Chitchat and the occasional in-depth analysis about fiber, knitting, spinning, crochet, cooking, feminism, self-image, and a modicum of personal blathering.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

What happens when women are property

A deranged man went into a health club in Pittsburgh last night with four loaded guns. He walked into an aerobics class, turned off the lights, and unleashed an estimated 50 rounds, killing two women (a third would die en route to the hospital) before killing himself. Nine other women were injured.

Make no mistake, he targeted women exclusively. A (pdf, some graphic and disturbing content)diary or log, posted online some time before he left his home to murder people he didn't even know who had done him no harm, showed that he had planned this act since at least last November. In this diary, he refers to women repeatedly as "hoez". Over and over he bemoans that they have rejected him. Time and again, for years they have rejected him, even though there's nothing wrong with him. He's perfectly normal. He takes care of his skin, his teeth, he works out, he's fit and trim. He doesn't understand why he is not automatically entitled to one of his estimated "thirty million desirable women".

This man was sick. Of that there can be little doubt. But his sickness was projected onto the screen of a patriarchal society that teaches men that women are acquisitions, are property, are prizes. It teaches men that if they do all the right things, say all the right words, have all the best jobs, and hang out at all the right clubs and bars and fitness centers, one of those prizes will be his. No matter how deranged, disturbed, creepy, or insane he is.

George Sodini, thankfully, is not typical of lonely men. But some of his mindset is very typical of a patriarchal power structure, a power structure that he desperately wanted a place in, and believed he was entitled to enjoy.

He refers to women as "edible". Not human. He was incredibly self-centered. Incredibly hateful. This is the monster that can live inside men. And I think most women he approached saw that monster and ran as fast as they could. The ones he killed and injured last night could not run fast enough.

Another side of this is the controversy surrounding Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Realistically, there are only two people who know whether an assault on his accuser happened that night, and I do believe Roethlisberger is convinced he is innocent, that he did no wrong. Legally. There is no criminal case, and Roethlisberger's defenders disingenuously ask why she did not file charges at the time if something untoward in fact happened. In fact, rape is the only crime where the victim is put on trial. Most rapes go unreported for this reason. It wasn't even a whole day before the woman bringing the civil charges was pilloried left and right on websites everywhere.

I really want to believe there was no assault. I want to believe that Ben did no wrong, and any sexual acts were completely consensual, not implicitly but explicitly consensual. But the part of me that has walked this earth as a woman, some of the time as one of the "30 million desirable women", understands very easily that there is a fine line between strong coercion and assault. There is a fine line between force and "come on baby, please baby, do it for me, just this time, come on, it won't take long, come on baby, please please I promise I'll pull out, I promise it'll be over soon, I promise I won't hurt you." And while there is no explicit threat, there is most certainly an implicit one. Ben Roethlisberger is 6'5" tall, 241 pounds. He is a professional athlete. He is a celebrity, and she was told to entertain him.

I believe there was coercion. I don't know if it could be assault in a court of law, and I'm guessing no. But there are few women in this world who are not familiar with that implicit threat, with that fear, with knowing that you could be hurt, physically, emotionally, professionally, by someone with that much power over you. In the alleged victim's case, that threat could have come from Roethlisberger and her employer at the same time. After all, her value was in the entertainment she could provide for a celebrity guest.

She was property.

This is what a patriarchal society does. This is the devaluing of half the human race because of gender. This is relegating half the population to a sex class, only valuable as receptacles for men's lust. This has to stop.


Nancy Heller said...

Jamie - Didn't know you blogged - a wonderful post!

ritsuka said...

I agree so very much with everything you've said.

Anonymous said...

My co-worker was close friends with the woman who died en route to the hospital.

What a piece of shit.

mehitabel said...

Just a nightmare. I've known men who (I thought) were capable of this kind of outrage--they really do think they're "entitled." My heart goes out to the families of the victims, and to the wounded women too.

ZantiMissKnit said...

What. . . the. . . eff. That guy was going for infamy, and well, he got it. Asshole.

I feel terrible for the victims and their families.

Loredena said...

Very well said, thank you!

Anonymous said...

Really interesting blog post and you bring up a lot of good points.

It put me in mind of another good post I read recently -- thought you might be interested in it too: