Normal Violence in a Murder Spree

By Conor Friedersdorf

On Friday, a gunman killed 6 people in a neighborhood near UC Santa Barbara. He left behind a video explaining why he embarked upon his murder spree. The perpetrator's name and the contents of his rant are public if you're interested. I won't link or excerpt them here in hopes that my lonely approach is one day the norm—that would-be murderers will no longer expect a killing spree to help their manifesto go viral. Suffice it to say that the killer was a misogynist, and that lots of women have reacted to his rampage by reflecting on how women are denied full personhood. Those reflections have transcended the incident that sparked them.

Even if you're generally suspicious of Twitter hashtags, given the limits and shortcomings of the medium, don't reflexively dismiss #YesAllWomen, the label appended to all Tweets included in this conversation. The Tweets illuminate some experiences common to virtually all women and others that capture how many women feel. If you know how to navigate Twitter, view the messages themselves rather than relying on my imperfect summary. A sample of what you'll find*:

  • Every single woman you know has been harassed. And just as importantly, every single woman you don't know has been harassed. #YesAllWomen
  • #YesAllWomen learn to say "Sorry, I have a boyfriend" because we are only safe if we are another man's property.
  • because men joke about how girls always have to go to the bathroom in groups but they are the reason we do so. #YesAllWomen
  • Because society is more comfortable with people telling jokes about rape than it is with people revealing they've been raped. #YesAllWomen
  • I am a rape and sexual assault survivor and my experience is not particularly unusual or rare. #YesAllWomen
  • I'm constantly told I'm "too smart to be naked" as if nudity is only justified when you're desperate & broken—not proud. #YesAllWomen
  • Because I now wear shorts under dresses in crowded bars after being groped and even penetrated by unseen hands. #YesAllWomen
  • "Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them." ~ Margaret Atwood #NotAllMen #YesAllWomen
  • #YesAllWomen because walking at night is a feminist fantasy w/o any psychopath shooting you dead. pic.twitter.com/2CQ7OF357m
  • Because there are entire countries I'm afraid to go to because I will not have rights. #YesAllWomen
  • DOESN'T MATTER IF YOU HAVENT SEEN IT. DOESNT MATTER IF YOUVE NEVER DONE THAT. IT HAPPENS. 

The most widely shared Tweet of the night was this one:

Like all widely embraced hashtags, #YesAllWomen encompasses content so diverse that everyone is bound to disagree with some of it. I submit that the vast majority of men who explore it with an open mind will come away having gained insights and empathy without much time wasted on declarations that are thoughtless. I hope that the inevitable backlash doesn't dissuade anyone from taking a look.

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*Due to the sensitivity of the subject I hesitated to embed Tweets, but neither do I want to deny credit. The period at the end of each Tweet links to the profile of its author. 

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/05/normal-violence-in-a-murder-spree/371568/