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I have been putting this post off for a few days thinking that my outrage would subside and then I could find the words to write.  However, three days later, I still find myself consumed with anger, frustration, and shock.

I am talking about the shooting that happened in Pittsburgh at an LA Fitness Club on Tuesday.  The gunman, George Sodini, murdered three women; Heidi Overmier, Elizabeth Gannon, Jody Billingsley after walking into a dance class and opening fire on everyone in the room.  He also injured nine others then killed himself.

What has been discovered after the fact is that this man killed these women because they were women and he hated women.  It has been found (and published) that Sodini kept an online journal, which outlined his misogyny, racism, and ‘exit’ plan.

As I said, I have been struggling with this piece of news for a few days now.  I was first told about it by a co-worker who was sure I would have heard about it already.  When I finally got onto the internet, I had to dig around a bit to find a brief story.  Finally, the feminist blogs I follow had postings.

Now, after a few days of reading, thinking, yelling, and reading some more I am left with an overall feeling that outside of feminist groups…socially…culturally…this is seen as unimportant.  I want to be wrong.

Some news articles have attempted to point out how this is a misogynistic, gender based crime.  That this man had planned for almost a year to mass murder women. However, there are more articles, and hundreds of internet comments, that dismiss this shooting as the actions of an ill individual.  The overall assumption being that we all make our own choices as individuals and are disconnected from any great ideological or power structures that inform our actions.

Sodini was just a sick man who didn’t get any  help.

My thoughts – bull shit.

Allow me to explain.  I have to ask, would he still be ill if he had not walked into a public space with weapons and murdered women?  What if he had just kept blogging his opinion that women are “hoez” and “bitches”?  What if he had kept living his life assuming that he deserved sexual interaction with women – that it was the only way that men feel good about themselves?

Put another way – are the men who rate women’s physical appearance ill?  Are the men who expect sex from women after buying them something ill?  Are the men who call women who aren’t interested in them “bitches” ill?  What if they called other men pussies?  What if they stare at women’s bodies? What if they demand to see women’s breasts?  What if they hit a women when she “talks back”?  Is that ill… or is that “normal”?

So, if Sodini had lived his life out in these ways, would he still be ill? Would we condemn such thoughts as wrong?  Or would many slap him on the back and laugh about those “bitches”?

It can be difficult to look at his actions this way because we (the media/public) want to remove ourselves from such violence and convince ourselves that this was the actions of a mad man.  Because if his actions aren’t ill but follow with the social script… then what does that mean for the rest of us?

Because the way I see it, his murderous actions and the way he thought/felt/lived his life are not mutually exclusive.  The way Sodini felt about women is not a one-off.  He was not alone in his feelings.  This is a culture that breeds misogyny and sexism.  This is a culture that allows men like Sodini to blog the things he did, feel the way he did, act the way he did and then turns it’s back and dismisses him as an anomaly when women are being shot, stabbed, beaten, raped, assaulted, verbally abused, publicly humiliated and shamed every dayevery where.

By dismissing this man as ill, the media is normalizing the way  he felt and his violent actions.  It is like saying, “this is a sad event… but what are you gunna do?  It’s just one of those things”.

I can’t understand why violence like this and the violence that is happening every day in every part of the world is not making people take to the streets demanding an end to it.  I don’t understand why men are not demanding an end to the violence that other men inflict on women, children, and each other.

This is not a story that should be dismissed.  We need to be making the connections of how women are viewed and treated on a daily basis, to such large violent acts such as this one or the Amish girls who were shot down in their school, or the women raped and murdered in the Congo, or the women shot and killed in Montreal the École Polytechnique Massacre in 1989.

Perhaps it is that the

disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous treatment of women is so pervasive and so mainstream that it has just about lost its ability to shock.

But I urge everyone to be shocked by all degrading treatment of women.  I also urge everyone to start questioning why some men are brought to lengths of violence.  If we don’t start asking these questions and having this dialogue, how is this violence and hatred ever going to end?

I am outraged and I encourage everyone else to be as well.

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I have heard it before and I will hear it again:

  • “Why is it so important to remember December 6th?”
  • “Don’t you think you are wasting your time?”
  • “You know, men have violence done against them too and they don’t get a day.”
  • “Violence happens all the time, you’re just making women out to be victims and men to be bad guys.

Remembering December 6th is very important because we need to recall that on this day a man entered École Polytechnique in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and murdered 14 women because they were women.  We need to remember that the majority of violence that is inflicted on women is perpetrated by men.  We need to recongize that this a problem on epidemic proportions. And we need to know that all of us have the ability to find ways to stop this from happening.

December 6th is not about man-bashing or victimhood, it is about bringing awareness to everyone about the culture of violence that we live in everyday.  Men perpetrate much of this violence… against women… against children… and against other men.  Violence against women is not something to be defined as a “women’s issue” because this assumes that women, those who are having violence inflicted upon them, are suppose to be the ones to stop it.  This is a men’s issue and men need to become aware of this.  That is why it is so great to have things like the White Ribbon Campaign where men stand in solidarity and actively work to end violence.

The way to end violence is not by ignoring it but by point it out and declaring it to be unacceptable in a society that we deem free and equal.  How can we all be free and equal while overwhelmingly one group is violating the safety and well-being of another?  I’m sure we could forget about the Montreal Massacre Memorials that are held annually, we could turn our backs to women who have experienced violence and tell them that it’s better just to forget that violence occurred and move on… but does this end violence?  I am fairly certain that by now, most of us have learned that when we have a problem, ignoring it does not make it go away, usually things become worse.  If this is the case, then we all need to pay close attention to the issues surrounding violence against women and make ourselves and others aware.

I encourage everyone (in Canada) to find out if there is a Montreal Massacre Memorial in your area this December 6th and to attend it.  For those in London, Ontario there is one happening in Victoria Park at 5pm on Saturday.  Also, get informed about how men can and need to help end violence.

Until the Violence Stops.