On Sunday, January 27th James Anderson walked into a popular neighborhood bar in Seattle’s Central District, and shot his ex-girlfriend, the mother of their son, several times in the chest and abdomen. Anderson had been ejected from the bar, the Twilight Exit, 20 minutes earlier for fighting with the young woman, only to return with a handgun to shoot the doorman, and attack his ex-girlfriend. Anderson was killed by police, the two victims will likely survive.
“There is,” writes progressive author Rebecca Solnit in an article posted on TomDispatch that same week, “a pattern of violence against women that’s broad and deep and horrific and incessantly overlooked” in American society. Solnit tells us that with over 1000 homicides of women by their partners in the United States every year, that “every three years the death toll tops 9/11’s casualties, though no one declares a war on this particular terror.” Murder and physical assault is added to a record of rape and sexual violence that Solnit estimates occur at a rate of one a minute. This violence is invisible she tells us, in part because it is so constant, so pervasive in our society.
It’s hard to think about what causes this kind of violence. How men can justify their violence, their destruction of women’s lives, on a personal, piece by piece, and systemic, basis.
It helps to think about culture. Misogynistic ideas are everywhere. Women are devalued and dehumanized, degraded and humiliated, the object of derision and sexualization, in advertisements, movies, songs, books, newspaper headlines, gossip sites, tabloids, and our own jokes and social rituals. This image of women, as nothing-objects, is contrasted to living breathing women – with their own ideas, impulses, decisions, and, importantly, power. This difference, between the culture of misogyny, and reality of women’s experience and women’s power, creates a tension in society – one which some men seek to resolve through violence, through erasing the real, human women in their lives.
The fight over the control of women, a battle for social power, has been with us a long time. Author and activist Silvia Federici places it at the heart of the development of capitalism in Medieval Europe. She tells us that incidents in history, like the terror of the witch trials and burnings that pervaded Europe for centuries, killing hundreds of thousands of women, were part of this battle for the control of women’s bodies and central to the needs of reproductive and productive capitalism. We learn from Federici that as working people lost their access to land and resources once reserved for communal use, that the domestic and socially reproductive labor provided by women became a central source of competition as both men and women were pushed to a more marginal, desperate existence. With that competition came violence, as well as hateful ideas to justify that violence. “A war against women” Federici calls it – one she argues that continues to this day.
Anderson’s attempt to kill his ex-girlfriend at a bar in Seattle is one terrible incident. It represents an ongoing all pervasive war against women, one fought at the intersection of capitalism and sexism. Until we learn to tackle these problems in there holistic complexity, in both their cultural and structural aspects as Solnit and Federici argue, they will continue to be with us.
Efforts are underway all the time. From the recent controversial SlutWalk, to the upcoming One Billion Rising day of action, and everyday forms of resistance, feminists are fighting back. These efforts are good, but not enough. In a society founded on violence, against women, workers, minorities, those very foundations will have to be overturned. Until then, incidents like what happened at the Twilight Exit will continue all too regularly.
My heart goes out to those who survive, and fight, and die.
This article was prepared for the first print edition of the Seattle Free Press. For more information visit seattlefreepress.org
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the entire War Times project
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