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Mollie Tibbetts was a 20-year old woman who was recently murdered in Iowa. Her name is everywhere right now because Donald Trump claims her murderer, Cristhian Rivera, is an undocumented immigrant, stating that the murder never would have happened if immigration policies were tougher. Of course, many anti-immigration fascists like Candace Owens have seized upon this opportunity to go on a full-on public relations blitz, including against Tibbetts’ own family members who are begging people to stop using their loved one’s death as a reason to dehumanize immigrants.
Meanwhile, Rivera’s own attorney claims that Rivera is actually in the country legally, which immediately makes all of those points moot. I don’t know if the attorney is correct — Rivera may or may not be undocumented. I don’t know. What I’m here to say right now is this: it doesn’t fucking matter.
We may not currently know whether Rivera is undocumented, but we do know that he’s a man. And we know that every day in the United States, men stalk, abuse, and murder women for not talking to them, dating them, having sex with them, marrying them, or doing whatever it is the man wants. Almost every woman in the United States has a story about this. Seriously — it happens so commonly that if you’re a man you do not know. Some women will brush it off as something that just happens, that isn’t a big deal. I know, because I used to do that. I’d joke about the men who stalked me, about the men who called me a cunt for not talking to them on the street, about the “friend” who called me a whore for not wanting to sleep with him, about the taxi driver who turned off the car on a dark street at 1am and then tried to pull me through the window and kiss me when I tried to pay him. I’d joke about it even though from then on I stopped taking taxis alone unless I absolutely had to. Why? Because it’s not cool to feel vulnerable and victimized. It’s cool to feel like you’re above it all and that it’s no big deal. But fuck that: it’s a big deal.
I don’t know if any of those men were undocumented immigrants, and it doesn’t matter. They were all men, and the problem we have in the US is not “illegal immigrants” wantonly murdering people, the problem is men. Men who feel entitlement over women, over our bodies and our lives. Men who feel like the only way they can be men is if they dominate a woman, if they can have sex with us whenever they want and if they keep us in line when we “disrespect” them by not giving them our time.
Cristian Rivera is a man who saw Mollie Tibbetts out on a run one night and decided that she owed him her time. When she said she was going to call the cops, he murdered her, put her body in the trunk of his car, and then hid it under corn stalks in a field.
And yes, I’m going to “politicize” her death. For one, I’m doing it because that’s the actual situation — it’s not about immigration, it’s about male on female violence. And for another, I’m doing it because I suspect that’s what Mollie would have wanted. Take a look at her Twitter timeline — Mollie was a feminist. Even if she wasn’t, her death would still be about male on female violence, and we should still use it as an opportunity to talk about that, but the basic fact is that she was a feminist and she would do the same thing. She retweeted a post about how men aren’t entitled to assault women due to what the woman is wearing. She retweeted a thread about the importance of access to safe abortions. She tweeted about body positivity. She tweeted a lot of support for Planned Parenthood.
I spent way too long going through her tweets, and probably not enough time. I had to stop because she was such an awesome person and I kept thinking about how we could have been friends, and about how she had so much to give the world. She cared about mental health, and science, and reading, and fighting Donald Trump. And she was taken from this world way too soon, because of male sexual violence.
So no, I don’t care whether her killer was in the country “legally” or not. I care that we start holding men accountable for their emotions, and that we as a society agree that no one is entitled to another person’s time or intimacy. It’s too late for Mollie Tibbets but it’s not too late for the tens of thousands of women who are predicted to be the victims of sexual violence next year. For the 83% of girls aged 12 to 16 who will experience sexual harassment in school next year. For the 35% of all murdered women who will be killed by an intimate partner next year. For the 150 million girls under the age of 18 who will suffer some form of sexual violence next year.
All of that, not at the hands of undocumented immigrants, but at the hands of men.