FEMICIDE


‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’, a new feature film based on the life of the notorious American serial killer Ted Bundy, that has just begun streaming on Netflix. In the mid-70s Bundy, who used to be a law student in university, preyed on young and beautiful girls of various different universities in different cities. He would kidnap them, rape them and then kill them. In the beginning even though he tried his best to claim he was not guilty, on realizing there was no way out he later confessed to thirty such murders. Experts believe that the number of women Bundy killed was more than thirty, that it was possibly close to a hundred if not more. Ted Bundy was so handsome and so smart that one glance at him was enough to impress girls. Besides, he was such a smiling, well-behaved man that those who knew him could not have even imagined that he could murder someone. Catching him had not been easy either, he had twice escaped from two different prisons. But one day they did catch up to him, he was caught, tried and sentenced to death. Consequently it became possible to answer numerous questions surrounding him, how he used to abduct his victims, how they were killed and so on. But the one question that remains unanswered to this date is why his victims were exclusively women, especially when murder was something he was addicted to. Why did he not count men, animals or birds among his victims? Besides, it was not as if rape was the driving force behind his actions. There were many victims of his who were found to have not been sexually violated at all before being killed.
Around the time Ted Bundy was killing girls, two other notorious murderers emerged as well – Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, called the Hillside Stranglers. Just as Bundy they too used to abduct young or adolescent girls, to rape and murder them. Bundy operated in Washington, Utah and Florida while the Stranglers operated in the California region. Is there any region that has not been a witness to femicide? Just a few years back, in 2014, Californian Elliott Rodger took to the street with a gun to shoot any girl he could find. So virulent was Rodger’s misogyny that he had even uploaded a video on Youtube containing his manifesto of hatred directed at women. In the video he had confessed to being a virgin because no woman had reportedly agreed to have sex with him. His manifesto of anger and hatred against women had been 140 pages long and Eliott ended up killing six people. Surprisingly, after the murders, instead of his actions being denounced a veritable wave of praise directed at him was unleashed. In no time many men popped up at various places claiming to be his admirers. What outpouring of misogyny it was! They named Elliot ‘Supreme Gentleman’ and his likeness began to find its way to their t-shirts. Canadian Alek Minassian, having adopted Rodger as his spiritual guru, went on a rampage on the busy streets of Toronto one day, using his van to run over a number of pedestrians, most of whom were women.
Not just offline, a thousand misogynist organizations have recently cropped up online as well – groups identifying themselves as ‘men’s rights’, ‘incel rebellion’, ‘pick-up artists’ among others. The last group claims that the best way to have sex is to first incapacitate the woman. These people may be misogynists but they are not as bad as Minassian. The latter was a proponent of murder while pick-up artists, although not aligned with murder or something so extreme, nonetheless are fine with rape. In fact, they believe every man possesses the right to rape women. Eliott Rodger was not the first of his kind. In 2009 a misogynist man named George Sodini had barged into a health club in Pennsylvania and killed three women. Before committing the crime he had left an entry in his online journal, confessing how he had not had sex in years because women paid him no attention.
Who will teach these men that it’s not a woman’s responsibility to satisfy them every time they get sexually aroused? Who will teach them that if they believe they are entitled to being inconsiderate, intolerant, violent, cruel and barbaric just because of their gender then they are seriously delusional!
Despite knowing that it is this misogyny that is behind such killing sprees and massacres directed at women, anti-terrorist experts insist on claiming ‘lone wolves’ are behind such incidents. Attacks by such lone wolves follow no strict plans and various reasons like drug addiction, depression and troubled childhood and growing-up years are often cited as motivating factors behind such aimless acts of murder and mayhem. But men who kill women because of their hatred for women, who commit such acts in cold blood, can be anything but lone wolves. The only people who can be perfectly compared with such misogynist terrorists are religious terrorists. Just as the latter category wishes for the annihilation of anyone or everyone who is critical of their religious beliefs, misogynists too wish for the end of all women. As per them if women are fine with living as slaves serving under men then they can be allowed to live, or else no woman has the right to life. No matter what else they are, misogynist terrorists are not lone wolves. Neither are they psychologically or mentally impaired or acting under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They do what they do because they hate women. Such acts of violence have a purpose, they are planned, they are political.
How many of us remember Marc Lépine? In 1989 Lépine had barged into École Polytechnique in Montreal and singled out only women students whom he had shot dead. That day fourteen women were killed. In the 70s and 80s Charles Sobhraj, famously called The Bikini Killer, killed numerous girls in Thailand and Nepal. The notorious ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ Peter Sutcliffe murdered thirteen girls between 1975 to 1980, besides attempting to kill many more. In early 1984 Australian national Christopher Wilder went on a crime spree abducting and raping at least twelve women, eight of whom he killed. Americans Rodney Alcala, Carl Eugene Watts, Leonard Lake, Gerald Stano, and Canadian Keith Hunter Jesperson were all involved in femicide. Then there was Ariel Castro from Cleveland! The man who kidnapped three young women and kept them imprisoned in his house, bound in chains, for more than a decade, treating them as sexual slaves, raping and torturing them!
So many feminists have faced death threats while protesting misogyny. In this age of technology and information just as misogyny has become popular, threats against feminists have gone up massively as well. While other acts of terrorism can probably be curtailed, murderous violence arising from misogyny is impossible to curb simply because misogyny is so normalized in our society. Patriarchy and misogyny are inextricably interlinked, without the latter the former will crumble. That is perhaps why across the centuries patriarchal society has actively nurtured and sustained misogyny.
Due to such entrenched misogynous attitudes, women are always considered inferior to men in all respects. It is believed that women are less intelligent than man, less talented, weaker, less competent and brave, all reasons why men are expected to lord over them. Men will draw the lines within which women have to live, they will decide what women will wear, what they will eat, where they can go and how far, what they can read or talk about, what they can write or think – everything will have its limits. Without misogyny, it would not be possible to think of women as insignificant and inconsequential. It is simply because of this pervasive hatred that women continue to be tortured, why dowry-related violence is still rampant, why sexual harassment is widespread everywhere be it at home or in the outside world, why even the threat of capital punishment has not managed to curb rapes, and why women continue to be murdered with impunity. Be it in the name of honour or in the name of retribution for adultery.
Children who grow up witnessing women being discriminated against never manage to learn any lessons on gender equality. What they learn from their families and societies instead is plain and simple misogyny. If anyone dares to claim equal rights for women, be it in education, practice, law, in the eyes of the state or in society, or even within the family, they are bound to face excommunication in some form or other. Just because the Prime Minister of a country is a woman hardly means such a society is free of misogyny or discriminatory practices. The Leader of Opposition is a woman, ministers are women, the head of state is a woman – none of these things can guarantee that in such a country women will enjoy as much freedom as the men do.
Women are murdered for various reasons, not every murder is femicide. Femicide happens when a man kills a woman simply because of who she is, a woman. A comparative term for the murder of men does not even exist simply because in our societies men are hardly ever murdered because of their gender. Being a man is not a thing of shame like it is in case of a woman. Women co-habit with their murderers, in intimate relationships, often under the same roof. Most women are murdered by people close to them, by their husbands, lovers, friends or close relatives. Other than among human beings in no species is cohabitation with one’s executioner such a naturalized tendency.

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