This Week In Women: Ladies With Guns & Street Harassment
Being a woman is tough: sometimes well-meaning men tell you to “smile, baby!” and other times not-so-well-meaning men choose to put forth sexual advances. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to deal with this: politely telling your harasser to fuck off; reporting them to the police—if you live in Nottinghamshire, anyway; or, as the NRA suggests, buying a gun. Welcome to this week in women: the street harassment edition.
Protect Yourself From Harassment: Buy A Gun!
The pro-gun lobby finds a way to spin every single tragedy—from the Pulse shooting in Orlando to the Sandy Hook shooting to the constant harassment women face—into a reason why we should all go out and buy guns. School shooting? The teacher should’ve been armed. Movie theater shooting? Everyone at the concession counter should’ve been strapped. Nightclub shooting? Could’ve been prevented if all those drunk patrons had guns!
Now the NRA is rehashing an old, beloved argument of theirs: women with guns are completely safe from sexual harassment and from anyone else who dares trespass against them.
“Here’s a message to every rapist, domestic abuser, violent criminal, thug, and every other monster who preys upon women,” Dana Loesch says into the camera. Loesch, by the way, is a radio and television host for TheBlaze, owned by conservative pundit Glenn Beck. Note the subtle usage of coded language: “thugs” are the ones who prey upon and will eventually be shot by strong, armed women—where else have we heard shooting victims referred to as thugs before?
“Here’s what this means for despicable cowards for you,” Loesch continues. “Your life expectancy just got shorter. Because there’s a very good chance your next target will be armed, trained, and ready to exercise her right to choose her life over yours.”
Finally, someone on the right cares about a woman’s right to choose! Unfortunately, “right to choose” in this case means right to shoot someone to death, or at least to gravely injure them. Noted.
“This is what real empowerment looks like: millions of American moms, grandmothers, and professional women taking our lives and our family’s lives into our own, capable hands.”
Loesch never uses the word “feminism” in her NRA ad, but she’s clearly appropriating feminist rhetoric. “Right to choose,” “empowerment,” and all that “taking our lives into our own hands” stuff? The feminist movement did it first, and they weren’t doing it to sell guns.
Not to mention the fact that Loesch paints a picture of a fantasy world where women are only assaulted by strangers—when, in fact, three out of 4 women are raped by someone they know, not by strangers or “thugs” or stalkers. As The Cut’s Claire Landsbaum points out, when women in domestic violence situations do use guns as self-defense, their risk of being killed actually increases. If anything, guns hurt victims of domestic violence far more than they help.
Street Harassment is a Hate Crime in this English City
Meanwhile, in the UK, police departments are actually doing something to assuage the concerns of women who deal with street harassment—and amazingly, it doesn’t involve guns at all!
Earlier this week, the Nottinghamshire Police force announced that street harassment, unwanted physical or verbal engagement, or taking pictures of people without their consent—known lovingly in the misogynist community as creepshotting—will be investigated as hate crimes. According to Stop Street Harassment, 64% of UK women have experienced street harassment in the past, and 35% had experienced unwanted sexual touching. In the US, the numbers are similar: 65% of American women have experienced street harassment.
According to Broadly, this decision stems from a plan made at the 2015 Nottingham Safer for Women Conference hosted by the police force alongside the Nottinghamshire Women’s Centre, and is also informed by a 2014 study that examined Nottinghamshire denizens’ perspective on hate crimes.
The definition of a hate crime greatly differs between the US and the UK. While the FBI defines hate crimes as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity,” [or profession, at least in Louisiana] there are no specific laws defining street harassment as a hate crime.
In Nottinghamshire, hate crimes are defined as “simply any incident, which may or may not be deemed a criminal offense, which is perceived by the victim or any other person, as being motivated by prejudice or hatred.” In the case of street harassment, prejudice and hatred can be manifested as catcalls or stalking—this doesn’t mean that catcallers and stalkers hate women, per se, but rather that they’ve been conditioned to treat women as less than human.
However, not everyone agrees that making street harassment a crime is the right way to bring about change. Emily May, executive director of Hollaback!, told Broadly that anti-harassment laws like the one introduced in Nottinghamshire can actually have adverse effects, especially in the US, where communities of color are more heavily policed than white communities.
“Typically when we have seen those laws, they are disproportionately used around low-income communities and committees with people of color, places where we don’t actually see a concentration of harassment,” May said.
Regardless, Nottinghamshire’s police force is doing something Americans should do: fighting against street harassment. While a certain businessman keeps trying to make America great again, British police are striving to make women feel safe (not again, but possible for the first time ever). America, take notes.
“Male Lives Matter,” Says Mike Huckabee
As if #AllLivesMatter wasn’t bad enough, we may have a new hashtag running amok soon. Mike Huckabee—who you may know as the former governor of Arkansas or as one of the 17 people who tried to become America’s Next Top Republican Nominee—has declared that male lives (especially those of white males) are the ones that really matter.
Huckabee went on Fox News to discuss how last week’s shootings of three black men—Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and Delrawn Small—actually had nothing to do with race at all. “More white people have been shot by police officers this past year than minorities,” Huckabee said, ignoring the fact that minorities are called “minorities” because there are fewer of them. According to a fact check by the Washington Post, black people were actually shot at 2.5 times the rate of white people in 2016.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) July 9, 2016
When Huckabee was asked to comment on how incredibly wrong he was, he decided to double down on his awfulness. “The pure facts also reveal that 94 percent of those killed by police are men,” he said. “So by your ‘proportional’ standards, the real movement in America should be ‘Male Lives Matter.’”
Huckabee isn’t wrong—the majority of Americans killed by police are men, but they aren’t killed for being men. Police officers don’t regularly patrol neighborhoods men hang out in; the NYPD doesn’t stop and frisk any guy who happens to pass by, just because he’s a man. The men who bear the brunt of police brutality in the United States are primarily black and Latino, and they’re targeted due to the color of their skin, not because of their maleness.
— Ash J (@AshAgony) July 14, 2016
This week marks the first anniversary of Sandra Bland’s death. Bland died while being held in police custody after having been pulled over for a minor traffic stop. Her death was immediately ruled a suicide—despite a lack of thorough investigation. In New York City, nearly one thousand activists took to the streets to demand justice for Bland and other women of color killed by police, whose deaths are often ignored or disregarded. Despite what Mike Huckabee may think, there is not a war on men in this country: there is a war on people of color, and that includes women.
Stay tuned to Milk for more of This Week in Women, and check out our previous installments here.
Images via Care2, IMDB.