Saturday, November 8, 2008

What about the girls?

Op-Ed columnist Bob Herbert of the New York Times wrote an article called "Why Aren’t We Shocked?" in October of 2006. This article captures a growing and ignored issue in our culture - misogyny. He starts off the article talking about the school shootings that had happened at the Amish school in Pennsylvania and the shootings at a public school in Colorado (both recent incidents at the time of this article's publication). In both schools, the killers deliberately separated the girls from the boys. At the Amish school, the killer shot 10 girls and no boys. In Colorado one girl was shot and several were molested.

This article questions why so little was ever reported on the fact that the crimes were enacted against girls and that the girls were specific targets. He goes on to question if an ethnic or religious group was targeted would there have been an outcry - "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."

So, why are so many crimes committed against women not labeled as hate crimes?

Policy makers and legislators have traditionally given many reasons for not including gender in hate crimes statistics: gender-based crimes are covered under other crimes which are already tracked, such as sexual assault and domestic violence, and thus there is no need to add them to hate crimes statistics; crimes against women are so prevalent that it would distort statistics for all other bases to cover them; and crimes against women are considered "different," because, unlike many other hate crimes, a victim often knows her perpetrator and was selected by the perpetrator for her particular characteristics.

But ask nearly any feminists and they'll argue that the real reason these crimes aren't labeled as "hate crimes" is because we fail to recognize the gender bias in crimes against women such as rape and domestic abuse. Both crimes are committed against women to show men's dominance over them.

So, why aren't we shocked? I know I am. How about you?

(Special thanks to Katie for her help with this post!)


Katie Colip said...

A shout out? To me? *grins*

Glad to be of help! I think that this article brings up a very important point and I hope that its message spreads with this blog.

Carmen said...

This is an important issue and I'm glad you brought it up. I remember when the Amish school shooting happened. A few reporters were willing to explore the gender aspects of the crime, but no one seemed to want to expore the larger issue--that crimes against women and girls happen all too frequently but we don't call them "hate crimes" or "gender crimes," we just call them "life as usual."

Anonymous said...

I agree with Carmen but I want to add that crimes against women have been occurring for centuries in every culture, and it has been imbedded into the social structure to not view crimes against gender as hate crimes. I mean have you ever heard of a crime against a gay person or community as a hate crime? Or men for that matter?
Suppose society starts using gender as a category for hate crimes, what crimes will be classified as a hate crime? I believe it's a safe bet that rape would be classified as one due to the rapist usually having more than one victim, but what about domestic violence where there is usually only one victim? Does a hate crime have to have more than one victim or does the offender have to have an abusive past(as in he/she has a history with the police)?