My iPod shuffled out a soothing 20-minute mantra for my morning drive to work. As soon as I started the iPod and that song began, I kind of wondered if this was Spirit’s little gift to me on account of me having a gut full of feminist rage this morning.
I’m sure that anyone with even a peripheral awareness of U.S. news has heard the basic details of the shooting at an LA Fitness club in Collier, PA. George Sodini entered a women’s-only aerobics class at around 8 PM last night, fumbled in his duffel bag for the multiple guns in his possession, then turned out the lights and started firing. Three women were killed and ten others injured before Sodini turned the gun on himself.
The picture I’ve seen emerge from the news coverage is that Sodini was conscious in his decision to target women. He blogged about his desire to commit this sort of massacre, and he justified this desire by expressing his frustrations at being lonely and not having a girlfriend for the last 25 years.
But I’m also seeing the inevitable media slants on things. I’ve heard Sodini’s blog described as something documenting “his descent into madness” — a convenient way to try and deflect the ways that his frustration, and the ease with which he could slip from sexual/romantic frustration to a plan to exact deadly “revenge” against desirable women, are deeply ingrained within the patriarchy. By casting Sodoni as a madman, no one has to examine the deeply uncomfortable truths about how in this rape culture, most (all?) men are trained receive training to expect women’s availability, to interpret their attractiveness as purely in service to the male gaze. [Trying to clarify my intended meaning as per Bob’s comment, below.]
I am haunted and infuriated by the premeditation indicated from Sodini’s choice to attack a women’s-only class at his own gym. Is it possible that part of the rage working through him was based in this assumptive loop that why would these women be gym members except to make themselves attractive for men, and with that as their purpose, then how dare they be unavailable to him?!?
I’m too furious and incoherent to unpack it all right now, but I know deep to my core that my growth towards self-esteem is deeply entwined with body acceptance and fat acceptance. And I know that body acceptance and fat acceptance are deeply entwined with questioning patriarchal norms about attractiveness, femininity, and the male gaze.*
I was in (women’s) college back when Marc Lepine murdered 14 woman at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique. There was a memorial service on campus, the usual candlelight vigil, some thoughtful hymn for everyone to sing together. And a minister who breathed the fire of feminist rage and turned over one of the hymns’ phrases into the proclamation: “We are angry, angry women!”
I’m ashamed to admit that back in 1989, I disapproved of that minister’s reaction. I thought it was inappropriate and disrespectful of the dead, that her anger took focus away from the grief and sorrow we should feel for these lives cut short by a gunman.
Today, as my stomach burns with feminist rage, I remember this minister so clearly, so vividly, so suddenly. And I offer a quiet apology up into the karmic phone network, in hopes she’ll feel touched by an extra little piece of gratitude today. Because it took me a while to understand, but I got there eventually. So now, two decades later, I’m better able to honor the example of strength and righteous indignation that she modeled for me all those years ago.
Today, as I ponder Sodini’s actions in Collier, and Lepine’s in Montreal, and all the great and small incidences of violence against women that have occurred in the 20 years between those two events, I can say without any hesitation:
I am an angry, angry woman.
* Among other topics.
UPDATE: Jezebel has many insightful things to say about the misogyny in Sodini’s actions and the ways they are being culturally read. The succinct jewel of wisdom that blew me away:
Roissy’s contention that “anything is justified” to help men avoid celibacy is terrifying, but more subtly disturbing is his assumption that Sodini’s rampage was directly caused by women refusing to sleep with him. Like Sodini himself, Roissy assumes that Sodini shot up a gym because women rejected him, not that women rejected him because he was the kind of guy who would one day shoot up a gym.