FEMININITIES – Hyperagency kills when hypoagency pulls the trigger – Trayvon Martin and the fears of white women

I am not Trayvon Martin, I am not Tracy Martin, and I can hardly aspire to the Christlike serenity in the face of unbearable grief and rage of Sabrina Fulton, his mother. I am not Tracy Martin, but like I have a son and like Trayvon that son was 18 once, so I know what it is to worry about the safety of a son in a dangerous world. I know what it is to worry about a son but I do not know from personal experience, the way Tracy Martin did, what it is to worry about a son like Trayvon, because unlike Trayvon my son is white. And while white boys are “constructed” as dangerous and troublesome, the same goes double for black boys. There is a centuries-long history in the US of seeing black men as uniquely dangerous, black people in general really, even children. So I really am not Tracy Martin.

I am not interested in reviewing anything whatever the legal or evidentiary details of the case and the trial. That has been done exhaustively elsewhere and much better than I could do here, and any discussion around any of those points is off-topic here. (No offense intended, no comment intended about the quality of the comment; just clearing the weeds from around the roses.) For the record I thought that in the George Zimmerman case Stand Your Ground amounted to Hunt Him Down, but as I said that is outside this discussion.

Over at Danny’s Corner Daisy Deadhead wondered why there had been a peep out of anyone here at Genderratic about this affair. It’s a fair question. For me there were a couple of reasons. The first was that I had nothing to contribute to the conversation other than disgust and rage and there were others better qualified for that. Another was that I have a strong distaste for white people wrapping themselves in other people’s tragedies as a form of moral exhibitionism. So I held off. But now enough time has passed that I can make another and related point about this.

The Cult of Embattled White Womanhood

In the wake of the trial verdict there were feminists who saw half of what was wrong in this situation. Katy Otto, Amanda Marcotte and Jessica Valenti all said that the core of the problem was our need to treat white women as under continual threat. (Ahem…) And strangely none of them saw the obvious connections to Schroedinger’s Rapist that the Spearhead did.

These feminists focused on the acquittal and the psycho-dynamics of that acquittal, rather than on the shooting itself. Katy Otto over at Feministing lays the smacketh down right where it belongs here – at the feet of this society’s need to treat white women as the holy of holies that must be protected at all costs and the sense of vulnerability that engenders in people protected to that degree.

This narrative of embattled white women, always in peril from the forces of barbarism, drives not only white supremacist policing of black men in America but also the entire gender system. Eldridge Cleaver saw decades ago how entwined America’s racial and sexual mythologies were.This narrative of embattled white women drives the way men have always been treated and what has been expected of them in interactions with [white] women. It drives the narrative about women being the moral guardians of society and the arbiters of manners and proper behavior. It even drives the way little boys are treated when a girl is involved. A boy’s slightest misstep is seen as aggresssion and punished accordingly, a girl’s aggressions are explained away one way or another or simply denied. And this narrative of embattled white women drives feminism.

Here’s Amanda Marcotte:

 “I frequently get tweets and emails from people asking why there are so many women who align themselves with conservatives in an era when waging war on women’s rights appears to be the Republican Party’s No. 1 priority. I often lamely tell them that it’s complicated, and it is. Juror B37, however, tells us part of the story: This myth that the world is full of scary people who are out to get you white ladies works. “

And they don’t just here this from white racist conservatives either, do they? Where else do they hear that, get that pounded into their heads? How much of this mentality is indoctrinated in Women’s Studies departments and Take back the Night events and Don’t Be that Guy poster campaigns? People have been making this very same point in the MHRM for quite a while now.

(And in reference to the title of that piece, one really has to wonder what planet anyone has been staying on that it comes as any surprise that an all–female jury woudl findd a male victim disposable the eway that one found Trayvon Martin.)

She continues:

“Plenty of white women are so worried about the imaginary threats lurking outside their door that they don’t pay any mind to the real problems that threaten us: economic inequality and lack of health care access. Sure, there’s crime, too, but 80-90 percent of rapes are committed by someone the same race as the victim. White women have more to fear from the men deemed our protectors than the ones we imagine are out to get us.”

Which inevitably leads to the question of why [white] women are so comfortable turning to these “deemed protectors” – white male power structures – so readily in their advocacy.

Even Jessica Valenti, female rapist erasing rape apologist, sees at least this small piece of what is wrong with traditional white femininity:

“As Mychal Denzel Smith pointed out here at The Nation and on MSNBC’s Up With Steve Kornacki, defense attorneys stoked this fear deliberately and broadly.

To my disgust, O’Mara literally invoked the same justification for killing Trayvon as was used to justify lynchings. He called to the witness stand Olivia Bertalan, one of Zimmerman’s former neighbors, who told the story of her home being burglarized by two young African-American boys while she and her children feared for their lives. It was terrifying indeed, and it had absolutely no connection to the case at hand. But O’Mara presented the jury with the “perfect victim,” which Trayvon could never be: a white woman living in fear of black criminals. Zimmerman had offered to help her the night her home was robbed. Implicit in the defense’s closing argument: he was also protecting her the night he killed Trayvon Martin.”

“This juror’s comments cannot be divorced from our culture’s long-standing criminalizing of young black men, and white women’s related fears.”

“Yes, white women—all of us—are taught to fear men of color. We need to own that truth, own that shameful fear. Most importantly, we need to name it for what it is: deeply held and constantly enforced racism.”

The Boy Who is Never Allowed To Be a Child

This was good as far as it went; in fact it identified the source of the problem but did not go on to the next obvious step. It was black commentators who took this a step further and pointed out the crux of O’Mara’s appeal to emotion was to deny Trayvon Martin’s youth and relative defenselessness so as to paint him as the kind of threat that would merit being gunned down when he was unarmed, a 17-year-old boy who the defense portrayed as some hulking, shadowy menace, not a child on the brink of manhood. Eugene Robinson explained in another op/ed the reason Trayvon Martin looked like a threat to frightened white women was that they basically just could not see him as a child. Joy Ann Reid echoed this while she was appearing with him on the Rachel Maddow Show. It meant that he could be portrayed as an adult threatening another adult and therefore a valid target for George Zimmerman. It meant that the jury of six women, five white and the sixth nearly so, could see Trayvon Martin as inherently threatening and shooting him as a valid response to that threat.

Black boys get this the most but they are not alone in this. Think of all the statutory rape cases where minors of equal age are involved and somehow it is only ever the boy who is charged with anything, regardless of race. Think of the cases where little boys are punished for affectionate gestures, sometimes to girls but sometimes even to grown women teaching them. One such teacher said she felt sexually harassed after a nine-year-old boy called her “cute”. (And this is leaving aside the ick factor of a grown women thinking of a nine-year-old as sexual.)

This denial of a boy’s boyhood is deeply dehumanizing. It imposes accountability on him long before he has the mental or emotional tools to shoulder that accountability, it often holds him accountable for female peers and adults, and as we see in the Trayvon Martin case, it denies him the normal protections due a child from adults.

This denial of a boy’s boyhood is deeply dehumanizing, and it is a natural aspect of hyperagency. A male is agentive just by virtue of being male in this system, regardless of his age because his age does not obviate his maleness. And this is where hyperagency leads us, a bunch of hypoagentive females twice his age thinking he is some kind of threat who it is reasonable to gun down, thinking it was justifiable to kill him on a hunch.

When it comes to men’s rights and the issues of men and boys, black men and boys are the canaries in the coal mine. It is all the same shit – wildly skewed incarceration rates, presumption of guilt in rape cases, but only if the male is the accused rather than the victim, the culture portraying them as sex-crazed animals, a firmly secondary role as parents – all happens to them first and worst.

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  • Bob Sennit

    Teach your son not to beat people’s heads against concrete, and he probably won’t get justifiably shot by his victim. Just a thought. If Martin had succeeded in murdering Zimmerman, he would probably have gotten himself killed some other way.

    I feel bad for Martin’s mother, but she chose to raise a vicious thug, and he who lives by violence risks dying by it. She failed her son. Not all black men are vicious thugs. I’ve known many.

  • Ginkgo

    “Teach your son not to beat people’s heads against concrete, and he probably won’t get justifiably shot by his victim. ”

    Off topic, like I said above.

    Head beaten on the pavement?Those head wounds? You’re pretty gullible.

    “but she chose to raise a vicious thug, ”

    The mother who raised a vicious thug was the one that cacked that thug out so he could go around shooting children and then crying what a victim he was. Did you see where his wife is leaving him now for domestic abuse? The pattern is coming in clearer now. Just a thought.

    The Chief of Police in Lake Mary calls Zimmerman a “Sandy hook wating to happen”.
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/13/george-zimmerman-florida-police-chief

    Anyway, as I said, all of this is off topic, so now it’s over.

  • Druk

    17 may not be fully emotionally mature, but it’s pretty far along as far as physical maturity, which is what determines whether or not he could be considered a threat to someone’s life. Whether or not he should be considered fully responsible for his actions is really a moot point.

  • Ginkgo

    Druk, someone that age could be big enough to be a real threat, but then the question of their relative size comes in. And the issue is not only whether Zimmerman had reason to think TM posed and actual threat, but of course also whether or not the jury thought so too. So the question is why the jury thought someone younger, lighter build, unarmed, posed a threat to Zimmerman.

  • Dani Pettas

    I had the same reaction about the all female (5 white) jury… and noticed no one was talking about gender in addition to race. Imani Perry wrote on Twitter, “gender wd absolutely have been discussed w/ all male jury.”

  • fatalerror094

    “Head beaten on the pavement?Those head wounds? You’re pretty gullible.”

    Really? Go to Google, search: *George zimmerman, head injury photos*, and then click on the “images” option and you will see just how “gullible” we are.

    Pay particular attention to the lacerations on the BACK OF HIS HEAD. If Zimmerman stalked and ambushed Trayvon, then how did he get those, not to mention the bloody nose and busted lip?

    The “Stand Your Ground” didn’t even apply to this case because that law assumes that the person can retreat from the altercation in question, which Zimmerman could not do because Trayvon had him pinned down so he could punch him. Meaning this was a simple case of self defense.

  • Ginkgo

    fatalerror094, welcome!

    Gullible? Overly willing to believe an absurdity, than yeah, gullible.

    Lacerations? So you want me to beleive that this skinny *unarmed* kid knocked this *armed* wife beater down and was picking his head up and slamming it down, and I’m the gullible one? How did Zimmerman end up on the ground in the first place, seeing as he’s the one who had the gun?

    Thanks for making my point about people seeing black kids as threats.

  • dungone

    @Gingko, you’re getting a little carried away. There’s nothing implausible about a 17 year old knocking down a big overweight man, and none of that has anything to do with DV accusations.

    From a martial arts perspective, the kid had speed and agility on his side and he may have had more current experience in street fights. It’s debatable which one of them could deliver a more forceful hit. Zimmerman’s bulk would have been a huge impediment working against him once he fell down. This type of fight would have been determined by who got the upper hand first. If Zimmerman got taken by surprise and knocked down, he would be helpless and all the more likely to resort to his firearm. If Martin projected his moves and allowed Zimmerman to get him into a hold, he would have been toast and, crucially, Zimmerman wouldn’t have had to reach for his gun. I really have to ask you to reconsider your stance, since you’re really going after the predominant aggressor angle that is so often used to prosecute men who are the victims of violence by presumably weaker women (and in this case, teenagers).

    There is nothing implausible about a self defense argument, barring some hard evidence to the contrary. This is really all about due process. The prosecution failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That’s why he was found innocent. No other reason. And I have yet to see anything in the media to suggest otherwise, besides rampant speculation, hysteria, stereotypes, and sensationalism. No actual hard evidence that would rise above reasonable doubt. Do you disagree? My impression of this case and the media is that it’s all just a bunch of nasty race baiting designed to rile the audience up keep them glued to the TV screens. Outrage gets ratings. All I see here is a bunch of incredibly ignorant people buying more Tide detergent and McDonald’s. Call me cynical.

  • dungone

    That’s really the irony of all of it. I look at the public’s reaction to this case and all I see is a bunch of social justice warriors gobbling up McFries. That is the inevitable outcome – the truth is irrelevant. There would have been outrage whether or not he was guilty or innocent. The media just sits there and plays it by ear, riling up one group or another, they couldn’t care less which one. You can bet your ass that if Zimmerman was found guilty, whites would be yelling bloody murder and comparing this to OJ Simpson’s acquittal. The media would be there egging them on at every step of the way, with guest after guest going on to express outrage and spread information. It doesn’t matter to them who they shed their crocodile tears for.

  • dungone

    *information = misinformation… sorry.

  • Ginkgo

    dungone, if anyone can convince me, it;s you.

    “There is nothing implausible about a self defense argument, barring some hard evidence to the contrary. This is really all about due process. The prosecution failed to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. ”

    Okay, that much is valid.

    Maybe there is some overreaction. I can see my son in Trayvon martin and not in George Zimmerman. I still don’t see why he would be nmore agile than Zimmerman.

    But to my central point, some of the things the jurors said afterward still support my contnetion about the fears of white women. We see our whole justice system contorted to assuage those.

  • fatalerror094

    Glad to be here:)

    Did you even look up the photos?
    Just in case here some links to just a few:

    http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1079045!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/image.jpg

    http://abcnews.go.com/images/US/ap_george_zimmerman_kb_121204_wblog.jpg

    http://i1364.photobucket.com/albums/r725/CCReport3/zimmermanhandsclean_zpsa4d82246.jpg

    Noticed that last one where the police took pictures of GZ hands and there wasn’t a mark on them? Strong evidence of a one-sided fistfight.

  • Ginkgo

    “Did you even look up the photos?”

    I saw either those or ones like them on the news when this all broke.

    “Strong evidence of a one-sided fistfight.”

    So far there isn’t a lot of evidence of a fist fight, but clearly GZ didn’t hit anyone very hard. I am just having a very hard time believing there’s going to be much of a fist fight when one of the combatants has a firearm. There shouldn’t be if I was armed.

  • fatalerror094

    “I am just having a very hard time believing there’s going to be much of a fist fight when one of the combatants has a firearm. There shouldn’t be if I was armed.”

    Which is why I ask: “Where did all the wounds come from?”.

    John Good, an eyewitness to the struggle between the two testified that he saw Trayvon on top of Zimmerman and that it was Trayvon who was doing the punching.

    Even if John Good was mistaken insomuch that he really couldn’t be sure who was on top, what does the condition of the two afterwards suggest how that fight played out.

    Trayvon received a mortal gunshot wound which obviously ended the fight, but Zimmerman was beaten about the face and head.

    If Zimmerman surprised Trayvon and pulled a gun on him at the beginning, he would have never let him get close enough to do any damage.

  • http://dannyscorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com Danny

    Ginkgo:
    Lacerations? So you want me to beleive that this skinny *unarmed* kid knocked this *armed* wife beater down and was picking his head up and slamming it down, and I’m the gullible one? How did Zimmerman end up on the ground in the first place, seeing as he’s the one who had the gun?
    Well it is possible. And its that same possibility that rears its head whenever a woman/boy rape story comes along and gets spun as “He actually attacked her.” Its actually possible that he did overcome her and rape her. Doesn’t make it true but its just enough of a thread to hang onto.

    Dani:
    I had the same reaction about the all female (5 white) jury… and noticed no one was talking about gender in addition to race. Imani Perry wrote on Twitter, “gender wd absolutely have been discussed w/ all male jury.”
    No question. If a jury of all guys (with most being white) had acquitted Zimmerman I’m sure the response would have been VERY different on the grounds that instead of just race, gender would also be added to the pile.

  • Brendan

    Ginko, I have to say you really reek of someone who did not watch the trial. That said there is a simple reason why someone might get into a fist fight while holding a gun and that is it wasn’t drawn, as Zimmerman stated in the trial and there was plenty of evidence corroborating the fight.
    -Virtually all eyewitness testimony said there was a fistfight.
    -Martin had cuts to his knuckles Zimmerman had injuries to his head.
    -Martin had dirt and staining on the knees of his pants Zimmerman had it on his back.
    -Martin had a history of violence and was actually in Sanford after being expelled from his school while Zimmerman had washed out of his first day of self defense classes, being described as “obese”
    Honestly, what else fits? This case seems to have been more about making a story that fits your political ideology than addressing what happened by looking at the evidence. This is a case that got so polluted by the whims of our media that the beverage Martin was carrying had to be edited because it would have been racist not to.

  • Brendan

    by the way i do not mean you personally when i said “This case seems to have been more about making a story that fits your political ideology than addressing what happened” but rather every news outlet who applied their own facts to make this fit their narrative.

  • Adiabat

    “This is a case that got so polluted by the whims of our media that the beverage Martin was carrying had to be edited because it would have been racist not to.”

    lol. I’m curious now, what was he drinking? Or aren’t we allowed to know?

  • Ginkgo

    “Ginko, I have to say you really reek of someone who did not watch the trial. ”

    It was televised? If it wasn’t, then none of us watched the trial.

    “Honestly, what else fits?”

    This sounds like all the false rape “victims” who come in sctratched up and dishevelled.

    I’m not familiar with any of what you quote. Can you pop me some cites? I am willing to change my mind on Martin, but not on the larger issue of fearful white woemn treating this kid’s killing in away they wouldn’t reat a white kid’s, but you and I are talking about this specific case, so those cites would be helpful.

    “while Zimmerman had washed out of his first day of self defense classes, being described as “obese”

    Well exactly. That’s why he had a gun. That hardly makes him less dangerous, does it?

  • DrDrBeat

    I find it ironic that you said you weren’t interested in reviewing the legal and evidentiary details, because it had been done better elsewhere… when you showed no interest int he evidentiary details, do nto know what they are, and appear to disregard their importance.

    Youa re just as guilty here of the kind of thinking feminists use to write off male victimization. You are ignoring the specific facts of what happened, in order to make judgments based on the kinds of people involved. You react with disbelief that people expect you to believe an “armed wife-beater” actually got beaten up by “a skinny unarmed kid”. You passed a judgment based on what kind of person the people involved were, assigning moral blame to Zimmerman because you think he is a wife-beater, and saying that he couldn’t have been threatened because he had a weapon (which makes no sense at all because we’re talking about if he was threatened enough, WITHOUT the weapon, that he would have to EMPLOY the weapon to defend himself. Having a weapon doesn’t mean now you are so dangerous you can beat people without it.) Because you assign him a high abstract threat level and moral blame, and you assign Martin a lower abstract threat level because he is younger and unarmed and do not assign him moral blame, you say that based on these categories, Zimmerman was the victimizer and martin the Victim. You express disbelief that someone believes a Person With A High Abstract Threat Level And Moral Blame could actually have been threatened by a Person With Low Abstract Threat Level And Moral Innocence.

    But it doesn’t matter what category you assign to form a narrative with. What matters is the actual events that happened. And categorization of people is not a very good way to determine what happened. Physical and forensic evidence, as well as eyewitness testimony, are much better at that, and ALL of those support the story that Martin attacked Zimmerman, was on top of him pounding on him, Zimmerman cried for help repeatedly, and then only after being whomped on for about 40 seconds pulled his gun and shot Martin. The wounds on his body and Martin’s body fit this, the dirt stains on their bodies fit this, the places where Zimmerman’s flashlight and keys fell after he was struck fit this, the testimony of those who saw the altercation fit this, and the testimony of all but one of the people who heard the altercation fit this. (All but one because there was a recording of SOMEONE getting whomped on and screaming for help in the background, and Martin’s mother testified it was Martin’s voice, but others testified it was Zimmerman’s, and Martin being the one on the bottom matches none of the other forensic evidence.) The evidence indicates that Martin was on top beating Zimmerman, and Zimmerman acted in entirely legal and justified self-defense.

    If this does not fit how you believe the situation happened based on how you categorized the people involved, that means you categorized them wrong, or you shouldn’t be making judgments based entirely on categorizations. Maintaining that because you assign a higher abstract threat level to Zimmerman than to Martin, Martin couldn’t have been a threat and Zimmerman must have attacked him, is exactly the same pseudologic feminists use to claim male victims of domestic violence are really the abusers — big strong men have a high abstract threat level, frail little women have a low abstract threat level, so if there was a fight, he MUST have been attacking her and he MUST be blameworthy, and to disagree requires you to say that frail little women are more threatening than big strong men.

  • Brendan

    “lol. I’m curious now, what was he drinking? Or aren’t we allowed to know?”

    It was Watermelon fruit cocktail. The watermelon was considered a racial stereotype and therefore was referred to as “iced tea”. Why fruit juice was unacceptable is beyond me.

    I’ll be blunt here, I put off responding to this because it was incredibly difficult for me not to just call you an idiot and not waste my time, but I thought it needed to be done anyway and kept coming back to start again, so here it is, better late then never.

    “It was televised? If it wasn’t, then none of us watched the trial. ”
    Y’know if you are going to say something just say it. I talked about watching the trial, and stated that you and in fact far to many other people are commenting on the trial without watching it. you obviously assume or know that I was not able to watch it in person. So its painfully obvious you knew I was saying in not so many words “go watch the trial and educate yourself about a topic you have chosen to discuss the subtle emotional and social nuances of as opposed to simply assuming whatever fits your opinion is fact or people are going to call you on your bullshit”. Yes the trial was televised. I don’t know how anyone could not know that given that virtually every media outlet published footage or pictures of the trial in virtually every story covering the trial. In fact 5 seconds with google showed multiple Youtube channels which still have the entire trial up

    Here are two:

    http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLYEBn4w1XOIeEsjIiyfTohqC6BQLI81vx

    “This sounds like all the false rape “victims” who come in sctratched up and dishevelled.”

    The problem here is that while false “victims” may beat themselves up you are assuming that that means beat up victims are false. This is why those Forensics you wouldn’t discuss are so important. Before disregarding a victim as false perhaps you should do some, even the most bare minimum of checking the facts of the case to see if it might just possibly be true.
    And for the record, If a rape case with this much evidence was dismissed as false with the sort of cursory evaluation that you have given this, I would personally protest to get it re-evaluated and remove whatever authority chose to ignore it. Your use of rape and false rape as emotional bludgeons to try to cloud this is disgusting.
    Here is Zimmermans statement to the police:

    Here is the opening statement by Zimmerman’s attorney which discusses the evidence i talked about, the injuries being to Trayvon Martins fists and Zimmerman’s head as well as the position from which Martin and Zimmerman would have been in based on the forensics, With Zimmerman under Trayvon firing upwards.

    Here is the ME talking about Zimmermans Injuries, discussing both that Zimmerman was struck multiple times in the head and that Trayvons only injuries were to his knuckles.

    Here is Amy Siewert, the balistics expert talking about the gun being fired at point blank against martins clothes.

    and here is the coroner discussing the

    Adding these two things up you can gauge the position Trayvon was in and leaning over with the fabric of his clothes pulled away by gravity. The degree of planning and time that would go into so expertly faking these injuries in order to kill some guy he hadn’t previously met would be mind boggling involving split second timing. Based on the evidence we have the most probable scenario is that Martin knocked Zimmerman down climbed on top of him and only after being knocked to the ground, mounted and being struck in the head did the gun come into play. This is by no means exhaustive evaluation of the evidence, the trial itself was pretty damning and the prejudicial and circumstantial evidence that was not admitted is even more so.
    Here is Stephan Mulineux dissecting the evidence around the trial in more detail than i care to do for you:

    in fact AVFM summed up why this is so wrong pretty well in don’t be that bigot:
    http://www.avoiceformen.com/mens-rights/false-rape-culture/gender-issues-in-the-george-zimmerman-debacle/
    This crying prejudice when you don’t get your way is childish nonsense and the idea that you are willing to change your mind and all you need is someone to come in and do your homework for you, hold your hand and lead you through the difficult task of using a search engine is just asinine.