Mary “Unique” Spears (27) was shot and killed after refusing the advances of an unidentified man in Detroit. The engaged mother of three was with her fiancé when she rejected the romantic interest of the suspect. Five others were also injured after the suspect fired multiple shots and attempted to flee on foot. Her family and friends launched a Go Fund Me page on Monday to assist with her burial. Currently, the campaign raised $4,700 of the $6,000 from close to 170 donors.
Sparking outrage and fear across social media platforms, her death was shortly followed by more senseless gender-based violence. An unidentified woman was attacked in Queens, NY after spurning the advances of the unidentified suspect. Investigators are searching for the man who viciously slashed a woman’s throat after she turned out a date offer. The 26-year-old woman is in critical, but stable condition.
This is why I’m a Black feminist. Because gender-based violence, especially when directed at Black and Brown self-identified women, is a terrifying anomaly that’s been normalized by patriarchy. All too often, women cope with the expectation of gender-based violence; we clutch our purses, carry our pepper spray, and hold our breath as we walk past a group of men. We hold the buddy system as gospel, and look out for each other when put in potentially violent situations.
Recently, a friend who isn’t well-versed in feminist dialogue, told me how fearful she was when walking past a group of men on her way home from work. Lacking the language to define the patriarchal conditioning which buttresses her fears, I explained how her apprehension is a perfect example of how society mandates that women cope with the various forms of violence and discomfort that are imposed upon us.
Catcalling recently sparked controversy when this misguided soul said that women should take catcalling as a compliment; as an affirmation of self-empowerment and womanly confidence. Whatever.
side note: some speculate that the article in question is satirical, but that remains to be seen.
Regardless, for the women who, like me, are terrified not just of catcalling, but the behavior that follows rejection, these two incidents serve as a harrowing reminder that our fears are gravely justified. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been called a ‘ugly slut bitch’ after ignoring a variety of grotesquely hyper-sexualized catcalls. Nor can I fathom the numerous times that I’ve feared physical retaliation.
With experience, I’ve come to tolerate verbal abuse and harassment, but the threat of physical violence is one that I’m not prepared for.
And let current events tell it, I should brace myself for the very real possibility that I can be killed because I’m daring enough to maintain control of my body, romance, and sexuality.
These incidents are not isolated, nor are they circumstantial. They’re evidence of patriarchal entitlement and the archaic belief that women do not, and should not, have control over their sexual identity. These actions speak to the longstanding credo that women are subservient and inferior to the grossly sexual wants and desires of men. With the recent gains of feminism, women are now afforded the language and resources to understand how oppression is especially dangerous when entangled with sex. That’s half the battle. The next half involves changing the cultural norms and social mores that encourage and perpetuate violence against our bodies.