Was woman hating a factor in the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords? There I’ve said it, because as a feminist it is a question I need to ask and no, don’t start with the mansplaining that I don’t understand the bigger picture or that there are larger issues because the uncomfortable truth is that violence is usually perpetrated against women for different reasons than it is perpetrated against men and the frame in which it is subsequently processed and analyzed is often quite different as well. Woman-hatred is at pandemic levels in this world and that context cannot be ignored.
There are definite reasons to think that indeed there is a misogynist aspect to understanding the Giffords shooting. We know that Loughner had approached Giffords before, in 2007,
Mr. Loughner said he asked the lawmaker, “How do you know words mean anything?” recalled Mr. Montanaro. He said Mr. Loughner was “aggravated” when Ms. Giffords, after pausing for a couple of seconds, “responded to him in Spanish and moved on with the meeting.”
So had he been stalking her since then? It’s possible. There are also reports that Loughner verbally attacked a fellow student with anti-abortion vitriol and Giffords is pro-choice, so that may have something to do with it.
Amanda Marcotte puts it this way,
Gender is an issue with this specific shooting. Just as you can’t claim that shooting a congressperson and a judge at a political event is a non-political event, you can’t really just pretend there aren’t gender implications to a young man shooting one of the sadly too few women in Congress.
Marcotte goes on to explain why indeed Gifford’s response to Loughner in 2007 may have a bearing in understanding what happened on Saturday, that it might be interpreted as an extreme way of manplaining his anger with her refusal to be badgered by him. Her essay is a crucial must read, particularly for her truly cogent explanation of mansplaining and why it is so problematic and damaging.
Jessica Valenti also points out that ‘manning up’ plays an important part in American political rhetoric and the impact of that also needs to be considered.
Gloria Feldt adds this,
We can’t depend on the current leadership of the hypermasculinized political culture that Jessica Valenti, Feministing executive editor, describes in The Guardian. Our idealization of violent masculinity she says spills over into the political discourse, and is emulated by right-wing women like Sarah Palin, whose electoral target map placed Giffords in her gunsight.
Is it appropriate to frame this incident in terms of hyper-masculine violence? Was there an element of woman-hatred in this incident? It will be awhile until we know enough to fully answer those questions. The point we need to hold firm on however is that these possible frames be fully examined as an integral part of the analysis and investigation of this horrific crime.
Addenda: This description from the Wall Street Journal lends a great deal of credence to the likelihood that he was stalking her and that while shooting a Congresswoman is a political act, this particular shooting was probably also motivated by a deep misogyny directed specifically at Giffords:
Accused gunman Jared Lee Loughner appeared to have been long obsessed with U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
A safe at Mr. Loughner’s home contained a form letter from Ms. Giffords’ office thanking him for attending a 2007 “Congress on your Corner” event in Tucson. The safe also held an envelope with handwritten notes, including the name of Ms. Giffords, as well as “I planned ahead,” “My assassination,” and what appeared to be Mr. Loughner’s signature, according to an FBI affidavit.