exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

how cnn backhanded the heroine at fort hood

by Jen at 10:50 am on 7.11.2009 | 1 Comment
filed under: like a fish needs a bicycle, rant and rage

kimberly munley is the cop who shot the suspect in the recent Fort Hood tragedy. and instead of just praising her for being a brave *cop* and doing her job in a crisis, under pressure (as she was trained for countless hours to do), the media keep using gag-worthy phrases like “tough cookie”.

really? “cookie”? how sexist can you get?!! and by focusing on her sex as if it’s somehow extraordinary that a woman should be brave, they completely undermine the heroic achievement of a lifetime. in hamhandedly trying to honour her, they completely demean her.

because when you focus on the fact that she’s female (yes, cnn, i’m pointing at you), the implication is that even in 2009, people are still surprised that women (who’ve had the exact same training as any man in that job) could enter a dangerous situation with an armed suspect, and respond exactly as she’s been drilled to: shoot to kill.

the crazed episode itself is obviously newsworthy. the fact that she is a woman is not. can you imagine an article about a man using the word “cookie”? or emphasising his “toughness”? or calling him “aggressive”? no. in fact, what they say when these kinds of articles are written about men are:

they were just “doing their job”.

yet our stereotypes about the “weak woman” are so thoroughly embedded in our social consciousness that we often don’t even realise it. i’m absolutely sure that those people who are calling her a “tough woman” don’t realise that by doing so, they’re actually perpetuating the idea that women aren’t *expected* to brave, competent, steel-nerved cops. that even when they are doing the same risky job as a man, the public don’t expect them to do the *really* risky stuff.

we see it repeated nearly daily in the media – the stories about the women soldiers, and the handwringing over the children they leave behind (as if the fathers are expendable) when they end up killed or hostage. the particular emphasis on “women and children” whenever casualties are counted -as if women and children are somehow equivalent in their innocence and helplessness, but men are supposed to die. over and over, the reification of the subtle but persistent idea that women are the “gentler” sex, that women should be protected first and foremost because they are less able to protect themselves, that women should be shielded from the brutal, nasty, dirty, risky stuff of living.

and now for something that may, at first glance, seem like a complete tangent: this is part-and-parcel of the reason i cannot stand to have a door held for me, or to have people pay for me, or to have people allow me to go first in the queue. it’s all a subtle and pervasive way of reminding me (whether consciously, intentionally, or not), that society still sees me as a less able person than a man. it’s a hard leap for many men to understand – they have often been indoctrinate to show “manners”. they don’t understand how i can see being “chivalrous” as incredibly insulting.

to which i’d say, if you truly respect me, you’d see me as your full equal, and not needing any deference or assistance *simply because i’m a woman*.

so every time a newspaper calls someone a “tough woman”, it’s a reminder that that is somehow surprising or exceptional. and every time you offer to pay for me, it’s a reminder that i’m not expected to have as much money. every time you hold a door for me, it’s a reminder that i’m expected to be weaker. in short, every time you offer me help or protection i don’t need, you remind me of the stereotypes that pervade our entire culture, and which i have to battle against every day.

and every time a woman cop or solidier is hailed as being a “tough cookie”, it’s a reminder that in spite of doing the same job as any man, in spite of being a trained, skilled, focused professional who gets paid to put her life on the line…

underneath it all, she’s still just seen as a “cookie”.

eta: even the ny times falls into the habit: would they ever describe a man as a “ball of fire”? or contrast his ” fierce love of hunting, surfing and other outdoor sports” with tending his garden and playing with his daughter? ugh.

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    Comment by Noble Savage

    7.11.2009 @ 16:14 pm

    As soon as I read that it was a woman who shot the gunman, I was just waiting for phrases like “tough” or “feisty”. I didn’t, however, expect “cookie.” In the words of a Valley Girl, gag me with a spoon.

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