A Feminist Response to Gun Violence

A couple of years ago I wrote about the importance of a feminist foreign policy. In that piece, I quoted from an article by Jenny Nordberg describing an interview she conducted with Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom.

Wallstrom also cites a growing body of research showing that women’s security is directly related to both national and international security. In the 2012 book “Sex and World Peace” a team of four researchers (Valerie M. Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett) present data indicating that the more violent a state and its citizens are toward women, the more violent that state is likely to be over all, both internally and in its dealings with outside world. “In fact, the very best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is not its level of wealth, its level of democracy, or its ethno-religious identity; the best predictor of a state’s peacefulness is how well its women are treated,” Hudson wrote in a piece for Foreign Policy.

I also quoted Riane Eisler.

It’s not coincidental that throughout history the most violently despotic and warlike societies have been those in which violence, or the threat of violence, is used to maintain domination of parent over child and man over woman…

Progressives urgently need a social and political agenda that takes into account both the public sphere of politics and economics, and the personal sphere of family and other intimate relations. Only through an integrated progressive agenda that takes into account both the personal and public spheres can we build foundations for cultures of peace rather than war.

In light of the horrific shooting yesterday in Sutherland Springs and the fact that Devin Patrick Kelly was court-martialed in 2012 for assaulting his wife and child, this monologue from Samantha Bee last week was amazingly prescient.

While Donald Trump wants to focus on the idea that the Texas shooting was a mental health issue, the reality is that in many ways, gun violence is a woman’s issue. For example, here is the data that Bee referred to at the beginning of that video:

…more than half of the women killed with guns in the U.S. are murdered by their partners. Every month, 50 women are shot and killed in the U.S. by a current or former boyfriend or spouse. We researched mass shootings between January 2009 and December 2016 and found that 54 percent of mass shootings involved a partner or other close family member that was killed.

Here are a few more alarming statistics:

A woman in the U.S. is fatally shot by her current or former intimate partner every 16 hours.

Domestic violence victims are 5 times more likely to be killed if her partner owns a gun.

American women are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a firearm than women in any other developed nation.

Remember…”the more violent a state and its citizens are toward women, the more violent that state is likely to be over all, both internally and in its dealings with outside world.” While many of this country’s mass shooters have a history of domestic violence, that is the real connection between a patriarchal world view grounded in dominance and gun violence in this country.

Before this latest mass shooting in Texas, I had flagged a column by Jill Filipovic titled, “What Donald Trump Thinks it Takes to a Man” to include in “Quick Takes.” But if fits very well into this discussion.

American manhood is reshaping itself in two opposing directions, and both archetypes are ones we’ve never seen before. If Barack Obama embodied the new ideal of the progressive man — a hands-on dad and a self-identified feminist married to a high-achieving woman who was once his boss, who is also well mannered and protective of his family — then Mr. Trump is his antithesis, an old-school chauvinist embracing a new code of adolescent anarchy. He is a paradigm of feckless male entitlement, embracing male power while abnegating the traditional masculine requirements of chivalry, courtesy and responsibility…

Most American men are unable to actually achieve this level of authority minus accountability; as a result, admiration for men like Mr. Trump gets paired with an “if I can’t have it, no one can” nihilism. White male power remains a dominant force in America, but it is no longer the only force that matters. For many men, this is not a leveling of the playing field, but a plundering of what was rightly theirs.

Mr. Trump has ushered in a fresh era of noxious manhood wherein bullying is conflated with toughness and self-interest is more important than self-respect.

That reminded me of something Rebecca Traister wrote back in December 2015.

The public spectacle of this presidential election, and the two that have preceded it, are inextricably linked to the racialized and gendered anger and violence we see around us…

Whatever their flaws, their political shortcomings, their progressive dings and dents, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton mean a lot. They represent an altered power structure and changed calculations about who in this country may lead…

This is our country in an excruciating period of change. This is the story of the slow expansion of possibility for figures who have long existed on the margins, and it is also the story of the dangerous rage those figures provoke.

Make no mistake about it. These changes are central to the fear and anger of the so-called “nostalgia voters.” They are both the reason why this country hasn’t been able to pass common sense gun control as well as the reason why doing so is critical. The toxic mixture of patriarchal dominance and the prevalence of guns is at the heart of why over 30,000 people lose their lives in this country every year. We need a feminist response to gun violence to stop that.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.