The Gender Dimensions of the Giffords Shooting

Earlier this week I was wondering aloud on Twitter whether anyone was going to address the gendered dimensions of the point blank shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords allegedly by Jared L. Loughner.

I realized that no one would, so it was my job.

By a gendered framework I mean aknowledging, naming and analyzing the fact that Congresswoman Giffords is a woman and that Loughner is a man and putting the shooting within a larger historical and a current framework of violence against women.

To put the shooting within a larger framework is to acknowledge that this is a violent culture against women, and once this is acknowledged, something will have to be done about it. That being said, it may be in the interests of those who organize society to act as if this is not a gendered act of violence. They have their interests, and I have mine.

In a culture that is violent against women, a significant amount of violence sexual or otherwise is committed against women, simply because they are born women.

For example:

  1. In 2005, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner.1 That’s an average of three women every day. Of all the women murdered in the U.S., about one-third were killed by an intimate partner.2
  2. The poorer the household, the higher the rate of domestic violence — with women in the lowest income category experiencing more than six times the rate of nonfatal intimate partner violence as compared to women in the highest income category.11
  3. 60.4% of female victims were first raped before age 18.
  4. Among high school students, 9.3% of black students, 7.8% of Hispanic students, and 6.9% of white students reported that they were forced to have sexual intercourse at some time in their lives.3

Looking at the statistics helps us to get a sense of how this shooting can be seen as  not only arguably connected to harmful Tea Party rhetoric but also  to a narrative of violence against women.

Looking at the shooting through a gendered framework is helpful because it can help us to see how public acts of violence, such as lynching, rape and murder have been used historically in the United States to deter marginalized bodies from participating publicly and fully in Democracy.

Baldwin says to act is to commit, and to commit is to be in danger.

I don’t hold my breath, I also don’t hold my pen.

Have you noticed in mainstream media that there has been very little analysis of how this shooting was a gendered act?

What would happen if that were broached or even acknowledged?

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  1. says

    …i am definitely going to have to sit with this.
    i never even thought about this as a gendered act.

    i don’t know if that is my
    own conditioning
    or if i subconsciously put the gendered
    aspects to the back of mind
    due to other political and social
    sensitives i have, regarding this.

    …or maybe i am still somewhat disengaged from too much speculation
    since Jared Loughner’s motives are still not clear.

    it is interesting though…that in the mainstream media the idea that this could’ve been a gendered act has not even been brought up. which is the point you’re trying to make here.

    some valid and interesting points. i just need to sit with them some more.


  2. humanadverb says

    It doesn’t matter what the boy’s motives were… it is scarier to be a woman on the Left in Arizona right now.

    And I bristle a bit when gender gets brought into something like this, because it is scarier to be on the Left, from any gender or ethnicity, anywhere in the country. But that isn’t the point. (And there is some reason to think this was actually an act inspired by misogyny: )

    I’m a fat white guy. My identity politics should basically be Glenn Beck’s. But they aren’t… and we need women and people of color inside government, or else we’re going to be ruled by the same people who made by k-12 education so uncomfortable.

    As the Right continues to lose ground, they are going to increasingly encourage (if not commit) these types of targeted, gendered, political acts of violence to intimidate us into self-disenfranchising from the electorate. Don’t let them win an inch.

  3. says

    I will definitely say that it is not outside the realm of possibility that the shooting of Rep.Giffords was a gendered act. It has long been “ok” for men to violent toward women in this country. That fact of life in America coupled with the political climate in AZ and what may be “mental illness” in the alleged shooter very well could be different elements of the force that drove him to such a heinous act.

  4. arieswym says

    I definitely noticed the lack of gender analysis of the Tuscon shooting. Especially since the 2 most talked about victims are a woman and a girl: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 9 year old Christina Taylor Green.

    The lack of a gendered analysis of a mass murder was most apparent to me a few years ago after the Amish school shooting. A man shot 10 girls in their classroom after dismissing all the boys in the class. The news reporting went from covering the basic facts of the case to covering Amish community’s response to the shooting which was forgiveness.

    Honestly, I don’t think that we as a country would even know what to do if this was actually analyzed via gender. We can barely talk about the violent nature of America let alone the prevalence of violence against women. Honest discussion about the darker aspects of society are absent from the discourse unless they can be ascribed to a “minority” community.

  5. arieswym says

    I saw this in the NY Times today:

    “It was also the aggressive, often sexist things that [Jared Loughner] said [that unnerved the female bank tellers], including asserting that women should not be allowed to hold positions of power or authority.”

    Yet no one wants to talk about the gender aspects of the shooting…

  6. says

    Something I had not considered but very much worth consideration–which is what I’ll be up to tonight.

    “I don’t hold my breath; I don’t hold my pen either.” Heck yeah!

  7. Renina says

    Mainstream Americans are not ready to have a conversation about how historically, progress has been bloody.

    As the Right continues to lose ground, they are going to increasingly encourage (if not commit) these types of targeted, gendered, political acts of violence to intimidate us into self-disenfranchising from the electorate. Don’t let them win an inch.
    This is both profound and many ways really real.

    The extent to which this was an act of terrorism is profound. To call it that publicly would be incredibly profound.

    Thank you for stopping by and commenting.