Thursday, September 12, 2013

Katie McDonough on Why We Can't Take Away Zimmerman's Gun: The Patriarchal Context

At Salon today, Katie McDonough asks the right question about George Zimmerman, a question Mary O'Grady has asked here in a comment in the past several days: "What exactly does it take for a man with domestic abuse complaints and a fatal shooting to lose access to weapons?"

McDonough notes that data show that "more than 60 percent of women killed by a firearm in 2010 were murdered by a current or former intimate partner." The same data demonstrate that having a firearm involved when a domestic dispute occurs increases the likelihood of a homicide by 500%. McDonough concludes, "In general, guns are very, very bad for women’s health."

Yet as Dr. Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, tells her, "United States policy almost always gives the benefit of the doubt to the gun owner," and it's exceptionally difficult in most states to remove a gun from the hands of a man who, like Zimmerman, has multiple charges of domestic abuse and violence on his record.

I am reading McDonough's article side by side this morning with Jodie Gummow's report at Alternet that a study recently commissioned by the United Nations for the Asia-Pacific region, which was conducted by the World Health Organization, shows the following:

A disturbing new report on sexual assault released by the United Nations reveals that one in four men have admitted to raping a woman once in their lives for entertainment, punishment and revenge amongst the top reasons listed, IBT reported.

I also read McDonough's article about George Zimmerman side by side with Bryce Covert's current article in The Nation about how patriarchy lives on despite greatly exaggerated rumors of its demise. Covert shows that in the U.S., women constitute 95% of the labor force in jobs paying $10 an hour at the median. And:

They also tend to be nurses, not doctors—two of the top five jobs women hold are in nursing—making under $65,000 a year compared to more than $166,400 for physicians and surgeons.

Covert states,

Patriarchy is the fact that when men enter jobs crowded with women, they can command higher wages. In the twenty jobs most commonly held by women, men earn more in all but two. Women are more than 80 percent of the country’s elementary and middle school teachers, for example, but make just $933 a week at the median, while a male teacher will make $1,022. Women also hold a majority of the growing low-wage service sector jobs in retail and fast food that offer little pay, few benefits, and erratic schedules. Yet even so men make more as cashiers or waiters.

And patriarchy is the lack of women in positions of power. Even if women were funneling themselves into a select few industries out of a spidey sense for growing industries, we should still expect them to at least be able to rise in those industries. Yet they make up 15.5 percent of executive officers in food services, 15.8 percent in healthcare and 17.9 percent in retail. Women’s representation among the highest-ranking jobs, in fact, hasn’t been on an upward trajectory, as Rosin [i.e., Hanna Rosin, "The Patriarchy Is Dead"] implies. Last year was the seventh in a row that didn’t see the numbers budge for women on corporate boards—they hold just 16.6 percent of seats at Fortune 500 companies—and the third year of stagnation in which women were just fourteen of the top CEOs. It’s no secret that women still hold less than a quarter of all the political offices across the country even though we’ve had the vote for ninety-three years.

And when I read these three articles side by side, something tells me that the answer to McDonough's question about why, despite his well-documented (and appalling) criminal record, we can't seem to take the gun out of Zimmerman's hands is embedded in the other two articles, with their analysis of how one culture after another around the world continues to depreciate the work of women, and the lives of women (along with the lives of the children they're expected to raise), while those same cultures grant astonishing unchecked power and privilege to men--especially heterosexual ones. Those cultures grant entitlement, this is to say, to the very same folks who wrote the laws of those cultures, and who continue disproportionately to interpret and enforce the laws.

The graphic is by Mairrondeau at Liberal America.

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