Monday, August 06, 2012

Literally adding insult to injury

First, look at this: for some reason, acid attacks by men against women are increasing in Columbia, leaving lives in ruins. It’s horrific beyond words.  Look at some of these quotes from the article:

The chemical burned off an ear, melted an eye, ate through her lower face and ruined her teeth. She now wears a skin-tight elastic mask, breathes through a straw-like tube that protrudes from her nose and walks the streets looking “like a monster,” as she put it.

How do you think she feels about it?

“I would like to go to sleep today and not wake up tomorrow,” she said. “The truth is life is too hard and I am alone.”

Some men aren’t even ‘brave’ enough to carry out the attacks themselves:

Her former boyfriend paid a small boy $1.75 to throw acid at her — changing the course of a young life. “I stopped going to school, I can’t work, I can’t depend on my own self,” said Vargas, wearing a scarf to shield her scarred neck and chin.

Changing the course of at least two young lives, I expect.  It’s hard to imagine a more callous story.

But then we inevitably get to the comments.  Look at this, for example:

This is not a gender issue. People hurt each other, it happens to men and women.
But for some reason we only care when it happens to women, which is a gender issue.

Sure, men get attacked too, so the fact that these women were attacked because they were women is somehow not a gender issue.  The real problem, of course, is that women complain about having acid thrown in their face.

yes
because only men engage in violence against women
sure

Some women are violent toward other women, therefore there can’t possibly be a problem of male violence against women. Outstanding.

I also am a man. but you know what? I am offended by you and your own choice to use this forum to cast acid as it were on the men of the world with your words. I didn't do this evil thing; tens of millions of other men all over the world have also managed not to throw acid or to be mean an ugly to girls and women all of their live.
It is not right for you to lash out at all men, or boys just because they are not girls or women.
I can not word this any plainer.

Oh, you’re offended, are you?  Well cry me a fucking river. 

He didn’t need to go further than “cast acid as it were”, since it weren’t.  He’s equating horrific attacks and the resulting injuries with being slightly offended on behalf of his fellow men by a post on a website.  He seems actually to want praise for not maiming women.  The point is just a dot on the horizon to him.

This man surely knows that the poster wasn’t accusing all men of throwing acid in women’s faces.  He also surely knows that this is overwhelmingly a form of attack used by men upon women. So what is his complaint?

He doesn’t like women getting uppity and spilling the beans,  He doesn’t want to accept the truth that men the world over are responsible for acts of violence and oppression against women.  He wants to hold on to his privilege, so he has to pretend that there isn’t a problem.  The fruits of his privilege are more important than women’s lives.

The man on a website who equates feeling slightly bad about a comment with countless women with ruined lives, suffering chronic pain and being shunned by society; the administrator who posts a ‘joke’ about rape on a site for rationalists and the people who join in the joke; the man in the pub who laughs at a sexist joke for fear of not fitting in.  These are the people who perpetuate the culture that treats women as second class citizens.

Someone on Ophelia’s site asked how we can turn this trend of violence against women in Columbia in particular and (I assume) in general around.  I’ve no idea. But I’m certain it has to start with men accepting the truth and our collective responsibility.  We should react to stories and comments like this with shame, not indignation, even if we’re not ourselves guilty of violence.

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