It may be true that #NotAllMen are responsible for women living in fear, but #YesAllWomen have to be worried, regardless, because of #SomeMen. So I say that #AllMen must join #AllWomen against #SomeMen to help women to stop living in fear.
Now before you get all upset about the mathematics of my opening—#SomeMen are part of #AllMen, so how can they be against themselves?—think of this as an ideal to strive towards. If we are successful getting all those “some men” to change their behavior towards women, then all men will ultimately be on the same side as all women and women can learn to let their guards down.
But we are a long way from that because the men that are a threat to women have a deep seeded cultural and behavioral commitment to the wrong set of values. And it takes incredibly hard work to change deep-seeded values like these.
The #YesAllWomen hashtag explosion is one part of what must be a multi-pronged effort to shift cultural norms. Unlike the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag campaign, which has a discrete, immediate goal of getting a current issue resolved, #YesAllWomen is the tip of a campaign iceberg that will need to be deep and ongoing to create the kind of change that is needed. Where #BringBackOurGirls has a concrete goal of rescuing the kidnapped girls in Nigeria in mind, #YesAllWomen is about changing the fabric of many cultures across the world.
The #YesAllWomen hashtag campaign has picked up where Zerlina Maxwell’s #RapeCultureIsWhen campaign (in response to this Time article) left off and reinvigorated our oft-repeated conversation about the need to remove fear from the hearts of women. But, unlike the policy campaigns that surrounded the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (#VAWA), which never had an organic viral explosion during the Congressional debates a couple years ago, or the Paycheck Fairness Act campaigns that emerge every April as #EqualPay Day approaches, #YesAllWomen has become a cultural meme. It has captured the imagination of millions on Twitter who continue to tweet about it and read the tweets of others (dwarfing the number of tweets using #NotAllMen).
Unlike #VAWA and #EqualPay, #YesAllWomen not only energizes women and supporting men, but it has brought out the detractors on the other side. Glenn Beck, for example, called the campaign “a good old fashioned male-bashing” on his radio show. And while “NotAllGlennBecks are insensitive jerks, comments like this clearly demonstrate that he does not understand the message of the campaign. He does not seem to fully appreciate the realities of being a woman in a society, where too many men who would rather make women feel uncomfortable for not being interested in their advances, even forcing their way on a woman in too many instances, set a tone that has come to underpin the social relationships between the sexes.
Fortunately, as comments like those of Glenn Beck emerge, social media shines a light on their cruelty and helps to discredit the voices conveying them.
And now, after a week of #YesAllWomen tweets and numerous stories in the mainstream media, the hashtag is still going strong. The conversation started by the hashtag shows little or no sign of abating. As I said above, this is by no means the first time this conversation has arisen at the national or even international levels, but this time does seem to have more of a viral nature to it.
And it is the viral nature of the #YesAllWomen hashtag conversation that gives me hope. The more mainstream the conversation about the constant fear, the constant disrespect women face from some men, the more likely the rest of us men will join together with women to change the behavior of #SomeMen. As Twitter and other social media lift our voices in an ever-growing chorus, the possibility of shifting cultural norms and reducing the fear of #AllWomen grows. This hashtag campaign is a giant set of spotlights shining on a problem we must overcome. We just have to keep it on and shine it into every dark corner.