After a mass killing shocked the University of California, Santa Barbara, community, disturbing details on the assailant's apparent motive for "punishing" women who weren't attracted to him have come to light. The alarming notion that the shooter resented and committed violence toward any woman because of his own feelings of rejection elicited a global conversation on social media over the weekend with women sharing their own experiences of harassment and gender concerns. By Tuesday morning, the hashtag #YesAllWomen had reached over one million tweets, but how did this specific hashtag gain momentum since it first appeared on Twitter May 24?
The #YesAllWomen hashtag's wording seems to be a literal response to the #NotAllMen hashtag that trended toward the end of April this year. In this context, the #NotAllMen response is most often used to derail women's sharing of harassment and assault experiences. "The 'not all men' man, at least in some cases, agrees with you and is perfectly willing to talk about how terrible those other guys are, just as soon as we get done establishing that he himself would never be such a cad," explains Time writer Jess Zimmerman.
Who was the catalyst behind the movement? The woman behind #YesAllWomen has since made her Twitter account private and asked to stay out of the limelight to protect her identity. However, a friend of hers, Gina Denny, did write a blog post explaining how #YesAllWomen is very different than other "hashtag slacktivism," a name critics have given to recent similar cases where hashtags were given trending topics as a way of raising awareness. Gina also addresses the #NotAllMen response, saying that while, yes, we know not every single man is part of the problem of violence against women, it is all women who must deal with the fear of catcalling and any other type of harassment and sexual assault.
After the killings in Santa Barbara, this particular hashtag has resonance, Gina says, because it gave them a voice: "The #YesAllWomen hashtag showed all women everywhere that they are not crazy. They are not alone. They are not 'dirty' or 'broken' for experiencing these things. Women are not wrong for thinking of their own safety and they are not wrong for trying to protect themselves in mundane situations."
Even days after its initial appearance on Twitter, #YesAllWomen continues to grow on social media including Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Here, an animated heat map Twitter created tracking the hashtag's use across the world.
A look at public figures' response to the movement is below.
The #yesallwomen hashtag is filled with hard, true, sad and angry things. I can empathise & try to understand & know I never entirely will.
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) May 25, 2014
I shouldn't have to hold my car keys in hand like a weapon & check over my shoulder every few seconds when I walk at night #YesAllWomen
— Sophia Bush (@SophiaBush) May 25, 2014
When a woman makes a video, most comments are about tearing apart her looks. Or if they'd "do" her. With a man, almost none. #YesAllWomen
— Felicia Day (@feliciaday) May 26, 2014
To the guys angry at #YesAllWomen: good. You're angry 'cuz you're getting shaken up. I'm shaken up. It leads to understanding.
— Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) May 25, 2014
#YesAllWomen Because recognition of human dignity elevates all of us.
— James Van Der Beek (@vanderjames) May 26, 2014
If I'm losing followers because I retweeted some #YesAllWomen posts, then good riddance.
— Veronica Belmont (@Veronica) May 25, 2014
I can't stop reading all of the #YesAllWomen tweets. I'm so moved by so many of them.
— Gabourey Sidibe (@GabbySidibe) May 26, 2014
— Additional reporting by Lisette Mejia