[Trigger warning: This post deals with virulent misogyny and violence against women.]

I had a whole post planned earlier this month about my challenges trying to reconcile genderqueer-ness with being female-bodied and a feminist. And then a gunman opened fire on US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, killing six people and critically wounding her. And I locked myself in my room, scared and horrified, and wept for hours. I cried because it was a tragedy, but also because it was entirely predictable; for many of us watching the US political scene, it confirmed that fact that the question had never been whether something like this would happen, but only when.

After the shootings, there was a lot of discussion of the shooter's mental health. But in the end, it doesn't matter whether the shooter was neurotypical or not; as an internet friend of mine pointed out, even people with paranoid schizophrenia do not make things up out of thin air, but are influenced by the culture around them. And in this case, the culture is not pretty. It is no coincidence that the Democratic Congressperson who was shot in a literal extension of the US right-wing's violent rhetoric is a woman.

But why just talk about Representative Giffords? Let's talk about Hilary Clinton, or Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, or even Sarah Palin. Let's talk about the women in our entertainment who are killed off after their plot point is done, or the polytechnic students who were murdered here in Montreal 21 years ago, or, like, every feminist blogger in the history of everything, or the fact that most of the trans people who are murdered each year are women. To be a woman in this culture is to be on permanent display, and to be found wanting. And while men who hold divergent views or don't live up to expectations meet disapproval and disagreement, women who dare to transgress their patriarchy-assigned roles (which are, paradoxically, impossible to satisfy) must be put in their place. Witness the Playboy article that suggested “hate-fucking” was appropriate punishment for female politicians with whom their readers disagreed. Witness every single street harassment case where a woman's refusal of some guy's sexual advances is met with violent threats and, occasionally, action.

If you are a man, and you believe I'm blowing things out of proportion, ask your female friends what they think they should do to be safe if walking to their car in a dark garage. Compare it to what you'd do. Whether it's warranted or not, we are taught to be afraid. Constant fear is it's own kind of violence.

There are times when I think things are ok. After all, women in Western countries can drive, and work in almost any field (albeit at lower rates of pay than men), and choose who and whether to marry (most of the time), and vote, and access birth control (some of the time), and I have a number of male friends and colleagues who don't forget too often that I am actually a person too. And then my friend holds the door for me and I realize he doesn't think I'm as capable as he is, or I become suddenly aware of how short my skirt is and how high my heels are as I walk home, or a female politician I'd never even heard of is shot in broad daylight in front of hundreds of witnesses. And then that little spark of fear that never quite goes away flares up again, and I am afraid.

And so, the next time someone tells me that feminism has accomplished its goals –– or that what women really need to be successful is to make more money — I'll laugh, and laugh, and laugh. And then I'll cry, because while the punishment for being female can still be death, the work of feminism is not fucking over.

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