A week in the life of women
This past week, a disturbed young man in California stabbed and shot both women and men — killing six, wounding 13 — and then committed suicide. Left behind in social media were his plans, especially a YouTube posting documenting his intentions to murder three people in his apartment building and then attack a sorority house in Isla Vista near UC Santa Barbara. It is the same college community where my own daughter lived during the time she attended nearby Santa Barbara City College. Once his rampage began, he settled on attacking passersby, including two female students.
In his video and an online manifesto he published just before what one journalist has called his “spasm of violence,” the killer talked about his War on Women. “I will punish all females for the crime of depriving me of sex,” he announced. While he could not “kill every single female on earth,” he said, he could “deliver a devastating blow that will shake all of them to the core of their wicked hearts.”
His writings — his rantings — also declared that women are like a plague, needing to be contained in concentration camps, starved to death.
This act — and the premeditated rationale behind it — has resulted in a flurry of rage and fear, including a hashtag #YESALLWomen that has gone viral. It is an effort to keep attention on the underlying (if extreme) misogyny, the hatred against females, that fueled the attacks. And personalize it by the sharing of other stories: the threats; the date rapes; the beatings, stabbings, shootings. Large and small, the indignities, the terrors and horrors were and are being named.
As the LA Times reported, statistically speaking such rampages are rare, but man-on-woman violence is not. Most recent data indicates that in this country, an average of seven women are slain each day, most of them knowing their attacker — who is usually male.
Also this week, in our local daily I read a reprinted Associated Press story about a pregnant woman in Pakistan who had been stoned to death by her own family outside a courthouse for marrying the man she loved. She had refused an arranged marriage, and her father had filed a kidnapping charge against her husband before resorting to this so called honor killing, one of an estimated 5,000 that still take place every year, most of them in Muslim countries or communities.
Misogyny in action, here and around the world.
I checked in with the Unitarian Universalist Association justice staff a few days ago — following these two horrific events — inquiring whether our liberal religious movement has ever taken a formal position in the form of a statement of conscience or other vehicles against women-hating, just as we have against racism — personal and institutional, and homophobia. It may be that our current study action initiative focusing on reproductive justice may circle the underlying issue (or an underlying issue), but will it get us where we need to be in terms of recognizing and naming hatred and hate crimes for what they are?
Yes, this Elliot Rodger was a person with a long history of mental unbalance, just as many of the racists, homophobes and anti-Semites have been. But his mindset and his acts also arose out of a deep and longstanding culture of permission around cruelty towards women and girls.
May the twitter feeds and more important frank and urgent conversations continue within UU.
It is past time.