Thoughts on the Collier Shooting

The Post-Gazette's coverage of the Collier Township tragedy has been comprehensive, but both the news side and the editorial side have missed an important part of the story.

On the news side, the events of Tuesday night have been packaged as the acts of a deranged, isolated lunatic, assaulting innocent strangers, a narrative that is familiar to all. (There is a bizarre hint in that piece that the Internet is to blame, because it allegedly contributes to social isolation.)

On the editorial side, the deranged-individual-and-innocent-strangers narrative has been supplemented by a Rob Rogers cartoon that pushes the gun control button, as if the tragedy could have been avoided had guns been less easily available.

Some people get what's missing, including the organizers of a candlelight vigil being organized for tonight (Thursday, August 6) at 5:30 pm at the City County Building.

What's missing is this:

The shootings in Collier represent a horrific act of violence against women. Violence against the three women who were killed. Violence against the nine women who were wounded. Violence against all of the women who happened to be at the gym at LA Fitness on Tuesday evening. And indirectly but distinctly, violence against all women everyone. Wives and girlfriends and partners, mothers and sisters, daughters and nieces, friends and neighbors and colleagues. The shootings in Collier meet my definition of terrorism: acts of violence against unarmed individuals who are accused of representing an entire community. In his mind, the gunman was attacking all women.

If you are a woman, then it's likely that you know this already. If you're not a woman, then ask one to share her feelings. Or watch and listen as women react to this tragedy. For them, the world just got a little scarier.

All of us need to change that.


7 Responses to "Thoughts on the Collier Shooting"

EdHeath said... 8/06/2009 12:36 PM

I have written a bit on this on my own blog, and in comments on 2PJ's. I think you are absolutely right in pointing out that there is a component of violence against women in Sodini's actions, as he himself verifies in his writings on his webpage. I think on the one hand Sodini is an extreme manifestation of this, but I will hasten to add that I am aware there are countless women battered and sometimes killed by husbands, something our society still largely turns a blind eye to. I don’t know what the solution to that could be, except that if the government (probably at the federal level) made more (or any) of an effort to get posters in workplaces (like the OSHA posters) telling people the signs of a battered woman and how to get help, maybe that would make some more difference.

The issues that Sodini seemed to have can not be addressed by policy, he apparently was angry to the point of homicide that no woman at a level of attractiveness he deemed acceptable had read his mind and jumped his bones (so to speak). Unlike the birther business, where US Senators are willing to say Obama should get the original birth certificate to prove he is a US citizen, no rational person would support Sodini’s complaints as a motive for anything except to get some serious counseling. There are the larger issues of the objectification of women, as perpetrated by the fashion industry, the media, the cosmetics industry, etc. But if we are not even willing to consider a discussion on the merits of a single payer system as a means of financing healthcare, we are not going to see (a discussion of) women and men wearing Mao jackets, no makeup and bowl haircuts.

On a similar note, I happen to think that a revolver, holding six (or perhaps even nine) bullets, is perfectly adequate for home defense. It would meet Scalia’s holding a gun in one hand and a phone in the other standard. So I will part company with you and say that in a perfect world we would not be able to acquire handguns that can hold fifteen bullets and be reloaded in a couple of seconds. Much less an AK-47. I mean, even a revolver can be reloaded quickly (with a device called a speed loader), and the shooter could have carried in fifteen revolvers in his gym bag and pulled them from it one at a time, discarding the empties. But gun technology is another thing, like healthcare and violence against women, that has become a social problem, where the poor suffer disproportionately and therefore the Republicans block solutions. And I realize what I jut said can be debated on many levels, but I would rather look towards solutions.

Mike Madison said... 8/06/2009 12:56 PM


I don't disagree with your third 'graph. My point was to disparage the tendency to force events like this to serve tired narratives like gun control/gun rights. That tendency marginalizes other important issues, and violence against women is an issue that gets marginalized more than many others.


Jonathan Potts said... 8/06/2009 9:24 PM

I agree with the characterization that this was an assault on all women. I blanched reading his blog, thinking of my wife and daughter. It's worth questioning whether you can draw a line from the subtle -- and not-so-subtle -- forms of misogyny inherent in our culture to the horrible crime committed Tuesday night.

And certainly, you are right -- the ease with which guns are acquired in our nation did not make him want to kill those women. But it did allow him to kill those women. It allowed him to kill three at the same time, and to wound several others. And to traumatize the rest, possibly for the rest of their lives.

I understand that it is too easy to fit these events into preconceived narratives, causing us to lose sight of the important issues at stake. But there is nothing "tired" about the issue of gun violence, which plagues our society.

In a society devoid of sexism and misogyny, this gunman might have found another scapegoat for his feelings of alienation and isolation. Just as in a society devoid of racism, Richard Baumhammers might have picked victims other than racial and ethnic minorities.

But as long as both men were able to readily acquire guns, they would have found victims nonetheless.

Mike Madison said... 8/06/2009 10:17 PM


Again to clarify, since I don't disagree with you, either:

I do not and did not hold that the issue of gun violence is tired. To the contrary; that issue was, is, and should be a vibrant and compelling topic.

I wrote that the gun control/gun rights *narrative* is tired. That is, like many other public policy debates in this country, the gun violence issue has long been held hostage to reflexive and stereotyped arguments on both sides that impede its resolution, and may in fact be designed to do so. "It is way too easy for anyone to purchase weapons and ammunition of mass destruction" is one of those arguments, though it is far from the only one. The problem is not that this claim is false (it isn't false; you and I and many others agree that it is true). The problem is that it does not advance the debate.

All of that aside, I don't want to concede the point that the perpetrator's acting on his hostility might have been mitigated or avoided had he not had access to guns. This is not the equivalent of reciting "guns don't kill people, etc."; instead, it is drawing attention to a (not "the") central issue both in this attack and in society generally.


Jonathan Potts said... 8/07/2009 12:02 PM

I'm sure you saw this op-ed in today's PG, with what I would call the "Bowling Alone" theory of mass shootings:

AZMike said... 8/07/2009 2:08 PM

To stick to the topic of violence against women, Ed makes a good point when he writes that most of the violence actually comes from husbands, boyfriends, etc. The typical American women is much more likely to beaten or killed by someone that she knows than be gunned down while working out at her fitness club.

Fen said... 8/14/2009 3:31 PM

And violence against women - and indeed, much violence from men in general - starts from a culture that doesn't like to see emotions in men. From the time we are able to walk and fall down, we are told: "Don't cry, be a man!". When we are sad, rather than sobbing with our close friends as women might, men are taken to a bar by their friends so that can drown the feelings - not feel them.

I am often upset by women who pull away from men in this debate; rather, we need their (and all of society's) support in expressing our emotions so that we don't become a dangerous powder keg set to explode. Until men are welcome to express other feelings than anger (the only "manly" feeling) we'll continue to see such violence.

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