Last night, I had the opportunity to attend a play, a comedy about the lives, loves, and struggles of three Millennial black women. It was hilarious and real and altogether great.
But at the end of the play, it took a swerve that, at least to me, didn’t flow with the rest of the story. Two of the protagonists are hanging out in an apartment, waiting for the third to come back from a doctor’s appointment, after a night of shenanigans, revelations, and an unexpected overnight male guest who ended up having a totally consensual, REALLY funny sexual encounter with one of the protagonists who is a lesbian. Suddenly, in the middle of their conversation, one of the women picks up her phone and plays the video of Sandra Bland being arrested, which turns the conversation to Black Lives Matter and how “we’re all going to get shot by the police,” briefly, before the third woman returns from the doctor and the play pivots back to a truly funny slapstick scene involving weed, WAY TOO MANY plastic bags from takeout, and the third woman’s prescription.
As we left the theater, I found myself thinking: Three women a day. One in four. That’s how many women are killed each day by their partners. How many women will experience “severe” intimate partner violence in their lifetimes.
I understand wanting to pull in BLM and Sandra Bland – that was a current event when the play was written. But those women are fearing the wrong thing, like all of us who freak out when Ebola shows up in sub-Saharan Africa, yet blithely get into our cars every day. Or all the people in Davenport, Iowa who lost their shit after September 11, when what’s really going to kill them is heart disease or cancer.
Last year, according to the Washington Post’s excellent database, 998 people were shot and killed by the police. That’s everyone – black, white, Latinx, First Nations, Asian, men, women, gay, straight, trans, cis, young, old, innocent, killed during an active gun battle – everyone. Women? 53. Black women? 10.
That’s ten too many, but it occurs to me that we may be freaking out about the wrong thing.
(The Washington Post maintains no database on victims of domestic violence.)
Hell, earlier in the play, when the three protagonists were on their way to the club, they came upon a sexual assault in progress on the street, and when one of them stopped it and the victim ran away, the man who was committing the assault started beating up the woman who stopped it. The real thing that women – even black women – have to fear WAS ALREADY PART OF THE PLAY.
Black people get gaslit all the time about their interactions with police: “Well, what did you do to provoke the officer?” Even when the citizen who was assaulted DID NOTHING. Even though officers should know how to de-escalate situations. But no one looks at their bruises and wounds and denies that anything even happened.
Not so with women who are beaten or killed. Not only are they asked what they did to provoke their assailants, they’re gaslit about whether it was really an assault. “Well, he just hit you because he was jealous.” “That’s not stalking – he just loves you so much.” “It’s not rape – you’re in a committed relationship.” (Marital rape was only outlawed in all 50 states in 1993. Minnesota only eliminated the “marital exception” that allowed men to DRUG their partners to get them to “consent” to sex YESTERDAY. As in Thursday, February 21, 2019.)
There IS no “say her name” movement for the 1,100+ women who are killed EVERY YEAR by their partners. Because we don’t care. We don’t value women’s lives. We never have. And that just about fucking destroys me.
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