Editor’s note: Parents are advised this commentary refers to language and subject matter that may not be appropriate for children and may offend some people.
Somewhere in America, a woman is raped every two minutes, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, and one-in-two rape victims are under age 18. In a national survey, 27.7 percent of college women reported a sexual experience since the age of 14 that met the legal definition of rape or attempted rape. To what can we ascribe such a shocking increase in violence against women?
Western democracies enjoy shining a light on the brutal treatment of women in the Arab world. But this does not deflect from what is going on in our own back yards and living rooms, and it will not serve to forgive the inhuman degradation of women in Western society.
In a previous article, I argued that the image of womanhood has been severely degraded by Western culture – from TV commercials to the music and fashion industries – which portray women as mindless nymphomaniacs. Negative stereotypes of women as little more than empty objects of desire, devoid of intelligence and individualized worth, have become mainstream. Not only does this sort of thinking bleed through to the women themselves and challenge them to live up to the negative portrayals, but it also seeps its way into the actions and convictions held by men.
Naturally, these degrading notions have a tremendous effect on the manner with which men view and treat the women they encounter. In some cases, when this sort of negative mentality is brought into contact with an already shaky psyche, the consequences can be deadly. Here is an extreme example that illustrates this point.
On Nov. 5, 2003, in Seattle, Wash., Gary L. Ridgway, a 54-year-old former truck painter, stood before a courtroom packed with weeping relatives and uttered the world “guilty” 48 times. In a horrible closing to what became known as the “Green River” killings of the 1980s, Ridgway admitted strangling an unthinkable number of women – mostly prostitutes and runaways – in his home or in his pickup truck while having sex with them, and then dumping their bodies around the Seattle area. With his confession, Ridgway became the most lethal serial killer in American history.
Sheriff Reichert, who started investigating the murders as a detective back in 1982, described Ridgway as a ruthless and remorseless killer who barely flinched when telling investigators about what he called his “patrolling” for prostitutes: “He said that he hated them and that it would be easy to get away with killing them.” In court documents, prosecutors said Ridgway referred to his female victims as being “just garbage.” Each woman, he said, was “just something” to have sex with before he would “kill her and dump her.”
After the hearing Ridgway’s chief lawyer, Anthony Savage, said: “I don’t think we’ll ever know what fueled [Ridgeway's] anger.”
Hmmm. Well let me venture a guess. I have seen many loners and losers hate women. They speak of them in the most derogatory ways and often threaten them with violence. There is a direct link between the hatred that the Ridgways of this world display toward women and the culture in which they are brought up.
Here is how it works. Women in modern society are portrayed as having been put on the earth to entertain men. Men often get hundreds of e-mails per week telling them that if they click their mouse thousands of “slutty whores” will be at their fingertips to titillate them. When they turn off the computer and put on the television, they see that the networks have a special treat for them that day: the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. While the models go prancing around in their skimpy underwear, the men sit salivating.
Oh yes, it is sheer bliss in prime time. The guys think, this is what life is all about. This is what women are for. They are created for my pleasure and enjoyment. When the TV show is over, the men can stroll off to strip clubs where they pay a couple of bucks and then even the underwear comes off. “Take it off b—-!” they yell, and the women, smilingly, seem happy to oblige.
Now, fast forward a week, and a psychopath like Ridgway goes out for a drink. There is an attractive woman at the bar. He walks up to her. “Can I buy you a drink?” She looks at him, sees that he is dressed shoddily and notes that he is a loner and probably a loser. She says, “No thanks.” He persists. “Come on, it’s just a little drink.” She gets angry. “Look, I said no thanks. OK?” The barman walks over. “Come on mister,” he tells Ridgway. “She said no. Now move on.”
Ridgway leaves the bar. He is steaming. By the time he arrives home, he is full of rage. He is not angry that the woman rejected him or humiliated him. No, it is much worse. She does not know her place. The b—- does not know her place. He has a sense of entitlement. He is a man. She is supposed to be there for him. Everything around him tells him that women are beneath him and are created to serve him. They are just stupid sluts that want to hook up with a guy as long as he gives them something – a drink, some cash, any sort of trifle.
But this woman, and all the pretty ones in fact, why, they think that they are better than him. It is time for her to learn her place. It is just like a white supremacist who might have told a black to move to the back of the bus in the 1960s, but was greeted with a stubborn refusal to do so. The Klan guy walks away thinking, “This n—– is too uppity,” and he goes back to his home and plans a method to teach this uppity black man his place.
And that is what the Ridgways of this world are thinking. They treat independent women like lower-class people who need to be taught their proper place in society. We can see how the Ridgways of our society who harm, rape and murder women come to speak of their female victims in the ways that they do as, “human filth” and “garbage.” The anger they vent toward these women is rationalized as a response to the arrogance they believe their victim has shown them.
Bang. Bang. “Now I’ve taught her a lesson. Just try and be uppity and forget your place now that you’re dead.”
To say that there is no connection between the Ridgways of the world and the thousands of rapists who currently prowl America, and the culture of misogyny in which they were raised is as na?ve as believing that there is no connection between white violence against blacks in the South and the culture in which white racists were raised.