Women who speak out publicly are all-too-often exposed to virulent and hateful garbage-speech: rape and death threats, harassment, and so on. Predictably, the gun control debates are no exception to this rule.
In an article for Mother Jones, Mark Follman examines the way in which gun extremists target women with behavior as deplorable as it is sadly predictable. Much of the harassment he details is par for the course, the sort of misogynistic response any woman who speaks out in public can come to expect — only, in this case, the men doing it are armed. Great.
Follman's piece includes several horrifying examples. Take, for instance, Jennifer Longdon, who was paralyzed in 2004 after being shot in her car. Although she's a Second Amendment supporter, she advocates for background checks and other gun reforms. Thus, she's been spit on, harassed, stalked and threatened by men in gun groups for speaking out. Last year, for example, she helped coordinate a gun buyback program with local police, and a group of gun supporters — all men — assembled across the street:
Some of them approached Longdon. "You know what was wrong with your shooting?" one said. "They didn't aim better." Another man came up, looked Longdon up and down and said, "I know who you are." Then he recited her home address. The harassment continued, and the men showed up throughout the program, a Phoenix police official involved confirmed to me.
After a different fundraiser, Longdon had just unloaded herself from her ramp-equipped van when a man stepped out of the shadows, dressed in all black and holding a rifle that looked "like something out of a commando movie," as she put it. He pointed it at her and pulled the trigger, releasing a stream of water, and then said, "Don't you wish you had a gun now, bitch?" (A: UH, NO, BUT I AM EXTREMELY GLAD YOU DIDN'T, BECAUSE YOU ARE AN UNHINGED INDIVIDUAL.)
Another woman, a high school teacher, was targeted by gun group Open Carry Texas because she called the nonemergency police line after seeing a group of heavily-armed men walking along the overpass waving flags. A member of the group, Brett Sanders, subsequently posted a video on YouTube containing a recording of the call she made to police and highlighting her name and phone number. She was quickly inundated with calls and texts calling her a "stupid bitch" and a "motherfucking whore." All this vitriol because she called nonemergency police line after seeing a group of men strolling along the road with assault rifles strapped to their backs. Even more infuriatingly: Mother Jones notes that two other people called the police on that very same demonstration, but neither had their information publicized and neither were harassed. ODDLY ENOUGH, both were men.
And then there's the horrifying target practice videos. In March, a group of Open Carry Texas members held a "mad minute" at a firing range — a video posted on Facebook shows several men firing indiscriminately at a topless female mannequin, positioned with its hands up in a surrender pose. They later uploaded an image of the mannequin, riddled with bullet holes, with its arms blown off and its pants around its ankles. Something fairly similar thing happened last Thursday as well. According to Follman:
[A] firearms instructor in Florida posted a video on the Facebook page of [gun control group] Moms Demand Action, in which he filmed himself at a gun range blasting a paper target bearing the Moms logo. "Happy Mother's Day," he says with a grin, displaying the cluster of bullet holes.
As far as veiled misogynistic threats go, firing several bullets into a mannequin shaped like a woman and/or into the logo of a gun control advocacy group comprised of mothers is pretty fucking explicit.
But in spite of this aggressive, threatening sexism among extreme gun supporters — or perhaps because of it — the NRA is working extremely hard to court mothers. The organization's last annual meeting was maternity-themed (they handed out cute lil' NRA MOM" buttons!!), and they recently launched a female-oriented web series entitled — I shit you not — "Armed and Fabulous." Which makes these pro-gun nuts' silencing tactics more than a little counter-productive, I would say. Pro-tip: if you want women to support your cause, try not stalking and menacing them? Just an idea.