I can’t think of a clever title for this post, except to say that I feel as if everything stopped for a while on January 8th when a 22 year old mass murderer in Tucson, Arizona killed 6 and injured 13. I feel as if things have been happening in slow motion since then, everyone holding their breath and praying that Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords will retain some part of her former abilities and personality. After nursing my mom through two subdural hematomas in her brain, I can tell you that she has a long way to go in her recovery, though her progress so far is miraculous. The brain heals very slowly.
Here’s what bothers me. This was the first attempted assassination of an American woman politician. Why did I feel as if I had to say “politician?” It becomes an assassination because she’s in Congress, right? The narrative seems to be that we’re supposed to see Loughner as vaguely anti-government and Gabby was just his local representative, as if it wouldn’t matter if she were male or female. I don’t think that’s a correct reading of the situation. This doesn’t look to me like a strike against a government official. It looks more like a stalking. If it’s politically driven, is it an entirely different creature than if he imagined a relationship with the congresswoman? I think what set Loughner off was the idea of woman in power, with a position of real authority.
I was looking for statistics on how often women are killed by violence, but I can’t find anything that doesn’t refer to domestic violence. Women killed in this country are usually harmed by someone with whom they have a personal relationship. Violence against women is so common, we don’t think of its source as gender bias. I haven’t heard anyone on TV talk about this as the first attempted assassination of an American woman. Shouldn’t that be a big deal?
A few women bloggers who called attention to Loughner’s misogyny had to deal with the predictable knee-jerk reactions from guys who want to pretend their day-to-day misogyny isn’t, really, it’s just guys being guys and the women bloggers are being inflexible again. Misogyny is the elephant in the room that the liberal guys want us to overlook because they don’t think it has anything to do with politics. In this case, it seems to have everything to do with politics.
Loughner had paranoid delusions which tend to manifest in patterns with recurring themes. His were currency, language, lucid dreams, and he spoke of rape as the necessary result of solitude. Loughner told a female bank teller that she had no right to be in a position of authority. He scared one of his female professors to the point that she reported she feared he’d become violent because she told him he was getting a B in her class. The subject of abortion came up in one of his classes and he asked “why don’t we just strap bombs to babies?”
A Slate article asks
Maybe the accumulated evidence is contradictory if you’re trying to classify Loughner as an orthodox left-wing nut or an orthodox right-wing nut. But his membership in the anti-woman wing seems clear. Or is misogyny—even homicidal misogyny—too unremarkable for anyone to dwell on it?
Homicidal misogyny is not a term we see every day. We don’t keep records of it. We aren’t talking about it. We’ll talk about animosity against one political view or another but we aren’t concerned with violent hatred against 54% of the population? Are we supposed to assume this is a normal, and therefore unremarkable, attitude? Does pointing out Loughner’s misogyny make the incident “less” in some way? You know, like if he was just stalking “a woman” it’s not as important as if he was attacking “the government?”
One of the last things Loughner did was make pictures of himself wearing a red g-string posing with his Glock. That kind of fetishization of guns is a basic element of the patriarchal/militaristic mindset that sees women as a problem to be controlled. It’s no accident that the darling of the Right, the half-term governor whose name I refuse to use anymore, practices this same fetishization of weapons and violence. Real women love guns, hate abortion, and do what their men tell them, right? And money should be backed by gold or silver, you can control people with neurolinguistics… who does that sound like?
The misogyny element is important here because it’s an integral element of a larger problem that I’ll describe in my next post.