Feminism Friday: Elections, Matthew Shepard and Sub-Human Wimminz
Posted October 30, 2009on:
November 3rd is next Tuesday, and there are quite a few women running for election throughout the country. (So sorry, Mr. Derbyshire!) Is there one that strikes your fancy? Deserves, perhaps, $5 or an hour of phone banking?
Here are some lists to get you started.
Non-partisan: Women’s Campaign Forum Endorsed Candidates for 2009
Non-partisan: Smart Voter by the League of Women Voters (This site lists all candidates by state and gives lots of useful voting information)
Democratic only: Emily’s List (not separated by election year, but most are 2009 or 2010)
Last Friday, we were thrilled to report that the Matthew Shepard Act had passed the Senate. In one of the first genuinely liberal moves the Obama Administration has made, the President signed the Act into law on Wednesday, October 28. Although the hate crimes legislation is rightly touted as a huge win for LGBT and people of color, it could also be a huge win for women, as the law includes gender-based violence in its scope. (It is especially gratifying that the law was signed during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.)
NOW President Terry O’Neill:
This legislation is especially important for the girls and women of this nation because it extends existing federal hate crimes laws beyond the narrow scope of protected federal activities and also includes — for the first time — violent crimes committed on the basis of actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, disability and gender identity. Women know first hand how vicious crimes of sexual and hate-filled violence can affect our lives, especially if local law enforcement is ill-equipped to investigate and prosecute these crimes. We know that hate crimes are more than individual assaults — they send shock waves and fear throughout a whole community. Girls’ and women’s lives are restricted and often ruined by the fear as well as the reality of vicious hate crimes, be they based on our religion, race, gender identity or just because we are women.
“The Matthew Shepard Act is a significant victory for all of us,” said O’Neill. “I am thrilled that the dedication and hard work of our activists around the country have paid off.”
The news has been full of the horrifying story of a 15-year-old girl who was gang-raped for two and a half hours by possibly as many as ten different males, while many more stood and watched, or passed by without helping. By the time the police got there, the girl was beaten, violated, dazed, and drunk. She was quickly taken to the hospital to treat her injuries.
Parallells are being drawn to the Kitty Genovese story, and excuses are being made that this is just a human failing – that everyone thinks someone else is going to take care of it, so no one makes the first move. But I see a different parallel: People don’t do anything because the victim of the horrific crime is female. Kitty Genovese was a woman. And this poor girl is female. And females are still three-quarters of a person in America without the direct Constitutional protection of the ERA. We are sub-human, a lower species of creature. We deserve whatever we get because of it. And no matter how unspeakable and brutal the violence, there will always be someone who comes up with a variation of “the bitch deserved it.” Just read the comments on that gang-rape story, or remember how many young men and women were defending Chris Brown after he beat Rihanna almost to death, or cogitate upon the morally bankrupt defenders of Roman Polanski’s drugging and sodomizing of a 13-year-old girl (like Whoopi Goldberg, who famously opined it wasn’t “rape-rape.” By the way, that, folks, is why conservatives hate “Hollywood liberals,” and in this case, I can’t say I blame them.)
Perhaps there is now hope. Perhaps this new law can be used to begin to highlight the gross and inhuman treatment that women are suffering every day at the hands of their friends, their family and their spouses. It’s brand new, and its effects have yet to be felt. But I can’t help worrying that without the ERA, this bill may not have the legal teeth it should; may not be fully enforceable or used to its full potential.
After all, people already realize that violence committed against people of color is a hate crime, and violence committed against LGBT people is a hate crime. But it is quite clear that people still refuse to realize that violence against women is a hate crime. Will this law change the thought culture? Or will the patriarchy fight back even harder, with “comedy” bits like this, highlighted on the Jay Leno show? If the gang-rape case is prosecuted as a hate crime, will it go to the Supreme Court – and will the Supreme Court uphold it? Or is this, in the end, change we can’t believe in?
What do you think?
This is an open thread.
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