alg_pittsburgh

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.

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.

Several months back I wrote this post in my personal journal.  I wanted to share it here now.

One of the criticisms again Feminism is that the movement is exclusive to women and that, as the stereo-type says, feminists hate men. I am a strong believer in men becoming more involved in feminist issues. I think that if you believe as I do, that we live in a Patriarchal society that generally privileges a certain group over others (that group being White, Upper Middle class, Christian, Able Bodied, Heterosexual Males), then part of the struggle towards equality does include men.

Yet, how do we get men more involved? And how can they be convinced that as privileged persons they will have to learn to put that privilege aside?

I got to thinking about this after a conversation that involved a twenty-something white male lamenting about his cell phone being ruined after it had taken a turn in the washing machine. It was suggested that he perhaps check his pockets before washing his clothing when he burst out, “I would but my mother always gets to my laundry first!” I was taken aback. He continued to comment that he just had a higher tolerance for un-tidy behavior than his mother did but that he wished she wouldn’t internalize the female role of doing all the house work, including her 20-something son’s laundry. He then joked about not wanting to “give up a good thing.”

His response, at least in my experience, is typical. He wishes she wouldn’t feel like she needs to do housework to be a good wife/mother/woman and claims to have preached the gospel of Feminism to her only to watch it “fly over her head”. However, the whole time he is doing this he fails to make attempts for change himself. And this is something that more men will have to realize to become more involved in feminist issues of equality: it isn’t about women fixing themselves and each other, we’ve been told enough through self-help books, tv shows, and magazines that this is what we should be doing. Instead, men need to start stepping up and taking responsibility for their part in things like “internalized housework” as self worth.

Another example and one that is brought up in feminist communities often, is the lack of male vocalization against violence towards women. Many of us know about the sexual assaults that took place on York University campus a few weeks ago. As pointed out by a friend, when news reports were discussing the arrest of the individuals allegedly involved, they also made note that the dorm room doors of the victims had been left unlocked. The news eventually dropped this piece of information, I would like to imagine because they were told how damaging and victim blaming it is.

When violence occurs against wimmin there is a strong tendency to make comments such as:
“Why did she put herself in that situation?”
“What kind of clothes was she wearing?”
“Why did she walk that way instead of another?”
“Didn’t she know any better?”
And some of these questions, that can also be phrased as ‘helpful advice’, places blame on the victim. It is somehow assumed that it is her fault or could have been avoided if only she had been more wise.

We need less of this, immediately. Instead, where is the advice to men that they should, to put it simply and bluntly: Not Commit Violence (physical, verbal, sexual) Against Women!
I would suggest more men need to stand up and be willing to take responsibility for themselves and others. More need to speak out against the repugnance of rape and partner abuse. And more need to take actions in their own lives that support equal partnerships and work relationships instead of not wanting to “ruin a good thing.”

So, how does one convince men that they need to be involved in the struggle to equality instead of letting those who are less privileged try to claw their way up to those who are?
I wish I had a clear answer. But I’m an advocate for education and awareness, which is at least a start… And I’m starting at home with my partner. (Which I’m sure he will be happy to read, as if he is a science project for something 😉 But he knows what I mean.)