Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Water We Swim In

In the late 80s, Julie had gone off to San Francisco and Richard and I were living together in Stockton. We had two tanks of fish -- one 20 gallon tank of mixed tropicals and one 35 gallon with two massive goldfish. I had been lazy and let the big tank go a little too long (they were my fish, and so my job to clean the tank), when I had to go to Southern California to do a training. Since I was going to be gone for a week, I asked Richard to take care of the fish tank before I got back.

When I returned, I opened the front door and the first thing I saw was the still dirty tank, with two fish floating on the top. Knowing that the thought of my dead pets was going to bother me until I dealt with it, I put my suitcase down, got the net, removed the first fish, and dumped it into the toilet. Just as I reached to flush, the fish revived and started swimming strongly. So, I put him in a pot of water, added his bowl mate, and cleaned the tank.

What made me think of this today was this entry over on Echidne of the Snakes.

Finally the M-word has been pronounced in the mainstream media. Finally. Here is Bob Herbert on the school massacres and their real nature:

In the widespread coverage that followed these crimes, very little was made of the fact that only girls were targeted. Imagine if a gunman had gone into a school, separated the kids up on the basis of race or religion, and then shot only the black kids. Or only the white kids. Or only the Jews.

There would have been thunderous outrage. The country would have first recoiled in horror, and then mobilized in an effort to eradicate that kind of murderous bigotry. There would have been calls for action and reflection. And the attack would have been seen for what it really was: a hate crime.

None of that occurred because these were just girls, and we have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that violence against females is more or less to be expected.

My fish were trying to live in water so toxic that the toilet was preferable. It hadn't started out that way, it had happened slowly but steadily. Americans are now living in an atmosphere that is so toxic with hatred for women that we don't even see it. We don't notice the great preponderance of stories about violence that concern female victims because it has crept up on us a little at a time. Slowly but steadily our national atmosphere about females has become more toxic than the toilet.


Tabor said...

I was thinking of my daughter's early trip to Chicago today and wondering if her husband was going to drive her to the train in the early morning or would she walk the five blocks. It then occurred to me that I would not be as worried about him walking in the dark to the train and I knew why.

J said...

You're making me seem older than I am! I didn't leave for SF until '87. ;)

I read that at Echinde yesterday, too. Ugh. It's so depressing that we don't even blink anymore when women and girls are selected for acts of violence...we're just used to it. I think that's the reason so many people say they'd rather have a boy baby than a girl...a lot less to worry about.

Deja Pseu said...

What was interesting to me was when a blurb about Bob Herbert's column was posted on Salon, the overwhelming response in comments (and mostly male commenters) was "Misogyny Doesn't Extist!" Or, "so what if women are always killed and mutilated on TV crime shows, it's just a STORY." So many people seem very threatened by the idea that a) misogyny exists and b) that they might be participating in it.

A few years ago I read an account of a college class where the professor asked the female students to list the precautions they took on a daily basis to avoid being raped. Each of the women listed several. Then he asked the men the same question and was met with only blank stares.

Thailand Gal said...

J, I highly suspect all of this is a result of the "divide and conquer" mentality that is promoted in this culture, designed to keep us from enjoying our commonalities instead of competing based on our differences. Until that is addressed, I honestly don't have much hope.

Thailand Gal


Chancy said...


The Amish killing was an aberration. The murderer might just as well have had psychotic "childhood anger" against boys and killed all the boys.

In the Columbine massacre, 4 of the victims were female and 9 were male.

Violence against any human being is unacceptable and more needs to be done to quell the violence that stains our society, including more inclusive gun control and bringing our military home from Iraq.

Ginnie said...

What a powerful post. You certainly got my attention. I never thought of the uproar that would have ensued if it had been other than "just girls". Thanks so much for continually opening my mind.

Py Korry said...

Maybe I was reading stories from different publications, but the majority of them talked about the fact that the gunman separated the girls from the boys. The meaning behind this action, however, wasn't explored in any substantive manner. But it was certainly a dominant focus of the story. Maybe I have to start reading more mainstream pubs to fully understand the omission.

Shark-fu said...

Just dropping in to say hey and thanks for linking.