Monday, October 16, 2006

Hate Crimes

By Nancy Jane Moore

In the past month, we've had two shootings where a man entered a school and killed young women -- one in an Amish school and another in a Colorado high school. Ten girls were shot and five were killed at the Amish school; one girl died and others were molested in Colorado.

The young women were the targets of these crimes -- the boys were sent away. As Bob Herbert points out in a searing column in today's New York Times, if the killers had targeted the victims by race or religion, we would have labeled these murders for what they were: hate crimes.

But, Herbert points out:

None of that happened because there were just girls, and we have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that violence against females is more or less to be expected. Stories about the rape, murder and mutilation of women and girls are staples of the news, as familiar to us as weather forecasts. ...

The disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous treatment of women is so pervasive and so mainstream that it has just about lost its ability to shock.

Herbert's piece is only available online if you pay for Times Select, unfortunately. (I read the print version.) But if you find a copy of the Monday Times on your newsstand or in your library, I strongly recommend that you read it. He makes the real problem of violence against women in our society crystal clear. As he says:

We're all implicated in this carnage because the relentless violence against women and girls is linked at its core to the wider society's casual willingness to see them first and foremost as sexual vessels -- objects -- and never, ever as the equals of men.

I have seen little else in the news pointing out that women were the targets in these crimes. The one exception was Salon's Broadsheet column, which addressed this issue at the time of the shootings. Page Rockwell suggested that some might even call this terrorism, and observed:

In the context of our contested, combustible cultural debate about the status of women, violence against women and girls serves as a queasy reminder of what true, deranged misogyny looks like. It's shocking to see two targeted killings within a week of each other -- and to be reminded that a small subset of the population is fixated on terrorizing and killing girls they've never met.

I couldn't help but notice that young women were the targets of these crime, but I didn't even think about writing about the hate crime aspect of it. Perhaps it was so obvious to me that women were targeted that I didn't think it was something that needed saying. But it does.

It is very valuable to have a male writer -- particular one with Herbert's power and audience -- make the point that women are still viewed primarily as sex objects and that in twisted minds, such a viewpoint can lead to horrible violence.

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