Shortly after the news broke out that Elliot Rodger went on a shooting spree targeting young women who'd rejected his advances at UCSB, many outraged Twitter users responded with stories of their own—stories about assault, discrimination, and pain.
Given the history of Twitter activism, I wasn't surprised that the tragedy generated this much discussion. Since hashtags make Twitter uniquely equipped for organizing, it was pretty evident that the backlash against the shooting would come via hashtag. #yesallwomen was created in order for women to tell their stories of gendered violence.
Perhaps because the hashtag applies to the vast category of “women”, or maybe because Elliot Rodger’s horrifying story shocked so many people, the #yesallwomen hashtag blew up online, creating discourse both on Twitter and the news outlets covering this phenomenon.
Here are some of the tweets that #yesallwomen created:
#yesallwomen has proven to be a great conversation starter. However, as usual, people who aren't affected by these issues will disagree. A counter hashtag, #notallmen, was started in order for men to “defend” themselves against the #yesallwomen hashtag. #notallmen and other forms of backlash to #yesallwomen were created primarily as a defensive mechanism, and obviously weren't met with a friendly welcome. But the backlash against #yesallwomen went so far that the woman who actually started #yesallwomen had to delete her account and has asked that people stop giving her credit and let the hashtag die out.
While Twitter Activism is great, it, like all forms of activism, has its limits. It can result not merely in activist burnout, but also in trauma that comes from active threats that arise in the open forum.
Ultimately, it's important to realize that the people behind any of these tweets are just that: people. Just because someone has 1,000 Twitter followers and actively participates in political hashtags, that doesn't mean that they can't be wounded by online threats.
Photos via The Nation, and respective Twitter user's page.
All Twitter users were asked before screenshots of their Tweets were posted on this blog.