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Ensler writes: "I know what it feels like to be attacked or raped and be blamed for it because of what I was wearing (hoodie =short skirt)."

Trayvon Martin. (photo: unknown)
Trayvon Martin. (photo: unknown)

Boys With Tender Hearts and Big Dreams in Their Hoodies

By Eve Ensler, Reader Supported News

21 July 13


ear Trayvon,

It is unusual for me to write about boys or men unless I am calling them to end the violence against women and girls or asking them to join us in standing up for women's rights. I realize this is probably a failure on my part, a failure of attention or empathy or time. A failure to expand my frame and point of reference, a failure to find the way to weave my struggle, my pain with the larger story of pain, to weave our struggles into the larger story of justice. But you changed all that, Trayvon. I can't stop staring at your photograph. You, at 17, the same age as my son when I adopted him because his birth mother had been murdered when he was five. The same age, that same half man, half boy, half needy, half daring face. That same playfulness, cleverness, sadness, anger, unreachable boy/man loneliness. I stare at your photograph and imagine my son lying in the mean streets dead, a spilled can of soda at his head. But there was something else that triggered my outrage, my heartbreak, my solidarity when the verdict to free George Zimmerman was announced last week.

I am not you. I am not Trayvon Martin. I will never know what it feels like to live in the skin, in the daily rhythms and predeterminations of a black boy or man in America. I will never know what it is like to always be held suspect, to feel categorized from birth as dangerous. But as a woman, there are things I do know and things that I have experienced that bring us into the same story, the same struggle. I know for example what it is like to walk the streets, any streets, (particularly at dusk or dark) and be totally vulnerable, in trepidation and terror. I know what it's like to be worried about being followed, to speed up my step or slow down and pretend to be casual. It's a pity the prosecutors were unable to communicate your terror to the all-female jury, as we would hope they would have connected. I know what it feels like to be attacked or raped and be blamed for it because of what I was wearing (hoodie =short skirt). I know what it is like to be someone whose opinions and experience are essentially perceived as inferior and untrustworthy. I know what it feels like to be told I am to blame for violence inflicted on me by the way I walk or look or carry myself or time of day I go out. I know how it feels to be blamed for talking back, defending myself (see recent story of Marissa Alexander, who fired warning shots in the air against her abusive husband and got 20 years in prison), or making an angry or upsetting grimace (the police in Miami have not articulated any legitimate basis for jumping on 14-year-old Tremaine McMillian, throwing him to the ground, placing him in choke hold, and terrorizing him until he urinated on himself. The assertion was that he gave the officers "dehumanizing stares" or looked at them in a "menacing" way). I know what it's like to have the law stacked against me or the culture surrounding the law used to diminish my moral character, if not erase it, before I step into the box. I know what it's like to be alone, disbelieved, and in pain.

I have met many George Zimmermans. I know them intimately. The broken men who are full of a simmering explosive rage, determined by poverty or shame or violence or humiliation or low self esteem. The men with unexamined history and closed hearts. The men who are just waiting for a target, an excuse, and we are both easy targets as we are so easily discounted, disappeared and disbelieved. I know these men, and many of them have patterns of committing violence against women before they commit murders or other violence. George Zimmerman has already allegedly stalked and slapped a woman and allegedly molested a little girl before he got to killing you. I know if we lived in a world where these crimes against women were taken seriously and men were held accountable, maybe crimes, like the one against you, would have been prevented.

I know that guns do not serve either one of us and that guns in the hands of broken men looking for an excuse to express their rage is a sure path to our destruction. I know that this violence, these guns, this domination, keeps us forever divided in our own wounds, stories, victimhoods, unable to find a frame or empathy to connect with the bigger story and struggle.

This February 14, 2014, women and men will rise all over the planet for justice, One Billion Rising for Justice, for an end to violence against women, for an end to the humiliation and degradation of men which leads to violence. We will rise for an end to guns and Stand Your Ground laws where unarmed 17-year-olds are shot down dead. We will rise to say Justice involves the whole story -- the story of race, of class, of gender. Our struggles are one.

I am rising for you, Trayvon, and for all the Black boys who have been determined guilty before they took their first breath. I am rising so your death is not in vain. I am rising for Rachel Jeantel, your friend who spoke the truth at your trial and was minimized and dismissed because of her size and color and gender and class. I am rising for Marissa Alexander, that she may be set free. And I am rising for George Zimmerman and all the George Zimmermans, that they may see themselves and take responsibility for their actions with or without the pressure of the courts. That they may put down their guns and get the much-needed help to stop directing their self-hatred out in racist, sexist, homophobic ways that take lives, destroy hearts, families and communities.

I am rising for a justice that is contingent on you rising, Trayvon and all the boys with tender hearts and big dreams in their hoodies.

Eve Ensler your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

-50 # Above God 2013-07-21 09:25
This Entire Article Is Selective & Biased In It's Content. Marlissa Alexander Went Outside To Get A Gun and Could Have Driven away. In the Florida Code to Fire A Gun Is An Automatic 20 Years W/O Parole.TS.
+18 # theory≠opinion 2013-07-21 10:44
If it's an automatic 20 years w/o parole to simply fire a gun in Florida, why isn't Zimmerman in jail? Clearly, it's not so simple. Clearly the law admits for mitigating circumstances.
+28 # gertie 2013-07-21 11:24
Couldn't Mr. Zimmerman have "driven away," as he was told to do? Where is his automatic 20 years?
+10 # Rain17 2013-07-21 12:50
The argument from the pro-Zimmerman side seems to be that that doesn't matter because "he had no legal right to listen to the 911 operator". So therefore, in their version of events, because Martin threw the first punch, Zimmerman had the right to self-defense because "Martin threw the first punch". Their argument starts AFTER Zimmerman gets out of the car.

The problem that I have with this argument is that it afford Martin no self-defense rights. It ignores the fact that Martin may have felt afraid of Zimmerman following him. It also does not afford Martin any rights to self-defense because, according to the Zimmerman supporters, "he shouldn't have been afraid".
+13 # Rain17 2013-07-21 12:46
From what I know about the Alexander case, although she wanted to drive away, she had forgotten the keys inside the house. But it is interesting how none of the Zimmerman supporters has rushed to her defense because she was asserting her second amendment rights to self-defense.
+2 # Richard1908 2013-07-21 19:39
Quoting Above God:
This Entire Article Is Selective & Biased In It's Content. Marlissa Alexander Went Outside To Get A Gun and Could Have Driven away. In the Florida Code to Fire A Gun Is An Automatic 20 Years W/O Parole.TS.

But At Least The Article Was Not Over-Capitalise d.
+25 # DD1946 2013-07-21 10:10
Not true. In the Marissa Alexander case the keys were back in the house so driving away was not an option.
+20 # Phlippinout 2013-07-21 10:34
Great letter. As a woman I stand with you, see you Feb 14
+12 # djnova50 2013-07-21 10:58
What a great letter written with such feeling. I stand with Eve Ensler.
+8 # tigerlille 2013-07-21 11:38
+4 # barbaratodish 2013-07-21 12:08
That must be some big hoodie, for it to hold tender hearts AND dreams, too!
+8 # curmudgeon 2013-07-21 12:54
Who does 'Above God' troll for? He trolls for thee.

And don't you forget it.

Go Eve.....You are one of the best and brightest voices calling for action in our generation.
+13 # Rain17 2013-07-21 13:00
What saddens me about this case is that, although I work in a field that generally attracts conservatives, the level of support from coworkers and friends of mine that I've seen for Zimmerman. What is sorely lacking is any empathy for the Martins and the fact that Tryavon Martin is dead. What sickens me even more is that some of my coworkers and friends, some parents themselves, have used Facebook and other social media to trash him continually.

The Martins know fully well that their son had problems. Yes Martin had received suspensions, used drugs, had been truant, and had possessed stolen merchandise. Those facts are all true, but that doesn't mean that Zimmerman had the right to kill him that evening over candy. Martin was a human being who family and friends who cared about him. The Zimmerman defenders deny him any humanity whatsoever.

What is intellectually dishonest about the Zimmerman supporters is that, while Martin's transgressions are fair game, it's "unfair" to bring up Zimmerman's. Zimmerman automatically receives the benefit of the doubt. In their logic it was perfectly reasonable for him to be judge, jury, and executioner even though he had no law enforcement training and wasn't a police officer himself.

Continued in next post. . . .
+13 # Rain17 2013-07-21 13:03
. . . Continued from last post

For me to agree with the Zimmerman supporters I would have to believe that Martin had no right to be afraid of him, that Zimmerman had the right to act like a police officer even though he had no formal training and was not one, and that Martin had no right to self-defense. And that position is just purely illogical.
+5 # ssolms 2013-07-21 19:52
Thank you for this article. It is beautiful. It is something I have waited for and did not have the ability to write. We hear about blacks, or gays, or someone of a specific religion or color or heritage and as a woman I feel I know it all. Thank you for bringing us together because that is the point and that seems to be overlooked in all commentary. I feel for you Trayvon Martin, because I am a woman who has walked in fear and in defiance.
+1 # Bob in Boston 2013-07-21 20:58
Excellent letter.

Describing Zimmerman as a broken man, full of rage... low self-esteem. All this sounds right, explains a lot, but what is the evidence?

+2 # Moefwn 2013-07-22 11:31
Hi Bob,

Mr. Zimmerman, who was described erroneously in the press as a member of the Neighborhood Watch, had actually been rejected by the Neighborhood Watch because he was seen by the group as being too aggressive. He had disregarded their opinion and chosen to "patrol" on his own. Those two factors alone would make me very wary of him, and probably cause me to conclude that he had some fairly serious behavioral problems.
0 # Moefwn 2013-07-22 11:21
Eve, you said it so perfectly that it brought tears to my eyes. Bless you.
0 # ChickenBoo 2013-07-22 13:33
I continue to be so puzzled as to why such an outrage over Trayvon Martin, and yet not one word about Anthony West. Anthony West was a 13 month old white baby who was shot in the face by 2 black teenagers, in front of his mother, and they basically got away with it. Never a word about this. Hardly made the news. Does NO one care? What's also puzzling, is the number of Pro-Martin letters that are posted here on RSN. Is there not ONE journalist who can give us "the other side of the story"? Over and over, the same letters, the same posts...Zimmerm an was a depraved white man who gunned down a sweet innocent black child for no reason at all. The more we feed in to this sort of talk, with no balance, the more likely we will have vigilantes killing white people just to avenge Travon. I really feel like the black community is being goaded into bitterly hating white people forever over this one. And of course, "Whitey" is certianlly bitterly aware of how that little white baby's death brushed aside. So, watching all this, I can only surmise that our government has something to gain by keeping the two races at each others throats. I wish RSN would print something on Zimmermas side....time for something new.
+2 # Moefwn 2013-07-22 15:44
Thank you for your appeal to rationality, ChickenBoo. I agree wiht you that the other side of this case is not being well represented on RSN. However, the other side does seem to be easily available from other news sources. I actually believe this verdict may have been correct by law (yes, we must do this kind of thing by the law and not just our feelings) because the prosecution failed to adequately prove its case. Still, having looked at news from several sources on this matter, I personally feel that Mr. Zimmerman was a self-appointed vigilante, and I feel that regardless of the race, color, or creed of anyone involved in the matter, a vigilante should not be allowed to continue on his course undeterred. Thus I am distressed, and tend to feel close to others who are also distressed.
+2 # Rain17 2013-07-22 17:01
It's clear to me that the prosecution did an inept job in presenting their side of the case. They allowed the defense to frame the issues. It was as if they were not seasoned prosecutors, but attorneys who had just graduated from law school handling their first murder trial. The prosecution looked unprepared and found themselves outsmarted by the defense.

I agree that it was highly unlikely they were going to get a conviction on second degree murder. I think that they should have focused solely on manslaughter. By going for second degree murder I think they set the bar too high for themselves.

As for Zimmerman what I find amazing is how, on the one hand, his prior acts are irrelevant. On the other hand, per the Zimmerman supporters, the fact that Martin had poor choices is relevant and somehow justifies his murder. It's that double-standard that I find disgusting.

Moefwn, I suspect that you're probably right about Zimmerman. Based on his record I think he was a wannabe cop who was an overzealous neighborhood watch volunteer. The fact that he called 911 more than 40 times, applied to join one police department only to be rejected, and took MMA training says to me that he thought of himself as self-appointed watchman for the neighborhood.

Continued in next post. . .
+2 # Rain17 2013-07-22 17:09
Continued from last post. . .

I suspect that, once he saw Martin, he decided to do a citizens arrest and detain him. He decided to do that in spite of the 911 operator telling him that "we don't need you to do that". I suspect that he confronted Martin, demanded to know why he was there, and may have pulled out his weapon to intimidate him. Martin, thinking that a child molester or predator had cornered him, feared for his life. And thus the scuffle that led to Martin's death began.

What distresses me about the case is that FL law apparently affords the aggressor, especially if he/she is armed, all the rights and the victim, especially if shot to death, none. It's a de facto get out of jail free card for kidnappers, gang members, and other criminals to avoid being found guilty if they kill their victim and claim "self-defense". The victim apparently never has any right to self-defense, especially if unarmed.
0 # ChickenBoo 2013-07-22 18:36
Well there you are. I don't have a TV, so I depend on RSN and some of the others for news. I can see that I need to look other places for the entire news. I didn't see anything on my news groups about the West baby, so I stand corrected if it's been on the Corporate news. Other news groups do villify Zimmerman as much as RSN does, so I am not impressed with them either. There hasn't been one positive thing written about Zimmerman, that I have seen, and I find that suspicious. I agree, self appointed vigilantes should never be allowed to continue. But I worry with all this lop-sided propaganda, it is just going to fan the flames and set people against each other[quote name="Moefwn"]T hank you for your appeal to rationality, ChickenBoo. I agree wiht you that the other side of this case is not being well represented on RSN. However, the other side does seem to be easily available from other news sources. ,
+1 # Rain17 2013-07-22 19:08
"Other news groups do villify Zimmerman as much as RSN does, so I am not impressed with them either."

I think that the other networks, at least CNN, have given Zimmerman more than fair coverage. I am almost certain that Fox, which I admittedly don't watch, and right-wing talk-radio have been sufficiently pro-Zimmerman in their coverage.

I haven't "vilified" Zimmerman here. I've just looked at the facts of the case. I've looked at the right-wing arguments that have proliferated the Internet on news and social media websites. I've argued them specifically and I haven't said anything about Zimmerman that hasn't been in the public record.

What I find interesting is how, though, the right-wing considers Martin's history fair game; but that, if you dare mention Zimmerman's history, you're being "unfair". My opinion is that you can't have it both ways.

The only point that I will concede to the other side is that, yes, there probably was enough reasonable doubt to acquit on second degree murder and possibly on manslaughter. But listening to juror B-37 it's likely that, even if the prosecution had the top legal talent in the country, the best they could have hoped for was a hung jury. Legally the law favored Zimmerman, but I still don't think what he did was right.

Continued in next post. . .
+1 # Rain17 2013-07-22 19:14
I take exception to the post-trial right arguments, which seem to be:

1) That Black on Black Crime, especially in Chicago, is the larger problem.

My response is that what happens in the inner-city is irrelevant to this case. And Martin has never lived in Chicago to my knowledge. The major difference is that no one is demanding the acquittal of those committing murders in Chicago. And most of the offenders are likely going to jail.

2) There are all these cases of blacks killing and harming whites. Why doesn't the media focus on them?

At least in the West baby case that you mentioned CNN did cover it. As for some of the other cases, including the Newsome one in TN, there was no one calling for the acquittal of the perpetrators. And almost all of the defendants are likely to be found guilty and to be sentenced to very long prison terms. So this point is only relevant if there was a chorus of black leaders calling for the release of those killers. And there hasn't been. The legal system will likely find them guilty and send them to jail.

Continued in next post. . .
+1 # Rain17 2013-07-22 19:15
The problem with the pro-Zimmerman position is that it demands that Martin be held accountable for complicated urban problems that have nothing to do with him. It holds Martins responsible for the behavior of inner-city criminals, while ignoring anything wrong that Zimmerman ever did. Somehow Martin's past record of drug usage and suspensions means that Zimmerman had the right to operate in an extrajudicial fashion and kill him. Had Zimmerman let the real police do their job, it is likely that Martin would still be alive. And Zimmerman would have never faced charges.
+1 # Rain17 2013-07-22 16:29
There is one major difference. The baby's killers are likely going to jail--and for a very long time. And no one has been calling for their acquittal.

And the media did report on the murder, per CNN:

CNN even featured the story on the Situation Room. So this story was at least mentioned on CNN.

So that story did get featured in the media. And anyway the comparison is not apt, because almost certainly, the jury will convict the murderers, who will go to jail for very long prison terms, if not life without parole.

So honestly "the baby's death has not been pushed aside". The facts don't support your argument.
0 # MicrobeHunter 2013-07-23 10:14
I wonder why no one has mentioned jury nullification yet.
If the jurers would have been given that option, they could have been spared a lot of anguish and convicted Zimmerman of something.

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