Guns are a feminist issue?

chicks_with_guns.jpg

Ever notice how the only people who claim guns are good for women are anti-feminists? As Megan at Jezebel points out, guns aren’t actually all that effective at protecting women from violence.

Quite honestly, gun control isn’t that important of an issue to me. People want their guns; I get it. But, despite the Feministe logo (it’s irony, people!), framing gun ownership as feminist is nonsense. And you don’t get to play the “this is a feminist issue” card when you don’t actually give a crap about feminism.

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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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41 Responses

  1. Antigone
    Antigone June 27, 2008 at 6:33 pm |

    I’ve only met a few women who got out of a bad relationship after learning to fire guns, or felt better after an assault after learning to shoot. But here’s the tricky part: they never actually fired the gun at anyone. Learning a new skill is a great way to build back self-esteem and self-confidence, and we have a lot of strength= weapons symbolism in our culture.

    But, the guns realistically were incidental. Trying to claim that women would be equal if we all new how to shoot is retarded.

  2. Antigone
    Antigone June 27, 2008 at 6:34 pm |

    I’ve only met a few women who got out of a bad relationship after learning to fire guns, or felt better after an assault after learning to shoot. But here’s the tricky part: they never actually fired the gun at anyone. Learning a new skill is a great way to build back self-esteem and self-confidence, and we have a lot of strength= weapons symbolism in our culture.

    But, the guns realistically were incidental. Trying to claim that women would be equal if we all new how to shoot is simplistic/foolish.

  3. Ismone
    Ismone June 27, 2008 at 6:42 pm |

    I think the methodology of that study is extremely flawed. If fewer women than men own handguns, the opportunity to use one in self-defense is very rare. If more men kill women than women kill men, and more men own handguns, it isn’t a headscratcher that more men will kill women with guns than women will defend themselves. Also, looking at fatal shootings in self-defense really underestimates the usefulness of guns in self-defense. In only something like 2-8% of gun self-defense cases is the attacker actually shot (and I don’t mean fatally). In 60-90% of cases, the defender displays the gun, which causes the attacker to flee.

    If there were statistics showing that women’s guns were used against them, then I would be concerned.

    In my opinion, guns are a feminist issue because they level the force playing field quite a bit. Me knowing how to throw a block or a punch does the same thing. Which is not to say that women (or men) should have an obligation to be able to defend themselves, but those of us who want to should not be held back by the delicate flower stereotype either. (Not attributing this to you, just explaining why I think it is feminist.)

    Of course, I’m one of those ex-military types, and I like target-shooting. And most of my fellow liberals who I think are pro-gun-control really don’t have any familiarity with weapons and react more out of fear of the unknown. (Not including you in this group, since you have no objection to guns.)

    That’s my 2 cents.

    -Iz

  4. Hot Tramp
    Hot Tramp June 27, 2008 at 7:16 pm |

    I had the same thoughts while reading that study, Ismone. I would be interested to know how many female firearm-owners ever actually fired their guns in self-defense or otherwise used their guns to get themselves out of trouble. The thought of brandishing a pistol at a would-be rapist is sort of thrilling, but I wonder if it’s actually worth it to get a gun for that purpose.

  5. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne June 27, 2008 at 7:31 pm |

    Also, looking at fatal shootings in self-defense really underestimates the usefulness of guns in self-defense. In only something like 2-8% of gun self-defense cases is the attacker actually shot (and I don’t mean fatally). In 60-90% of cases, the defender displays the gun, which causes the attacker to flee.

    Part of the problem with those statistics, though, is that women are far more likely to be killed by someone they know than by a stranger. And it’s a very different proposition between shooting the stranger who grabbed you in an alley and shooting your husband or boyfriend as he attacks you.

  6. hypatia
    hypatia June 27, 2008 at 7:41 pm |

    “Part of the problem with those statistics, though, is that women are far more likely to be killed by someone they know than by a stranger. And it’s a very different proposition between shooting the stranger who grabbed you in an alley and shooting your husband or boyfriend as he attacks you.”

    Exactly what I was going to point out. Also is it really going to help you to have a gun when the person who is statistically most likely to kill you also has access to that gun?

    On the same line, has is a gun going to protect you from something like rape when you are most likely to be raped by a someone you know after you are inebriated or drugged?

  7. hypatia
    hypatia June 27, 2008 at 7:42 pm |

    *how is a gun

    two thoughts going on a the same time

  8. philip
    philip June 27, 2008 at 8:20 pm |

    The decision yesterday made it quite clear that these are the real activist judges and will go against their own agenda just to suit there boys club political issues. Now more than ever Roe v Wade is threatened and now more than ever do citizens need to demand CHOICE be protected as an individual right for women. Here is a great new book that will be of interest to any one who wants a woman’s right to choose protected and who wants to understand the issue from someone whose rights as an abortion provider were taken away.

    http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/ItemDetail~bookid~46336.aspx

  9. SnowdropExplodes
    SnowdropExplodes June 27, 2008 at 8:30 pm |

    Antigone: “retarded” is not an okay word.

    On the whole gun-ownership issue, well, I live in the UK, where special dispensation is going to have to be given just so that the athletes competing in shooting events at the 2012 Olympics will be able to do so without being arrested!

    I guess that gun ownership could be considered a feminist issue in that it does relate to power relationships, but I’m not really convinced about that argument. My feeling is that increased gun-ownership equates to a slide back towards Hobbes’ “State of Nature”, where life is “nasty, brutish and short”. In a culture, such as the US, where guns have a particular place in the collective psyche, I think that one thing that is very important is that people who own guns need to know how to use them. I’m reminded of a passage in a Patricia Cornwell book, which points out that most people who own firearms for self-protection, don’t use them because in the stress situation (e.g. a break-in at their home) they simply forget where the gun is kept. A similar phenomenon leads to unnecessary fatalities in plane crashes – because aircraft seatbelts operate differently from those in automobiles (which is what most people are familiar with), when they start to panic in the stress situation of a plane crash, they simply forget how to undo the seatbelt. As I understand it, if a person owns a gun purely for if they need to defend themselves, then in the event of that actually happening, many just forget where it is, or how to use it.

  10. Hugo
    Hugo June 27, 2008 at 9:38 pm |

    Gun control doesn’t make my top ten issues, or even my top fifty. I have no desire to own or shoot one, but have no reflexive antipathy towards them. I’d rather people use them for protection against other human beings than to hunt defenseless animals, so I’d rather see more Glock handguns and fewer rifles on the market — but that’s the vegan in me speaking.

    So, if you’re into guns, yay for you with yesterday’s decision. But yeah, stop co-opting feminism when you aren’t really committed to any other aspect of the feminist agenda.

  11. Antigone
    Antigone June 27, 2008 at 9:51 pm |

    Snowdrop:

    I know, which is why I tried to fix it. If you notice, my second post has “simplistic/foolish” in it’s place. I appologize for not catching it sooner.

  12. CTD
    CTD June 28, 2008 at 1:23 am |

    HAHA! You’re seriously citing the Violence Policy Center as a legitimate source of information about gun use? This is the group that conducted it’s last “study” by way of doing a Google search (likely because they are completely out of money and can’t afford to do actual research).

    If you actually read the VPC “study” you’ll note that it doesn’t actually say that “guns aren’t actually all that effective at protecting women from violence.” It’s main claim is just that many more women are killed by guns than use guns to kill an attacker. While that’s very sad, it says precisely nothing about the efficacy of armed resistance with a firearm.

    If you’re interested in real scholarly research on this subject, this is a good place to start. If you can’t stand the suspense, active resistance, especially armed active resistance has been shown time after time to reduce the likelihood of injury to the victim.

  13. sonia
    sonia June 28, 2008 at 1:24 am |

    It’s like cigarettes marketing in the 20s? 30s?…back in the day.

    Feminist-sizing stuff that women don’t typically use, so that they will use them. I agree, it’s annoying.

  14. preying mantis
    preying mantis June 28, 2008 at 1:43 am |

    Oy. That’s like the equivalent of proposing adoption as a solution to the abortion debate. I’m generally pretty pro-gun, but I don’t think that issue has a whole lot to do with the domestic violence and rape issues. They’re social problems that need fairly complex, flexible, long-term solutions.

    Throwing handguns at victimized or at-risk women and saying “Have fun protecting yourselves!” seems to be assuming not only that nothing else can be done to prevent domestic violence and rape–that the rates are static, probably because those man-beasts who are also solely and uniquely logical and competent and fit to run society are biologically programmed to do so–but that society has no obligation to provide much more than that. It’s an individual problem with individual men for individual women to solve, move along, no pattern or underlying problems to see here. No need to point out that such an attitude is counterproductive, regressive, and deeply troubling.

    “If there were statistics showing that women’s guns were used against them, then I would be concerned.”

    Even that one’s kind of iffy. How many abusers with felony convictions or other disqualifiers on their records use their legal-to-own wife or girlfriend as a proxy by which to obtain a gun? On paper, the gun would be hers, but in reality, not so much.

  15. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne June 28, 2008 at 2:40 am |

    If you can’t stand the suspense, active resistance, especially armed active resistance has been shown time after time to reduce the likelihood of injury to the victim.

    If the victim is attacked by a stranger, probably. But most murder victims are killed by someone they know. And, as I said, it’s a very different proposition to shoot your husband or boyfriend as he attacks you than it is to shoot a stranger who grabs you in an alley.

    If most women (especially white women) are killed by someone they know, what’s the point of being prepared for the unlikely event of a being murdered by a stranger? It’s like carefully weatherproofing your house as it burns down around you.

  16. Skullhunter
    Skullhunter June 28, 2008 at 4:30 am |

    What I’m about to say, I say as a leftist firearms enthusiast who does believe in the idea of responsible gun ownership and reasonable gun control.

    America’s firearms culture is toxic.

    Possibly irretrievably toxic.

    Our country has a psychotic relationship with firearms. We’re sold the idea of “the equalizer”, the weapon balancing the scales against a physically more forceful attacker, but that is not the truth of the firearm. A firearm is, always has been and always will be nothing more than a force multiplier. Like every other weapon before it, it is a sophisticated lever and nothing more. Just as it can tip the scales in the favor of a 120-pound woman facing a 200-pound attacker, it can also tip the scales in favor of a 120-pound nazi skinhead, rapist or basher. It has no inherent morality either evil or good. It does not cease to function in the presence of operator ill-intent.

    American gun culture seems inherently anti-feminist because it is anti-feminist. It embraces the idea of overwhelming force against not just attackers but anyone who doesn’t conform to their political and social ideals. They don’t welcome anyone who doesn’t at least pay those ideals lip service and even those outside the norm who do will never be good enough in their eyes. The non-majority gun owners invariably end being ridiculed or slandered behind their backs and are generally looked upon as worthless except for whatever ideological support they give to the majority and the air of inclusiveness (however false) their presence imparts.

    Ranting a little bit, but I tend to do that sometimes and I thank you for bearing with me thus far. If you’re comfortable defending yourself with a firearm and you wish to do so, do so. Train. Learn. Push yourself to be as proficient and skilled as you can realistically be according to your circumstances. Understand that you do not have to compromise your ideals to build that skill and you are not required to participate in a culture that would force you to make that compromise. You don’t need them and they have nothing to offer you of any value.

  17. SoE
    SoE June 28, 2008 at 5:34 am |

    In only something like 2-8% of gun self-defense cases is the attacker actually shot (and I don’t mean fatally). In 60-90% of cases, the defender displays the gun, which causes the attacker to flee.

    In another statistic (I unfortunately don’t have at hand) the number of people shot during an incident is divided into two groups: the attacker and someone not involved (usually a family member). And guess which goup is killed and injured at a roughly 4 times higher rate?

    Quite often it is dark, people are not regularly excersising their shooting skills and with all the adrenaline during a stress situation not able to focus anyway.

  18. Laura Vivanco
    Laura Vivanco June 28, 2008 at 7:40 am |

    despite the Feministe logo (it’s irony, people!), framing gun ownership as feminist is nonsense

    Like SnowdropExplodes, I’m from the UK, so the cultural context in which my attitude to guns has been formed is very different from that in the US, and that no doubt shapes my response both to gun control in general and to the gun in Feministe’s logo.

    As you’ve mentioned the logo, however, I was just wondering if the fact that the feminist is represented as a white, blonde individual is also supposed to be interpreted as ironic in some way?

    If I recall correctly, the cover of Amanda Marcotte’s “It’s a Jungle Out There” also features a blonde holding a weapon. No doubt that image was also intended to be read in an ironic manner, but bearing in mind that one of the problems that WOC PhD identified with Seal Press’s covers was that the “cover art consistently positioned the white female figure as central and exclusive on the majority of featured texts” maybe the comment ” it’s irony, people!” doesn’t address all the issues that some people might have with the image?

  19. Kai
    Kai June 28, 2008 at 10:56 am |

    As usual, there are additional perspectives on this.

  20. Kelsey Jarboe
    Kelsey Jarboe June 28, 2008 at 12:18 pm |

    Laura– perhaps, but the little girl with the gun isn’t attached to specific issues the way the images in Marcotte’s book are. If the little girl were black, someone could also make the legitimate complaint that the logo would be associating black people and violence. There are problematic angles to any variation of it, but the way I first saw it when I came to this website was that this cute little white girl, a darling of the mass media, the “flawless cherub” of her society, would rather be over-all’d and gun-totin’ than put on a pedestal. *shrug* I won’t cling to that interpretation as if it is intent or truth, though, because clearly you see it as problematic.

    What would be a better logo?

  21. Ofneverwherelse
    Ofneverwherelse June 28, 2008 at 12:23 pm |

    Hey, this is not a strong assertion, just an idea I have considered and am looking for feedback on. I know the the issue of handguns as protection is highly contentious and has complicated issues surrounding it, as referenced by Mnemosyne (post #5) and hypatia (post #6). Issues of gun control are also complicated and have a variety of factors that have prevented me from developing a clear stance on the issue.

    Beyond those, very REAL and legitimate concerns, (in a more theoretical way) I support armed self defense. One of the books that was foundational in my position shift, from a close-minded “No”, to having it be an open question for me, was “How nonviolence protects the state,” by Peter Gelderloos, from South End Press. This book argues that non-violent resistance is everything from, racist, sexist, statist, ineffective, as well as strategically and tactically inferior. This book focused on political activism targeting governments, but I think that the thesis is transferable to the individual.

    So, in the end, I would categorize guns, or more broadly, armed self defense as a feminist issue because gendered norms about who can /can not, should / should not, are better / worse at, is more / less able to protect, defend, or attack, are ultimately keeping patriarchy intact, by providing a code for behavior that is upheld by society.

    Either way, I recommend the book, as well as the publisher strongly.

  22. Kelsey Jarboe
    Kelsey Jarboe June 28, 2008 at 12:25 pm |

    And I hope that doesn’t come off as snarky, I really do want to know your further perspective on it. I have never really given much thought to the logo until now.

  23. Standard Mischief » Heller: Useless idiots and Anti-”Anti-Feminists” reply

    […] Meanwhile, Jill over at Feministe – while not at all invoking the D.C. v. Heller decision – posts a timely opinon titled “Guns are a feminist issue?“. […]

  24. Laura Vivanco
    Laura Vivanco June 28, 2008 at 4:11 pm |

    the way I first saw it when I came to this website was that this cute little white girl, a darling of the mass media, the “flawless cherub” of her society, would rather be over-all’d and gun-totin’ than put on a pedestal. *shrug* I won’t cling to that interpretation as if it is intent or truth, though, because clearly you see it as problematic.

    What would be a better logo?

    I didn’t think you were being snarky, Kelsey. It’s interesting that you’d “never really given much thought to the logo until now” because it was one of the first things that I noticed when I first arrived here, at the time of the debate over the racist images in Amanda Marcotte’s book. In part that could be because I’m from the UK, so the image of a child holding a gun is much more shocking to me, because guns are objects I just don’t expect to see much, but it was also because the image was of a blonde child.

    I’d rather see a variety of people, I think, to reflect the diversity of the feminist community, or something more abstract.

    Looking at the current image reminds me a little of reading The Feminine Mystique. That was a book which addressed itself to women. Except that the more I read of it, the more it seemed to me that really Friedan was addressing herself to white, middle class heterosexual women who (a) had husbands and (b) had husbands who were earning enough for the women to be able to stay at home.

    Certainly the problems those women had were ones that feminists and feminism needed to address, but they were, nonetheless, the problems of a particular group of women. And similarly for some women today, a pressing feminist issue is that they look like the “darling of the mass media, the ‘flawless cherub’ of her society” and they “would rather be over-all’d and gun-totin’ than put on a pedestal.” It’s a feminist issue, but not one that’s necessarily going to have much relevance to the lives of the many women who look very different from the “darling of the mass media.”

    As has been said often recently in the context of the debate over Marcotte’s book, one of the biggest problems that many women of colour have with feminism is that it can feel exclusionary, a sort of white women’s club. And for those outside that group of white feminists, an image of a blonde could be seen as representing the concerns of that group of white women. Certainly, as I mentioned in my last comment, WOC PhD found it problematic that one so often finds “the white female figure as central and exclusive” in images which are supposed to depict feminism and feminists. That’s why I’d feel more comfortable with an image which represented the diversity and inclusiveness of feminism and feminists.

  25. Kelsey Jarboe
    Kelsey Jarboe June 28, 2008 at 5:00 pm |

    Hmm. Certainly having a white person represent a feminist blog is problematic, but again I don’t think it’s as specifically connected to anything as the images in Marcotte’s book.

    I think a multi-colored band of little rascals-esque girls would be nice. Heck, maybe they can have a couple of em holding hands, and a boy and a dog and everything banding along. It can be diverse and sensitive and still hold on to that old kitschy look which seems to be so beloved (I do like it myself, sometimes, although being an art student, I see it everywhere and can get sick of it).

    What do you think?

  26. Jen
    Jen June 28, 2008 at 6:04 pm |

    I live in a super sketchy part of Brooklyn, but there’s no way I’d ever own a gun. Let’s face it; I’m small and weak physically (precisely the reasons pro-gun people say I should have one). This means that I could easily be overpowered and then I’d have to deal with not only a criminal, but a criminal WITH A GUN. Any gun, whether someone else’s or mine, simply makes me less safe.

  27. Laura Vivanco
    Laura Vivanco June 28, 2008 at 7:41 pm |

    I don’t think it’s as specifically connected to anything as the images in Marcotte’s book

    The images inside Marcotte’s book were particularly offensive. But WOC PhD also made a broader point about books about feminism which exclusively feature white women on their covers. In addition to Marcotte’s book she mentioned Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism (which depicts part of the body of a thin white woman who might well be another of the ” ‘flawless cherub[s]’ of her society”) and Rory Dicker’s A History of U.S. Feminisms (which depicts a group of white women). It’s not that any image of a white woman is, in itself, racist, because of course it isn’t. But in a context in which the white woman seems to be representing all feminists, it can feel exclusionary (and thus indirectly racist).

    I think a multi-colored band of little rascals-esque girls would be nice. Heck, maybe they can have a couple of em holding hands, and a boy and a dog and everything banding along. It can be diverse and sensitive and still hold on to that old kitschy look which seems to be so beloved (I do like it myself, sometimes, although being an art student, I see it everywhere and can get sick of it).

    What do you think?

    I’m not very visually inclined, so I have no idea how feasible it would be to fit that in the space available and make it a striking image, but I think that sounds lovely. It would definitely get across the idea of diversity and community. And if the girls are “little rascals” and done in “that old kitschy look” then it wouldn’t be overly sweet.

  28. guns and gun control
    guns and gun control June 28, 2008 at 9:13 pm |

    I don’t think one can call it a feminist issue because feminists may be as divided and conflicted about this as women in general (that is including those who do not claim the title feminist).

    Living in Topanga in the late 90’s early 2000, I didn’t have a gun though many self identified “hippies” and “liberals” who live there do…something about living up in the mountainous landscape does it I think. The crime rate up there was 1 or less per year in the time that I lived up there, so frankly, I felt no need to be armed with more than my kitchen knives in the house.

    In the early 80’s, I left home and moved into the Cass Cooridor in Detroit (2 decades before it was gentrified). I was trained in self defense that included Verbal, physical, knife skills and knowing how to use a gun.
    I saved my self and a few others with a gun once, and too many times to count by simply running or using my voice. When I lived on 6 and Woodward I wielded hairspray and a lighter as a weapon.
    I know a few people who had guns and used them for safety in Detroit and New Orleans, but, mostly the folks who had guns in our neighborhoods were drug dealers and their associates. It was the era of the Young Boys Inc. in our neighborhood when I was a tiny waif living on my own. If I had been timid or afraid of any of the forms of self defense I employed, I would not be here in sunny, much safer, people move here instead of away from here, L.A.

    All that said, I also support gun control…
    I didn’t have a gun in the house while raising children…Asked people not to give the boys gun toys…
    see- conflicted
    or maybe hypocritical?
    But, definitely still alive.

  29. Tom
    Tom June 29, 2008 at 8:15 am |

    Being something of a gunny (veteran Marine, NRA member, have worked as a firearms instructor), I have a few thoughts on this topic.

    Are gun rights a feminist issue? I’d say not strictly speaking, and certainly not high in that pantheon next to a great deal of other issues. That being said, firearms can be an equalizer (the “force multiplier” issue brought up previously) and properly learning defensive shooting for those so inclined can and does help the people who pursue it gain self-confidence and discipline, which are useful for anyone. Beyond that, weapons and violence are simply a reality of the world we live in. Violence has been around since human beings first existed, organized and technologized violence for at least 3,000 years, and firearms for the last 700 years or so. They aren’t going away, and so maybe getting familiar with them is something of another barrier for women to overcome.

    The VPC study is crap. It compares numbers of female shooting homicide victims to self-defense shootings by females. The goal of an optimally successful defensive encounter with a firearm and the result of the overwhelming majority of such encounters is deterrence, a crime or assault is prevented or interrupted in progress by a credible challenge with a weapon, and no one is shot. Criminologist Gary Kleck at Florida State University demonstrated 15 years ago that the overwhelming majority of self-defense incidents with a gun did not result in a shooting, and that particular finding has stood up under every inquiry since. This doesn’t take into account the prophylactic effect of guns in the population at large: while the US homicide rate is higher than comparable developed countries, the rate of most other types of crime is significantly lower (and the types of crimes is often less likely to lead to a violent encounter: e.g., fewer “hot” burglaries of an occupied dwelling). Facing a potentially armed target is something that most criminals prefer to avoid.

    The fact that most homicide victims are killed by someone they know is misread to claim that most homicide victims are killed by friends or intimates. Rival gang members and drug dealers usually know each other, and are counted as “acquaintances” for the purpose of data collection. Stalking victims often know their stalkers (before they realize that they are stalkers). Taking a closer look at that data, it also should be noted that guns are less likely to be used in intimate and family homicides than other methods.

    All of that being said, guns are no panacea for anything, not for feminist issues nor for self-defense. On the latter topic, the greater part of self-defense is using the weapon between your ears. Guns or any other weapons are only a supplement to that. The only people who ought to consider keeping a gun for self-defense are those willing to accept and exercise the responsibility and discipline needed to own and carry them properly and responsibly, to familiarize themselves with them and train continuously and realistically, to be prepared for the time that they may have to confront and kill someone in a threat situation, and then to deal with everything that comes along with that practically, legally, psychologically and morally. In this life, there’s nothing wrong with being a lamb if you choose. There’s also nothing wrong with being a lion if you must.

  30. Tom
    Tom June 29, 2008 at 8:19 am |

    Correction to the above, guns are less likely to be used in intimate and family homicides than friend/acquaintance (which was already mentioned as a problematic category) or stranger homicides. They are less likely to be used than other methods in non-intimate family homicides.

  31. Calderon
    Calderon June 30, 2008 at 11:22 am |

    Following up on Kai’s comments about additional perspectives, below is a link to a brief filed in Heller that was signed on to by 126 women legislators and academics (mostly legislators) supporting the right to own guns. I’d certainly never claim to be knowledgeable about what is and isn’t a feminist issue, but I think the brief does a decent job of laying out the arguments in favor of allowing gun ownership from a feminist perspective.

    http://www.gurapossessky.com/news/parker/documents/07-290bsacwomenstatelegislatorsandacademics.pdf

  32. idyllicmollusk
    idyllicmollusk June 30, 2008 at 6:16 pm |

    I think some feminists are reluctant to champion guns as “the equalizer” when the root cause of the violence is larger social problems that will continue to generate violent men no matter how many predators women shoot and kill. Widespread female gun-ownership does nothing to address the societal ills that create the attackers.

    Many feminists are concerned with promoting social justice to bring about an equal and non-violent society. Encouraging greater weapons distribution is hard to reconcile with this goal.

    Here in the USA gun ownership is a personal choice. People that say it is a woman’s responsibility to own a gun for her protection are essentially victim-blaming. Actually, it is men’s responsibility not to assault, rape and murder women in the first place. If a woman feels safer with a gun, her choice. If she is uncomfortable with guns and doesn’t want one, her choice.

  33. iolight
    iolight July 1, 2008 at 5:10 am |

    I’m considering getting a gun, mostly for in my car in case of a situation where I’m stranded on the side of a highway (i.e. waiting for friends/AAA) and want to feel safer. I absolutely agree that people need to learn to shoot and practice safety before owning a gun, as well as getting one that feels comfortable to shoot.

    But walking around with a gun? A decent handgun will cost at least $300 used, and it’s easy to spend $600-900, so you could be making yourself more of a target rather than less. (Same as if people know you have one or more guns in your home.)

    Plus, I feel like it’s just stupid to have guns in a house with children. I remember in early high school my friend showing me his father’s gun — which was locked in a safe but of course my friend figured out how to get in — and me realizing that I had no idea what to do with this heavy object. Just teaching your kids how to handle guns doesn’t mean everyone around them will know what to do (though it helps, I guess).

    Back on topic: telling women to just get guns to protect themselves is a gloss on an anti-feminism that doesn’t want to deal with the underlying problems of misogyny and violence against women. Those usdop.gov stats are scary!

  34. Tom
    Tom July 1, 2008 at 6:58 am |

    I’m considering getting a gun, mostly for in my car in case of a situation where I’m stranded on the side of a highway (i.e. waiting for friends/AAA) and want to feel safer. I absolutely agree that people need to learn to shoot and practice safety before owning a gun, as well as getting one that feels comfortable to shoot.

    Iolight, just make sure that you are in compliance with your local laws regarding carrying a gun in a vehicle (you may need a CCW even for that in many states), or anywhere else, and get some realistic instruction from a knowledgeable professional source on the legal definitions and ramifications of self-defense. Part of being responsible with a gun is that knowledge and compliance. The idiots who parrot that “better tried by twelve than carried by six” mantra never seem to much get into the details of that “tried by twelve” part: thousands of dollars spent on legal fees, the serious risk of a felony conviction and a long prison term for assault with a deadly weapon, manslaughter or murder, civil liability, the actual criteria that legally justify deadly force, etc. When you carry, much less should you ever shoot someone, your conduct will be rigorously evaluated under the law against a very high standard.

    There’s a veteran police Captain in New Hampshire named Massad Ayoob, who is one of the country’s foremost experts on all aspects of armed self-defense (including and especially the legal ones), who has written a large number of books and has an institute that conducts classes and training on that subject for law enforcement and CCW holders. I highly recommend what he has to say.

  35. Becca
    Becca July 2, 2008 at 2:01 pm |

    I really don’t like guns…

    But as Ismone first mentioned, the study is really flawed. In fact, it makes absolutely no sense at all. It’s really bad. The ending quote, “Before a woman purchases a handgun for protection, she must pause to consider whether the grave risk—in 1998, a woman was 101 times more likely to be murdered with a handgun than to use a handgun to justifiably kill an attacker—is one she is willing to accept” seems to imply that owning a handgun INCREASES your risk to be killed by an attacker. That conclusion came out of nowhere.

    In fact, a pro-gun for women advocate could just look at this study and say “Well, if more women had guns, more attackers would be stopped.” Its numbers almost support their point. Uggghhh, as a scientist, this study just makes me cringe…

    Anyway. I think the more compelling evidence against guns is the stuff about how much a gun kept in the house is more likely to kill a family member than an intruder. Has anyone heard of those kinds of statistics broken down for women? That might be interesting to see.

  36. preying mantis
    preying mantis July 3, 2008 at 12:00 am |

    “I think the more compelling evidence against guns is the stuff about how much a gun kept in the house is more likely to kill a family member than an intruder. Has anyone heard of those kinds of statistics broken down for women?”

    Keep in mind that that stat includes suicides. I really wish the people who compiled gun stats weren’t so hellbent on keeping their thumb on the statistical scales. It makes it a lot harder than it should be to get a real picture of what’s going on.

  37. Sasha Forte
    Sasha Forte July 5, 2008 at 5:02 pm |

    I love the iconography of guns, and they make a wonderful metaphor for power. I can also understand why the idea of a “great equalizer” for the power imbalances between men and women is a seductive one. But it’s one thing to buy a gun, to learn to shoot and enjoy the feeling of control, etc., but quite another to actually, deliberately shoot another human being, much less kill them.

    My understanding of weapons in a dangerous situation is that you should never, ever introduce a deadly weapon unless you are absolutely convinced of your ability to use it effectively- not just mechanically, but psychologically. Police officers and soldiers are subjected to an intense breaking down of the social constraints against violence that all of us grow up with in order to prepare for the possibility of killing others- and we know that women are generally less socialized for violence than men.

    Buying a badass shiny toy may make you feel better, but unless you know you can use it on another person, in the heat of the moment, for real, it doesn’t make you safer- and it never will.

  38. SayUncle » Fun with feminism
    SayUncle » Fun with feminism July 23, 2008 at 9:08 am |

    […] lastly, if you make a decision to take responsibility for your own safety is a decision to leave the feminist sisterhood (via SM). Now, listen up, sweetie. I understand. I mean, guns are tools for self-defense. And, […]

  39. Mikee
    Mikee July 23, 2008 at 11:13 am |

    The inherent, inalienable, individual right to self defense is a prima facie human right. I presume feminists support their own right to individual self defense? If not, ignore the rest of this comment.

    Guns are tools, and can be a means for self defense, and are one of the most effective means of immediate self defense for an individual under threat of attack. Guns allow both the threat of force (with no injury to the attacker should the attack stop) and the ability to project force upon others if they continue an attack, both before the attack reaches the potential victim and while an attack is ongoing.

    Because guns project a possibly lethal level of force, they are an effective deterrent against attack in many cases, with potential and actual attacks often stopped upon the presentation of a gun in the hands of a potential victim. They also make the threat projected by the potential victim match or exceed that projected by the attacker, which can enable a potential victim to protect against an attacker.

    Note that in the above paragraphs describing guns and self defense I have not used a single gender specific noun or pronoun. I propose that guns and their use in self defense are inherently non-sexist issues, equally applicable to all individuals, and that if feminists believe in the human right of individual self defense and the equality of all sexes they should support the use of guns as effective tools for self defense.

    If not, can some feminist explain their supposed logic behind not supporting the human right to individual self defense, and having the means to effectively achieve it?

  40. mike w.
    mike w. July 23, 2008 at 11:30 am |

    Well the “study” you linked to was done by the VPC, which is a well known anti-gun group. Hardly a neutral source, and certainly not a good way to try and back up your argument.

  41. anon
    anon July 23, 2008 at 3:11 pm |

    “And you don’t get to play the ‘this is a feminist issue’ card when you don’t actually give a crap about feminism.”

    It’s not so much about playing the feminist card, as it is about pointing out the blatant hypocrisy of anti-gun feminists.

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