I've been following from a distance the story about the woman who had six kids, who did in vitro and just gave birth to 8 more. Public reaction to this has been harsh. She's getting death threats. People are really angry about this.
Then I read about the brutal murder of Aasiya Hassan in Buffalo, NY, not that far from me. The violent man she had married, and was in the process of divorcing, not only killed her, but cut her head off. It felt like a stunning blow to the senses.
But where is the outrage about this crime? Why does America seem to be more upset with a woman having multiple births than with a woman losing her life?
I had to start with me and my reaction to the Octuplet story. My initial response was contempt, so I wanted to examine that. I don't know her. I don't know her story. I don't know how she ended up with 8 kids at once, but my reaction to that, without any info, was contempt...
Digging a little deeper, I realized it was pushing all the culturally installed buttons about:
1. women with that many kids have to be either stupid or pathological because that isn't "normal". Like a person who gets 25 cats - they are considered "collectors" and mentally ill. What about a woman with 14 children?
2. she's the epitome of the welfare queen - an unfounded and unfair stereotype dreamed up years ago to justify cutting funding to women and children on welfare
3. she can't care for the ones she has and is criminally irresponsible to seek a procedure that produces multiple births.
and so on... Then the media, who I don't actually believe most of the time, starts this nonsense about how she's obsessed with Angelina Jolie, and since Angelina has a lot of kids, she wants more kids. She had surgery to look like her. Blahblahblah...
The woman is getting death threats for having children. A publicist, who took her on pro bono, to help with the flood of media interest, is getting death threats and had to quit working for her to protect herself.
Why does a story about a woman having multiple births obsess a nation, but the story of how a Muslim man in upstate New York beheaded his wife this week hardly get any national coverage?
My reaction to this despicable crime and needless death of a woman who was doing her best to get rid of this creep who killed her, was deep sadness, and a feeling of frustration that yet another woman has lost her life to a man who beat her before this, who got away with it rather than being in prison where he belonged, and was left on the streets to do what abusers so often do - eventually kill the woman they are obsessed with.
These stories are so common that they don't evoke outrage and demands for justice. It is taken for granted in our culture that women sometimes get beat up by men they know. We want to think it doesn't happen often. But it does.
Between 1 and 3 MILLION women are beaten, tortured, raped, or killed by their husbands or boyfriends every year.
That is serial crime against women that plagues our culture and we are doing nothing to stop it. It's the misogynistic outlook of our culture that still thinks it's rare, she must have provoked him, it's a private matter, he is acting out and needs help, why doesn't she just leave...
In both cases the public reaction is rooted in stereotypes. One is the stupid baby factory stereotype. Cow. Breeder. Beneath contempt. Let's teach that bitch a lesson.
The other is the stereotype of the woman who is asking for it, and in this case, overlaid with the stereotype of the Islamic woman martyr - one who cannot be saved because her fate is the product of her culture. What happened to her is what happens to Islamic women according to their traditions. What did she do to cause him to take such action? What did she do to deserve it?
The man had come to the U.S. from Pakistan, and founded "Bridges", a television station in upstate NY, aimed at countering the negative images of Muslim people. She was divorcing him after years of being beaten. There was an order of protection that said he could not come near her, but we know how good those are... Yet he not only killed her, he cut her head off.
In a news story, a colleague is quoted talking about the financial problems this murderer was having. Like that makes it okay to take that out on a woman. This happened only a few days ago but it isn't even front page news.
Where is the outrage? Not directed at the man who committed a heinous crime against another human being. No, it is directed at a woman who had babies...
That outrage against her is the same rage that causes men to beat up women and children.
Criminal assault on women, so quaintly termed "domestic violence" - like getting punched in the face doesn't hurt as much if the one who does it says he loves you - continues.
The public was atwitter over singer Chris Brown beating up his girlfriend, singer Rhiann, just before the Grammys. He released a statement saying "he's sorry and saddened by it". Saddened by it?
That's what you say when you hear about something horrific happening to someone else, not what you say when you are the one who did the horrific thing!
Read Rhiann is not alone by Leslie Morgan Steiner. She shares her own harsh experience with a violent partner.
What will it take to break the hate toward women?