In May of 2014, a 22-year-old college student named Elliot Rodgers carried out an extremely disturbing mass shooting in the city of Isla Vista, California which left 6 dead and injured several others. There was zero question or confusion as to what motivated Rodgers to carry out such an act: he felt entitled to female attention and approval and had felt deprived of such things. In response to the shooting, a powerful hashtag, #YesAllWomen, went viral, as a means of highlighting the fact that while clearly not all men are guilty of treating women with disrespect or aggression, nearly every woman who has reached a certain stage in her life is aware of or has experienced first hand the fact that the American man is conditioned to feel entitled to sex and female attention, and that the statistics surrounding the ensuing violence and discrimination to which women are subjected, because of said feeling, is staggering. Several poignant tweets were written in response to the #YesAllWomen hashtag, and one tweet in particular stood out to me:
“Because I’m tired of having to contend and demonstrate that I don’t hate men. How about more proof that men don’t hate women? #YesAllWomen.”
For all the angry men (and women) who casually throw around the term “feminazi,” let me make this clear: I feel it safe to assume that the person who tweeted this isn’t a “man hater,” nor was she implying that she actually feels that the average man walking down the street hates women. Rather, the sentiment behind this tweet is one that, from my view, emphasizes the fact that women are collectively subjected to overwhelming amounts of violence or harassment, yet we don’t ask men to “prove they don’t hate women,” in response to said statistics, the way that those calling for the equality of women are constantly accused of “hating men,” and made to feel that they ought to prove that they, in fact, do not hate men.
Why have we equated a desire for total economic and social equality with a hatred of men? Why does wanting to get paid as much as men do for doing the same work and feel safe walking down an alley like men can and be valued for my brain more than my body as men are mean that I must hold some hatred or resentment towards men? We shouldn’t have to follow up a call for equality with “please don’t be offended.”
It is a deeply flawed reality that asking for equal treatment, be it in regards to sexism, racism, or any other type of discrimination, is so often met with a requirement on the part of marginalized individuals to persuade others that they meant no harm to the status, feelings, or egos of those who benefit from societal prejudices, biases, and structures as they stand. I was recently reminded of this reality in the midst of the Taylor Swift- Nicki Minaj feud, which began when Taylor responded to Nicki expressing, on Twitter, that she felt that her music video for “Anaconda” should have been nominated for Video of the Year, and that had it featured slim, white women, the type of artists most typically celebrated and rewarded by the music industry, it might have been. She tweeted:
“When the “other” girls drop a video that breaks records and impacts culture they get that nomination,” as well as “If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year.”
Taylor Swift, whose video for “Bad Blood” was nominated, took it as a personal attack and responded with:
“I’ve done nothing but love and support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot…”
For starters, it appears that newly self-identified feminist Taylor Swift has fallen victim to the somewhat widely held misconception that feminism itself means that women need to blindly support one another. I’m a feminist to the core, but you won’t see me voicing my support for Republican Congresswomen who vote against equal pay for equal work, or buying the latest Ann Coulter book (the bitch doesn’t think women should be allowed to vote, for crying out loud).
Secondly, it was wrong of Taylor to dismiss Nicki’s expression of frustration at a music industry that consistently glorifies women who look different than she, and turn it over on her as “pitting women against one another.” Nicki wasn’t doing so, and had every right to speak up about problems that specifically affect black artists- problems that Taylor has never and will never experience. Her tweet very much reminded me of the #YesAllWomen hashtag I referenced earlier. Just as speaking out against sexism should not be construed as a threat to men or an expression of “hatred” towards them, a black artist pointing out and discussing issues that specifically affect her and others of her race should not be something labeled by white women as a direct attack on them.
Why is there a constant requirement to appease the other side? Why can’t those who are discriminated against feel free to voice complaints without those more privileged than they demanding proof that said complaints aren’t personal attacks?
Nicki’s only direct response to Taylor was as follows:
“Huh? U must not be reading my tweets. Didn’t say a word about u. I love u just as much. But u should speak on this.”
Men, stop accusing women of hating you for asking that we are granted the same status in society as you are. White women, be mindful of issues that specifically affect black women because of both their race and sex. Be willing to act as a secondary voice in discussions surrounding such issues, while women of color lead them (as opposed to the other way around). Both of you, try joining disadvantaged people in solidarity instead of unnecessarily jumping to the defense and acting as a victim from a place of privilege.
So Speak Now, Taylor Swift, just as Nicki Minaj urged you to…but say something else this time.