Tag Archives: guns

We Are a Nation of Gun Owners

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a chalkboard drawing of a gun with a student's hand holding the chalk

Debbie says:

Most of us heard about the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, and the dead 6-year-old boy who was bouncing in the bouncy house (and three other dead people). I happen to be staying in Wisconsin, so I saw front-page news about the shooting in Chippewa Falls, in which 5 people were killed. And I read anti-racist Twitter, so I saw news about the shooting in Brooklyn, in which 1 person was killed. Turns out that’s not even half of them.  Turns out also that heat is a factor in the number of shootings, which means the climate emergency has found another way to threaten our lives.

I wouldn’t ordinarily write about this topic, because there’s so little to say. And then I found Alli Marini’s essay, Moving Targets, in the Rumpus. It’s from last year, and unsurprisingly current.

Marini grew up in the American southeast. She chronicles her life from Memphis:

Our neighbors have guns and a pen of dogs in the backyard. They are sportsmen. anHunters. Good ol’ boys with rifles and a healthy love for the 2nd Amendment. They wear camo and set up targets in their backyard. My momma is nervous around them, but I’m too young to understand why. Let me say that again: At five years old, I am too young to understand why.

to Florida:

I am seven and the neighbor who watches me and my sister after school lets us watch horror movies, even though my momma says “no.” Darlene and her brother sneak into her father’s closet one afternoon to show me A Secret. It is a gun. I do not know it at the time, but later, I will understand that it’s a .45. “It goes BANG,” Darlene says. “We’re not supposed to touch it.” Her brother closes the lid and slides it back onto the top shelf.

and another part of Florida:

We are riding in a jacked-up Ford pickup and naturally, he has a .45 in the glove and a shotgun rack hanging in the cab. We are in high school now, and there are still no active shooter drills. Her boyfriend uses the n-word a lot, and when I object—he says, “I have nothing against black folk; I think everybody should own a couple.” I am stunned and scared and I tell them to take me home. I have failed at something and I don’t know how to make it right, because let me say this again: I am fifteen, and I am too young to know how to do the right thing when there are guns in the truck.

And college in Florida:

We are living in a student rental packed with more roommates than there are rooms. Derroll … brazenly walks through the house naked. He has many, many guns in our house. He leaves a loaded .45 in the kitchen and is quick to anger when I remind him we have cats who could knock the guns off the ledges and cause them to misfire. Once, a friend bangs on our door drunk, late at night and Derroll answers the door naked, brandishing a shotgun, making my drunk friend literally piss himself. … At nineteen, I am still too young to understand the full complexity of the danger I am in when I tell a white man that I am afraid of his temper and his guns. Let me say this again: At nineteen, I am old enough to understand the fear, but not the complexity of the danger.

And on into adulthood:

I have become a statistic of my own: married young, divorced young, three husbands by the time I’m thirty-five. I move to North Florida, more rural than the no-name town I grew up in, or the touristy city where I went to undergrad. Three husbands bring guns into our homes and tell me, “It’s to keep us safe, it’s so I can protect you. So I can protect you.” They say, “Castle Law,” and I don’t understand. I am twenty, twenty-four, thirty-two: how old must a woman be before realizing that the man who pledges to protect you might be the very person you need protection from?

Besides the guns, they have another thing in common: throughout the course of each marriage, they will all raise their hands to me in anger, and I will excuse it, hide it, forgive it. How much of this is me changing myself, perverting love into obedience, twisting love into complicity in secret-keeping, excusing violence to keep the peace.

Here is another thing they share: they are all angry. They are all white men. They all believe that the world owes them something but they can’t quite articulate what and the world can’t quite deliver, and violence is their only means of discourse. They all have easy access to guns. They are proud members of the NRA. They are Responsible Gun Owners on paper, to the world that doesn’t go home with them. They all love their guns in a way that only years later, I’ll understand that they could never love me. These men love their guns because deep down, they hate a part of themselves that they cannot show to the world.

There’s a lot more. Marini is a fine writer, and she opens a window to a life that people like me in the coastal elites don’t really understand. In my late ’60s, I still wouldn’t know how to do the right thing when there are guns in the truck, but I do know there might not be a right thing.

But if 50 people can die in mass shootings in one weekend, with many more injured, and certainly many more dead and injured in single shootings, it’s damned well time and past time to figure out the right thing. We need a combination of laws, alternative outlets for anger, and cultural shifts. Ten years ago would be good.

 

 

 

Penises, Guns, and Safer Sex Ads

(Cross-posted on Feminste)

Laurie and Debbie say:

(CONTAINS GRAPHIC AND EXPLICIT IMAGES)

The brilliant Lisa Wade at Sociological Images has a thought-provoking piece about penis/gun imagery in safer sex ads, like this particularly vivid one:

gun pointed into naked woman's vagina

She situates the conversation in an anthropological context which demystifies the penis, which you can read at the link. After sharing images, Wade draws a brief conclusion:

While I am all for encouraging sexual pleasure and safer sex, I would prefer that such efforts not conflate the penis with a weapon. Doing so only contributes to the idea that the penis is inherently useful for enacting violence and women’s bodies naturally vulnerable to violation from men.

We would take it somewhat further.

First of all, sexually transmitted disease is not a weapon men use against women. It transmits from any gender to any gender, depending much more on who does what to whom than how people are shaped. In the 20th and 21st centuries, positioning safer sex as protective of women erases the history of why we talk about safer sex at all. This imagery also conflates AIDS and other STDs with rape and abuse, adding an indefensible layer of confusion to both issues.

Second, the penis, like any part of the human body, is a natural organ. Because of its role in sex and reproduction, and its inherently vulnerable nature (which Wade discusses), all kinds of social, cultural, and commodified images get layered onto it.

It isn’t a weapon. It isn’t ammunition. It isn’t a toy. It isn’t a measuring stick. Putting a condom on it doesn’t disarm it.

bullet in a condom

It’s a body part of half the human race. It can be used as a weapon. It can be used as a toy. It can be used as a measuring stick.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about these safer sex ads is that they don’t show penises. What “disarms” the penis is making it visible as a part of the relaxed body. As Jonathan D. Katz says in Familiar Men: A Book of Nudes, “To see a penis is to know that it couldn’t possibly be a phallus. If male power is premised on the cloaking of the male body, then it is to its uncloaking that we must turn for our collective liberation.”

(Penis photographs by Laurie Toby Edison, from Familiar Men.)