Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Crime Against Women

When an awful crime, like the recent shootings in Pennsylvania, occurs I am not one to obsess over coverage. I usually wait for the initial media blitz to pass and then find out more information a day or two later.

So, it was not until I saw this post at Shakesville that I realized that the fitness center shooting was not just a random act of crazed violence, it was a gender-based hate crime.

Even if I had been paying attention to the headlines, I would not have known that it was specifically women that were targeted. Yesterday, all of the headlines were in the similar vein of "Four Dead in Fitness Club Shooting." In fact, when I specifically Googled "women killed in Pennsylvania shooting" I only had two results on the first page that mentioned women in the headline - from Canada and Australia.

But, all one had to do was to read any article to realize that the shooter was the only man that was killed or injured. Three women are dead and nine are injured, but it seemed almost impossible for reports to underscore that this was a gender-based crime, even as they quoted the killer's hate-filled blog. As a commenter at Shakesville noted:
I also noticed that the opening paragraph lists the women as "people", then later mentions that they were all women. It does have the disorienting effect of erasing the misogyny of the killer, doesn't it?
And she is right. Headlines make a difference. They are how we frame events and decipher the onslaught of information surrounding them. Which is why I was relieved to see that just as I started putting two and two together so did all of the smart feminist bloggers.

This morning, this post at Feministing also pointed out that this is not the only gender-based shooting in recent years. And as Jessica pointed out, very few people connected the misogynist dots then, as well.

It is important to note that this is not a new phenomenon. A similar hate-crime was committed in Canada in 1989 at the Ecole Polytechnique - in that case, the shooter was convinced women were stealing his job, in this one they were denying him dates. Which is why I was relieved to read the article Jessica pointed to in The Christian Science Monitor.

Not only does the article identify this horrific act as gender-based violence, it provides a context and history of misogyny:
Misogyny has been around since almost as long as men and women have. The first poem written in Greek that still exists is called "Woman." Its author is anonymous, and it amounts to a harangue against the female sex.

While the gender-equality movement has made strides in the past century when it comes to some of the more blatant forms of societal misogyny, such as banning women from academic and professional settings, misogyny persists in American and other cultures around the world, according to historians.

"This killer fits into a long pattern of males who harbor hatred towards all women, the image of 'woman,' and towards individual real women, and who take out their frustration on a female scapegoat," says David Gilmore, an anthropology professor at Stony Brook University in New York and author of "Misogyny: the Male Malady."
Thankfully, the headlines have changed today. Hopefully they mainstream media will begin to connect the dots between this and other gender-based crimes, as well. One can dream at least.

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