“Women want guns”: In the wake of Sandy Hook, conservatives once again co-opting women’s voices to further agenda

Image for a gun ad targeted at women. Via.

The horrific Sandy Hook shooting has prompted many moments of national and personal reflection. Since the tragedy, the debate over gun control has felt a bit more tangible and urgent, with many leaders and politicians, most notably President Obama, calling for change and enacting stricter laws and policies.

The tragedy has also reignited a conversation here on Feministing about gun violence and masculinity.

But apparently for media outlets like Fox News and the National Review, not much has changed- they are still just as eager to further their conservative pro-gun policies using empty, faux-feminist pro-woman rhetoric, despite the fact that studies overwhelmingly show that women are more supportive of stronger gun laws, consistently and across party lines.

In fact, women more supportive of stronger gun laws in general, and of a number of specific gun laws up for debate right now. Women are more likely to be worried about school shootings, and the danger of guns, and are not favorable as a group to the NRA—although men as a demographic group are. And this isn’t a trend or a fluke. This gender gap existed pre-Newtown.

Which is why this National Review and Fox News piece entitled “Why Young Women Want AR-15’s” smacks of a particularly deceitful faux-feminist tokenism (all emphasis mine):

“Sorry, President Obama. As young women, we prefer an AR-15 “assault” rifle with a 30-round magazine for self-defense.”

It’s certainly… interesting that two people could speak for an entire generation of young women, especially when polls show that as a group they tend to feel the exact opposite way, but do go on!

“In the wake of mass murders like Sandy Hook and the horrific rapes and murders of thousands of women each year, pepper spray, mace, or five-round handheld pistols aren’t going to cut it.”

Using our nation’s shameful epidemic of violence against women as nothing more than a talking point to further an agenda that women have consistently said they don’t agree with? Keep it classy, conservatives.

“So what’s a girl to do?”

Ugh, maybe stop using this phrase.

“When choosing our tool for home defense, we want the best — in accuracy, handling, and aesthetics. The best choice by all three criteria is — hands down — the AR-15.”

We’ve encountered empty pro-woman rhetoric and faux-feminism before but there will always be a special place in my heart for the ballsiness of this line of reasoning. The publications themselves are not new to twisting the facts and using cultural appropriation to further an argument on behalf of a group without their consent or approval. After all, with the National Review we are talking about a media outlet that has published a list of the “best conservative movies,” for example, and included such yuppie liberal feminist mainstays as Groundhog Day, Forrest Gump, and Ghostbusters. And with Fox News we are talking about, well, Fox News.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I hope they’re not surprised that we’re calling bullshit.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is Executive Director of Partnerships at Feministing, where she enjoys creating and curating content on gender, race, class, technology, and the media. Lori is also an advocacy and communications professional specializing in sexual and reproductive rights and health, and currently works in the Global Division of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A graduate of Harvard University, she lives in Brooklyn.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/tkalenb/ Kalen T

    Feministing has been doing a great job bringing attention to this link between guns, violence, and masculinity. I think an even better thing would be to bring attention to the rampant misconceptions in gun culture about rape and violence these women writers are perpetuating .

    The disturbing part, to me, is not that they are commandeering the voices of women through these two, but that their reasons are flawed:

    “In the wake of mass murders like Sandy Hook and the horrific rapes and murders of thousands of women each year, pepper spray, mace, or five-round handheld pistols aren’t going to cut it.”

    Or this from Same Harris’s article ‘The Riddle of the Gun':

    “It is a world in which a man with a knife can rape and murder a woman in the presence of a dozen witnesses, and none will find the courage to intervene”

    We all know that this is not what the most common form of rape looks like. It is not stranger rape, though it does happen; it is often rape by an acquaintance or friend. But this is the kind of argument – an extreme circumstance and statistical rarity, drummed up as the norm by sensationalist news media – which pro-gun advocates use regarding women.

    Similarly, I see a lot of pro-gun folks carry or use the argument for self-protection against strangers – a mugger/robber, a home invader, what have you — rather than avenues of domestic violence which is a very important context in which a good portion of women are murdered.

    Point is, these instances of rape and murder are statistically uncommmon or rarities in the same way that mass shootings are, though in the last couple of decades, that number appears to have been slowly on the rise — the answer as to why is not yet clear. Fear of being killed in any one of these altercations is very real, especially with sensationalist media. Even so, I can very much understand that kind of fear of violation because it will always exist as long as there are people. I wouldn’t say it’s irrational fear, but rather, an unlikely fear which really eats at anyone who prefers to be in control of their own agency. The mindset is to prepare for the worst, a mindset which gun-control advocates must be prepared to acknowledge and take on — not just cite statistics at. What balance are we willing to strike between preserving the safety of the community and preserving the agency of individuals who are prepared to go down that path of armed self-defense?

    While we should rightly be calling bullshit on this usurpation of a huge spectrum of women’s viewpoints by such articles, we should also be combating their misconceptions and myths just as much.

  • http://feministing.com/members/tmaple55/ Tiffany

    As a radical feminist and a gun owner ( A rare combo indeed) I support stricter gun laws.
    You are so right to call bullshit on the conservative vitriol and Faux-Feminism speaking for women. I’m certainly not going to defend myself with an AR-15. No way. I will however if necessary use my handgun quite fine to stop someone. The drummed up rarity of stranger rape is very harmful… I know all to well the likeliehood of the perp being an acquaintance…

    My take is this:
    Yes I support stricter gun laws too but I do not support laws that will ultimately lead to my rights to own a firearm being taken away. As it currently stands in patriarchy the onlyway for me to protect myself is by knowing how to use one. Once things change- social shifts happen I will reconsider. Just keep in mind that there are feminists out there who grew up with guns and enjoy their right to own them.
    It is similar to abortion. The laws start at birth control then clinics, then clinic policies or ultrasounds or parental consent or waiting periods to decide.. all that nonsense with the intention of making abortion illegal.. With guns its ammo, magazine capacities, types of rifles etc… leading to a banning all firearms… With guns regulation is cetainly necessary I just hope it doesnt go as far to take rights away from responsible gun owners.

  • litenarata

    The article about AR-15s reads like it was sponsored by the manufacturer of AR-15s. Makes me wonder if they were paid for it.

  • http://feministing.com/members/brightlikeneonlights/ Jen

    This is such a great article and brings up so many GREAT points about guns, women, men, and violence. Feminist Gina Barreca recently wrote such a wonderful article on this exact issue! I think a lot of you lovely women would love this article: http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/hc-op-barreca-dont-sell-guns-to-men-0125-20130124,0,4059476.column. It’s truly a must-read.