By Tara Culp-Ressler
Those are real life examples of violence that women have experienced after they rejected the sexual advances of men — when they refused to flirt with them, dance with them, go on a date with them or have sex with them — being collected by a new Tumblr page called “When Women Refuse.” The recent mass shooting in Santa Barbara, which was perpetrated by a young man who wanted to punish the women who weren’t attracted to him, is the latest example of a tragedy that fits this profile.
“We still don’t view gender based violence as a large cultural issue — we tend to think of these as isolated incidences,” Deanna Zandt, the co-founder of the digital strategy group Lux Digitaland the feminist activist who started the Tumblr, explained in an interview. “We still don’t view it as a larger problem within rape culture.”
After news broke about this weekend’s shooting rampage, Zandt said that many of the men in her social networks were quick to assume that the perpetrator, Elliot Rodger, represents an extreme outlier. She wanted to do something to help people realize that what happened in Santa Barbara is actually all too common, thanks to our culture of violence and misogyny against women.
So when she noticed the writer Kate Harding collecting similar news stories on her Facebook page, Zandt decided to house them on a public site, and “When Women Refuse” was born.
The site took off. Twitter users were quick to share it under the hashtag #YesAllWomen, which has emerged as a space for women to share their own personal experiences with violence and misogyny in the aftermath of the shooting.
“There’s been a really positive reaction from both men and women,” Zandt said. “I think it’s been really eye opening for many people. The most common response has been — ‘oh my god, I had no idea.’”
Thanks to the online tools that are now available to feminist activists, social media users are increasingly taking the opportunity to drive conversations about victim-blaming and gender-based violence. Earlier this year, feminists used Twitter to amplify women’s experiences with rape culture — a concept that was once relegated to the feminist blogosphere, but that has recently gained recognition in more mainstream circles.
Now, the coverage around the Santa Barbara shooting has put a spotlight on the “Pick Up Artist” (PUA) community, which has a long history of treating women like objects that men are entitled to.
“The fact that this conversation is happening now is a huge indicator of the structural connectivity work that online feminists have been doing for years,” Zandt noted. “We’re in a different place than we were five years ago… We’re creating a space for these discussions.”
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