The Manchester attack last Monday, claiming 22 innocent lives, is another instance of terrorism’s devastating, global impact. But the symbolism of bombing an Ariana Grande concert speaks to a kind of violence in society that is often overlooked.
By: Sumaya Quillian
In the week since the Manchester bombing, there have been many articles reflecting on the especially shocking nature of this as an attack on women and girls. It is not too difficult to make the connection. Ariana Grande is a young woman who proudly uses her platform as a best-selling artist to promote feminism and female sexuality in her music, as well as her personal life. Her fan base has grown enormously since leaving Nickelodeon to focus on her singing career, but it is still predominantly made up of young and teenage girls. As evidenced by reporting on the attack, this demographic represents thousands of the concertgoers who were present at Manchester Arena on 22 May.
Any terrorist attack, no matter the race, gender, or geographic location of those affected, is a horrible tragedy. Yet, on a personal level, I’ve found myself particularly struck by this attack in a way that I have not felt before. Music has always been a sacred space in my life, giving me a sense of security, freedom, and happiness that I would be lost without. To think of the people who lost their lives or have come away traumatized from that space is heart wrenching.
But more than that, I’ve felt incredibly overwhelmed by the knowledge that attacks on women and girls happen all the time. It seems more striking if it’s an act of terrorism and political extremism, but women feel terror within the societies we live in on a daily basis. This experience comes in many forms—a date rape that goes unseen by the outside world, or the feeling of being followed home by a stranger. When a terrorist attack happens, it seems obvious that the victims of such senseless violence are not at fault. When seemingly normal attacks on women and their safety happen, however, people frequently give platitudes about what women should do differently so they don’t become victims.
In the U.S., about 3 women are killed by their partner every day. According to the Femicide Census, which reports on women in England and Wales that were killed by men, over 900 women were killed in a seven-year period. People instinctively respond with outrage in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, but outrage doesn’t always extend to these other forms of violence. In fact, the terror that women feel in the face of seemingly normal aggressions often goes unnoticed. Although an act of terrorism is violence that most women will never experience, attitudes towards women that regard their humanity as a threat are commonplace. This is not the last time that women and girls will be made to feel afraid of celebrating themselves and what they love, and the attack in Manchester is a reminder that this is not the first time either.
Society needs to examine feelings of terror that women experience not just in the wake of a terrorist attack that targets them, but also in the language that we use and the physical acts of violation that occur all around us. Toxic behavior that is openly practiced against women in society is not disconnected from how it can exist in its most extreme and violent ideological form. If we only fight one kind of toxicity, but not the other, we will continue to communicate that violence against women and girls is acceptable.
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