ONTD Political

American Horror Story: Oscar Pistorius and Misogynist Myth-Making

8:04 pm - 03/15/2013
Here we go again. Another woman shot dead by her partner, another round of media coverage fawning over the killer. Just over two months ago, it was Jovan Belcher—he was called a “family man” after shooting and killing Kasandra Perkins, his girlfriend and mother of his newborn daughter. Today its South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius, who has been charged with the murder of his 29-year-old girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Just one day after shooting Steenkamp four times, Pistorius has been called “calm and positive” and “inspirational.” (Steenkamp? She’s been called “a leggy blonde.”)

One reporter at The New York Times who spent a week with the double-amputee athlete, wrote that Pistorius was “not as cautious as he always should be…but I didn’t see anger in him.” The headline is “The Adrenaline-Fueled Life of Oscar Pistorius.” He was just an impulsive guy!

Give me a break.

Early media reports speculated that Pistorius shot Steenkamp mistakenly, believing she was a burglar. But prosecutors don't share that view. After all, the police had been called to his home multiple times in the past for domestic altercations. We’ve seen this happen before—many, many times before—yet still we insist on lying to ourselves. This murder may have happened in South Africa, but the misogynist response to the crime has become a familiar theme here in the United States.

The national conversation around domestic violence murders is not a discourse as much as it is a fairy tale—a narrative we create to make sense of the madness. After all, it’s more comforting to believe that Belcher had brain damage than it is to admit that someone people so admired was a controlling, violent abuser. It’s easier to think that Pistorius accidentally shot Steenkamp than realize the murder is a foreseeable end to a violent relationship.

It’s why we blame dead women for the unthinkable violence done against them—mostly because of misogyny, but also because it provides a false sense of safety. In the days after her murder, Perkins was criticized for staying out late (the nerve!), accused of trying to leave him and “take his money.” Given the sexualized descriptions of Steenkamp, I’m sure it won’t be long before someone suggests she somehow brought this on herself—she was making him jealous or flirted too much. We need to believe that these women did something to cause the violence, because then it means the same thing would never happen to us. (We’re not like “those girls!”)

Our culture is so attached to this myth making that some are willing to forgo all logic and ignore all facts. In the wake of Perkins’ murder, and now after Steenkamp’s, conservatives and gun enthusiasts insist that if these women were armed, they would still be alive. Never mind that both women lived in a house where guns were available, and yet they still died.

When I was a volunteer emergency room advocate for victims of rape and domestic violence, the first question we were trained to ask women who had been abused by their partners was whether or not there was a gun in the home. Because we knew that women whose partners had access to a gun were seven times more likely to be killed. In fact, women who are killed by their partners are more likely to be murdered by a gun than all other means combined.

Despite this tower of evidence, people will continue to insist that these women could have somehow stopped the violence. (Inaccuracies aside, the idea that women have a responsibility to keep someone from killing them rather than an abuser not to commit murder is baffling.)

The more we tell ourselves and others these lies, the more cover we give to those would do violence against women. We create a narrative where victims are to blame and abusers heroized. And perhaps worst of all, we create a culture where we fool ourselves into thinking these murders are something that just happens—unforeseeable tragedies rather than preventable violence.

The reality of domestic violence murders is stark and scary—but it is still the reality. And no amount of story-telling will stop the killings. Only the truth can do that.

spinnigold 16th-Mar-2013 08:11 am (UTC)
Jesus why did I read the source comments /brain leaks out of ears
alexvdl 16th-Mar-2013 09:04 am (UTC)
I don't understand the title connected to the story?

"This murder may have happened in South Africa, but the misogynist response to the crime has become a familiar theme here in the United States." is the only line that touches on it.

To be clear, I agree with the author, but the "American Horror Story" part of the tag seems disingenuous considering that the misogynist myth making hurts women in America, South Africa, and all over the world.
etherealtsuki 16th-Mar-2013 06:24 pm (UTC)
"This murder may have happened in South Africa, but the misogynist response to the crime has become a familiar theme here in the United States."

It's connected by how American media are covering both stories. The murder may happened in South Africa, but how America is covering it was the same how they cover male athletes here: Blame the victim for 'forcing' the guy to hurt them.

Although I feel using the Belcher killing + suicide is a bit disingenuous even if it was the most recent one that happened that got huge media attention because if Perkins was a white woman, Belcher would never got the benefit of a doubt and would be outright demonized.
alexvdl 16th-Mar-2013 07:01 pm (UTC)
Did the non-American media treat the story differently? I don't have a lot of experience with non-American media, other than reading the occasional article from the Register or other UK papers.
astartexx 16th-Mar-2013 08:05 pm (UTC)
No, the German media also focussed more on him than her. But I feel like the 'passion crime'-narative is rarely used today, compared with the past years. Even in the loudest and dumbest newspaper outlets like 'Bild' it's slowly becoming more about stating facts, so there's progress.
4o5pastmidnight 16th-Mar-2013 09:57 am (UTC)
Ugh, I was so mad about this whole situation. She was an innocent victim, and Pistorius really fucked up.

This was basically my response when I heard what he'd done: http://youtu.be/dVhDL9uaf1o?t=20s
freezer 16th-Mar-2013 09:59 am (UTC)
Not sure of the comparison to the Belcher murder: Most of the "family man" comments came from friends and teammates trying to make sense of the man they knew committing such a henious crime. The vast majority of comments from elsewhere (from sportswriters to site comments) were pretty much "Fuck that guy." Feel free to point me elsewhere if I'm mistaken in this.
etherealtsuki 16th-Mar-2013 06:28 pm (UTC)
He wasn't called a family man, but Belcher got a LOT of sympathy from media and folks, like the candlelight vigil in his hometown that got press and everything. Perkins was either an afterthought or blamed for being a bad mother because she happened to stay out late in her first outing after giving birth to her daughter.
freezer 17th-Mar-2013 01:30 am (UTC)
As I recall it, the vigils were as much for Kasandra Perkins as Belcher, if not moreso. And I absolutely do no remember anyone of any significance or significant numbers blaming Perkins for things. Again, if I'm wrong, please point me to examples of same.

Unless you're referring to the myriad of columns asking "Why did this happen", which didn't outright vilify Belcher, as sympathetic. Which is... a problematic way of looking at things.
apostle_of_eris Excitable Boy16th-Mar-2013 10:19 pm (UTC)
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