Restorative Justice and #YesAllWomen

I have been grappling with my feelings about #YesAllWomen since the hashtag sprang up on Twitter with women’s legitimate complaints about their fears of men, whom they fear as predators. In my initial reaction I juxtaposed a recognition that these complaints are legitimate and well-founded with a feeling that somehow I was being treated unfairly.[1] I failed to think that through to what should have been an obvious recognition.

Figure 1. #YesAllWomen poster. Adventuringasnotagrownup, fair use.

The #YesAllWomen hashtag has continued to reverberate, and the poster above (fig. 1) is one of a few produced by an artist using the pseudonym, Adventuringasnotagrownup. Looking through her (I assume she is a woman) timeline, it is clear she is no misandrist. And I don’t really want to fault her for the image; as I said, it is one of several.[2]

I focus on this particular image (fig. 1) because it ironically reaches my own feelings about #YesAllWomen. Imagine, for instance, if we judged all Blacks by the behavior of ten percent of them. Imagine if we judged all poor people by the behavior of ten percent of them. Imagine if we judged all women by the behavior of ten percent of them.

I should pause here to comment that I have recently been compelled to reflect on the role of violence in my own life, how I am a victim of physical, social, and economic violence. I am now aware of how this often taken-for-granted violence has left me, in a very real sense, incapacitated and particularly unable to deal with the dominant economic paradigm that has come to predominate even in social interactions in our society.[3] This is a serious matter: Based on very recent research,[4] I have been diagnosed with (Axis I) post-traumatic stress disorder (chronic, complex), and I am given to understand that my interactions with this really very violent society have cyclically reinforced my disability.

I am very strongly needing to be away from all violence. Yet here I am, as a man wanting a woman, as an anarchist who opposes violence as intrinsically coercive, as a vegan who opposes violence toward all sentient beings, and as a vegetarian ecofeminist logically combining anarchism and veganism, being lumped in with predators, rapists, and murderers. The sentiments expressed with the #YesAllWomen hashtag feel like a profound injustice to me.

I am remembering about restorative justice. Yes, it is crucial to recognize that women have been victimized. They have been murdered, raped, assaulted, abused, and objectified. But a point of restorative justice is to seek causes, all the way to ultimate causes, and to remedy those causes.[5] It is occurring to me that both women and men have been wounded in the way that our society has for men and women to find each other.

It’s clearly not good enough to just say there’s no other way. Nor will it do to point to arranged marriages as the only alternative in a false dichotomy to rationalize the present arrangement. It is also clearly inadequate to point to the notion of explicit consent, in which women and men are equally empowered to seek relationships, as if it were already a paradigm.[6] If it were, the motivation for #YesAllWomen would not exist.

I am in no position to offer a solution. But it seems clear that we need to move beyond women blaming men, as in #YesAllWomen, and men blaming women, as in the men’s rights movement. Blaming isn’t working. It just aggravates the wounds. I do think the recommendation of explicit consent offered in Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape[7] is a beginning. But we need to find a way to really make it so, and to open up a space where women and men can meet each other without fear.

Correction, June 20, 2014: In an earlier version of this entry, published June 11, I had incompletely stated my diagnosis. My post-traumatic stress disorder is not just chronic, but also complex.

  1. [1]David Benfell, “The Friendless Zone,” Not Housebroken, May 27, 2014, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=6341
  2. [2]Adventuringasnotagrownup [pseud.], [web log post], May 27, 2014, http://adventuringasnotagrownup.tumblr.com/post/87015225724
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Taken-for-granted violence,” So I’m Vegan, Now What? April 16, 2014, https://vegan.parts-unknown.org/?p=166
  4. [4]Mary Sykes Wylie, “The ACE Studies: Calculating the Effects of Child Abuse,” Psychotherapy Networker, February 13, 2014, http://daily.psychotherapynetworker.org/daily/trauma/the-ace-studies-calculating-the-effects-of-child-abuse/
  5. [5]Wanda D. McCaslin and Denise C. Breton, “Justice as Healing: Going Outside the Colonizers’ Cage,” in Handbook of Critical and Indigenous Methodologies, eds. Norman K. Denzin, Yvonna S. Lincoln, and Linda Tuhiwai Smith (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2008), 511-529.
  6. [6]Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti. eds., Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape (Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2008).
  7. [7]Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti. eds., Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power and A World Without Rape (Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2008).

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