Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Where's the Outrage?

Since I can remember, I've heard various news pundits and read various opinion pieces expressing outrage that moderate Muslims don't condemn all acts of violence by other Muslims, especially acts of violence against westerners or specifically against people in or from the US.

Most of these folks subtly (or not so subtly) lump all Muslims together because those not committing acts of violence aren't visibly (visibly to popular western and US media) acting against those who commit acts of violence. These folks make a lot of noise. Not surprisingly, most of these folks are white and male, and most represent conservative points of view.

Last week, I was horrified by the news of the school shooting in Bailey, Colorado; the news reports all mentioned that the shooter chose girls.

Last night, when I got home, I saw the news about the Amish school girls killed in Pennsylvania; again the news reports all mentioned that the shooter chose girls, and released boys and women.
Why isn't the press focusing on the fact that these are acts against GIRLS, and not acts against random children? These men chose to kill GIRLS, and not boys. (Aunt B. at Tiny Cat Pants does a good job articulating the issue here.)

I know my feminist male friends share my outraged and recognize that the violence we've seen against girls in schools is only the latest most visible tip of the larger social violence against girls and women in our culture. I know many of them actively work to end violence against women, supporting feminist activities on campus and in the community, working to support the local domestic violence shelter, mentoring women.

But I want to hear is some public outrage. I want those same conservative pundits to recognize that as American men, they should hold themselves to the same standards they want to hold all Muslims to: they should be responsible for standing up and publicly taking a position against violence against women. I want all those preachers I see in the media to preach against the violence. They should take responsibility for the way their community acts.

If every man in the US took a stand and decided that he would never commit an act of violence against a woman, that he would never rape or condone rape, and that he would act to stop violence against women in his community, we'd pretty much end problems with violence against women. (Some violence is committed by other women, of course, but compared to the violence enacted by men, it's rare. And I'd be willing to take that on if we could get the men to do their part.)

I want the president to stand up and say that violence against women is unacceptable. I read today that the White House will be hosting a discussion about school violence; these recent shootings* aren't random school violence, they're violence against GIRLS. The president needs to recognize that.

He uses strong language to suggest that people against the US war on Iraq are somehow disloyal. I want him to use strong language about the violence against women. And then I want him and every single member of congress to back it up with real action, and I want every police officer, every prosecutor, every mayor and councilmember to take violence against women seriously.

I don't want to hear about women deserving violence or bringing it on ourselves. I don't want to hear that those Amish girls made the shooter execute them. I don't want to hear that the girls in Bailey deserved to be assaulted.

I want to hear the press actually analyze how violence against girls and women happens, and to be self-critical in their reporting of these acts of violence.

Terrorism should be defined as the inflicting of terror on others. Women are being terrorized by men. Men need to recognize it, take responsibility, and end it. NOW.

*The third shooting this week killed a school Principal in Wisconsin. I don't know what the shooter's intentions were. Violence all around is unacceptable, but we need to distinguish violence which focuses on females as females specifically because something different is happening when someone enters a school and selects only girls to attack and/or kill.


  1. Yes!!!! I agree with you! Where is the analysis? I read all about yesterday's shootings in the Globe and Mail (a Canadian newspaper). There was not a shred of discussion of the context of this as a shooting of girls. Instead, the various authors of the numerous reports and commentaries focused on the Amish in a fetishistic way that made me profoundly uncomfortable. Somehow it felt like it was a deferral of the gender question - like they got to say, "whew! That was a close one! We almost had to address hard questions about violence against women and girls! Thank goodness the afflicted folks were Amish - instead we can devote our column inches to descriptions of their clothing and beards...and our "analyses" to romantic, exoticized portraits of a community..."

    Great post, Bardiac.

  2. In my composition class last year (which used a standard syllabus over which I had no input or control), we screened Jackson Katz's film "Tough Guise: Violence, Media, and the Crisis in Masculinity." Katz talks extensively about school shootings and how the media coverage always portrays these shooting as being about "kids killing kids," and asks, "what's wrong with kids today?" without discussing the fact that it's NOT "kids," it's boys and young men.

    The film touches only partly on what you're talking about, but if you haven't seen it, it's really worth viewing (it was one of the few things that I loved about that syllabus!).

  3. Excellent points, bardiac. And I would very much like to see that film, Flavia.

  4. I wholeheartedly agree - I had the same reaction last night when I heard that the gunman had let everyone go except all the girls - then there was the whole suggestion that he was going to *violate* them in other ways before the police came in and he started shooting them and then himself. Paula Zahn led coverage of the story with the line: "What a killer *almost* did..." - everyone was emphasizing that the guy didn't get a chance to rape or sexually molest the girls (because, apparently, he'd done that years before) - but he was still acting out violence AGAINST WOMEN. This wasn't a close-call, folks! Let's not pat ourselves on the back!! Lining them up in front of the blackboard and executing them is not just a random act of violence against children in general.

    But we focus on the perpetrator as someone who is completely anti-social (an anti-religious pedophile nut-job) - or even the way Foley has now come out and said "and, by the way, I'm gay" (as if that somehow explains away his actions - gay doesn't = sexual deviance, Mr. Foley!) - I know I'm getting a little off topic because we're talking about men terrorizing women. But as long as we keep focusing on making it violence against a *child* only or focusing on how the perp is so completely alien and bizarre to our culture (i.e., he's not a *good* man, *good* men don't hurt women), then we mask the fact that it's actually not a sensationalistic freakish incident (like a comet hitting the earth - i.e., something that we can't do anything about; something that's just one of those things that *happens* because there are loonies running around) but part of a larger much more pervasive and long-standing dynamic of violence against women. And it has to f*cking STOP!!!

  5. And I wanted to put in a second good word for _Tough Guise_. It's a great film - and a *great* teaching tool; students love it.

  6. Once again, you've summed up my thoughts in a manner I've been unable to do...But I've also been struck at the lack of coverage OVERALL regarding these shootings over the past few weeks. The event in Colorado barely made the paper around here; the event against the Amish girls has been discussed, but as stated above, mostly for the novelty of the setting and the difficulty that police and rescue officers had in getting parents reunited with children due to refusals to ride in helicopters or motorized vehicles. Where's the outrage in general -- as well as regarding the misogynist quality of each of these events???

  7. Anonymous1:38 PM

    Great post, Bardiac -- hey, could we all here make a mutual commitment to engage in some outrage??? The director of My U's center for violence against women (trying to stop it, not do it, of course!) recently asked this:

    "Facebook, a multbazillion dollar company, had to reverse a decision it made because of 2 days of pressure from -- hey! -- Facebook groups! That's a lot of activism! So what I want to know is: WHERE'S MY FACEBOOK GROUP AGAINST VIOLENCE?"

    Shall we start one? And then write a lot of letters to the editor, etc? Because if we're all just talking to each other here, we're just talking to ourselves.

  8. Here is what some people in Canada did after Montreal: http://www.whiteribbon.ca/

    Great post!

  9. Exactly. Thank you.