UPDATE: The video above is a clip from our documentary, “The Audacity of Democracy,” directed by Brad Mays. Brad shot this interview on the day of the roll call vote in Denver, August 27th, when Hillary preempted the vote of delegates and broke the hearts of millions of her supporters. At the time of this interview Betty Jean’s oldest daughter Denise had recently been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her younger daughter, Louisa, was alive and well.
Sheri and I spoke with Betty Jean last night and recorded the interview HERE. Please give it a listen and discuss.
In comments, Sue66 pointed us to THIS article on the resurgence of misogyny as an accepted mode of supposedly polite and professional discourse. The author, Anotonia Zerbisias, introduced me to a term I haven’t heard before — “femicide.” I like that word — like “woman-lynching” it removes the patina of privacy and moral relativism from what is actually a public catastrophe.
Four women a day are murdered by their husbands in this country for NO reason. Since we invaded Iraq in March 2003, more than 4,200 American soldiers have been killed. In that same time, there have been NINE THOUSAND woman-lynchings; more than twice as many women slaughtered than US casualties in Iraq. And as always, I’m only talking about the 1,500 women a year who are murdered by their husbands — shot, stabbed, beaten, strangled, in extreme terror, often in front of their children. Not the additional 2,000 who are killed by strangers every year. When we read about civil wars in Africa where mothers and fathers are killed in front of their children we recoil in HORROR. We think there must be something profoundly wrong about a culture that spawns such cruel and terrifying practices. Wake up. That kind of terror is COMMONPLACE in the United States. Most of the women who are woman-lynched are mothers of more than one child. How many thousands of children have watched their mothers be stabbed to death or shot right in front of them in the last year or two?
So called domestic violence is another example of why I say it is deadly for women to hold on to the idea that the “personal is political.” By treating femicide and woman-lynching as personal, family, private matters we remove them from judgment by absolute moral standards. It would be like referring to child sexual assault by priests as “church assault” or “sacred assault.” By making woman-lynching “personal” we also remove woman-lynching from the sphere of OUR OWN moral obligations. Like the patriarchal totalitarianism that underpins Sharia Law in muslim societies, “domestic violence” offers a loophole for us — it happens in THOSE families, to THOSE women, because of THEIR problems — drugs, poverty, alcolholism, whatever, there’s always a plausible reason to shift the burden and the focus away.
But think about this — stonings and beheadings of “adulterous” women in muslim countries don’t happen to middle and upper class women there. Educated and employed women in India are not burned to death for dowries. And the middle and upper class black Americans of Chicago, Harlem, and Boston were NOT living in terror of being lynched. Lynching didn’t happen to people like them. Lynching, in the vast majority of cases, happened to the very poor, the marginally criminal, the uneducated, the mentally ill or disturbed.
If middle-class and educated back people like Martin Luther King had been motivated by the philosophy of “the personal is political,” his life’s work would have revolved around increasing college scholarships for middle class black kids like himself and fighting banks to make sure well-off black families had access to bank loans. Worthy causes, no doubt, but lordy that’s not what fundamental change looks like.
I know I ruffled feathers with my statement that the personal is NOT political, and I’m aware of how hurtful the sentiment can appear, since it seems to discard the enormous suffering that so many individual women have experienced, and continue to experience, in our disordered culture. But, as long as we approach politics and political issues by leading with our PERSONAL stories and experiences, we will be divided from each other — too easily hurt by indifference, too quickly rebuffed by ridicule, and too comfortably complacent in the face of woman-lynching and femicide.
To change the way people think about women — how they think about woman-lynching, women’s poverty, the suffering of children, the disgrace of the public school systems (ALL women’s issues) — WE must be able to stop looking in the mirror and start looking into the faces of women like Louisa Rodas, Betty Jean Kling, and the woman smoking a cigarette in the Walmart parking lot right now dreading going back inside to work, and see OURSELVES.
It’s not MY story that matters. And it’s not your story either. It’s OUR story. Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Lousia Rodas, and every nameless Walmart woman living on the edge of violence and despair is part of OUR story.