Was the Shooting of Giffords a Hate Crime?

Although Jared Lee Loughner’s attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords raised many questions about how the polarized political environment may have motivated this mentally disturbed young man, one aspect of the Tucson massacre that has received little attention is misogyny.

Loughner left behind several notes, including one that read “die bitch”–a gender slur that implies Giffords may have been targeted because she is a woman. Because gender slurs have become so acceptable in U.S. society, most people fail to recognize them as slurs at all. But imagine the headlines if Loughner had targeted a black member of Congress and left a note reading “die n****r,” or a gay member of Congress with the note “die f*g.” In those cases, the racist or homophobic aspect of the story would be mentioned in every article on the subject!

Other evidence, too, suggests that Loughner targeted Giffords because she was a woman. According to friends and acquaintances, he had become “contemptuous of women in positions of power” in recent years. Tellers at the local bank report that Loughner made openly sexist comments about how women should not be able to hold positions of authority, especially when they denied one of his requests. Some tellers would position a finger on the alarm button whenever he approached. And while Loughner exhibited disruptive behaviors in many of his community college classes, his level of hostility toward one female professor over a grade was such that she felt physically threatened and requested campus safety be present during class.

Loughner had previously met Giffords in 2007 at a “Congress on Your Corner” event. He asked her, “How do you know words mean anything?” and Giffords, assuming Loughner was referring to bilingual issues, responded with a few phrases in Spanish. The young man was angered by her response and reportedly told a friend that Giffords was “stupid and unintelligent.”

So it is not unreasonable to assume that Loughner targeted Giffords because she is a woman in a position of power. If so, his crime falls under federal hate crime legislation, which regulates crimes that target members of protected classes (i.e., race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability). Officials at the Justice Department could inspire a national dialogue about crimes motivated by the hatred of women if they choose to enforce this law in the Giffords case.

The fact that few media reports note the obvious misogyny at play in this case is a testament to the fact that sexism is so ingrained in U.S. culture that it’s not even worth mentioning.

Comments

  1. I think this is a very cogent argument and worth pursuing in the context of a national dialogue.

  2. It seems as though everybody is exploiting this tragedy to promote their own ideology. She was not shot because of a lack of political civility nor because of the fact that she was female. She caught the eye and ire of a person with severe mental issues. We tend to make things more complex that they are particularly when we are being opportunists. If you want spread victimization than go ahead but stop using others tragdies as your vehicle.

    • snobographer says:

      So just ignore the "die bitch" note and Loughner's documented contempt for women in authority then. Just like if somebody who's said black men shouldn't be in positions of authority and had a picture of a black congressman with the words "die n–r" scrawled on it – to call that a racist hate crime would be to "spread victimization." Of course. Misogyny's never anything to be taken seriously, right?

      • Shocking that a man who was going to shoot a female politician woud write die bitch, would you have expected die honorable public servant. This individual seemed to have a disdain for all authority but as usual leftists just point to the lack of respect for women. Interesting that noone seems to care about any of the other victims of this MENTALLY DISTURBED individual. It seems as though feminists exploit tragedy to push their paranoia and only seem to care about the effects of said tragedy on females. One unrelated queastion, are you this militant when the media savages sarah palin, michele bachman, or do you save your sarcasm for level headed people like myself who hate when others exploit sad situations to make political points.

        • Lauren Karaffa says:

          I'm so sorry that you have been exposed to so many militant leftist feminists. How terrible for you. Give me a break. Women have to deal with misogyny everywhere they look.
          The fact that he wrote, "Die Bitch" specifically indicates his hatred of women as motivation in the same way that "die nigger" would indicate racism. Plain and simple. Most people would not argue with the latter example, but for some reason, the former is ok. Do you know what it is like for women to hear the word "bitch" referring to them constantly. It's not the same as 'jerk' or 'asshole,' if that's what you think. It certainly doesn't have the same connotations.

          • Your argument that die bitch indicates a hatred of women is unfounded. Hyperbolic insulting speech by a mentally unstable person does not reveal motivation. If you look at the the whole of this individuals rants he hardly ever specifies women. It is interesting that this author and the media at large fail to notice that a male judge was shot dead. why care about that fact when a female was injured. It is not that the mentally unstable shooter targeted women, its as a society we discriminate for women. We are outraged at her injuries(as we should) but quickly forget that there were other victims. As side note, you should spend less time with people constantly calling women bitches.

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