I have found myself reading the news with a growing sense of dread this week, as each day seems to have brought with it a new story highlighting the bleak state of affairs for women the world over. A week that began by watching with trepidation, as the map of the UK turned purple, got progressively worse, dumping me at an all time low with regards to my faith in humanity. It's hard to believe that things could get much worse than seeing a party whose members have publicly claimed that date rape victims should 'take responsibility' for their assaults, being overwhelmingly elected to the European Parliament, and yet somehow, the bad news just kept on coming. The Isla Vista shootings, the brutal gang rape and murder of two sisters in India and the stoning to death of a woman in Pakistan all illustrate the tragic consequences of an international social order grounded in misogyny.
Just as I was beginning to get gloomy with the state of the world, like a floppy-haired Hugh Grant in Terminal 5, I found solace in an unlikely source. As a response to the Isla Vista shootings, the hashtag #YesAllWomen began trending on Twitter, with countless women sharing their experiences of misogyny in every day life. The motivation behind #YesAllWomen was to demonstrate that, rather than resulting simply from the fragile mental state of one individual, the Isla Vista shootings were a result of a wider culture of sexism, which led Elliot Rodger to believe that he was in some way entitled to those women who had rejected him. In seeking to find a motive for this tragedy, the media has obscured the true cause of the killings.
Society incorrectly suggests that women can prevent sexual assault by altering their behaviour, rather than focusing on altering the mentality of those men who believe they are entitled to a woman's body. Similarly, the media has rushed to declare these shootings as the actions of a young man crestfallen and humiliated by endless rejections, rather than positing blame with a culture that proliferates the kind of attitudes that formed Elliot Rodger's sense of entitlement.
Women who live with misogyny every day have recognised this disconnect, and taken to Twitter to share their experiences. The sheer volume of tweets highlights how prevalent sexism is in the everyday life of all women. Scrolling through the endless accounts of sexism, discrimination and sexual assault, I found comfort and solidarity in reading these stories, and in recognising that my experiences were shared by all women. I am not the only woman to have walked home with her keys clenched between her fingers, nor am I alone in worrying every time a female friend leaves a club alone. I am not the only woman who has been advised on how to prevent sexual assault, nor am I alone in having felt frightened by the reaction of a man whose advances I've rejected.
Whilst many of these issues may seem trivial, the reality is that women are faced with misogyny constantly and that these seemingly minor issues all add to a bigger picture of life in a society that places women at a constant disadvantage. However, despite the bleak state of affairs that the events of the week portray, the #YesAllWomen hashtag demonstrates a sea change in attitudes, from women who are increasingly prepared to challenge misogyny wherever they encounter it. The more we recognise the injustices against women, the faster we will progress towards achieving true equality. Despite a truly devastating week for womankind as a whole, I am left with hope that change is coming.