5.31.2009

katha pollitt: "we are so used to violence against women we don't even notice how used to it we are"

From the one and only Katha Pollitt, writing in The Nation.
On May 6 Johanna Justin-Jinich, a Wesleyan University student, was gunned down in the school's bookstore, almost certainly by 29-year-old Stephen Morgan. My daughter is a senior at Wesleyan, and so I got to see part of the aftermath close up: young people stunned, scared, in tears, confined to their rooms because Morgan was still loose. News accounts make Justin-Jinich seem outstanding in many ways: altruistic, brilliant, full of life, much loved. But in one way, she was far from unusual. She was a woman killed by a man because she was a woman.

We are so used to violence against women we don't even notice how used to it we are. When we're not persuading ourselves that women are just as violent toward men as vice versa if you forget about who ends up seriously injured or dead, or pointing out that most murders are of men by men, we persuade ourselves that violence against women just comes up out of nowhere. Murder is serious, especially if the victim is young, white, middle-class, pretty; harassment, abuse, domestic violence, even rape, not so much. After all, as I'm writing, I read that Houston, taking a leaf from Sarah Palin's Wasilla, is requiring rape victims to pay for the processing of their rape kits. Los Angeles has a backlog of 12,669 unprocessed rape kits, some so old the crimes have exceeded the statute of limitations. It's controversial to even use terms like "misogyny" and "male privilege" to explain the prevalence of these crimes and the shameful inadequacy of our social and legal response to them. And if you really want to be branded a square and a prude, try talking about the hatred and contempt for, and objectification of, women that permeates pop culture.

Before Morgan allegedly murdered Justin-Jinich, he stalked her. After the two took the same summer course at NYU in 2007, he made repeated "unwanted" "insulting" phone calls and sent her thirty-eight hostile e-mails ("You're going to have a lot more problems down the road if you can't take any [expletive] criticism, Johanna"--a threat that has "I deserve to control and punish you, bitch" written all over it). The story gets a little unclear here: Justin-Jinich went to campus authorities, who referred her to the police, but like most victims, she declined to prosecute, and Morgan left town before he could be served with an order of protection. So, a situation important enough to warrant at least some legal intervention just vanished when the stalker moved away. "There was no way to foresee the sudden, nightmarish sequel," writes Robert McFadden in the New York Times. Really?

Stalking is a serious crime and a common one. According to a 2009 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, about 3.4 million people, 74 percent of them female, said they had been stalked in a single year. ...

Read it here.

8 comments:

Cornelia said...

Katha Pollitt is quite good!!

impudent strumpet said...

"You're going to have a lot more problems down the road if you can't take any [expletive] criticism, Johanna"

It's amazing how many of the things abusers say to their victims sound exactly the same as things grownups might say to teenagers. Delete the expletive and that could totally come from a parent or teacher.

Cornelia said...

I think kids and teens are unfortunately still often told a whole lot of patriarchal and verbally abusive trash, which is apt to create many problems for their confidence and their well-being even later. Not good!!

L-girl said...

Good catch, Imp Strump. Parents and teachers are bullies in so many ways.

Cornelia said...

I agree, Laura.

Cornelia said...

There is so much bullying going on at the hands of parents and teachers - ugh!!! I always know why I am happy to be neither a kid nor a teen nor at school any more!!!

Cornelia said...

I hate all that heinous patriarchal torturous crap still being so pervasive in society...Probably the threat the idiot offender used was what he had been told as a kid himself and what he had never discarded and what he had never distanced himself from...Torturers are also very much into that shit about "punishment". It's patriarchal, oppressive, intimidatory and sadomaso.

Mara Clarke said...

Thanks for posting - I keep forgetting to read The Nation over here. In other depressing news, the UK was just names the European country with the lowest rape conviction rate, and this was in today's Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/yasmin-alibhai-brown/yasmin-alibhaibrown-wicked-mothersinlaw-destroy-lives-1693848.html