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#YesAllWomen #NotAllMen

Unless you have been living under a rock the last several days, you have heard about the horrific news that came out of Santa Barbara over the weekend. A male student, with a history of mental illness, shot and killed six people and wounded 13 before he killed himself. His motive? Well besides his previously recognized yet untreated mental illness, he targeted girls that didn’t give in to his advances and it escalated from there.

This tragedy raised an interesting conversation on social media, primarily Twitter, about gender violence, specifically violence toward women, by men. Violence is defined in a variety of ways for the purpose of this discussion, including physical, verbal and mental.

There was an outcry from men saying that #NotAllMen are like this and really, only a fraction of the male population needs to be feared. In response, women started using the hash tag #YesAllWomen because while we KNOW #NotAllMen are violent or need to be feared, we do not know who they are and who they aren’t, so we fear all men as a precaution.

I am guilty of having a silent panic attack when I find myself alone in an elevator with a man I do not know. Not because of how he looks, what he says or his actions, but because in my mind, I couldn’t be in a more vulnerable state or more alone and I HATE being physically vulnerable.

Just as men are upset at being generalized by the actions of a few men, women should be upset that we have become victims because of the actions of a few women.

We live in a society that questions a woman when she cries rape because there ARE woman that cry rape when it is not. We live in a society that blames what a girl is wearing or how she is acting for how she is treated because there are women wandering around in night clubs wearing little more than their underwear, yet we blame men for how they react to that. I know it is against our female nature to blame our own, it is so much easier to blame men.

This same argument applies to prejudices based on race, religion and upbringing. Every group has the few that give a bad name to the masses.

Women as a gender are so quick to point the finger at men, society and gender inequality when we forget that we are our own worst enemy. We will never free ourselves from the underlying fear of violence until all women choose to stand up for, respect and value ourselves and each other.  I get physically ill when I see the desperate lengths some women go to to get male attention.

#NotAllMen are villains, but #NotAllWomen are saints. #NotAllWomen respect themselves and demand respect from all men. If you want to be respected, please, respect yourself. And men, if you don’t want to be lumped in with the bad boys, don’t be a bad boy, don’t hang with bad boys and don’t be in situations where you can be confused as a bad boy.

I despise being hit on as much as the next married girl and in every situation, I’ve done nothing to ask for it, welcome it or acknowledge it, but it still happens (I have a ring on people, please do a hand scan). But until I can walk in a bar and not point out at least 25 girls who I can clearly identify as “attention seekers” I have no hope of change. Because of this, I typically stay away from situations where this happens.

All I can do is continue to respect myself, respect the other women in my life and raise the next generation, male and female, to do the same. While we cannot change the way our society behaves overnight, we can shape the up and coming generation of women and men to be for each other. To respect, support and encourage each other to be better.

I will likely never overcome my fear of being alone with a man I do not know, because the world is flawed and there is evil. But I can continue to strengthen my resolve to not be a victim, to demand respect and to make smart decisions in the face of a challenging situation. I will only surround myself with people who are committed to the same. Together, we can do better.

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