Speaking of Women's Rights: A Word I Wish I Had Never Learned

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Word I Wish I Had Never Learned

There’s no doubt enormous strides have been made against gender-based violence over the last 30 years. From the days when we couldn’t even talk about domestic violence or sexual assault, through the “she asked for it” decades, to our current reality, with many organizations and movements working to prevent, respond to and legislate against violence targeting women, we can’t deny the progress.

That relative progress is one reason I was shocked today when I heard about the man in Hialeah, Florida, who shot and killed his wife at the restaurant where she worked, then methodically attacked other women, bypassing the men who were present. How can we wrap our minds around hatred that leaps from the individual to encompassing an entire sex? What kind of mind decides that many woman deserve to die because of how one woman responded to one man?

Not that it’s all that unusual, sadly. And it’s reflective of more than just the twisted mind of one man, or even several, who extrapolate to women as a group. From the man who killed 5 young Amish women (and injured 11) in 2006, the 'gym shooter' who blamed all women for problems with his sex life, killing 3 and wounding 9 more, to the murder of more than 500 women in Ciudad Juarez over the past fifteen years, we have to ask ourselves: what is it about our global society that permits and even encourages women to be slain? There’s even a term for it: “gendercide”, the killing of someone because of her sex. Or his: men, too, can be victims of gendercide, as we saw horrifically in Kosovo in the 1990’s. And let’s save for another day the horrors of female infanticide.

For today, let’s just start thinking about why a man would choose to take out his hatred (or fear, perhaps) of one woman by killing several, and why it’s so much more often a man who engages in that extrapolated hate than a woman. Women kill, no question, but we rarely see them engage in extensive gender-based killing when their grievance, whatever its cause, is against one man. If we knew why some men externalize their hatred to all women, could we stop it?