I wrote this piece a few months ago but felt like bringing it up again...
When people say that feminism isn’t needed in 2016, that feminists make things up to get attention because their crazy, or something along these lines, it sounds a lot like “global warming doesn’t exist” to me. In both instances people simply deny facts or misinterpret situations so severely that they are unable to see what is happening, and I become extremely concerned for their sanity as well as my own for constantly feeling the need to open their eyes. My most recent concern comes with the horrific ending to Janese Talton-Jackson’s life, may she rest in peace.
Janese, the 29-year-old mother of twin girls and a 1-year old son, was shot dead early Friday morning for ignoring a man’s advances at a bar. After expressing her disinterest, she was followed outside and shot in the chest. This story, on its own, is an absolute tragedy – a heartbreaking end to a journey, a continued reminder for the need to institute better gun control and mental health services, and it is also another example of the problems that result directly from patriarchy not only for women but also for men. However, the most tragic part about this story is that it is unfortunately not very unique. This is not the first time a woman has been assaulted for refusing a man’s advances, not even the first time a woman has been murdered for doing so. In the past two years alone, multiple examples come to mind.
In 2014 a teenage girl by the name of Maren Sanchez was shoved down stairs and stabbed to death by a male classmate after she rejected his invitation to prom. Maren was killed in Connecticut in April. In October of the same year, 27-year-old Mary Spears was shot and killed after she rejected a man’s advances at an event in Detroit. The man was allegedly reacting to the fact that Spears refused to give him her number and decided this was reason enough to take away a beautiful soul and the mother of three young boys. Months before the October tragedy, the nation was rocked by news of a deadly attack in Santa Barbara.
The UCSB incident took place on May 23rd when Elliot Rodger stabbed 3 men to death in his apartment before driving to a sorority house and shooting three female students. Rodger expressed his need to hurt “All of those beautiful girls [he] desired so much in [his] life, but can never have because they despise and loathe [him]” saying he would “destroy” them. There were also several examples in 2015 in Florida, South Carolina, and Texas just to name a few. In fact the problem has become so frequent that there is a tumblr page titled “When Women Refuse” to provide women a space to share their own stories of the assault they’ve been subject to after refusing advances.
So why is this happening? Why are women continuously abused, assaulted, or killed simply for turning men down? No, it’s not because we should be nicer about it and let them down easy, it’s not because we should just make up a number to keep the man satisfied, it’s not because of something we are wearing, it’s not even because we sometimes end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is happening because patriarchy is a thing – a thing that makes some men (not all of them but a large number) think they are entitled to power and control over women. It makes them think that if they cannot control women, that if they can’t get them to do what they (men) want them (women) to do, that something is so deeply wrong and needs to be corrected through any force necessary. It promotes a profound mental illness that causes many men to believe that violence is warranted when a woman simply chooses to not engage and go on with her life uninterrupted. This mental illness also makes many men think that women exist solely to please them and that we are all waiting around patiently for a man to come and show us some attention. And God forbid that when we get that attention we pass on it.
Patriarchy negatively affects men just as much as it affects women and it needs to be addressed. While I wish I had more space to expand on this here (I probably will through another piece at a later date) my main point is that people who ask for feminist discourse to be introduced early on, campaigns that work to equalize opportunities and representation for women, and organizations that raise awareness for gender equality are NOT making things up. There is a very serious need for people to face patriarchy head on and to challenge it. The loss of the many lives I mentioned here is just further reminder of this.