The horrific misogyny underlying social conservatism has really come out in the aftermath of the tragic murder of Kasandra Perkins at the hands of her boyfriend (and the father of her infant daughter) Jovan Belcher. In midst of the usual defend-guns-at-all-costs excuse-mongering that conservatives engage in after every national news story about a gun death, Dana Perino latched on to the favorite strategy of anti-feminists everywhere: Blame victims of domestic violence for hitting and murdering themselves.
PERINO: I think it skirts the issue that women are victims of violence all the time –
CO-HOST: They should have guns!
PERINO: Well, maybe, or make better decisions.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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The gross willingness to simply accept these kinds of crimes on display here is breathtaking in its cruelty. Fox News has been hitting hard the notion that Perkins could have somehow saved herself if she owned her own guns, and the fact that she did own her own guns and died anyway is being ignored. But Perino’s comment just laid bare how conservatives will defend male privilege in all circumstances, even those where it leads to women being raped, beaten, and murdered.
Charles Cooke at National Review doubled down, ‘splaining that the problem isn’t that men hit women, it’s that women are so easy to hit.
Dana Perino — who, despite being a Republican, is a woman — was not “blaming” women who are the victims of abuse. She was accepting both that men who mistreat women are villains and should be prosecuted for their abuse to the fullest extent of the law and that women who choose to go back to men who abuse them are making a mistake. After all, it wouldn’t be a mistake if the man wasn’t a problem would it? If you choose to go into a war zone, do you not carry some of the blame if you get hurt? Sure, you didn’t start the war. And, yes, it would be much better if the people who did start the war were not choosing to run around killing anybody who gets in their way. But if you know that there is a war going on and you still choose to walk right into it, is this not a bad decision?
Note: Outside of trying to blame Perkins for practically murdering herself, conservatives actually tend to see men who go to fight in wars as heroes, not as idiots who can be accused of having no understanding of autonomy or personal responsibility. But then again, they are men, so their choices are interpreted in a more forgiving light than women who struggle to escape abusive relationships. Note: Perino’s female identity is not a preventive against either misogyny or victim-blaming. Indeed, women often are more eager to blame other women for being easy to hit/rape/murder, because by blaming victims, they can convince themselves they are immune to being victimized by male violence.
Here are the facts: Kasandra Perkins did try to leave Jovan Belcher before he killed her. Leaving is the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic violence, statistically speaking, because the abuser is losing control and often is willing to go to extreme measures to keep it. Perkins entered counseling offered by the Chiefs. She was 22 years old, and almost surely willing to trust that counseling was going to help her patch together her relationship, or else she wouldn’t have gone through with it.
Here are the facts: Women are socialized to believe “relationships are work” and that “children do better with a mother and a father.” Conservatives are especially loud proponents of these beliefs. To have conservatives turn around and sniff about how obvious it supposedly is to leave—how the only measure of a woman’s autonomy is her willingness to leave quickly—is asinine and offensive. They are the ones telling women they need to work it out. They are the ones telling women that to be a single mother is a failure. They are the ones writing essays about how women have to submit to make their marriages work. To turn around and whine that women take them at their word—that women do exactly what conservatives tell them and try to stay married and try to submit and try to work it out—is monstrous.
In sum: Conservatives are telling women to do X, and when doing X gets women killed, their response is to accuse women of being stupid for listening to them.
When we blame women and say it’s their fault for being easy to hit, we can’t be surprised if they blame themselves if they’re hit. If we tell women that it’s their job to hold their relationships together and that they’ve failed if they become single mothers, we can’t be surprised if they stick by men who mistreat them, fearful of being failures if they choose instead to be single mothers. If we tell women that the secret to a long-term relationship is to suppress their personalities and become submissive, we can’t be surprised if they submit to abusive men. If we tell women that we believe they are idiots who have no autonomy if a man hits them, we can’t be surprised if a woman hides abuse so that we don’t sit in judgment of them. If we offer them counseling and tell them the professionals believe there’s a therapy that can help the man they love to stop hitting them, we cannot be surprised if they believe the “experts”.
Just stop. I know conservatives have a knee-jerk reaction, rejecting anything a feminist says. I know that, if a feminist says the sky is blue, they feel duty-bound to claim that it is green. But when you’re looking at a woman, a real human being, who no doubt loved a man and believed your stories about how it’s important to stick by your man through thick and thin, then it’s beyond awful to blame her for her own murder. Please stop. I know you can’t get to the point where you treat women like full human beings, but you can at least stop blaming us for our own rapes and murders. Just this small thing can be doable. You don’t need to accept women are full human beings in order to stop blaming us for violence against us. It’s within your grasp to stop blaming victims for violence. Try it. Just a little. You might find it wasn’t as bad as you feared.