Targeting Girls

October 4, 2006

Monday’s massacre in Pennsylvania that left five school girls dead at the hand of neighbor whose plan apparently included sexual assault and torture — and the Colorado school shooting a week before in which one girl was killed and several more sexually assaulted — have sparked all the expected outrage and horror. And some conversational paralysis.

Echidne calls out the fact that these shootings received little attention as gender-based crimes, and she offers suggestions for how and where to start a much-needed dialogue:

I know that the individual murderers in these cases were mentally unstable, not normal. But most of us, the consumers of these news, are supposed to be fairly stable and capable of reasoned discussion on the issues. We don’t have to be protected from the astonishing finding that misogyny is rife in the society, and if by bringing the topic up we might make a few small changes here and there, who knows? A future victim or two could be saved.

By the small changes here and there I mean speaking out when a general discussion deteriorates into woman-bashing or girl-bashing, by not giving a sympathetic sounding board to a recently divorced and bitter man who blames all women for his misfortunes, but by pointing out to him that his anger is about one woman only, by making it very clear that generalized hatred of a whole gender is wrong and based on emotions rather than analysis. By standing up for girls when an internet chat discussion uses them as the example of everything cowardly, stupid and damp. By caring about hateful sexism as much as many of us care about hateful racism.

You don’t have to search far to find examples of hate — Jessica shares the dredges of her in-box, and Feministing readers, as usual, follow up with plenty of support along with discussions about subtle sexism and “masculine indifference”. Carrying on these conversations is essential, both within and outside of feminist spaces.

Plus: Check out the Eighth Carnival Against Sexual Violence over at Abyss2Hope (via Alas, a Blog).