Yesterday, a woman was murdered. Indeed, a lot of women. A lot of men too. A lot of children if we distinguish age. A lot of people were murdered, are murdered, every day. The sense of tragedy can dull the senses, and it can inflame the heart, but all I’m doing is grieving for one today.
I didn’t know Jo Cox, but even on these distant shores I feel some sense of grief and sadness. Without meeting each other there’s some commonality – human, British, European, Labour.
I read reports that the suspected murderer yelled ‘Britain first’ or words to that effect. A man described as being a quiet person by the local community, someone who they wouldn’t have suspected of committing such a crime. I don’t know why people say things like that – most muderers do not blindly rampage around indicating they are murderers. If only it were that easy to spot them.
It could be some twisted warped sense of patriotism paid a part. And if you think that the current referendum campaign, with its vitriolic fear and distorted rampant nationalism, would have no part to play in that belief, then you are deluded. Maybe mental health played a role (although community perspective makes that a difficult idea to sustain). There’s too much confusion about his motivations to know for certain. All I do know, with reasonable certainty, is that Jo Cox was targeted specifically. This was not random. This was deliberate and pre-meditated. This was a hate crime.
It might be easy to dismiss the idea that she was targetted because she was a woman; after all, it could have been any MP right? Maybe, but it wasn’t. There is no virtue in being male or female, but we make it one. Society finds considerable ways to target women AND rationalise it afterward. I doubt Jo Cox was killed because she was a woman, but the fact that she was one makes it relevant. I don’t intend to rationalise her gender as being as being irrelevant, because it most definitely wasn’t.
Seeing tributes paid, many focus on her being a committed MP, a campaigner for refugee rights, and a mother of 2. Without meaning to, we made her gender part of who she was. Being a mother is a gendered role; being a parent is gender neutral. See the difference?
I know my sense of solidarity might seem like futility from such a distance, but it’s there, for her family, and the Labour Party and Labour movement, which I love. In every sense, there is something in this tragedy that binds us.
I have little time for the crocodile tears of the right – a couple of days ago they would have poured scorn on her beliefs, and her achievements. I think particularly of that recent, racist Brexit poster about immigration (using images of refugees). I know Remain has hardly covered itself in glory, but it’s fear is centred on the abstract uncertainty of economic outcomes. Leave campaign has been based on outright lies and fear of the foreigner. Ironically this is probably why it has succeeded – fear of immigration seems more tangible than economics, even though it actually isn’t.
At this point though, I can’t say that Brexit’s particular brand of venom is a factor in Jo Cox’s death. Those media reports could be wrong. So I withhold that judgement about that, even if I think their mourning is hypocrisy.
I still believe though, that this was a gender crime. It was a man murdering a woman. It happens a lot. In Australia, 31 women have been murdered this year alone by domestic violence abusers – men. I don’t see why this should be any different. Premeditated hatred (cause) and death of a woman (effect) are the same.
A successful , dedicated, influential woman was murdered. She was murdered out of hate. It was not unique, it was not isolated. Unless society takes greater stock of its culpability, then this is a sad and tragic norm that will continue.