The nature of change is that the most radical revolutions are usually preceded by the darkest tragedies. Progress is often the result of attention being drawn and action being called in the face of something catalytic. All of nature, and much of culture and history and religion, mimics this notion: stars die before they’re supernovas, crucifixion precedes resurrection. Personal breakdowns are most often the beginnings of the most salient success stories. We don’t change until not changing is less comfortable — and as beings that are usually afraid of change, of the unknown, it tends to take something pretty serious to move us to reconstructing even an element of our mindset.
Maybe it’s the way we cope, maybe it’s what happens when the sheer power of human resilience meets the aftermath of unbearable, unthinkable tragedy, maybe it’s that there’s nowhere to go but up, into change, into action. Regardless: what happened at Isla Vista this month acquainted us with many dark realities. The issues of weaponry and masculinity and mental illness and what-have-you take roles in this and are conversations to be had, indeed. But right now, there’s one that’s being had a bit louder than these, and that does not lessen their relevance, it just means there’s a call to listen to something else too. Because no, misogyny wasn’t the only reason six people were shot dead, but it is the conversation that — for once — needed to take center stage.
We’re now seeing hundreds of thousands of women writing publicly via Twitter and beyond the ways in which the cultural standards for their gender have hindered them, left them judged and abused, made them feel lessened and belittled. For once, we’re seeing men urging each other to listen. For once, the tiny bits of backlash these individual shared experiences are garnering – there will always be an attempt to silence that which is uncomfortable — are being met with a larger movement to hear each other.
If you were one of the women who saw #YesAllWomen as the door you were waiting for, if you jumped at the opportunity and helped turn what could have been a whisper into a roar, thank you. Every person matters in this. Whether this was the boost you needed, or you found your bravery in those three little words, or it was finally time to say “enough” — it’s worth commending. Because it wasn’t always okay to speak in such a way.
There have been people reiterating the things you find on that hashtag feed for years. Except they were the ones who were called “crazy” for it.
So here’s to the little girls who believed in gender equality before they even knew what that meant. To the ones who didn’t allow themselves to be victimized and silenced by rape, but who spoke out and started the sentences that began conversations that took root and made change.
To the women who were called crazy, the bosses who were called bitches, the girls who were judged and ridiculed for what they wore and how much sex they did or didn’t want to have. To the women who were the first to hear microaggressions in everyday language, and the first fearless enough to say something in return. Who began to defy ideas of beauty, realizing it was something culture had conditioned them to, and were called weird and ugly and fat and disgusting for having short hair or not shaving their legs or getting tattoos because they wanted to.
To the ones who realized that girls headed to college are given pepper spray, and boys are given condoms. That the women who don’t stand for bullshit in their relationships are called “crazy” and men who don’t are feared and respected. That when a woman steps out of the expectation of being placid and agreeable, she’s immediately villainized and judged. That women are infantilized and little girls are sexualized in porn culture, one that young men are turning to as a means of learning. To the ones who realized that men don’t text each other to make sure that they got home safely. To the ones who wanted to be more than just wives or employees or sisters or mothers, and went out and did that, no matter how often people focused on their appearances, accused them of sleeping their way to the top, questioned their capabilities, capped them off from promotions and raises.
To the ones who were abused and refused to stay silent because of fear. To the ones who came out before doing so was acceptable, even though they were taught to see gay men as cute accessories and gay women as creepy and off-putting. To the ones who looked beyond what they were taught, what they assumed and what culture showed them was acceptable. To the ones who have been waving signs and fighting for the right to vote and have a credit card and not be held accountable or be humiliated or shamed for sexual assaults.
To the ones who were saying these things before retweeting #YesAllWomen was an acceptable thing to do, no matter who threatened or tried to silence them.
To the ones who never let the abuse and name-calling and dismissive attitudes stop them.
To the people who stepped fiercely outside the lines before it was acceptable. To the people who were feminists before it was cool.