Thursday, October 26

Holy gamoley, why didn't I think of that?

I just read a post by someone complaining that she couldn't find shoes like she needed because all the ones in a huge sale at a department store were the frilly, heeled, sparkled, etc. ones.

The other day, I posted about how much I hate it that men can get away with a lot comfier shoes as "professional" and "respectful of the situation" than women can.

I thought about trying to find shoes more like men's professional shoes (baby steps; I'd still go for somewhat slenderer, more "delicate" versions at this point in my life) and didn't know how to even find them.

WHY did it not occur to me to just shop for men's shoes? I mean, I'm the one who wrote, "Yeah, as if our feet were made so much differently" on a message board when I complained about the huge differences in shoe style between the sexes. Individual men vary more among themselves, and individual women vary more among themselves, than women-feet and men-feet as a group vary from each other. I was aware of this.

Yet I didn't think to look for my "crossover," "transitional" work shoes in the men's department. I only thought of looking for them in the women's department. As smart as I like to think I am, boy am I dumb, too.


Big -ism, little -ism

I wanted to forward you a letter I wrote to Toyota complimenting them on an awesome ad they aired Monday night during prime time television. (In it, a woman carried her sleeping husband from the car to the house and was not portrayed at as all unappealing for taking an action traditionally considered "for men.") I BCCed it to two of my favorite writers, and they each wrote me back with compliments on my letter within 10 minutes. I have to say, I was pleased as punch.

Then again, yesterday I learned from the television that not only are there people in Tennessee who would vote against a black man because he and a white woman hit on each other, but that there are enough of them that cold-hearted campaigners sympathetic to this politician's opponent thought it'd be a good idea to make an ad "outing" the black politician as having...*gasp*...flirted with a white woman.

*sigh* I don't know. I only have 24 hours in a day. What changes that I'd like to see in the world should I give my energy to? Should the fact that lots and lots of people noticed intolerable -ism in one ad (the "Don't vote for him because he gets it on with whites!" ad) but haven't noticed intolerable -ism in other ads (any ad that depicts "appealing" women as women who maintain a certain level of weakness) clue me in that I'm barking up a less important tree?

Or are they each equally important changes to try to see in the world? Should I just try to divide my persuasive efforts as best I can among all the things that strike me as "wrong" with the status quo? Should I just try to divide my supportive efforts as best I can among all the things that strike me as attempts from those with the power to set the status quo to make better ideas become the new mainstream?

And even if they are equally "important" changes to make happen within equal deadlines, what should I do? Put lots of work into supporting one argument in high-profile cases like the Tennessee controversy, because the dialogue's already going, and I can try to create a "majority" of voices and influence the way people act in the future when considering doing such things?

Or should I put lots of work into mainstreaming dialogues that aren't even going (in the mainstream media)? Should I say, "Eh, people are already taking care of the Tennessee ad" and write a barrage of letters to the New York Times siding with the author of their first "Halloween costume" editorial and with Bob Herbert on the idea that singling out girls for shootings is a "hate crime" that should petrify any parent who happens to find themselves responsible for the well-being of someone born into the category called "girls" (and make them want, more than anything else they want in this world, to change the probability of someone in their culture wanting to commit such a hate crime)?

Monday, October 23

Another category of committing violence: is this one a hate crime?

Belledame222 wrote about the murder of a black gay man who wandered into a dangerous neighborhood. She quoted two conflicting opinions as to whether it was a hate crime:

A teenager who knew the assailants told The New York Times that the attack wasn’t a hate crime against blacks or gays: "They were looking to rob him. They didn’t think he would fight back if he was gay."

Man, that's almost getting into the territory I decided not to cover (at least, I think I didn't go there) the other day when I thought about asking if choosing a woman for violence because she belonged to a social category that seems statistically less likely to resist made acts of violence against a particular social category "hate crimes." This kid thought not. On the other hand, there are people who think so:

But prosecutors in this hate crime case don’t have to prove that the assailants don’t like African Americans or gays, Hynes explained. Prosecutors just have to prove that Sandy was targeted because he was gay or African American. "If you select a member of a class because you think they’re particularly vulnerable—that’s the hate crime."

I don't know! I just...don't...know. Maybe it's a matter of degree--like Dr. B.H. Tatum demonstrated with powerful logic, if you're not fighting against unfair ways that members of "________" social category (not yours), and you're just neutrally taking the benefits you have as a member of your social category, you're still being "_______ist." That's just the way it works. Anything but living in a way that fights the continuation of those unfair advantages is living in an immoral way.

But then again, it might not be immoral & bad enough that it should get you in trouble with the law. I mean, most people would agree that it's okay that there's space for bad actions between saintliness and punishment-on-earth, right? And "get you in trouble with the law" is the reason we have a word like "hate crime," right? Because we expect that punishing people who targeted a social category of victims, rather than targeting victims randomly or based on the fact that they were looking the other way or something, will change violent behavior to a more random state, right? (And the assumption is that once violence is more random, it'll be easier to fight or will somewhat die out because people are reluctant to commit it against people they identify with.)

Or is that the only reason we have "hate crime?" Bob Herbert's article made me think that there's more to it. Just calling a particular method of choosing a target by social category part of "hate crimeyness" can create allies in groups who share a social category with the perpetrator. It can create activists out of people who weren't activists! And activists are the people who make violence go from category-based to random. This is especially true when the perpetrator's category was dominant and the victims' categories were subordinate. Dominant allies change minds. They write newspaper articles and actually get them published in magazines that people're told are good enough to bother reading. They get on TV. Etc.

Sooooooo........where should the line be drawn at calling things "hate crimes" because they were targeted against members of a social category? I mean, if the targeting is based on an inaccurate and damaging (when gay people internalize it & start to become it) stereotype that gay people are weak & polite to a fault, should we use the term "hate crime" to horrify people and get them to start saying, "Y'know what? I'm straight, and gay people are NOT weak & polite to a fault, and how dare you other straight people think that to the point that you'd violate them based on that assumption? Stop it!"

Or is there only so much action that we can squeeze out of people? Can we only get people to say, "Y'know what? I'm straight, and gay people are NOT inferior to us and appropriate for hitting with 2x4s, and how dare you other straight people think that to the point that you'd violate them based on that assumption? Stop it!" but not go so far as the quote I put earlier? I don't know. I just don't know. I really want people to see common links between common themes, but boy is that hard to do, and not wear people out, in less than 200 pages. (That's how many it took Dr. Tatum to develop a good, solid, persuasive book doing so.....)

Wednesday, October 18

The Amish shooting was easily a "hate crime." But is stranger-rape?

A Seattle-based blog generated some interesting comments on Bob Herbert's article. What can we get a large number of people to agree is a hate crime? The commenter "SDA in SEA" wrote:

"Hate Crime" itself is a term that many don't understand. What, exactly, is a hate crime? Why is it necessary to add that designation to a crime that is already on the books? For example, assault and murder are already against the law. What difference should it make if you also make it a hate crime?

The best rationale that I have heard is that if someone commits a random murder, there is only one victim. If, on the other hand, someone murders an African-American while wearing Klan regalia and burning a cross in their yard, there is more than one victim. There is the person killed, but in addition, the entire black community also become victims to a lesser degree. The crime is committed in part with the intent to cause fear in that community. If a person is gay-bashed, the beating isn't directed at the individual fag, it is intended to cause harm and fear to the entire gay community, to put them in their place or to drive them away. If someone paints a swastika on a Jew's door, it isn't simply property damage against one individual, it is intended to terrify a whole community. So it isn't the individual assault or murder, it is the harm directed at a whole community that raises a crime to the level of a "hate" crime.

I'm not a lawyer, and I don't know the legal definition of a hate crime, but the general premise makes imminent sense to me.

I haven't followed this case closely enough to know if it would qualify under that description of a hate crime, but on the surface, it certainly looks like a possibility.

The law aside, I agree that this seems like something you could convince a large number of people is a hate crime.

"Keshmeshi" commented that the violent act doesn't even have to intend to intimidate more than the primary victim: the victim just has to be selected based on group identity characteristics, and that this would even apply if the "group identity" were "white male:"

if a black guy walked into a school, separated out the white students and executed them, that would also be a hate crime.

I think many people could be convinced that the target just has to be picked for violence because of his/her membership in a certain social category.


Then I read Keshmeshi's reply to "DougSF's" comment that said:

"About the shootings: Um, I think, actually, we are shocked the gunman targeted, seperated, then murdered these little girls. The NYT writer is probably reeling more from the fact that he doesn't have a 'hot topic'-angle to work on this story, but the rest of us I think are pretty mortified"--

The NY Times writer was stating the fact that people don't see these kinds of crimes against women and girls as hate crimes. Excuse me, I take that back, men don't see these kinds of crimes as hate crimes.

It seems like men are as likely to admit it as the average American is to admit that U.S. foreign policy is usually not so savory. If men admitted that women are frequently raped and murdered just for being women, then they might have to confront why that is, and their complicity in our misogynistic culture that embraces violence against women. But, hey, at least we're making progress. Now it's actually illegal to rape and murder women and girls.

Woah. After nodding my head to definition #2, I suddenly thought, "Rape is a crime that most often happens because the victim belongs to the social category called 'women.'" What does that mean?! Is it a hate crime? (Yes, I know rape happens to men & kids, too, but most of the time, when you hear 'rape,' what kind of victim do you think of? A woman. Why? Because it's usually a targeted crime. Same as lynching doesn't have to be of a black person, but hey, the reason we associate "black" with "lynching" is because we've accepted that it's been violence done to a person targeted for being black.)

I mean, most people don't even have to feel like an agressor would've used the word "hate" about the victim's social category to accuse the agressor of having committed a "hate crime." We've come to consider most crimes thought of by the perpetrator as, "That's just what people do to ___________ people," or, "If you're going to do this, you wouldn't do it to anyone but a __________ person" as nonetheless "hate crimes." Even if they just think it's because "________ people" are inferior, less deserving of things they might want (say, the love of a white woman), contemptible, etc. we've still become comfortable shouting, "Hate crime! Hate crime!"

Soooooo...even if a stranger-rapist doesn't consider women an object of what he'd call hatred, he is picking women, rather than men, to target because he thinks there's something unique, inferior, contemptible, less deserving of "getting to do ________," etc. about them than there is about members of other groups, right?

Or is he? The popular line among progressives is that that's the case.
But in wider American society, it still seems to be widely thought that rape--even rape by strangers in a dark alley--is at least partly about sex.

Does a violent act have to be exclusively category-based for it to be a hate crime? I mean, if the lynchers thought that black person was a real pain in the ass, too, and so did other black people, is it no longer a "hate crime?" If the rapist considers women inferior and the kind you "can hurt" the way white people used to think of black people, but he also considers them "arousing," then is his violent act that happens to be done in a manner that resembles sex no longer a "hate crime?"

Plus, most people in our society still seem to think that it's difficult to get into a rapist's head and imagine why he thinks that women are okay to harm in a way that resembles sex. They'd argue that my parallel to other hate crimes falls apart because it's not like there were any friendly ways of putting a noose around someone's neck--ways encouraged by society as something everyone should try--but that there are friendly ways of having man-with-woman sex, and that those are rightfully encouraged by society as something everyone should try. In a heterosexual-relationship-encouraging society, women are "for having sex with" (though only in nice situations) by men. And men are "for having sex with," too--by women (though again, only in nice situations). So how can we say that a rapist chose to target someone who belongs to the social category of "woman" as "for committing violence against in a way that resembles sex" solely because he had various deranged reasons to consider "women" appropriate for violence (which would make his violence a hate crime)? How can we say that little or no part of his selection was based on the exact same opinion--"that women are for having sex with"--that nice interactions of having sex are based on, too?

I'd say, "Because in interviews & studies of rapists of women, both stranger & relationship, they said it was about contempt, inferiority, appropriateness for violent acts, etc. of that other social category called 'women.' I believe those studies. They keep coming out with the same conclusions, over and over, for decades."

But I think I'm in the minority.

Also, can even I, individually, feel like stranger-rapes are a "hate crime" according to that 2nd definition if I know that even the perpetrator himself might, at the time, before he gets caught, reflects, and ends up giving an interview, think that he's doing it partly because he wants "sex?"
I mean, he comes from that majority I'm thinking is "out there" that sees rape as being in a significant part "about sex" due to the shared "target group" between the two.
And can I really trust the studies? It's only what I read, and they say not to believe everything you read. I haven't exactly interviewed a man who decided to commit violence against a woman in a way that resembled sex myself.

Of course, the question of relationship rape is trickier, and I think it'd help to answer the questions I've asked here about stranger-in-an-alley rape as a hate crime before tackling an issue complicated by so many more potentially confused & confusing social messages of "these people are for _______ing--in a nice way." As "Think about it" said, it's trickier, but stil worth asking:

I think that most stranger rape does fall in the category of hate crimes... after all, is the motivation really just to have an orgasm?!? No, it's to subjugate a woman, as an indication of contempt or rage.

Date rape is trickier, of course, but even then I think most men who commit it have contempt for the woman... how else would you justify giving someone a roofie so you can fuck them? I wouldn't call that respectful or friendly!

It saddens and sickens me that violence against women has been normalized to the point that the men who commit it are not considered to "hate" women.

Monday, October 16

Why would someone violent feel like it's good to target a particular group of people?

I've heard much about this article.

Of course, it's not the first time a guy's said this, but it is the first instance I've seen in mainstream media.

Mr. Herbert frustrated me by spening more words naming individual controversial things society is casual about (rap, GTA:VC, etc.) than he did making the following controversial point, which is a lot easier to focus on and really get people to come to conclusions about:

the relentless violence against women and girls is linked at its core to the wider society’s casual willingness to dehumanize women and girls, to see them first and foremost as sexual vessels — objects — and never, ever as the equals of men.

At the very least, I wish he'd have put that quote at the end of the article.

All right, then; I'll start the debate.

How many readers here agree with the above statement?
I see 4 main parts to agree or disagree with in it:
  1. Does wider society show a casual willingness to see women & girls "first & foremost" as sexual vessels?

  2. Does wider society show a casual willingness to see women & girls as unequal to men?

  3. Is relentless violence against this group of people linked "at its core" to casual willingness to see the group first and foremost as sexual vessels?

  4. Is relentless violence against this group of people linked "at its core" to casual willingness to see the group as never, ever the equals of [the group that it's not]?

Full text:

Why Aren’t We Shocked?
Published: October 16, 2006
“Who needs a brain when you have these?”
— message on an Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt for young women

In the recent shootings at an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania and a large public high school in Colorado, the killers went out of their way to separate the girls from the boys, and then deliberately attacked only the girls.

Ten girls were shot and five killed at the Amish school. One girl was killed and a number of others were molested in the Colorado attack.

In the widespread coverage that followed these crimes, very little was made of the fact that only girls were targeted. Imagine if a gunman had gone into a school, separated the kids up on the basis of race or religion, and then shot only the black kids. Or only the white kids. Or only the Jews.

There would have been thunderous outrage. The country would have first recoiled in horror, and then mobilized in an effort to eradicate that kind of murderous bigotry. There would have been calls for action and reflection. And the attack would have been seen for what it really was: a hate crime.

None of that occurred because these were just girls, and we have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that violence against females is more or less to be expected. Stories about the rape, murder and mutilation of women and girls are staples of the news, as familiar to us as weather forecasts. The startling aspect of the Pennsylvania attack was that this terrible thing happened at a school in Amish country, not that it happened to girls.

The disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous treatment of women is so pervasive and so mainstream that it has just about lost its ability to shock. Guys at sporting events and other public venues have shown no qualms about raising an insistent chant to nearby women to show their breasts. An ad for a major long-distance telephone carrier shows three apparently naked women holding a billing statement from a competitor. The text asks, “When was the last time you got screwed?”

An ad for Clinique moisturizing lotion shows a woman’s face with the lotion spattered across it to simulate the climactic shot of a porn video.

We have a problem. Staggering amounts of violence are unleashed on women every day, and there is no escaping the fact that in the most sensational stories, large segments of the population are titillated by that violence. We’ve been watching the sexualized image of the murdered 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey for 10 years. JonBenet is dead. Her mother is dead. And we’re still watching the video of this poor child prancing in lipstick and high heels.

What have we learned since then? That there’s big money to be made from thongs, spandex tops and sexy makeovers for little girls. In a misogynistic culture, it’s never too early to drill into the minds of girls that what really matters is their appearance and their ability to please men sexually.

A girl or woman is sexually assaulted every couple of minutes or so in the U.S. The number of seriously battered wives and girlfriends is far beyond the ability of any agency to count. We’re all implicated in this carnage because the relentless violence against women and girls is linked at its core to the wider society’s casual willingness to dehumanize women and girls, to see them first and foremost as sexual vessels — objects — and never, ever as the equals of men.

“Once you dehumanize somebody, everything is possible,” said Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of the women’s advocacy group Equality Now.

That was never clearer than in some of the extreme forms of pornography that have spread like nuclear waste across mainstream America. Forget the embarrassed, inhibited raincoat crowd of the old days. Now Mr. Solid Citizen can come home, log on to this $7 billion mega-industry and get his kicks watching real women being beaten and sexually assaulted on Web sites with names like “Ravished Bride” and “Rough Sex — Where Whores Get Owned.”

Then, of course, there’s gangsta rap, and the video games where the players themselves get to maul and molest women, the rise of pimp culture (the Academy Award-winning song this year was “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”), and on and on.

You’re deluded if you think this is all about fun and games. It’s all part of a devastating continuum of misogyny that at its farthest extreme touches down in places like the one-room Amish schoolhouse in normally quiet Nickel Mines, Pa.

Recent headlines from the blog "Black and Missing but Not Forgotten:"