Mass murder. Misogyny. Maya Angelou. Jane Doe. The Transgender Tipping Point.
These are the things on my mind and heart.
I’m reading, thinking, talking about the recent spree shooting murders in Isla Vista, California and the connections to our cultural devaluation and hatred of women. The violence that occurs in the context of misogyny, racism, transphobia. Our rush to explain away such atrocities as the work of someone “crazy” contributes to the stigmatization of mental health issues. It furthers the myth that mental illness equals and explains violence in our efforts to make sense of the senseless, to try to regain our illusion of control.
It also helps us ignore the larger, systemic, institutionalized issues involved, such as misogyny. As feminist blogger Melissa McEwan tweeted “dismissing violent misogynists as ‘crazy’ is a neat way of saying that violent misogyny is an individual problem, not a cultural one”. When Do We Talk About “Unpleasant” Truths In the Wake of Elliot Rodger’s Destruction? Soraya Chemaly asked, and tweeted:
Breathe and see if you can really take that in, if just for a moment. ALL women live with the threat of male violence. #yesallwomen is happening on Twitter. Have you seen it? Can you look away? A powerful, profound, painful shout back to all the deniers, apologists, and trolls of rape culture and sexism. It is real and raw, the voice of girls and women speaking truth to power: gendered oppression, discrimination, and violence happen. We are all impacted. It is empowering and of course incredibly painful to witness, so be mindful and take good care.
And Dr. Maya Angelou died. Her words and being have impacted me, changed the way I saw the world, since I first read I Know Why the Caged Bird Signs. A survivor of sexual abuse, artist, activist, inspiration. Once silenced by trauma, her voice touched so many.
I reveled in Laverne Cox on the cover of Time magazine, wondered if this truly is the “tipping point”. Simultaneously, Jane Doe, a 16-year-old trans girl sits in adult prison with no criminal charges for over 50 days. In An Open Letter to Jane Doe, the 16-year-old Girl Who Smiles & Dreams From Behind Bars, Janet Mock wrote:
Today, I read that you look up to me, and it caught me in an emotional moment, pushing me to think of someone I look up to. Her name was Maya Angelou, and she passed away this week. And the connectivity of your existence, of mine, of hers was not lost on me. Like you, Maya Angelou lived a life full of highs and lows, of struggle and triumph, of abuse and of self-revelation. It was a life of her own creation, a path she blazed for herself in a world not built for her. When there was no blueprint, Maya Angelou created one — a blueprint which became mine.
Connectivity. What threads weave themselves through all these events and issues? Misogyny. Racism. Transphobia. Violence and oppression. Struggle and triumph. Tipping points and simultaneously so much more work to do. Human rights work. Social justice work. Anti-violence work. We are doing that work. We speak our truths and take up space. We claim our right to this world not made for us. We blaze a path, making it just that bit easier for those who come after us. And we rise.