Yesterday afternoon I popped over to Quad Cinema on 13th Street and watched A Girl And A Gun, Cathryne Czubek’s recently released documentary on female gun owners in America. It is an excellent cross section of stories from a variety of women whose lives have been touched by firearms: from the Tai Chi instructor who purchased a handgun for protection against an ex-boyfriend to the mother and victim’s right’s advocate whose daughter was paralyzed by a stray bullet.
But the film churned up a whole host of contradictory feelings: pride in the women who have mastered gun use as a sport and tool for empowerment, anxiety and moral disdain at the fact that guns make it easier for us to kill one another, internal debate about whether women using guns was an appropriation of male patriarchy and oppression or an assertion of independence. I’m not sure that I’ll ever reconcile all of these reactions. But I am very clear on my feelings about one section of the film: fear-based gun advertisements aimed at women.
For decades, firearms companies have told women that we need guns for protection and safety. And I hate this. I feel it is an acceptance of male violence — that it is energy and effort misdirected to treat a symptom instead of addressing the real problem and finding a solution. These advertisements seem to assume that the danger comes from outside of the home. And that it is the woman’s job to stop instead of society’s job to prevent.
And even firearms instructors buy into the idea that women need guns in order to not be murdered or raped. The very nice gentleman who taught me how to shoot two years ago talked about how I needed to carry a gun in my car in case it broke down in a rural part of the state and I was left alone on the side of the road. “Don’t be a victim,” he told me. A male instructor shown in A Girl And A Gun says “I absolutely guarantee to you that nobody ever raped Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Wesson.”
Physical or sexual violence is a public health problem that affects more than one third of all women globally… intimate partner violence is the most common type of violence against women, affecting 30% of women worldwide.