On Thursday night, Rasha Khaled of Lincoln was murdered by her husband, who then killed himself. Their five children, ages 14, 13, 10, 5, and 3, were present in the home at the time of the murder.
Friends of the murderer decided to hold a candlelight vigil for the man, and bafflingly, the local ABC affiliate decided to cover it, talking about the crime as though a natural disaster had hit the family:
“A tragic situation unfolded.” They “were found deceased.” The passive voice imparts no responsibility. The story includes fawning quotes from the murderer’s friends that call him both “most understandable” and “a good man” twice. The reporter even includes his own summary of the friends’ opinion of the murderer: he “enjoyed helping people.”
This “good man” was not “most understandable” nor did he “help people” when he killed his children’s mother in their presence.
The investigation of the crime is ongoing, so perhaps the news station thought it was reasonable to wait until offering judgment. Yet they did offer judgment when they uncritically covered a vigil that praised the man. In 96% of murder-suicides among intimate partners, it is a man who kills his female partner. Even among all murder-suicides, at least 89% of the killers are male. When a news station hears the basic facts of what happened in that home in Lincoln, they should know that by far the likeliest scenario to be confirmed by the investigation is that the man murdered the woman. Yet despite these facts, the news station made the decision to cover a vigil honoring the couple and to include multiple quotes describing what a “good man” the murderer was–and not a word about the life or character of the mother slaughtered with her children at home.
This is how misogyny happens. We so devalue the lives of women and children that their murder and crushing trauma does not even factor into a decision to valorize their tormentor or to broadcast those words for the victims and loved ones to encounter now and later.
Misogyny is a tricky word. It might make you think of a malicious man who actively hates women, or secretly harbors resentment toward women. But misogyny is systemic. It often doesn’t feel like malice to the people participating in it. In fact, misogynist acts can often seem “reasonable” in the narrow parameters of a specific situation that has already been created by systemic misogyny. Maybe your female employees make less because they work fewer hours and don’t put in the time for promotions. Paying them less seems like a “reasonable” decision because you are not tasked with asking why the women work fewer hours: they can’t afford child care, their husbands don’t participate in household duties, etc. Maybe covering a candlelight vigil seems like a “reasonable” thing to do when an investigation is not complete. But that’s only because you aren’t even thinking about how extremely probable it is that the man just murdered his children’s mother in front of them, and the value of that woman’s life and her children’s safety is so far from your reckoning that it doesn’t even factor into your decision-making process.