Supremacy Crimes: A Straight Guy Thing?
Gloria Steinem is, according to the brief introduction to this article, a feminist politician, and consulting editor for Ms. Magazine, globally recognized as a feminist publication. “Supremacy Crimes” was printed in the August/ September 1999 issue of this publication. Being that the audience is mainly comprised of feminist readers, Steinem does not need to do much convincing or persuading. Her audience already shares similar feelings. The article does not strongly influence outside readers into being converted to or believing this point of view. The article, from the very beginning, yields a strong awareness of the audience. Steinem immediately develops her credibility to the audience, before the piece even begins. Readers of Ms. know before reading the article that it will be from a feminist perspective. Due to Steinem’s occupation, the audience can establish her as a credible feminist speaker. The author “builds a bridge” to the feminist readers; moreover, she allows room for the objections and exceptions.
The majority of the argument is built on Pathos – an appeal to audience emotions. Steinem appeals to the subconscious prejudices that all people harbor. She does this by asking questions like, “if racial identities had been reversed, would racism remain so little discussed?” (474). Despite the obvious displeasure in admitting that people feel this way, most are able to relate to this reasoning. She also uses words or phrases such as “you’ve seen,” “we know,” “suppose,” and “think” to get readers to silently respond to her argument.
Steinem’s claim is that “hate crimes, violent and otherwise, are overwhelmingly committed by white men who are apparently straight” (472). There are several difficulties in this claim. Most importantly, how do readers know that this is the case? This claim asserts that readers accept this as accurate information. Further problems with the claim and overall argument deal with Steinem falling short on providing reasoning for the supremacy crimes.
Though the argument provides discussion of the basic motivation for the crimes, there, little is discussed of the character of the criminal. Steinem suggests that the heterosexual, white male is motivated by the necessity to disguise insecurities. Not all, but a sizable portion of males find it necessary to overcompensate for these insecurities; thus the instances of violence are born. For instance, John Wayne Gacy took to heart his need to convey his masculinity in public view; consequently, he used this to cover up his homosexuality, and killed and buried anyone that he had relations with (473). Another caution in this argument is that there is no real mention of the upbringing of the killer or criminal, and the audience learns nothing regarding any previous mental or criminal history. Thus, the reader does not know whether the crimes were committed by average people or not.
As Steinem points out, this article is not “about attributing such crimes to a single cause;” however, many of the crimes give the impression that the perpetrator “resorted” to the violent act without seemingly considering the consequences. Another factor involves the absence of the mental distinction between right and wrong. Steinem points out clearly different reasoning in the violent mindset of this group. Basically, they are well-educated, but devoid of sense of this right and wrong action that allows them to properly function in society. Steinem further asserts that “white males addicted to supremacy kill even when it worsens their condition or ends in suicide” (473).
Steinem briefly discusses other groups in society that play a role. As females, motherly behavior is present. The nurturing tendencies, therefore, make women less likely to purposely hurt or kill anyone or anything. When these crimes do occur, the situations can be related to self-defense or some sort of mental condition. After numerous occasions with abusive “johns,” Aileen Carol Wuornos, began to fight back, killing several of them (473). In the latter situation, various offenses have been chalked up to mental conditions, such as post partum depression. Steinem gives the example of Waneta Hoyt “who strangled her five infant children between 1965 and 1971” (473). Another, more recent example involved a mother driving her children in a lake and reporting that they were kidnapped.
Women are not the only group not targeted by this article. Other non-white men are briefly discusses. Though many of the minority supremacy crimes appear to be more random, such as a means of gaining group acceptance, many are very similar to the white supremacy crimes. In a case similar to that of John Wayne Gacy, “Wayne Williams, a young black man in Atlanta…kidnapped and killed black boys, apparently to conceal his homosexuality” (473). In essence this crime alone reveals that supreme criminal mindset is not limited to the white, heterosexual male.
Whether feminist or not, the article presents thorough evidence supporting the claim. Though the claim may not be agreeable by all, Steinem gets the job done in speaking her side of supremacy crimes. Generalizations such as those expressed in this article are limited; consequently, by imparting the information that white, heterosexual males are the perpetrators of violent, or otherwise, hate crimes, Steinem creates a problem on several levels. Given the feminist audience and Steinem’s feminist background, the feminist point is clearly made. In general, feminism places a generous portion of problematic blame on the male population; furthermore, their attention rests heavily on the oppressively dominant white and heterosexual male.