by Terry Moon
I’m sure I’m not the only woman who, as soon as she heard about the gunning down of seven women and one man who work at massage centers in Atlanta, suspected they were murdered because they were women, or because they were Asian women. In other words, this was a misogynist hate crime. According to The New York Times, “The gunman told the police that he had a ‘sexual addiction’ and had carried out the shootings at the massage parlors to eliminate his ‘temptation’…. He also said that he had frequented massage parlors in the past and launched the attacks as a form of vengeance….”
The response of police and officials tells us a great deal about how femicide is viewed in the U.S.
FEMICIDE ISN’T SEEN
Atlanta’s mayor, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said: “Whatever the motivation was for this guy, we know that the majority of the victims were Asian. We also know that this [hate crimes against Asians] is an issue that is happening across the country. It is unacceptable, it is hateful and it has to stop.” The acting chief of the Atlanta Police Department, Rodney Bryant, said “it was not yet clear whether the shooting spree would be classified as a hate crime.” Barack Obama also commented on Twitter: “Even as we’ve battled the pandemic, we’ve continued to neglect the longer-lasting epidemic of gun violence in America. Although the shooter’s motive is not yet clear, the identity of the victims underscores an alarming rise in anti-Asian violence that must end.”
They are right—anti-Asian violence must end. But it really shouldn’t take a feminist to see—and say—that violence against women—and women of color experience misogynistic violence the most—also must end. Why didn’t these spokespeople see this tragedy as a racist femicide? Is it a question of race being more important than gender or sex? Or is it that femicide is so frequent, so ubiquitous, that it is taken for granted? An average of three women are murdered in the U.S. every day.
Hatred of women is so much a part of our culture that it seems hard for people to see. It is only now that the relationship between white supremacy and misogyny is being taken seriously; or the fact that so many mass killings in the U.S. are being committed by men who had first killed or beaten a woman he lived with. If hate crimes against women were taken seriously, the jails would be filled with rapists and batterers, gropers and abusers, rather than electing them as presidents and governors.
Just as women understand the intersectionality of our lives—we embody race, class, sex and gender—the world needs to understand how that plays out in reality, including the violence women endure.
That women worldwide actually see the true reality is revealed in the unprecedented uprisings going on now in India, Britain, Australia, and the Women’s Marches and Black Lives Matter actions that cannot be separated from Say Her Name here in the U.S. These are not new actions—although they take new forms and draw in new ages and different kinds of people—they are the culmination of decades of struggle. It is way past time for femicide to be seen for what it is and stopped.
–March 17, 2021