When a ‘Gentleman’ Is Linked to Mass Murder

The hashtag #YesAllWomen is giving women a forum to express their experiences with sexism and anti-female violence, but our writer says some men are feeling unfairly blamed.

A public memorial service on the Day of Mourning and Reflection for the victims of a killing spree at the University of California, Santa Barbara, May 27, 2014, in Isla Vista, Calif. David McNew/Getty Images

Yet there is a huge gap between the man who catcalls a woman walking down the street and the man who opens fire on her. This is probably where #YesAllWomen has done a disservice. It makes no distinction. While it has allowed women to share their experiences and legitimate fears and concerns about how society views women, it gives the sense that all sexism is created equal.

It also focuses on a culture that creates the misogyny instead of placing blame squarely on the perpetrators of violence. Also, mental illness, the victims and guns haven’t been central to that Twitter conversation.

Many men are taking the lack of distinction personally, and many are taking it quietly. I was warned not to touch this subject; warned by women who know me well, and by men who share my views.  “Wouldn’t go near it,” one male family member told me via text. “It’s a lose-lose without question … dangerous territory, my man.” 

Their concern is that a man’s voice isn’t necessary or even welcomed in the #YesAllWomen conversation, unless his opinion is unequivocal support of the “movement” and women everywhere. Nothing more, nothing less.

Fear of being shamed might cause men to retreat, even with resentment, as they rush to the “not all men” defense or post a CYA tweet they think will spare them. Defending and denying are tried-and-failed methods for making progress. In order to take #YesAllWomen from something that makes people feel better to something that actually makes people better, men must be engaged in a way that is brutally honest and at times uncomfortable.

T.J. Holmes is a journalist and TV personality. Formerly of CNN, he can currently be found at MSNBC, and his commentary can be found online. Follow him on Twitter.