I promised myself last week that I would write something this week and that I would try my best to not make it election heavy, so we'll see how that works out.
Fortunately, I ran across a bumper sticker in the parking lot this weekend that gave me all kinds of material.
The Bumper Sticker
The bumper sticker, slapped on the back of a totally ordinary late model Toyota sedan, said this:
"Guns don't kill people. Dads with pretty daughters do."
As we walked towards the car and to the place we were headed, my teenage son and I both audibly sighed at the same time, which tells me that I'm doing something right.
Layers. So many layers to discuss here.
It's amazing how something containing so few words can communicate so much, isn't it?
I mean, first you have the whole "guns don't kill people" argument, one that tends to be a perennial favorite of the pro-gun folks. I really don't want to get into that entire debate here because, frankly, I'm worn out from pre-election arguing, but c'mon.
No one honestly believes that guns kill people. They are inanimate objects. This argument attempts to mock those who advocate for restrictions on the types of guns available for sale, insisting that somehow the guns themselves have nothing to do with the commission of any hypothetical harm.
Guns don't kill people, but they damned well make it easier to kill people. They make it faster and more efficient to kill people.
The second part of the sticker is really where my loathing begins to shine, though, because it is so very complexly layered with generations (okay, so really all the generations in recorded history, and in all likelihood all the generations before then too) of patriarchy.
Not just any patriarchy, nope.
The kind of patriarchy that treats women as property, daughters in particular. The sexuality of a daughter held up on some pedestal as her most valued asset, the one where the dutiful father serves are armed protector.
As if that whole thing isn't gross enough, this particular bumper sticker takes the misogyny one level further, implying that only the pretty girls are worth defending.
FUCK THIS SHIT.
Fuck this shit.
It's disgusting, it's misogynistic. It implies that women aren't capable of making their own choices, that their fathers are the gatekeepers of their hearts and vaginas, but only if they're cute enough to be worth defending.
I posted about this on my personal page, and as I totally expected, I had people tell me that I'm wrong here. That it's just a cute joke. That all parents of all kids feel that way.
It's not a joke. Fathers actually kill the kids their teenage daughters date or attempt to date. There is a whole phenomenon in the days of social media where fathers with shotguns wedge themselves between their daughters and the boys who made the mistake of asking them to a dance, then posting that threat online with some "cute" caption about how "he'll do to him whatever he does to her".
So, we're all at once assuming that teenage boys are incapable of avoiding sexually assaulting girls, and that their fathers will repay that assault directly to the offending boy?
That's not how this works. That's not how any of this works!
If assault happens, it should be reported, and the legal system should take care of doling out the appropriate punishment. (of course this assumes that sexual assault is taken seriously by the legal system in the first place...) This isn't vigilante world, you guys.
As for the argument that all parents love their children and want the best for them and want to protect them, sure. I totally agree. Most parents do all those things.
But this bumper sticker doesn't say any of those things.
It says something different altogether.
A teeny bit of election ranting
Okay, so I lied. There is going to be an election rant, but this one doesn't actually have much to do with the candidates or the other things we are all voting on today.
It has to do with the suffragettes thing that is going on. The professions of love and adoration towards Susan B. Anthony on this historic day when women are voting for a woman for President of the United States and how we are all supposed to be wearing white pantsuits as some sign of solidarity.
White feminism in full effect.
This day is a historic one, and with any luck, the outcome of the election will be too, but as white feminists are oft to do, they've taken this whole thing and made it about them.
They've pushed aside the harsh reality that the 19th Amendment didn't really do what so many think it did. It granted white women the right to vote. It wasn't something that was truly extended to minority women in many places until the Voting Rights Act was signed.
Forty five years later.
Susan B. Anthony, like so many of the other historical figures we were taught about in school, was a problematic person. Sure, she accomplished a lot for white women, but she did so while deliberately excluding all the other women. The movement intentionally didn't encompass black women or women of any other racial or ethnic category, the movement intentionally excluded them.
As I shared on social media earlier today, we've only ever been taught about the positive aspects of these figures. We've been spoon fed the list of their accomplishments as though those achievements were enough to erase the harms they also perpetrated.
It wasn't until recently that I myself learned about Ida B. Wells. The child of former slaves fought to be included in the suffrage demonstrations led by white women, refusing to allow them to segregate her out. She wasn't just fighting for the right to vote either, she led movements against lynchings, and consistently fought for the rights of black women throughout her life. She was one of the founding members of the NAACP. In her final days, she even ran for office, fed up with the choice in candidates.
You may not have ever heard her name, and that reason is a simple one.
The history we were taught was whitewashed. The accomplishments of white leaders celebrated, the terrible things they did discarded. Everyone else, relegated to a footnote, if they were included at all.
Our history was written by those with a vested interest in making sure that only one version of these stories was told, and that history is disingenuous. It is incomplete. It is flawed. And it is extraordinarily imperfect. Perpetuating the belief that only the good should be remembered, that only the suffrage of the white women mattered, is wrong.
I'll be celebrating the history of this moment, certainly, but I won't be thanking Susan B. Anthony. I'll be thanking each and every woman who fought this fight so that we could all be here today, and I'm making damned sure that my children are told the full truth that I wasn't.
If that makes you uncomfortable, too bad. You've been raised to believe partial truths at best. Real history is messy. Learn it anyway.
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