One week ago, a man brought a gun into a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana at the showing of comedian and actress Amy Schumer’s new film Trainwreck. Below is an open letter I have written to her in response:
Dear Amy Schumer,
This week, #Aurora and #Lafayette were trending on Twitter at the same time; one tragedy was just closing in court and one was just beginning in a theater. All of this transpired on social media just as we marked the one month anniversary since a mass shooting in #Charleston — yes, that was a hashtag, too.
All of this may seem like it’s playing out on your computer — a safe world away from where you live and work in Hollywood. But as a woman, a daughter and sister, a national figure, and a role model, you have a real stake in gun violence happening all around you.
Your movie — which was so well-received, so brilliant, so you — will now forever have this shooting attached to it. You’ve been caught in the middle of our country’s terrifying, unending war with itself, our sick and twisted relationship with the gun lobby, which tells us we need guns for anyone, anywhere, anytime. Search your movie “Trainwreck” on Google and a scroll-down suggestion will now be “Trainwreck shooting.”
A showing of your film — an honest, unapologetic celebration of women’s rights to our bodies, decisions, and independence — was the place a middle-aged man who, “opposed to women having a say in anything,” chose to commit a mass shooting.
I know the guilt, the sadness, the hole in your heart you’re feeling. I know the crushing anxiety you have for Jillian Johnson and Mayci Breaux and their families. I know the sudden feeling that you are not safe anywhere anymore, the numbness that whisks through your limbs and makes you forget that you’re human and that you’re in control. I know all of this. Not because I was in your exact shoes, but because I own a different make of them.
2012 was the worst year of my life. It was the year America saw the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the shooting in Aurora, the shooting at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, the shooting of Jordan Davis, the shooting at the mall in Portland, and the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
My mother survived that last one.
Six of her colleagues — all women — were killed, as were 20 first-graders. After the shooting, I dedicated my life’s work to gun violence prevention, and what I noticed immediately was that women are taking the reins in the movement. From the voices of mothers who lost their children to those of daughters who lost their mothers. From the calls to action by young women on campuses to women who work and are raising children they want to protect, in communities of all types. Women have truly begun to lead the gun violence prevention movement — and they are winning.
Women are our teachers, our protectors, our shielders. Women weep in public and in private for the lives we’ve lost, and they’re not afraid to scream at the cameras and go toe-to-toe with monsters who perpetuate these crimes on the streets and in boardrooms. Women are very simply the ultimate moral base in our battles for peace and justice throughout the world.
Women also bear the brunt of the harassment and violence perpetrated against our movement. The hatred and trolling of women fighting for gun reform is specifically twisted to become gendered threats and attacks. They reference rape, “setting us in our place,” obeying men and shutting us up, and overall they simply exemplify the worst of a patriarchy obsessed with the symbol and purpose of guns.
Of course, these extremists are barely a fraction of gun owners in America. But this very vocal minority is very afraid because what we’re advocating is — in their minds — the ultimate emasculation. Women telling men to tone it down with their guns, showing them real data that proves guns don’t actually make them safer. They feel vulnerable and so they call us names to shame us. They use their arsenals and state-willed unregulated access to guns to threaten us.
In the past few months, you produced a fake commercial for an episode of your show that makes a striking point about gun accessibility and the idiocy of our country’s thought processes on issues disproportionately affecting our generation. After a young woman (you) must go through an array of people to get approval to use birth control, the pharmacist reluctantly gives her the pills. She walks away shocked and disgruntled. Then a boy, maybe 10 years old, comes to the front desk and asks for a gun. The pharmacist slings one across to him and says, “Here you go! And remember, it’s your right!”
You get it.
All of these problems — the disgusting comments and harassment we receive on Twitter and other social media platforms, the obsession of many mass shooters (see the Isla Vista case) with anti-feminism and anti-women ideals, the over-idolization of firearms and fetishization of what they stand for, and the easy access to guns all stem from the same group of core ideologies that we must work to shut down.
We must shut them down because every day in the United States, five women are murdered with a gun. Women in our country are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other high-income countries. And from 2001 through 2012, 6,410 women were murdered in the United States by an intimate partner using a gun — more than the total number of U.S. troops killed in action during the entirety of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. Women of color are particularly disproportionately impacted by gun violence. These are mothers, daughters, sisters, our best friends.
This is the experience of women in a country overshadowed by rampant, targeted gun violence and fear and hatred of women by people who are armed. This is not freedom — at least not for women.
Amy Schumer, I and many other Millennials look up to you so much. You are our generation’s epitome of what it means to be a strong, powerful, self-aware champion for the experiences and truths of being a woman and an American today. I admire your unapologetic, unwavering stature and your ability to laugh at yourself while actually pinning the joke on the audience to address often uncomfortable truths. In fact, I have nearly memorized the very end of the speech you gave at the Ms. Gala award ceremony. You said:
“I am a woman with thoughts and questions and shit to say. I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story — I will. I will speak… and I will never apologize to the frightened millions who resent that they never had it in them to do it. I stand here and I am amazing, for you. Not because of you… I am myself. And I am all of you…”
I know deep down that the tweet you sent after the shooting was not all that you’ve got. And we need your voice in this movement. We need your help.
Join your colleagues Sarah Silverman and Kristen Schaal. Join our movement. Write an op-ed. Support an organization. Demand change. Be a voice for our generation and for women — two groups who make up most of the victims of the gun violence in our country.
As you said and as I’ve learned, what truly matters in life is how you decide to write your own story. And in doing so, don’t apologize to the frightened millions who resent that they never had it in them to do it. Instead, show them it can be done.