Femicide and the Right to Be

Every person has the right to be, regardless of their particular kind of embodiment.

I was about to send out a newsletter focusing on pleasure and peace, and then the killings in Georgia happened. So I’m writing instead about justice, and every human being’s right to BE. The right to not be killed for one’s gender, race, religion, class, profession, whatever. Femicide, or the intentional killing of women just because they are women, is a hate crime. I hope you will allow me, as a person devoted to women’s wellness, to speak to you on this issue and ask for your engagement. This is a long and heartfelt letter, and it will likely be triggering for some, so if you don’t have it in you tonight to read on, I understand, and send love anyway.

Last Tuesday, a “highly religious” man murdered one man and seven women at three spas in Atlanta. Six of the women killed were Asian. We all know these spas: nail salons, massage parlors, the small businesses in every strip mall in America where people drop in to get pampered and groomed. This was Anti-Asian hate, yes, AND there was also this: the killer blamed women he did not know for his own sex addiction, and used it as an excuse to take their lives.

Scholar Heather Cox Richardson reports, “Yesterday, at the news conference about the killings, the sheriff’s captain…told reporters that [the murderer]… ‘apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction,’ that had spurred him to murder, and that it was too early to tell if the incident was a ‘hate crime.’ Long told law enforcement officers that the murders were ‘not racially motivated.’ He was, he said, trying to ‘help’ other people with sex addictions.”
Now let’s layer in racism and class-ism. Richardson writes, “Asian American women have borne a dual burden of both racism and sexism, as certain men fetishize Asian and Asian-American women, seeing them as submissive, exotic, and sexually available. Attackers aimed nearly 70% of the 3,800 hate incidents reported last year at women. That Long blamed Asian or Asian-American women for his own sexual impulses ties into a long history that links racism to sexism—and to violence— in a peculiarly American fashion.”

Asian Pacific American Task Force executive director Kai Zhang said this: “He shot at everyone because he could not separate his sin from himself. All he could see was his self-loathing. He could not see these people as human beings.”

It’s astonishing to take in how strongly violence, or the threat of violence, impacts women’s lives. In a recent study, security experts asked both men and women to recall the last time they felt physically threatened. For men, this was usually in the military, or in high school, or even earlier.  For women, it was generally within the past 48 hours.

Woman are murdered worldwide for everything from their sexuality to rejecting a man’s advances. We see this the case of Sarah Everard earlier this month, and in the spate of incel (involuntarily celibate males) killing random women in places as far-ranging as Isla Vista and Tallahassee. And of course there’s the regular outrageous data on rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence. For women who are poor or disadvantaged, it’s much worse.

Even if it’s hard– or exhausting — and because we love ourselves, and love our womanhood, we have to create a world and a culture that’s safe for all of us.

Here are some actions to take with love:
Change the internal story: Vivian C. Fox writes, “For most of history, state societies have made women subordinate to men. In order to achieve and maintain subordination of the female, ideologies have been constructed whereby submission appears to be in the nature of things: ordained by the Gods, supported by the priests, implemented by the law….women came to accept and to psychologically internalize compliance as necessary. Violence towards women in all its forms has and still thrives in such an environment.” Suggested reading: The Body is Not an Apology by
Sonya Renee Taylor
.
Be attuned and educated on Anti-Asian bias and Femicide in the United States:

 

Demand laws that name femicide a hate crimeCall your reps—federal, state, and local—and demand a bill that recognizes femicide- the intentional killing of women because they are women—as a hate crime. Hate crimes are prosecuted differently than other crimes.

Engage locally: Get to know who’s working on violence against women in your area and support them.
Make it personal: We can make friends with women of diverse backgrounds, and examine our own internalized beliefs about sexuality and race. Ask what is needed, and learn how at-risk women can be protected, and feel connected.
Donate: In the case of specific incidents, like the Atlanta shooting, you can also donate to Victim Funds.

If you are a man: Question your own attitudes or fetishes about women of color, and engage with men’s organizations (like menengage.org and men-care.org) dedicated to ending domestic violence and supporting women.
It can be hard, it can be exhausting, to face down violence. But because we love ourselves, and love our beingness, we have to create a world and a culture that’s safe for all of us. Every person has the right to be, regardless of their particular kind of embodiment.

If you’ve gotten this far, thank you.
Reverence is a worldview, and it asks for justice.
All Love, and Love in Action.

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