The Worth(lessness) of Women


When I started to write this, in slightly less than six days, two women beloved across a wide network of Cleveland communities had their lives snuffed out by male relatives. Two days later, in my native Chicago, a man slaughtered his former fiancée, an ER doctor, along with a police officer and another woman, before killing himself.

Less than 24 hours later, a University Hospitals nurse in Mayfield Heights was found dead in her home after firemen were called there. It turned out she had been strangled and beaten to death before the fire was set; her 8-year-old daughter also died in the fire. Today as I write this, a suspect has just been arrested, a former neighbor “linked to unwanted advances towards [Rebecca] Pletnewski over the 7-month period where the two lived next door to each other.”

Two weeks ago, the Ohio legislature rushed to introduce the so-called “Heartbeat” bill in the lame duck session. It would essentially ban abortion in Ohio, at least for the non-affluent working women who couldn’t afford the time and money to go to another state.

Some people will scream and holler and object to the juxtaposition of these things, but they are intimately related. Because, even as we are celebrating the historic numbers of women who will be taking seats in Congress in January, we are also seeing a message coming down from (mostly) male politicians that women don’t own their own bodies — that their bodies belong to men, and that their lives can be taken over — or taken — by men who object to what they say, do or are.

The so-called “Heartbeat” bill, which would outlaw abortions after a fetal heartbeat could be detected — about 6 weeks — was passed with 52 men and 8 women voting in favor. Another bill is in the works which would charge a woman AND her doctor with a crime if she had an abortion. None of these bills provide for pregnancy prevention or care of born children. They’re all about control.

The idea that women don’t own their bodies, even in matters of life and death, leads to the dismissal of threats against them. We’ve heard often about young women accusing a campus athlete of rape, assault or harassment: he’s on the field Saturday while she’s pressured to remain silent, ostracized or paid to transfer quietly to another school. We’ve seen a star swimmer at Stanford who was caught in the act of raping an unconscious girl being given a slap on the wrist because “Think of his future” — not hers.

More than a decade ago, a story emerged about former Cleveland Orchestra concertmaster William Preucil sexually harassing a student at the Cleveland Institute of Music. CIM offered to cover her expenses to transfer to another school if she remained silent; Preucil continued to be a respected concertmaster and teacher until this summer when the weight of more accusations brought him down. What does that say about the relative value of bodies — and lives?

We will probably never know why arts & culture writer Nikki Delamotte’s uncle felt he had the right to take her life when she came to him with open arms, seeking to embrace him as family, followed by killing himself. We do know that Shaker Heights sixth grade teacher Aisha Fraser filed for divorce from her husband, former Cuyahoga County judge/state legislator Lance Mason, after he beat her badly in 2014 and moved on to another relationship; this week he killed her. Dr. Tamara O’Neal in Chicago was killed by a man angry that he has lost his claim to her. And now we learn — as I suspected from the start — that Rebecca Pletnewski was killed by yet another man who believed that if he couldn’t have a woman she didn’t deserve to live.

In response to the death of Fraser — “my sweet, sweet soror whose life was taken this weekend” — Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Judge Tonya Johnson Jones laid out some facts:

“As a judge on the Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court, the reality of domestic violence is something that I deal with daily. A woman is beaten every 9 seconds in the United States. In 2017, Ohio had 76,416 dispute calls placed to law enforcement which lead to 37,725 domestic violence charges. In 2009 there were a total of 415 filings within the Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court related to Domestic Violence. In 2017 that number was 1,083. This is a 260% increase. Sadly, we are on track to surpass this number in 2018. We can no longer ignore how we are socializing our young boys to treat women and how we are failing to address trauma and mental health within our society. We will forever repeat what we don’t repair.”

The #1 thing in need of “repair” is our attitude toward women’s bodily integrity. Until it becomes unacceptable in every aspect of our society to treat women’s bodies as objects for male control — whether by politicians or angry ex-husbands — nothing is going to change.

[Written by Anastasia Pantsios]

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7 Responses to “The Worth(lessness) of Women”

  1. Judy Takács

    Thank you Thank you THANK YOU! for this poignant, scary, necessary and Oh so accurate essay on the state of things as they are now…and have been for thousands of years. I despise that women’s bodies, lives and decisions are the object of public debate and control. Thank you for stating it so eloquently.

  2. Christine Ripley

    Thank you for writing this. Well said and heartbreaking.

  3. Before I became a reporter more than a decade ago, I thought domestic violence was a scattered thing. Funny that I felt that way, given that I grew up in a home where I witnessed domestic violence and emotional abuse.

    Then I became a reporter and started reading police reports on a daily basis. I always thought our family was abnormal, when really many families in my town experience the same thing. I was shocked at how often DV occurs, and even more shocked how often small towns try to hide it.

    Light needs to be shone upon DV, because as long as it remains hidden it will continue to increase. It’s been my philosophy that when I report on a man, or woman, who is arrested for beating a partner, then maybe having their photo and the details of their crimes for the public to see will persuade them to seek help or at the least not let it escalate to the point of murder or murder suicide.

    Speaking of small towns and their desire to hide these ugly truths, I once tried to get information about a domestic violence incident and a police department kept throwing up roadblocks to giving out the report. Ultimately I think they didn’t want a man who was a veteran to have his reputation tarnished because he beat up his girlfriend.

    That incident got lost in the daily shuffle of news, and I don’t believe it was ever fully reported on. That man went on to kill his girlfriend and himself a short time later. I’ve often wondered if the police had simply given out the report of the first incident quickly, and if it had appeared for the public to read, that maybe the murder suicide would have been prevented.

    Thank you for this story. You are doing your part to raise awareness, and I will continue to do mine by reporting on domestic violence when I come across such arrests during the daily grind.

  4. Sara Owen

    Thank you for articulating what all women inherently know…our bodies are not ours. Young boys and girls are conditioned that a girls body is a commodity, something to put just enough kindness into, to then retrieve sex or some form of gratification later. I am past irritation, heartbreak and apathy. I am channeling my anger into action and your essay so fantastically sums up my own feelings. Thank you!

  5. P Jeffrey

    Well said, Ms. Pantsios. So saddened by the subjectifying of women.

  6. Mindy Tousley

    Thanks for this article!

  7. Leslie Edwards Humez

    Thank you for saying what must be repeated again and again. Women are still second class citizens held back by the influence of a testosterone ruled society. I am sickened by the trend in the US to take steps backward and I hold responsible, in part, the Ohio Legislature and this Governor for allowing such a bill to pass. One question remains in my mind. What if the abortion issue was addressed from the alternative perspective? What if men were forced to take a modicum of responsibility and surgically prevented from EVER fathering a child and imprisoned for the part they played in an unwanted pregnancy? Can you hear the roars of outrage?

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