OH HAI Sunday News Round-Up: New Year’s Resolutions Edition
Ugh. So, happy new year! One of my goals for the new year is to spin those likable things back up, and focus on arranging things for less of the bad and more of the good. You all wish me luck with that, now. A tangible outcome of that should be more blogging. (See Heather Corinna at Scarleteen for more talk about “more, not less” for the New Year).
That said, here are some stories and issues of interest from recent days:
Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in Newtown, CT:
I can’t talk about this one without first extending my sympathy and condolences to everyone affected by this violence.
SE Smith has a “factbomb” on mental illness and gun violence, including fact vs. reality on the stigma against mental illness that seems to be deepening in some ways in the wake of Newtown.
My thoughts, and response to someone who made the stigma-increasing, ableist comment, “How about instead of worrying about the guns, we worry about the fucking crazies.”
The problem with “worry about the fucking crazies” is that mental health is not a fixed state, any more than physical health. Sure, some people have chronic mental illness, and deserve the dignity of effective, accessible treatment (and not to be denigrated as “fucking crazies”). However, just as physical ailments can be acute and time-limited, so can be mental instability (as many folks who were once adolescents know). If you’ve ever been *this* close to punching somebody due to road rage or tipsiness or what have you, then you know the boundary between a person acting safe vs. unsafe is porous. The question then is, can you always screen for that? Is sufficiently good mental health consistent across a lifetime? Are crisis services readily available, and the attached stigma negligible? Nope. Can we reduce the number and types of guns around, then?
In other words, I don’t think the answer to gun violence is to further stigmatize people with mental illness. I think it’s to have fewer guns around. Further thoughts (blockquoted because I first posted them in comments in a private forum):
Something I’m thinking about today – on a local blog, a commenter keeps insisting that the people who get bullied in school get bullied because they’re not big jocks with giant muscles. In his mind, whoever has the biggest, most dangerous weapons wins, and those getting bullied should just have bigger muscles and more popularity. My take on this is more that because we value stereotypically masculine characteristics, it’s not as readily apparent to bullies that the larger group is going to stick up for the skinny gay art kid – it’s not the size of the muscles, it’s how we socially construct the value of people. Likewise, all those many illegal guns people keep talking as evidence for why stricter gun laws won’t work aren’t just out there because lots of individuals think guns are awesome and getting them illegally is even better – there’s stuff going on underneath – things we value, harm we do, rewards we give – as a culture. Do I know what all those things are and how to affect them? No. But you want to do something about gun violence, I think you have to go there.
So, yeah. I don’t think gun violence is as simple as rules about guns and mental illness and whatnot. I think it requires a hard look at how we socialize boys to dominate, and how we teach them how to have control, how to dominate, and what the consequences for that are. It’s not because “men are bad.” It might have something to do with how our culture values the biggest toy/muscles winning, and teaches that the way to win is through physical domination, that men have a right to that domination. That violence is “masculine,” and a useful tool.
Here are some other folks talking about violence and masculinity:
- We should be talking about masculinity and violence after the Sandy Hook shooting and every day – Maya at Feministing
- Gender, Race, Masculinity, and Gun Violence – Transcender
- Masculinity and Guns in America – Ashley Baggett at Nursing Clio
- Why Won’t We Talk About Violence and Masculinity in America? = Soraya Chemaly at the Ms. Blog
- Dude, Where’s My Gun? – Mark Anthony Neal for The New Black Magazine, from 2010 but talks about how social vulnerability underlies “masculine” violence
- A Theory of Violence: In Honor of Kasandra, CeCe, Victoria, Savita and Anonymous – at Crunk Feminist Collective:
Violence is functional.
It is a means of asserting and securing power. When violence targets women in the dark of night it ensures, among many other things, that women stay out of the streets. When violence against trans women goes largely unreported in studies of violence against women, it is tacitly legitimated. When violence against white school children raises a national furor and violence against an innocent black teenager wearing a hoodie doesn’t provoke a national conversation about legislating guns, we can see the fault lines. When a football player kills his partner and then himself and we find ourselves knowing his name but not hers, we see which victims matter.
One last thing on that, via an Ani Difranco song on a 1999 album [lyrics here]:
Yeah, that probably should have been it’s own post….
- America’s Rape Problem: We Refuse to Admit That There Is One – Jessica Valenti for The Nation – “It’s time to acknowledge that the rape epidemic in the United States is not just about the crimes themselves, but our own cultural and political willful ignorance.” That’s *exactly* what we mean when we talk about ‘rape culture,’ and it’s no coincidence that when women criticize it, or specific examples of it, online, they often receive rape threats.
- California Court Says Rape by Impersonation Isn’t Rape if Woman Is not Married – Just, ugh, x1000.
- Purity Culture Is Rape Culture – E.J. Graff at The American Prospect
- Victory: Military Insurance to Cover Abortion in Cases of Rape – from Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health
- The Feminist Librarian looks back at the year in books
- Roe v. Wade 40th Anniversary Events – If you’re in Massachusetts, Our Bodies Ourselves is co-sponsoring an event there, and Blog for Choice day is coming up again.
- Oh, and those assholes in the House failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). You know, because some Republican dudes thought it offered too much protection to Native women on reservations (who have extremely high rates of being victimized). Native Appropriations has a great post on this:
The Violence Against Women Act provisions that are holding up the bill are provisions that allow for the prosecution of Non-Indian perpetrators on Indian land within tribal court systems. The current laws state that crimes involving non-Indians are treated as federal cases. But in 2011, the federal government declined to pursue charges in 65% of domestic violence cases on reservations. Clearly this. is. unacceptable. 1 in 3 Native women have been raped or sexually assaulted, a rate 2.5 times higher than the national average, and of those crimes, 80% of them involve a non-Native assailant. This excellent Salon article discusses how these loopholes protect rapists on reservations, because they “know they can get away with it.
Jamil Smith has another worthwhile post for the Melissa Harris Perry show, Why does the Violence Against Women Act remain stalled?
Okay, I think that’s a good enough start for getting back into the swing of things, don’t you?