Oh and by the way – it’s completely unimportant, but then again it perhaps led to things that were important, so it might be worth mentioning – the first person Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot was his ex-girlfriend, Shaneka Thompson. He shot her in the stomach.
Nancy Leong at Slate says this is a pattern.
We live in a country where shooting your ex-girlfriend is at most local news.
According to media reports, the management of Thompson’s apartment complex distributed a letter to other residents stating that her shooting was the result of a “domestic dispute” in order to reassure them that “this was a private, isolated incident.” When three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every single day in the United States, domestic violence is just another routine event—merely a landlord-tenant-relations issue of no concern to anyone else.
Of course, later that day Brinsley went on to murder New York police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, so we now know that his shooting of Thompson was no private, isolated incident. The more difficult question is why anyone ever assumed that it was.
Well it’s like this. Brinsley was mad at his own personal ex-girlfriend. That means he’s not going to shoot the rest of us in the stomach, because we’re not his ex-girlfriend. The same applies to all those other private, isolated incidents of domestic violence. All we have to do is not involve ourselves with someone who will shoot us when he gets pissed off, and we’ll be fine.
Too often, our society resists taking domestic violence and other forms of gendered violence, such as stalking and sexual assault, as seriously as other kinds of violence. We need to stop dismissing gendered violence and start learning from the pattern present in one incident after another. Men who engage in violence at home are often men who engage in violence outside the home. And men who devalue women’s lives are, by definition, men who devalue human lives.
And for another reason, too. Women’s lives matter. Even women who aren’t cops or celebrities or important in some way.
And just a few days ago, Man Haron Monis held 17 people hostage for more than 12 hours in a coffee shop in what quickly became known as the Sydney siege, which culminated in the deaths of two hostages as well as Monis. Both during and after the hostage standoff, considerable attention focused on Monis’ Islamic ties and purported religious extremism. Yet far less note was made of his extensive history of violence against women. At the time of the standoff, he was out on bail for charges relating to the murder of his ex-wife, whom he had also threatened and stalked, and he had been charged with more than 40 sexual assault offenses dating from 2000 and allegedly involving seven different women. As Clementine Ford aptly observed, this information “paint[s] an incredibly disturbing picture of someone with a deep and aggressive hatred for women.” Yet this disturbing pattern of violence against women apparently failed to raise the kind of red flags that would have led to confinement—or at least closer supervision—of Monis.
I suppose that’s because violence against women is seen as “domestic” and that is seen as not a threat to people in general.
We need to stop seeing these various manifestations of misogyny—aggression, stalking, domestic violence, sexual assault—as a separate species of problem. Certainly men who engage in violence against women often do so for gendered reasons. Sometimes men are angry when women don’t obey them. Sometimes men feel that women owe them something. And women often suffer when they don’t act the way men want them to. But the consequences of misogyny and gendered violence don’t stop with women.
I’m really not sure that’s a great way to frame it. I’m not sure violence becomes worse just because it doesn’t stop with women. I’m not sure violence is more benign as long as it stops with women. Obviously Leong doesn’t mean to say otherwise, but I’m not crazy about the way she framed this.
Given the clear connection between private and public acts of violence, the relative lack of media attention to Brinsley’s attack on Thompson is inexcusable. Although local media and Twitter linked her shooting to that of Liu and Ramos within a few hours, many mainstream media outlets failed to mention her or devoted only a single sentence to her shooting until much later.
Same again – not the best way to put it.
Mind you – I didn’t mention Thompson yesterday either. Guilty as charged.
Certainly ending violence against women is a worthy aim in and of itself. But we also need to see misogyny as a warning sign both of violence against women and of violence, period. What if Seung-Hui’s stalking behavior had resulted in concrete punishment? What if Rodger’s aggression toward women had been taken more seriously? What if the various charges against Monis had been deemed sufficient to warrant his incarceration prior to trial?
Of course, taking gendered violence seriously is not a panacea. It’s not yet clear whether treating Brinsley’s shooting of his ex-girlfriend as a mere domestic dispute delayed the police in discovering his deadly intentions. Perhaps handling the event differently would have prevented the tragic deaths of Liu and Ramos. Perhaps it wouldn’t have.
What is clear is that gendered violence is often a prelude to other forms of violence. Moving forward, we should treat gendered violence as real violence, and its harms as part of a pattern that affects all of us.
Well, really, I think we should treat gendered violence as something that matters whether it affects all of us or not.