I’m not a PUMA sympathizer, but I think this woman’s rage needs to be heard. Her daughter, Louisa, was shot by her other daughter’s ex. She is in a coma and not expected to make it. Her other daughter is battling cancer. In 2009, it looks like this woman, Betty Jean, may lose two daughters. In a particularly horrifying twist, the man who shot her daughter is now claiming that Betty Jean was his intended target.
Betty Jean and her commenters talk a lot about advertising that celebrates violence against women – although I am as appalled by it as anyone else is, I think it’s a symptom, not the cause. Violence against women has existed for millennia, it won’t go away if we make disturbing Dolce & Gabbana ads go away, although this may be a good start.
Neither do I think that banning porn and refusing to wear tight blouses, or whatever, as some commenter suggested, is going to prevent women like Louisa to become the hapless victims of assholes armed with guns. I think this violence is much more primal and horrible than that.
I was reading horrific news concerning another shooting (this one of an unarmed, restrained black man) on Feministe yesterday (check out RaceWire too, please) – and I wondered about how people, men in particular, are encouraged to view violence as a great way to solve a problem – be it financial, emotional, work-related, etc.
Homo sapiens had to employ violence in order to survive. Our violent instincts are there for a reason. But in trying to build a just society – a civilization, even – we cannot use instincts as our excuse.
There are hierarchies in this world. The mother of your ex, a young black man, or anyone else – you prioritize when it comes to their lives and their lives’ value. You prioritize, and then you pull the trigger. And then what happens? There is the danger that Louisa’s shooting will be written off as another “domestic spat” (much like what occurred at the start of the Virginia Tech killing spree in 2007). There is the danger that Oscar’s death will be framed as “just another black guy dead, *shrug*.”
I was in a bar the other night, watching the carnage in Gaza unfolding on Al Arabiya network. I was looking at these children, screaming in pain and fear in overcrowded, grim hospitals. I recalled the jubilation of some American writers at the violence – the glee at the notion that, in one case, the Israeli military was able to “wipe out a [Hamas leader’s] entire family” – and I had to, once again, think about priorities and hierarchies. Some screaming, terrified children instantly deserve compassion and support. Others can just be blown to bits over whatever it is that the adults are fighting about. And it’s perfectly cool when it happens, it sends a message, and so on (I’m not going to get into the politics of this thing, so SHUT UP if you’re about to start writing a comment that starts off with something like “but what about…” Israeli lives are no less valuable than Palestinian lives. But neither are they more valuable).
Those among us who are least capable of defending themselves make for the most excellent targets. Is it because, deep down, we fear and loathe vulnerability in all of its forms? Do we just want to punish it, cull it, stomp it out? Are we disgusted by the people who trust us, who depend on us, in one way or another?