls in a world where we teach them not to get raped, instead of teaching young boys to respect women. I read about women who don’t receive adequate healthcare, women who aren’t paid as equals, and women who still aren’t entitled to an education simply because they are women.
I also read the responses — some of which only served to enforce the original message. Most of these came from men who felt it was okay to hide behind their anonymous handles and bully women who were so willing and vulnerable in sharing their stories. However, I don’t want to focus on these people. I want to write about the women, instead — these brave, strong females who put themselves out there on behalf of a greater cause. That is what’s most important.
We hear a lot about how damaging social media can be. We talk about the negativity it brings out in some and the harm that it can cause. What we don’t talk about are movements like this: how social media can bring us together in ways we never dreamed were possible. How many of us felt comfortable talking about our experiences with sexual assault before now? Probably not many. I know I certainly didn’t. Yet, seeing other women speak up and share their experiences made me that much more willing to share mine.
I also know that there are still thousands of women out there who didn’t speak out about their experiences as a woman. They can’t because they are being abused or living in a culture or community of oppression. They can’t because they simply don’t feel comfortable. Whatever the case, you are strong, too, and your voice (though silenced) does not go unheard.
It made my stomach turn to read many of the tweets, but it also made me realize: none of us are alone. I think this is why a number of us felt called to share our experiences and to validate the ones of others. Each of these stories, while painful, reminded us of something in our past or something we worry about for the future. Each tweet felt as if we were looking in a mirror or reading a diary of our lives. It was terrifying and awe inspiring to see the experiences we share.
It’s clear that there is so much work left to be done, and I think this was a fantastic way to start it. For every one, nasty response to the hashtag, I saw at least two responses from men who were appreciative and understanding of the conversation. I saw women reach out to one another in hopes of connecting over their grief. This is why, ultimately, reading these stores left me feeling proud to be a woman. At the end of the day, I didn’t go to bed afraid for my future or the future of my daughter. Instead, I fell asleep feeling grateful for each and every one of you — whether you spoke or stayed silent. Your strength is not lost on me, and I certainly hope that it isn’t lost on the men who needed to hear the message.