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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Y factor


CNN is (finally) reporting "3 Muslim students shot to death in apartment near UNC Chapel Hill." These murdered students volunteered to give dental care to Middle Eastern children as well as help their homeless neighbors. It is being reported that the killer was an atheist. When will we notice that the one common denominator among almost all American terrorists is not a religion, but a sex?

Are the “lone wolves” who commit acts of terrorism women? Were the police officers who killed Eric Garner or Michael Brown female? Do girl students shoot up their schools?

I am not about to speculate on what, if anything, evolutionary or genetic may explain the lack of proportion between male and female terrorists. I’m even limiting myself to one nation, the U.S., and not extrapolating to every other culture on earth. (The U.S. is my example because it’s a leading country in terms of being rich, yet depressingly ahead of most of its peers in terms of violence, too.)

That is not my point—the "why" of male violence. There are feminists who have spent a lifetime on that and we’re no closer to ending it. My point is that it is wrong to tar a group with a stereotype, even when that stereotype is overwhelmingly true. And it is far closer to the truth to generalize terrorists, or school shooters, or murderous police officers as male, than it is to characterize killers as Muslim or atheist or even white.

Yet imagine how ridiculous were I to conclude that we should fear all men. Or that maleness, the cause of so much suffering, should be eliminated from the earth (which is what Richard Dawkins, apparently now the imam of atheism, wants to happen to religion). Or what if I insisted that every instance of this male violence was characterized as such—“a male fired on a classroom of first graders,” “a male planted a bomb at the Boston Marathon”—just as “black” or “Muslim” are used.

Come to think of it, that’s not such a bad idea. By underplaying this truth, we risk not even noticing it, taking it for granted. If we “don’t see” gender in this situation, we are accepting the violence as an inevitable fact about the world, rather than something individuals are responsible for. We should see the person.

"If you 'don't see'”color/sexual orientation/etc., as Ash Beckham reminds us, “you don't see me.”