#YesAllWomen Has Not Jumped the Shark

Emily Shire at the daily beast has authoritatively decreed that the hashtag #YesAllWomen has “jumped the shark”. In fact, she declares it “official”, given her apparent authority on all things.

What “jumping the shark” refers to is an identifiable moment when a creative endeavour’s quality has declined to the point where it cannot recover.

Her first objection to #YesAllWomen is that it “transformed a highly disturbed, socially isolated college student into a figure somehow worthy of legitimate discourse about the serious issues of misogyny”. She is, of course, talking about Elliot Rodger. Unfortunately for her, #YesAllWomen does nothing to legitimize anything about Rodger. The hashtag is about women collectively galvanized, finding a voice to relate their experiences, saying things they might not otherwise have said. It’s women saying “enough”. It’s women shouting their agreement with the heartbroken father who cried “Not one more”. It’s putting a focus on many realities of being a woman in this day and age. It’s doing a lot of things, but its existence lends no legitimacy to Elliot Rodger.

Shire says that the hashtag has been “capsized”. Hijacked, because some women have missed the meaning of the hashtag and have posted inappropriate things, and that some (she assumes men) have actually posted counter-tweets (for lack of a better word) using the hashtag. She eventually concludes this point with her evidence of the “most egregious misappropriation”, someone who tweeted an instagram pic of their hand, with fingernails painted yellow. This is supposed to be the nail in the coffin for #YesAllWomen. She makes no allowance for the possibility that this may have simply been a post made in error. If these Instagrammed fingernails challenge your ability to filter out the noise from the signal, then you are going to have a hard time negotiating this world and you should probably put the internet away and leave it alone before you cause yourself serious injury.

There are two problems with Shire’s “hijacking” scenario, and those problems are linked. #YesAllWomen is not a movement, and since it’s not a movement, it’s a considerable challenge to hijack something without a direction. #YesAllWomen is something that simply is. It exists, with all its hits and misses, a “primal scream” of sorts, preserved as something that may very well serve as the inspiration for a follow-up movement, but the hashtag is not in itself a coordinated movement with a distinct creative direction and stated mission.

What this means is that someone who posts their experiences today or tomorrow under the intent of the hashtag are just as valid and legitimate than if the same post was made the day before someone posted a picture of their fingernails and used the hashtag.

The reasoning Emily uses to declare #YesAllWomen as having “jumped the shark” can easily be applied to other things as well. For example, in the exact same way, it could be well-argued that feminism has jumped the shark because of the same misguided messages inspired by the “Who Needs Feminism” meme. And that one actually was a directed movement.

When considering movements and activism, we need to learn to judge the merit of the ideology of the movement on the core of the movement, and not by its fringe elements, those who act against it, or those that “don’t get it”.

Every ideology or movement has its fringes – the ones who aren’t getting it right, or the ones who take the ideology to extreme ends. We see it in the Occupy movement, we see a lot of it in the Tea Party and we even see it in feminism. The actions of the fringe do not determine the value or impact of the movement itself.

In conclusion, #YesAllWomen has jumped no shark. It merely is what it is. To some, it’s a catharsis. To others, it’s a rallying point. To others still, it’s an inspiration, and to some it’s something threatening that must be crushed (and that’s the scary part). …but make no mistake, what concrete movement the hashtag inspires, if any, is yet to be seen.

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