Of course I have to start with the Amish girls. The horror continues to resonate, as in today's piece by New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert. His question is "Why Aren't We Shocked?" Actually I think we are. But here's part of what he says:
"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."
The first time I read this the last sentence seemed wrong, but reading it again I think he's right. We may not LIKE violence against women. But we DO expect it. It's easy to find one reason why: it's so common. We may not like it but we're not surprised.
Or do we - that is, men - actually LIKE it? Herbert goes on to say that images of violence or domination of women help to sell stuff and thu must be popular.
"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."
" . . . 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."
Herbert concludes by saying, "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."
I've cut some of his piece, but the flow is pretty much like this, reading backwards:
Mass murder of Amish girls (while Amish boys are spared)
men hating women (boys hating girls)
echoes of degrading sex in commercials
degrading sex in porn
society tolerating men's dehumanization of women?
men's dehumanization of women
But there are problems with this analysis:
Problem: murdering schoolgirls is in parallel with porn-like sex
Problem2: killing is similar to kidding (the ads)
Problem3: the degadation of women is so pervasive that it's hard to see what would stop it.
Still, Herbert is right about the different outrage around racial hate crimes. When James Byrd Jr. was lynched by being dragged behind a truck in Jasper, Texas on June 7, 1998, there was not only an outcry but the further resolve, "Never again." Do we think that lynching African-Americans is optional - not an intrinsic white need - and so can be stopped, but male violence against women is innate and can only be slowed down?
What do you think of all this?
Which reminds me that one friend of mine said, "you can think about the Amish girls but you won't learn anything. It's a MYSTERY, meaning that there's no explaining it."