WIMN’s Voices: A Group Blog on Women, Media, AND…

From Jonesboro to Virginia Tech - sexim is fatal, but media miss the story

jpozners Icon Posted by Jennifer L Pozner

April 18th, 2007

News reports about the worst school shooting in American history are mostly ignoring — as per usual — the gendered nature of the crime.

When the New York Times reported the story on Monday, the fact that “the gunman had been looking for his girlfriend” was tossed in as a one-phrase aside.

Jill at Feministe was the first (that I saw) to note that “While I’m sure this will be reported as ‘another crazy guy shoots up a school,’ it’s worth noting the theme of misogyny that permeates so many of these shootings,” such as the killings of girls during the Amish school shooting in October, 2006, the Platte Canyon high school shooting in September, 2006 (in which several girls were sexually assaulted and their female teacher shot in the head) and the Montreal Massacre of 1989 (in which a man opened fire after telling a group of female students, “You’re women, you’re going to be engineers. You’re all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists.”).

To that list I’d also add the 1998 Jonesboro school shooting, which no one seems to remember — perhaps because it was only girls and women who were killed, unlike the co-ed victims of the much-covered, never-forgottenColumbine shooting — see the bottom of this post for the text of an article I wrote about the case in 1998 for Sojourner: The Women’s Forum.

As it stands, CNN and other news outlets are starting to report that the Virginia Tech murderer, Cho Seung-Hui, had stalked women on the campus, that a female teacher had suggested him for counseling, thinking he might be emotionally disturbed or violent… and that campus police hadn’t acted quickly enough to prevent Cho’s second round of shootings because they believed it was just “a domestic” case. (Just?!)

“Just a domestic case” — that’s the same dismissive reaction that has all too often accompanied major — even fatal — violence against women in this country.

But as news is trickling out about Cho having stalked and terrorized women on his campus well before the shooting, few outlets are explicitly naming misogyny as a root cause of so many of these devastating school shootings, instead wondering ad nauseum, “What was his motivation?”

If it’s bad enough that media aren’t connecting the sexist dots, what’s worse is the abysmal victim-blaming that has started to pop up, as Lucinda Marshall noted on this blog yesterday. The most blatantly unethical reporting I’ve seen on this crime to date comes from the Australian newspaper The Daily Telegraph, which ran a story headlined, “Was gunman crazed over Emily?” over a picture of the young woman who was the first to be killed by Cho. The lead sentence, printed in bold and with the first word capitalized, read:

“THIS is the face of the girl who may have sparked the worst school shooting in US history.”

The UK Metro ran a story with an almost identical lead:
“This is the face of the teenage student who may have sparked the biggest gun massacre in US history.”

It’s beyond inappropriate to suggest that the young murdered woman “sparked” the massacre — the guilt of which rests on the shooter himself, with a little bit of culpability leftover for the campus police that failed to act quickly enough to protect the dozens of students and staff from Cho’s rampage after his initial two killings, and whomever didn’t take seriously enough his stalking of female students and his teacher’s warning that this was a disturbed individual with potential for violent behavior.

Journalists could be doing a real service to the culture by focusing on the often-gendered nature of mass violence in America, and by seeking out anti-violence experts who could contextualize these crimes and could offer solutions and strategies for eradicating (or, at least, reducing) this kind of grave violence.

Unfortunately, this is not happening — despite nine years of advanced warning. Which brings me back to the Jonesboro school shooting, which took place in March of 1998. I wrote about media missing the story back then. I am beyond disgusted and disheartened that news media haven’t progressed in their understanding, or improved their coverage, since then. The following article ran in Sojourner: The Women’s Forum on May 31, 1998.

Sojourner: The Women’s Forum
May 31, 1998
By Jennifer L. Pozner

I must warn you: this will not be a fun read. There is no way
to weave humor into an analysis of the slaughter of four elementary
school girls and one of their female teachers by two boys, ages 13
and 11, in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

By now most of us have heard the disturbing details. A few
days before the shootings, the older of the two boys, Mitchell
Johnson, was angry at being “dumped” from a three-day “romance” by
eleven-year-old Candace Porter. (Candace told the Jonesboro Sun
that she broke up with Johnson because “I thought he was nice and
then I found out he was trouble.”) Shortly before the March 24
murders, Johnson reportedly told classmates that they’d soon find
out if they were going to live or die. “He said, ‘nobody’s going to
break up with me,’” one female student told reporters. Johnson and
his younger friend, Andrew Golden, calculated every step of their
crimes — from stealing a semiautomatic Remington .30-06 hunting
rifle from a family member, to staking out their all-female prey,
to hiding in wait as the girls exited their small Southern school
during a fire drill.

In response to the Jonesboro massacre, dozens of feminists
sent an outpouring of commentaries to the editors of major news
venues throughout the country, urging the media to acknowledge the
Jonesboro snipeas as having committed hate crimes against girls,
and calling for a nation wide citizen education campaign on dating
violence prevention. Unfortunately, their critiques rarely
influenced public opinion… because they never made k to print.
Instead, most editors limited their op-ed and letters sections to
a torrent of “why, oh why?” articles from teachers, parents and
politicians attempting to assign blame to video games, firearms,
the breakdown of the traditional American family, and “the
pressures of young love.”

The majority of journalists covering this travesty have
beaten their collective breasts about the tragic nature of kids
killing kids, scurrying past the obvious in an attempt to give
meaning to the event. Analyzing the motivations of the perpetrators
will not bring these vibrant girls, or their teacher, back to their
families — but an understanding of what led to the boys’ brutality
is crucial if we are committed to preventing similar crimes. So,
let’s be straight about this: Jonesboro was not only — perhaps not
even primarily — an example of children killing children. This was
boys killing girls. And while mass assassination may not erupt on
our television screens so graphically every afternoon, the murder
of these girls fits a larger pattern that we ignore, obscure or, at
best, pay lip service to in sensationalized made-for-TV movies.

Jonesboro’s mayor has been quoted as saying, “If anyone had
had any reason to believe something like this was possible, they
would have prevented it.” But as David Vest, a counselor to men who
batter, writes in an editorial that ran in the Houston Chronicle
and the Huntsville (Ala) Times, “The sad truth is, we had every
reason to believe that ’something like this’ could happen. It has
happened many times this year in America, and it’s barely
springtime.” In the Christian Science Monitor’s “Pondering
Jonesboro: Consider Gender,” sociology professor Kersti Yllo
writes, “This case is extreme, not aberrant. According to the FBI,
ten women a day are murdered by their boyfriends, husbands or
ex-husbands. The Jonesboro boys are not alone in taking deadly
revenge against the females in their lives.”

In rare articles addressing the true underlying causes of
these murders — the targeting of girls for revenge by boys who
felt jilted — Vest and Yllo bring into focus what the mainstream
press has largely left unsaid: unless we alter our culturally
condoned, boys-will-be-boys / boys-will-own-girls attitudes, we are
placing not only our daughters but our sons, and ourselves, in
extreme jeopardy.

“We have every reason to believe that it will happen again,”
Vest argues. “The boys who methodically gunned down those girls and
those women were only acting out their own version of an all-too
frequent story in America. The only difference is that they were a
little bit younger….”

Jonesboro represents the worst of our potential both as
individuals and as the “village” that raises its children through
sexist soundbites, Schwarzenegger films, and patterned “gender
appropriate” behavior of male aggression and female subordination.

It may be tempting to echo the gender-blind soliloquy of the
mainstream press and say that “there are no words” to describe the
horror of children killing children. But I know better. So do the
many anti-violence advocates whose clarifying perspectives on
Jonesboro were relegated to the Internet — accessible only to
members of discussion groups such as Women Leaders Online, or news
consumers savvy enough to search the World Wide Web for feminist
interpretations of current events.

Push beyond the bliss of willful ignorance, and the answers
we need appear with frightening clarity. There are words to
describe the horror. Misogyny. Hate crimes. Dating abuse. Male
entitlement. And, finally, femicide.

Within days of the murders, Title IX Advocates joined the
Sonoma (California) County Women Against Rape in organizing a
grassroots demonstration — themed “Sexism Kills Girls” — to draw
connections between Jonesboro and similar mass murders or tapes of
girls and women from Canada to Kenya to Chiapas, Mexico. Outraged
at the gender-blind press coverage, these activists took public
education into their own hands. The protesters gathered at the site
where the body of Georgia Moses was found (12-year-old Moses was
kidnapped, raped and murdered last summer in a yet-unsolved crime).
They distributed leaflets to passersby, which read in part: “In
Sonoma County since mid-January, Women Against Rape has 15 new
cases of schoolgirls who have been forcibly raped… and almost
always with threats to kill. About a third of these rapes were done
by schoolboys who were angry with their girlfriends.”

It’s also worth noting that, according to the New York Times,
Mitchell Johnson was sexually molested at six and seven years of
age. Did that mean he was destined to become violent? Not
necessarily. Does it mean this boy learned the power of fear and
anger before he learned algebra? Count on it. The Times also
reports that Johnson was charged with molesting a two- or
three-year old girl last summer. In his young life, Mitchell
Johnson seems to have progressed from victim to perpetrator, an
illustration of what can happen when the cycle of violence
continues unchecked.

The best way to honor the girls and teacher who died in
Jonesboro is to take the steps necessary to prevent the targeting
of girls and women for violence. On a legislative level, that means
pressuring Congress to ratify an amendment, introduced in November
by Senator Kennedy and others, which would include gender in
federal hate crime laws. On a political level, it means following
the example of Title IX Advocates and the Sonoma County Women
Against Rape in pressuring the news media to place cases such as
Jonesboro in their proper (if frightening) cultural context. We
need to launch educational campaigns that challenge the notion that
male violence is an “understandable” response to female rejection.

And when we identify sexism, we need to name it. To activists
who’ve talked about the importance of breaking silence about
domestic and sexual violence for years, this seems redundant. But
in the wake of the senseless yet horribly predictable Jonesboro
slayings, it’s more obvious than ever- Sexism kills girls.

30 Responses to “From Jonesboro to Virginia Tech - sexim is fatal, but media miss the story”

  1. radio arvila
    July 22nd, 2013 02:13

    I’m taking a look forward on your subsequent publish, I’ll try to get the cling of it!

  2. jdm
    August 5th, 2013 05:42

    Stability control, airbags and rear headrests are standard accessories on all Jazz models.

    When Toyota Matrix advances any systems, concern for the natural environment is
    highly important: the VVT-i engine has been designed with auto tyranny engine.
    toyota matrix was the slowest carmaker to recover from last year’s rankings. Often, they flip their eyes to used cars, with Skoda in the eighth generation of Accord.

  3. cursos gratuitos, cursos gratis online, cursos gratis, cursos gratuitos online
    October 17th, 2013 17:46

    Simply wish to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity to your post is simply great and that i can think you’re knowledgeable on this subject. Fine with your permission let me to grasp your RSS feed to keep up to date with imminent post. Thank you one million and please keep up the enjoyable work.

  4. dan ca
    April 6th, 2014 02:59

    Pretty section of content. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital to say that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Anyway I’ll be subscribing in your feeds and even I achievement you get right of entry to consistently fast.

  5. Wow Gold farme
    May 7th, 2014 17:20

    Actually, it’s best to utilize it on a leveling personality to
    get used in their mind faster. Making money specifically
    at the Auction Home may be the main gold making
    approach to nearly every elite player.

    Here is my website … Wow Gold farme

  6. suceuse de bites peau noire
    May 14th, 2014 02:33

    Je vais terminer de lire tout ça demain

  7. losange épilé
    June 8th, 2014 17:16

    Je terminerai de voir ça dans la semaine

  8. http://assortedorienta94.soup.io/post/417661929/Le-blog-dun-salaud
    June 10th, 2014 04:23

    Très plaisant, je crois que cet article devrait intéresser mon pote

  9. mightyimbecile515.soup.io
    June 24th, 2014 13:20

    Excellent post, une fois de plus

  10. computer
    July 1st, 2014 16:03

    Your mode of explaining the whole thing in this piece of writing
    is truly pleasant, all be able to without difficulty know it, Thanks a lot.

  11. Britteny Rabena
    July 23rd, 2014 16:34

    I carry on listening to the news broadcast lecture about getting boundless online grant applications so I have been looking around for the best site to get one. Could you tell me please, where could i acquire some?

  12. Geraldo Kosman
    August 5th, 2014 15:05

    I have learn some good stuff here. Definitely worth bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how a lot attempt you place to make this type of fantastic informative website.

  13. Klondike Cheats
    September 20th, 2014 20:51

    Hey! Do you know if they make any plugins to protect against
    hackers? I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard on.
    Any suggestions?

    Feel free to visit my web page … Klondike Cheats

  14. รับดูแลผู้สูงอายุ
    September 25th, 2014 20:09

    I blog quite often and I genuinely appreciate your content.
    This great article has really peaked my interest. I’m going to book mark
    your website and keep checking for new information about once a week.

    I opted in for your Feed as well.

  15. Mercy Fukumoto
    March 23rd, 2015 08:47

    This really is an incredibly well written content. I amazed with the exploration people designed to make this specific post amazing.

  16. nigger
    April 24th, 2015 11:17

    Anyone can appropriately spin comments, you must be creative and unique. Convince the creator that even though the comment is quite bland, it’s still content they want visible on their page.

  17. bad video
    June 20th, 2015 23:07

    thank you so much

  18. sdorttuiiplmnr
    August 22nd, 2015 12:04

    There is noticeably a lot to know about this. I think you made various good points in features also.

  19. 魔域私服开区一条龙服务www.2pk1.comQQ1285574370
    June 5th, 2016 06:10

    魔域私服开区一条龙服务www.2pk1.comQQ1285574370 http://www.2pk1.com/

  20. Vfb
    August 13th, 2016 17:22

    Hiya very nice website!! Man .. Beautiful .. Superb .. I’ll bookmark your site and take the feeds additionally…I am happy to search out numerous useful info here in the post, we need develop extra strategies on this regard, thank you for sharing.

  21. eyelash extensions nj training
    August 26th, 2016 08:30

    Don’t panic since you see an eyelash come off in your fingertips if you rub your eyes.

  22. deer hunting rifles at walmart
    September 2nd, 2016 16:19

    In reality, the original breeders of my Siberian Husky, the
    Chukchi, would let their canines free during the summer months to
    hunt for food on their own.

  23. sex prostitutes
    October 13th, 2016 20:24

    Thanks for every other fantastic post. The place else could anybody get that type of information in such an ideal way of writing? I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I am on the search for such info.

  24. consumo de los principales electrodomesticos
    November 12th, 2016 15:33

    La capacidad de Impulso Tecnologico para hacer el Reparacion y reprogramacion de centralitas telefonicas tanto analogicas

  25. historia kwh electrodomesticos madrid
    December 5th, 2016 10:45

    Te ofrecemos un horario ampliado de 9:00 de la mañana hasta las 10:00 de la noche los 365 días del año, acceso a nuestro servicio gratuito WI-FI. Ofrecemos productos y equipamiento de limpieza especializado para cada sector así como un servicio técnico para Jaén y provincias cercanas. Nuestros servicios abarcan la comunidad autónoma de Madrid y provincia de Toledo. Sanitización e Inocuidad Mexicana S.A de C.V, fabricante y comercializador de especialidades químicas para limpieza y saneamiento en la industria, instituciones y lavanderías industriales. Contamos con una amplia gama de especialidades químicas y operamos en todo el país. Marcanos en Tijuana 6646223051 6646223071, Servicio a toda la Republica Mexicana.

  26. overwatch boosting
    May 22nd, 2017 05:24

    What i don’t realize is in reality how you are no longer actually much more well-preferred than you may be right now. You’re very intelligent. You already know thus considerably when it comes to this matter, made me for my part imagine it from a lot of various angles. Its like men and women are not interested except it’s one thing to accomplish with Girl gaga! Your own stuffs nice. Always maintain it up!

  27. Network marketing
    November 21st, 2017 00:36


    WIMN’s Voices

  28. まつげエクステ
    March 3rd, 2018 04:05


  29. walmartone login
    April 14th, 2018 02:05

    I’m gone to convey my little brother, that he should also visit this weblog on regular
    basis to obtain updated from most recent news.

  30. Zambia jobs
    April 23rd, 2018 17:38

    Unquestionably believe that which you said. Your favorite justification appeared to be on the internet the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people consider worries that they just don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top as well as defined out the whole thing without having side-effects , people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

Leave a Reply