Statement from the Nightshade Collective, received on October 18, 2017
Rest In Power Alina Sheykhet.
We give our deepest condolences to Alina’s family, friends and loved ones during this challenging time.
On the morning of Sunday, October 8th, 2017, Matthew Darby murdered his ex-girlfriend, Alina Sheykhet in her Oakland home, according to District Attorney Stephen Zappala. Sheykhet was a 20-year-old Pitt student studying to become a physical therapist.
Just days before Alina’s death, she stood before a local judge and detailed the ways Matthew had previously abused her. She filed and received a Protection from Abuse order (PFA) against Matthew that day.
Alina complied with state protocols to keep herself safe. And her ex still killed her.
The law said Alina was safe. Yet, her death proves how vulnerable she remained. This contradiction makes clear what many of us already know: the state cannot and will not ever protect women from gender-based violence.
The state has no real interest in protecting women or others of marginalized genders. State apparatuses feed off of the decimation of femininity. State-related institutions like Pitt, where Alina conducted her daily life, actively subordinate women and gender variant employees, professors, workers and students. They do so to ensure that Pitt’s administration and highest paid positions remain dominated by cis-gendered men. Every day, the University shows those of us like Alina, that society is built on gender-based violence – and the institutions need it to stay that way.
The State, the University and their ensuing cultures keep women and those of marginalized genders in a constantly vulnerable position. Alina’s death is a tragic and extreme manifestation of the culture of patriarchal domination that creates daily acts of violence against women and those of marginalized genders.
Even though the state does not protect women, it maintains its power by crafting an image that it does and that it can. When women believe that they must rely on the state for protection, they don’t organize independent and autonomous methods to defend themselves. By uplifting the state as a protector, public opinion criminalizes women and trans folks who act in self defense against gender based violence, as happened in the case of CeCe McDonald. The logic goes: If the state claims it protects women with benevolent laws, any act to defend oneself outside of those laws is too extreme and too aggressive and thus should be seen as criminal and dangerous. Once this mindset is adopted by the public, the state is able to use this logic to incarcerate women and those of marginalized genders whenever they defend themselves against gender based violence.
Thus, the state needs to promote itself as a protector to become a hidden but active aggressor in the war against femininity. In this situation, women and people with marginalized genders have no way to defend themselves against acts of patriarchal supremacy. They can’t rely on the state and they can’t rely on themselves. Suddenly, the state and other individuals who rely on the institutionalized supremacy of cis-men have all the power to enact war on women and those of marginalized genders without fear of opposition.
Alina’s death shows clearly that the state cannot and does not protect women from violence. In efforts to encourage the public to keep trusting in the benevolence of the state, propaganda outlets are scrambling to keep promoting the state as a protector of women. Broadcasts assure the public that pending legislation will tighten the restrictions of PFAs. Articles write about the years of jail-time that Matthew will serve. Yet, more legislation and more jail-time will not solve the ubiquitous patriarchal violence that led to Alina’s death.
Instead, those of us with marginalized gender identities must defend ourselves. The state betrays us, the University betrays us, brothers and fathers betray us, friends who benefit from gender privilege betray us. We can only fight the war against femininity if we fight it ourselves and for ourselves. We must create collectives of women and those of marginalized genders that actively fight against manifestations of patriarchal violence. We must build a counter-culture of care, autonomy and horizontalism, that opposes the University’s production of patriarchal domination. Together, with trusted allies, we must all oppose the idea of the state as any sort of protector.
Let’s not let Alina’s death be in vain. Let’s fight for a world where no woman or person of a marginalized gender must die from gender-based violence.
To support Alina’s family with the unexpected loss and the expenses that come along with it, consider donating here: https://www.gofundme.com/paiges-college-fund-2v8j7u2k
Rest In Power Alina Sheykhet.
– Nightshade Collective
October 18, 2017