Imagine all the people out in the streets, as outraged as they are now, about women being murdered for existing while female. Outraged that women are tortured constantly to put them in their place. Outraged that women suffer the mental, moral, emotional equivalent of Abu Ghraib every hour of every day.
Exaggeration? Not really. Those atrocities were carefully calibrated to give men the psychological trauma of rape. The big difference to the lifelong traumas of women is that most of the prisoners in Abu Ghraib were men.
Don’t come at me about freeriding on someone else’s struggles. If you can’t see the horrible similarities between the treatments of different oppressed groups, you’re the freerider. I’m pointing out the similarities not to downplay them. That would be freeriding. I’m pointing them out to think about how amazing it would feel to see this level of support for women.
Then there’s the fact that an awful lot of the freeriding that does happen takes place using women, not the other way around. Women were the loudest voices in the US for the abolition of slavery. Blacks were officially emancipated in 1861. The laws against coverture were never really articulated as an atrocity against civil rights. They began to lose support in the later 1800s, but elements of them still operated almost to the new millenium.
What’s coverture you ask? The law that said all of a woman’s possessions and money and wages passed to her husband on marriage. There were other laws that said he could beat her if she didn’t behave the way he required. Rape in marriage wasn’t even a thing. She was his property. The concept she could have some right to be treated like a human being was so absurd as to be laughable.
If you’re sitting there protesting to yourself, “No, no, no. That’s completely different. Some women were well-dressed and went to Society balls,” then congratulations. You’ve just understood from the inside how slavers felt about blacks. They didn’t count. They weren’t really human beings. The concept that they could be was so absurd as to be laughable.
Just as a coda to that: black men in the US officially got the vote in 1870. Women in 1920. The Civil Rights Act requiring equal treatment regardless of race creed or national origin has been a law since 1964. The law requiring equal treatment regardless of sex is still just a dream. Imagine how it would feel if people, including men, cared.
And if you retreat all the way to insisting that, no, this really is different because women aren’t being murdered by cops, then you’re still wrong. The number killed by cops in the official execution of their duties is an order of magnitude less than men. But women are also more than an order of magnitude less violent than men so they’re that much more rare in situations that develop into violence. Interestingly, there don’t seem to be (easily available?) statistics showing whether the per capita murders of women by police are lower when the situations are similar. Further, what’s indisputable is that it’s almost always women who are victims of sexual assault by officers. I trust nobody is going to argue that adding a sexual component to being brutalized by policemen is an improvement. Even further, something like 40% of policemen abuse women they’re involved with. And sometimes kill them. And because they’re policemen, that doesn’t get investigated or prosecuted either. Nor do they get fired. All in all, the police violence is painfully similar. One difference is that there’s rarely someone around with a camera. The other one is that the victims are women.
If you point out that white women are less oppressed than black men, I’d say that firstly it needs a #NotAll tag in front of both categories. But even more to the point, if it’s important to focus on the most oppressed first, why aren’t these protests about black women? Breonna Taylor was killed by cops in March, months ago. It’s starting to be mentioned now because some of us are shouting that half of black people are being a bit erased and that maybe that’s not such a good look.
Another big thing I keep hearing is how terrible it is that black men can’t walk safely down the street. Pardon me while I do my best to shut down my hollow laughter. You are seriously going to lecture women about feeling safe on the street? The people who have to hold their keys sticking out between their fingers in the forlorn hope it’ll give them a chance during an attack? The people who have to plan their routes going anywhere, at any time, in case some rando decides to destroy their life that day? You clearly have no idea how much of a luxury it would be to have only cops, in their well-marked uniforms, to worry about.
So don’t tell me how terrible it is to be targeted and humiliated and attacked and killed. There’s too much of that in my world, too. And maybe, if you really understand how terrible it is, you’ll join me in dreaming of a day when all of it is just awful history and we can all, black, white, male, female, live our lives in peace.