Two unspeakably cruel incidents that recently occurred half a world apart are terrifying reminders of the world’s growing misogyny.
On May 23, in the upscale environs of Santa Barbara, California, a 22-year-old man went on a deadly stabbing and shooting spree that left six University of California, Santa Barbara, students dead and another 13 young people wounded. The provocation for Elliott Rodger’s attack, as outlined in his 137-page “manifesto” was to punish attractive women for not dating him.
In faraway India, where the rape, torture and killing of women has seemingly become a national pastime, two girls — ages 14 and 15 — were gang-raped, tortured and hanged. The latest (as of this writing) Indian atrocity occurred in a rural area where girls are forced to go outdoors at night to relieve themselves, due to the lack of indoor plumbing. That’s what led the girls outdoors for the final time on May 30.
Indian authorities, who seem reluctant to prosecute male perpetrators, have reportedly responded more tepidly than usual to this case, because the girls were from a low caste.
In Nigeria, 300 schoolgirls who were abducted for the sin of seeking an education have remained missing since early May. Sympathizers of the girls say law-enforcement officials have declined to make any serious effort to locate them; instead the government has banned protests on behalf of the girls. Many Nigerians fear the girls were sold into sexual slavery — an increasingly common practice.
Here at home, one out of every five American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape (girls ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely to be victims). But including unreported rapes, only about 6 percent of rapists serve time in prison, and 15 out of 16 perpetrators walk free.
More than three U.S. women a day are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends. Women serving in the U.S. military were more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq.
Is there any connection between the growing violence toward women and the political “war on women” in the United States? In the last four years, Republican leaders (including here in Wisconsin) have abolished pay equity laws for women, and conservatives have sued to prevent health insurance providers from paying for women’s birth control. Republican leaders “slut shame” women who demand access to affordable birth control and foam at the mouth over use of the word “vagina” in public, even as they seek to put every vagina in America under their control.
The rise of anti-feminism on America’s political right prevents us from convincingly shaking a finger at the atrocities against women elsewhere in the world.
Once people looked to the U.S. as a leader in justice and fairness. But when it comes to the treatment of women, our nation appears to be heading in the direction of the primitive barbarity of other nations rather than securing and protecting women’s rights.