Anyone who has had the experience of driving a questionable car probably also understands the quarter to empty game played with your fuel gage. It might be the type of car that you’re not sure if it will deliver you from point a to b, or even if the points will connect. When you stop to put gas in, you put in three to five dollars at a time. And you get to the place where you actually forget that the tank can reach full, 3/4 or even 1/2. You do this because you can’t afford to do more. You piecemeal your drives to and from life. If you’ve been through it, still in it, or are on the brink, you will empathize with the battered broken vehicle at the side of the road. And so in December of 2014, when the story broke that young Jessica Chambers stopped at a gas station before taking a trip to the town over and put five bucks in her tank, you understood. She was probably financially poor.
And that became symbolic of the news coverage and attempts by family to get help for solving her murder. There is a recent internet movement about her. But, it plays out more like a morbid fascination with the details rather than the cause.
I believe that those most devalued in our society are poor women. And in some cases, I think that poor white women fare worse. If any attention is thrown in their direction, it’s usually to mock. I think the ism that causes the greatest empathy chasm is class. It cuts through compassion like dynamite in granite, and it makes us question the very existence of those who are poor, often pondering the sum value of their lives.
It’s as if our view of them is as empty as their gas tanks. A view that doesn’t require our full attention, and definitely not worthy of an accurate assessment. The issue of course is complicated by how we view violence against women. How it becomes entangled with ideas of shame, guilt, intent and blame. Women fare on the empty side of that debate as well. And so the murder of Jessica Chambers is still unanswered. And yes, statistically speaking that is not rare. But in the age of social media protests, the absence of one in her honor is most telling.
And what of Andrea Farrington? A young woman who filed sexual harassment charges against a fellow employee. The result, she was gunned down by him. She was murdered in her work place. How many times have we heard this? How many times has the collective social response been crickets. Oh, sure there is some residual anger, outrage, a brief flurry of comments. And yes it’s true that many things come and go so quickly that some deserving matters of the time fall away and fold into the next like vapor, like fumes from invisible gas making it hard to keep up. But somehow movements do gain momentum and demand a public response. Rarely does this happen for the “Andreas” and “Jessicas” of the world.
And then there are the women of Southern, Ohio. Of course a true list would be endless. I once heard that a sculptor was commissioned to create a memorial for women victims of violence that would incorporate their names. The biggest concern was that there wouldn’t be space large enough to hold them all.
What would the wall look like? I am afraid to say that it would probably designate places of prominence for those women who are deemed more worthy. And the poorest of the poor might fill the base of the wall, holding the foundation in tact, supporting those above them. Far from public eye. Yes, I am addressing two issues in this post. The unbearable statistics of violence against women and girls, and then the placement of the story, the level of outrage and concern based on status. Somehow it appears that it’s still o.k. to really, truly forget young women like Jessica. It’s still o.k. to make fun of poor, white women. Some Liberals in liberal circles do it all the time. I have heard them do it.
It’s a quarter to empty. And since we are all in the business of linking up, maybe it’s time we consider our work place environments and our communities, and the part we play in making things safer for everyone. And since I work in media, I think it does matter how we consume, it impacts our view of the world and each other. It impacts the level of respect we offer to each other at home and in our communities.
To help support the efforts for Jessica go here. To help Andrea’s family go here. And if you or anyone you know has information about the missing women in southern Ohio, visit here. It’s a quarter to empty for them and many women, road side assistance required.