A Local Individual

It was a different Monday morning.

I could not sleep the night before.

Why? I did not know.

My heart was in pain.

 

I was scrolling through Twitter.

Nine words caught my eyes.

“We all know Muslims are behind Las Vegas shooting!”

 

What happened last night?

When I was trying to sleep, what happened?

I felt strange and broken,

Finding about sad news when the fingers were pointing at me.

 

As I learned more about it, I felt worse.

The shooter was not Muslim.

“He was not a terrorist,” said police.

He was a “Local Individual”.

 

I shook in terror because I know

This could happen in my locale

And as a Muslim, I wouldn’t know who to turn to.

You see, I am never a “Local Individual”.

My headscarf, my skin, my accent, my passport,

None of them qualify me to be a “Local Individual”.

The terror I fear is never called “terrorism”.

 

“A mass shooting took 58 lives”

Sounds passive.

A man, a terrorist, took 58 lives.

 

He closed many eyes.

He broke many hearts.

He stopped many lips from kissing ever again,

Many bodies from waking up ever again,

Many human beings from ever feeling whole again.

And if that is not terror, what is?

 

A member of Free Women Writers, Zahra is a sophomore in high school who loves writing and poetry. Zahra cares deeply about girls’ education and empowerment.

Violence Against Women is Not a Joke

Exgirlfriend_target dollAngry at an ex-girlfriend or wife? Here, shoot at a bleeding, half-naked “Ex-girlfriend” target doll. It’s only a dummy – just meant for practice.

..Practice for what, exactly?

This doll was displayed at the annual National Rifle Association (NRA) Convention by its manufacturer, Zombie Industries (ZI). According to some reports, it has since been discontinued – but in fact, the company merely re-named it “Alexa” in stead of “The Ex”. Some people have claimed that the doll was never referred to as “The Ex” – but an image currently on ZI website curiously still refers to the female target doll package as “The Ex Box” (I’m sure whoever thought that one up considered themselves very funny and clever).

Click to enlarge. Image source zombieindustries.com

“Alexa” is still being sold by Zombie Industries, and unlike most of the “zombie” dolls, she does not have green skin, nor does she resemble a zombie. I also fail to understand what purpose her torn top and exposed bra and breasts serve. Here are some reviews from people who have purchased the doll:

“This Zombie Bitch is awesome, reminds me of a girl I knew in High School!”

“I love that this target looks like Britney Spears and it bleeds when I shot it.”

Just a doll, eh?

The issue is not the sex of the target doll in itself, but marketing it as the “ex-girlfriend” that an angry man can take his rage out on by “killing this bitch with some specialty shotgun ammo”, as described in a Youtube video promoting the doll. Another video shows several men lining up to “bust up a zombie chick”. Comments include statements like “what she gets for leaving the kitchen” and “Nice rack for a zombie if she wasn’t trying to eat everyone I might have to squeeze them XD”.

ZI also displayed a target doll that disturbingly resembled President Obama – which the NRA pulled from its convention hastily once the word got out that the President of the United States was being sold as a shooting target. “The Ex” doll remained on display. Apparently, using the president as a target is frowned upon, but shooting at your ex-girlfriend is okay.

We are so accustomed to seeing women as targets for violence and rage that using that as a sales pitch was considered perfectly acceptable by the manufacturer, and apparently by NRA too. Violence against women is normalized and made into a joke, something to be laughed at and taken lightly. After all, it’s “only a doll” – it’s not real.

The problem is that violence against women is very real. According to this Infographic, women in the US are 11 times more likely to die from gun violence than women in other developed countries. Over half of women killed by guns in the US are killed by an intimate partner or a family member. Between 2009 and 2012, 40% of mass shootings in the US started from the shooter targeting a girlfriend, wife or an ex-wife. Shooting at an “ex-girlfriend” target is not semantics – it is a representation of a very real and disturbing normalization of violence against women and girls. Yes, men are also victims of gun violence, but these are two different phenomenons. Men are not killed because they are men – violence against women is motivated primarily because of the victim’s sex. The “Alexa” doll promotes and normalizes this type of violence and hatred – it fuels anger directed particularly at women who have “wronged” men in one way or another, and who “deserve” to be killed.

In the aftermath of the Newton massacre, Executive Vice President of the NRA LaPierre blamed violent games for gun violence, noting that “Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?”

If shooting at people in video games for kicks is the “filthiest form of pornography”, what would shooting at a life-sized, bleeding, half-naked ex-girlfriend doll with live ammunition as a way to get your kicks be considered as? A joke?

I am not laughing.

The positive part about this story is that once word got out about “The Ex” shooting target, women and men took to Twitter using the hashtag #NotBuyingIt to demand for the doll to be discontinued. While the manufacturer continues to sell “Alexa”, as a result of public rage and demand Amazon pulled the doll from its online stores. This shows that standing up and raising our voices against a culture that normalizes violence against women can and does work. So let’s continue to do that, together, and send out a message that violence against women is never acceptable – and it is never, ever, a joke.

Visit Women Against Gun Violence for more information about gun violence in the United States, and information on how to get involved with the cause.

UPDATE ON MAY 17TH, 2013:

Zombie Industries, which still continues to sell the Alexa-doll, has changed it’s appearance from looking like a real woman to actually looking like a zombie, stating on their website that the new “Alexa” is now “feminist approved thanks to the Huffington Post!” You can also get a discount on the Alexa doll by entering “HUFF13” code at checkout.. I am not sure which Huffington Post article ZI is referring to while claiming that “Alexa” is now “feminist approved”, and it would be interesting to hear what HuffPost thinks about this – but, changing the appearance of the doll is definitely a step in the right direction, and is clearly a result of public outrage and pressure towards the manufacturer and resellers of the target doll. These are the kind of small victories that we should all celebrate, because small rivers form big streams – and big streams can move mountains.

Images courtesy of zombieindustries.com.