Speaking of Women's Rights: Women in the Bullseye, or Why We Need Feminists

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Women in the Bullseye, or Why We Need Feminists

Breaking news in today’s headlines about a Pennsylvania man who went on a shooting rampage, killing three women and himself, chronicling his rejection by women on a personal webpage, stating, “Women just don’t like me. There are 30 million desirable women in the US (my estimate) and I cannot find one.” His diary read, “Many of the young girls here look so beautiful as to not be human, very edible.”

I am sickened, horrified, saddened.

This tragic incident has echoes of the Montreal massacre. Do you remember this? In December 1989, at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, Canada, a 25-year-old man separated the male and female students. After claiming that he was “fighting feminism,” he shot all nine women in the room, killing six. He continued through the building, specifically targeting women to shoot, ultimately shooting twenty-eight people and killing fourteen women before turning the gun on himself.

I’m sure, as with Montreal, this incident in Pennsylvania will be much dissected for all the societal ills it exposes – misogyny, gun violence, mental illness.

But let’s not shrug this off as just another horrific headline, removed from each of our daily lives. No. Let this remind us of why it is so important to challenge sexism whenever and wherever it occurs. To quote Andrea Dworkin (in her book about the Montreal tragedy):

We have to stop men from hurting women in everyday life, in ordinary life, in the home, in the bed, in the street, and in the engineering school.... We have to be the women [and men] who stand between men and the women they want to hurt….

The feminist is the woman who is there not because she is his woman, but because she is the sister of the woman he is being a weapon against. Feminism exists so that no woman ever has to face her oppressor in a vacuum, alone. It exists to break down the privacy in which men rape, beat, and kill women.

So I challenge you: Be a feminist. Do it in your own way – quietly and privately, or loudly and publicly, in small ways or big. Join us in supporting a basic Women’s Bill of Rights.* Because all of us women need you.

*We believe that all women have these rights:
• The right to equal treatment and to be free from discrimination
• The right to decide when and how to form and maintain their families
• The right to be safe wherever they are
• The right to economic equality and independence
• The right to be healthy and active