Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Please go read this

Joss Whedon is a hero of mine, mostly for entertainment reasons but also for posts like this one.

I've copied the text below in case the post disappears someday, but I encourage you to visit the original as well.

May 20 2007
Let's Watch A Girl Get Beaten To Death. This is not my blog, but I don’t have a blog, or a space, and I’d like to be heard for a bit.

Last month seventeen year old Dua Khalil was pulled into a crowd of young men, some of them (the instigators) family, who then kicked and stoned her to death. This is an example of the breath-taking oxymoron “honor killing”, in which a family member (almost always female) is murdered for some religious or ethical transgression. Dua Khalil, who was of the Yazidi faith, had been seen in the company of a Sunni Muslim, and possibly suspected of having married him or converted. That she was torturously murdered for this is not, in fact, a particularly uncommon story. But now you can watch the action up close on CNN. Because as the girl was on the ground trying to get up, her face nothing but red, the few in the group of more than twenty men who were not busy kicking her and hurling stones at her were filming the event with their camera-phones.

There were security officers standing outside the area doing nothing, but the footage of the murder was taken – by more than one phone – from the front row. Which means whoever shot it did so not to record the horror of the event, but to commemorate it. To share it. Because it was cool.

I could start a rant about the level to which we have become desensitized to violence, about the evils of the voyeuristic digital world in which everything is shown and everything is game, but honestly, it’s been said. And I certainly have no jingoistic cultural agenda. I like to think that in America this would be considered unbearably appalling, that Kitty Genovese is still remembered, that we are more evolved. But coincidentally, right before I stumbled on this vid I watched the trailer for “Captivity”.

A few of you may know that I took public exception to the billboard campaign for this film, which showed a concise narrative of the kidnapping, torture and murder of a sexy young woman. I wanted to see if the film was perhaps more substantial (especially given the fact that it was directed by “The Killing Fields” Roland Joffe) than the exploitive ad campaign had painted it. The trailer resembles nothing so much as the CNN story on Dua Khalil. Pretty much all you learn is that Elisha Cuthbert is beautiful, then kidnapped, inventively, repeatedly and horrifically tortured, and that the first thing she screams is “I’m sorry”.

“I’m sorry.”

What is wrong with women?

I mean wrong. Physically. Spiritually. Something unnatural, something destructive, something that needs to be corrected.

How did more than half the people in the world come out incorrectly? I have spent a good part of my life trying to do that math, and I’m no closer to a viable equation. And I have yet to find a culture that doesn’t buy into it. Women’s inferiority – in fact, their malevolence -- is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they’re sporting burkhas. I find it in movies, I hear it in the jokes of colleagues, I see it plastered on billboards, and not just the ones for horror movies. Women are weak. Women are manipulative. Women are somehow morally unfinished. (Objectification: another tangential rant avoided.) And the logical extension of this line of thinking is that women are, at the very least, expendable.

I try to think how we got here. The theory I developed in college (shared by many I’m sure) is one I have yet to beat: Womb Envy. Biology: women are generally smaller and weaker than men. But they’re also much tougher. Put simply, men are strong enough to overpower a woman and propagate. Women are tough enough to have and nurture children, with or without the aid of a man. Oh, and they’ve also got the equipment to do that, to be part of the life cycle, to create and bond in a way no man ever really will. Somewhere a long time ago a bunch of men got together and said, “If all we do is hunt and gather, let’s make hunting and gathering the awesomest achievement, and let’s make childbirth kinda weak and shameful.” It’s a rather silly simplification, but I believe on a mass, unconscious level, it’s entirely true. How else to explain the fact that cultures who would die to eradicate each other have always agreed on one issue? That every popular religion puts restrictions on women’s behavior that are practically untenable? That the act of being a free, attractive, self-assertive woman is punishable by torture and death? In the case of this upcoming torture-porn, fictional. In the case of Dua Khalil, mundanely, unthinkably real. And both available for your viewing pleasure.

It’s safe to say that I’ve snapped. That something broke, like one of those robots you can conquer with a logical conundrum. All my life I’ve looked at this faulty equation, trying to understand, and I’ve shorted out. I don’t pretend to be a great guy; I know really really well about objectification, trust me. And I’m not for a second going down the “women are saints” route – that just leads to more stone-throwing (and occasional Joan-burning). I just think there is the staggering imbalance in the world that we all just take for granted. If we were all told the sky was evil, or at best a little embarrassing, and we ought not look at it, wouldn’t that tradition eventually fall apart? (I was going to use ‘trees’ as my example, but at the rate we’re getting rid of them I’m pretty sure we really do think they’re evil. See how all rants become one?)

Now those of you who frequent this site are, in my wildly biased opinion, fairly evolved. You may hear nothing new here. You may be way ahead of me. But I can’t contain my despair, for Dua Khalil, for humanity, for the world we’re shaping. Those of you who have followed the link I set up know that it doesn’t bring you to a video of a murder. It brings you to a place of sanity, of people who have never stopped asking the question of what is wrong with this world and have set about trying to change the answer. Because it’s no longer enough to be a decent person. It’s no longer enough to shake our heads and make concerned grimaces at the news. True enlightened activism is the only thing that can save humanity from itself. I’ve always had a bent towards apocalyptic fiction, and I’m beginning to understand why. I look and I see the earth in flames. Her face was nothing but red.

All I ask is this: Do something. Try something. Speaking out, showing up, writing a letter, a check, a strongly worded e-mail. Pick a cause – there are few unworthy ones. And nudge yourself past the brink of tacit support to action. Once a month, once a year, or just once. If you can’t think of what to do, there is this handy link. Even just learning enough about a subject so you can speak against an opponent eloquently makes you an unusual personage. Start with that. Any one of you would have cried out, would have intervened, had you been in that crowd in Bashiqa. Well thanks to digital technology, you’re all in it now.

I have never had any faith in humanity. But I will give us props on this: if we can evolve, invent and theorize our way into the technologically magical, culturally diverse and artistically magnificent race we are and still get people to buy the idiotic idea that half of us are inferior, we’re pretty amazing. Let our next sleight of hand be to make that myth disappear.

The sky isn’t evil. Try looking up.
joss | General | 05:35 CET | 358 comments total | tags: joss post


At 6:33 PM, Blogger Sinner G said...

I read his post the other day and had a whole new respect for him - Before that, I knew nothing of him other than Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

And I've seen the video of the girl being beaten, it's painful to watch and even worse when you think that there were people just standing around taping it and not doing anything.

At 10:54 AM, Blogger Sticky Keys said...

What a fabulous article! You know I've always said that true homophobia stems from hatred of women. I know you're atheist, but the lost translation of the Bible is what perpetrated a lot of these so called values.

I do believe that God created man as the head and that women were supposed to be the aides, but what people forgot was the rest where man himself was supposed to be submissive to God's will and to treat and love women as Christ loved the church.

There was never an issue of women being property, being less than, until someone decided that's the way they wanted to interpret what happened. Eve eating an apple didn't cause us to fall from grace, it was Adam, you know (metaphorically speaking in your terms, heh)?

Anyhow, the state of feminism is currently one of rebelling and lashing out. SHowing women as either being lipstick pansies or ball busting whores. There will be a compromise, but I doubt it will be soon, we first have to teach women that they're worth the fight.

And SO ON! I could seriously go on forever about it, heh. Thank you so much for this article. I would send it to Jacob, he would love it I think because it's kind of his life.

At 5:04 PM, Blogger Jerri said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 5:09 PM, Blogger Jerri said...

This was an interesting piece of commentary and it became even more impressive when I realized it was written by a man. It is both sad and thrilling that we are hearing the call of feminist ideals from a guy, sad because we as women are not crying out for justice for Dua Khalil, thrilled because men like Joss have taken up our cause. I used to lament about my surety that I was a feminist because I believed that I had to fit into the stereotyped image of feminism. I was wrong; I am a feminist in the truest sense of the word. I have lived through abusive, demeaning, second-class citizenship and I have finally recognized that not only am I a valuable and powerful asset to our world, I am in many respects more powerful than my male counterparts. Maybe it is because we as women can bring life into the world or maybe it is because we bring passion.

My passion was to find my voice and it took many hard lessons and much soul searching to do this. I have found my voice in some parts of my life and I’m still working on it in others, but one thing I know for sure, my young adult daughters are starting out with a much better foundation of who they are and what they believe because of me. I was taught that women should look pretty, be quiet, and act like a lady. I have taught my daughters that acting like a lady is about being themselves, figuring out what they believe for themselves, not to be closed minded (as I have been in the past), to be understanding of people’s differences and of people’s mistakes (because they could be walking in their shoes). I have given them the encouragement to be the women they want to be and hope that they continue to have the courage to carry this out into the world and throughout their lives.

My mother and grandmothers were not trendsetters or torchbearers for feminism, but they ingrained in me what they thought was right and what would help me survive in the world they thought I would be growing up in. They were understandably fearful just as I am now for my daughters. My hopes for my daughters are different because each generation of women passes along their own hopes and these change as the culture changes. I am no better than my mother, I am an extension of my mother and I hope I am a much improved extension of the hopes for feminism that will be carried on by my daughters.

I am proud to say that my daughters’ are feminists. They are aware of the price paid by mothers, sisters, grandmothers, and daughters of the past. They see the freedom of choices that many of us did not have. My new hope for them is that they are better at creating relationships with other women. I hope that they not be adversarial to other women because of differences of opinions in religion and politics, but that they are united as one voice for justice, freedom, safety, and happiness for all women and men.

I have not forgotten my two wonderful sons’ future involvement in the cause for feminism. I have developed their sense of responsibility for how they treat and value women. I versed them in the necessity to question the intense media images of how men act around and treat women. I led them to the understanding that men can be nurturers and masculine at the same time. I have discussed the issue concerning the fact that a women’s body is her property instead of the property of others (including not the property of our government).

I will not lie to any of you, I have taught all of these things to my children through the lens of my own religious views, but did not use those views to create bigotry, racism, or hate within my children. I did what my heart told me to do, to raise my children with the freedom to choose how they want to be, how they want to act, how they want to believe, because I followed one important doctrine of my religion and that was to teach them the idea of free will {I must note that my interpretation (free will = freedom to choose) is different than others in my religion}. I am not a perfect mom or perfect person, I hold my own prejudices that I fight against within myself. I make mistakes and misjudgments, but I also agonize over those mistakes and misjudgments. It is heartening to know that my children are better people because of me and in spite of me.

Joss is right; women please STAND UP and take your rightful place as the passionate and hopeful commanders of the future. It will be the women united that finally stops the brutality that was played out upon Dua Khalil because of religious extremism combined with malevolent patriarchical ideas.

At 8:05 PM, Blogger Shell said...

God what great comments, you guys. Thank you!


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