Monday, October 16, 2006

Bob Herbert on Misogyny

Finally the M-word has been pronounced in the mainstread media. Finally. Here is Bob Herbert on the school massacres and their real nature:

In the widespread coverage that followed these crimes, very little was made of the fact that only girls were targeted. Imagine if a gunman had gone into a school, separated the kids up on the basis of race or religion, and then shot only the black kids. Or only the white kids. Or only the Jews.

There would have been thunderous outrage. The country would have first recoiled in horror, and then mobilized in an effort to eradicate that kind of murderous bigotry. There would have been calls for action and reflection. And the attack would have been seen for what it really was: a hate crime.

None of that occurred because these 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 startling aspect of the Pennsylvania attack was that this terrible thing happened at a school in Amish country, not that it happened to girls.

The disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous treatment of women is so pervasive and so mainstream that it has just about lost its ability to shock. Guys at sporting events and other public venues have shown no qualms about raising an insistent chant to nearby women to show their breasts. An ad for a major long-distance telephone carrier shows three apparently naked women holding a billing statement from a competitor. The text asks, "When was the last time you got screwed?"

An ad for Clinique moisturizing lotion shows a woman's face with the lotion spattered across it to simulate the climactic shot of a porn video.

Yes. Now sit back and watch people not discussing this at all or veering off the topic into something else: school safety, guns, better mental health care. The topic is like a soap bubble; you see it, reach for it and pop! it's gone. What was it we were talking about again? Or it's like something you see from the corner of your eye and can't quite make out.

I've been told that the news reporting about the school massacres in other countries did focus on the fact that the victims were selected on the basis of their sex. This suggests that we could talk about it, too. If we really made an effort. Thanks are due to Bob Herbert for trying.