July 15, 2013
Assholes and Pussies

On the killing of Trayvon Martin, a couple of random thoughts leading to no useful conclusion:

We had four young children when the U.S. Information Agency sent us to Casablanca in 1966. Before leaving I bought a Saturday night special: a cheap Harrington & Richardson stainless steel snub-nosed, .32-caliber revolver. You never knew what might happen, I figured. Sure enough, next year came the Six Day War and a lot of talk in the papers about mob action against American facilities. But nothing came of it.

From there my family, my revolver, and myself were transferred to Laos, where an actual war was under way. True, it had not touched the capital city since the Kong Le coup in 1960. But still, you never knew. So I strapped on my six-shooter the first time I went hunting for orchids in the jungle outside Vientiane.

The holstered gun felt heavy and awkward on my belt, an annoyance really. Maybe foolish, too. No Pathet Lao patrols had been seen that near Vientiane in years, but then you never knew. What if I did, in fact, run across one? Well, what? Using the gun would surely get me killed. Just having it might. Who hunts orchids with a gun, unless theyíre military or CIA? It began to seem wiser to leave my little toy at home, which I did from then on.

Besides, carrying that gun had made me feel like a total asshole, a feeling based on scientific fact. Studies going back centuries have found that carrying a gun around with you is an almost infallible asshole signifier. (Exceptions may be made for military or law enforcement personnel, but only rarely. Never, for big game hunters.)

My second random thought involves the Trayvon Martin jury, which the entire English-speaking world knows was composed entirely of women. Five were white, one Hispanic. They were all racists, of course, because everybody else in the world is racist whether they admit it or not, and why should these six be any different? The question was whether they would be able to set aside their biases, pro or con, under the watchful eye of the blind lady, Justice. Would the fact of being female make them more merciful or more harsh? Toward the victim or toward his killer? And so on.

It occurs to me, though, that the jurorsí decision may have been gender-influenced in an entirely different way. The six women would be unlikely to have much first-hand knowledge of contact sports and street fights. Male jurors might, though, and would have been less inclined to take Zimmermanís plight seriously. They would know that scalp wounds tend to bleed out of all proportion to their severity ó and Zimmermanís were abrasions that hardly bled at all. They would know that finding yourself on the bottom in a struggle may be undesirable but is seldom fatal. They might feel scorn†rather than pity for an older, heavier man who panicked after starting something that he couldnít finish with a 17-year-old kid. Men might have found it beside the point whether Zimmerman felt his life was being threatened, which is the idiotically low bar set by Florida law. They might have found the more relevant and less moronic consideration to be whether he should have felt his life was in danger.

Basically, male jurors might have asked, didnít the kid die because Zimmerman was such a pussy?


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at July 15, 2013 02:54 PM
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I'm not even male and I figure much SAID that Trayvon died because Zimmerman was a pussy without the wherewithal to (1) finish the physical confrontation he began or (2) the brains to run the fuck away.

Somehow it keeps nagging at me that they could not bear down on that running away bit being part of doing "everything possible" to avoid shooting someone.

Posted by: Syrbal/Labrys on July 15, 2013 6:32 PM

Studies going back centuries have found that carrying a gun around with you is an almost infallible asshole signifier.

When I read this, I couldn't help thinking of the scene in Maurice (the film adaptation of the E.M. Forster novel) when Maurice Hall, the title character, is getting ready to leave after consulting with a physician/therapist of some kind about his troubling homoerotic urges. He mentions that he is going away for a trip to the country estate of Clive Durham, his best friend since school and the main object of his affections. The doctor tells him it is a good idea to get away -- it may help him stop brooding on his condition and even help, adding the advice, "stroll about with a gun."

Posted by: Tim on July 16, 2013 7:21 PM

Gender doesn't determine what people know about physical danger. Social class and sequestered suburban culture are what you're talking about. If we talked about social class in America that would be clearer.

Women in the outside world, while we may not as often start fights, certainly break up fights and talk down threats. Making use, as necessary, of the masculine taboo that goes "don't hit a woman (if she's in a motherly or nunlike role (if she's not your property))".

Sure, lots of middle-class suburban American men like to present themselves to women as Defenders Against The Bad Outside World. They therefore mystify the nature of violence and the dangerousness of crime and The Other so women will be afraid to visit The City alone and when they do go will clutch their purses and look to "their" men for defense regardless of said men's paunchiness, foolishness, etc. And, yes, racism is part of that, though I wouldn't say male pomposity was the exclusive province of any racial group.

We see it all the time downtown: the husbands telegraphing martial alertness, trying to look brave for the wives clutching their arms as they walk from the parking lot to the theatre; the many panhandlers who address the male in the couple in hopes the male will want to look brave, competent or generous for the woman's benefit; the panhandlers I know personally who don't even recognize me when I'm with my husband because they're focused on a possible male mark to shame into giving.

It's stupid, and it's part of a system that displays naive women as symbols of men's power to keep them that way.

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on July 19, 2013 10:43 PM

Is that why so many heterosexual couples can't, for example, walk from an airport gate to their connecting flight three gates away without holding hands?

Posted by: Tim on July 22, 2013 11:51 AM
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