This Woman Was Gunned Down for Not Giving Out Her Number

This Woman Was Gunned Down for Not Giving Out Her Number

Every woman — no matter what their size, color or facial features — knows what it’s like to be approached by a stranger demanding attention. And at that moment, the instinctual thought usually is, “how do I get out of this?” But no matter how awkward, demeaning or even scary that moment may be, I’ve never expected to be shot for rejecting a pick-up attempt.

Sadly, that’s exactly what happened to 27-year-old Mary “Unique” Spears of Detroit. She had just left a funeral when a 38-year-old man started harassing her.

“Can I get your name, your number?” he asked.

She said, “I have a man, I can’t talk to you.”

But he wouldn’t leave her alone, her family says. And eventually, he grabbed her and hit her. Her fiancee stepped in, resulting in a fight — so the stranger took out a gun and shot Unique. She started to run, and he shot her two more times. Now Unique’s three children will never see her again.

This turned into a mass shooting, leaving Unique’s fiancee and four other family members wounded.

Obviously, this guy is unusually disturbed. But the story hammers home an issue that women must constantly deal with  — some men’s belief that they are somehow entitled to our bodies.

Walking home from work once,  I told a guy on the street I was married (I wasn’t) to get him to leave me alone; he started screaming at me, calling me a bitch. Another time, I was carrying my cat home from the vet when a group of guys on the street started gawking. One of them yelled, “I’m gonna rape you!” It was terrifying. And millions of ladies have similar stories.

I don’t know what it will take to stop this epidemic of harassment — the media, outdated values and inflated egos are probably all part of the problem. But I hope someday women will be allowed to just be, without having to put up our guard every time we walk down the street (they called it putting on the “bitch face” in a recent, fabulous Daily Show episode).

Most men I know are wonderful, decent and gentle people. It’s too bad a minority has so far to evolve.

RIP, Unique. You deserved better.


Note: Please keep comments peaceful and family friendly.

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  1. Lauren

    Three kids? That’s heartbreaking! And who hits on someone after a funeral?

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    • Lady Freethinker

      Seriously, the funeral pick-up is pretty low.

      Reply Report comment
  2. ScottB

    I think part of the problem is that we need to stand up and be clearer that this kind of behavior isn’t allowed. Yes, I understand that was what they did here, and that it didn’t help. But I think many people who act this way get encouraged by people not speaking up enough.

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    • Lady Freethinker

      That’s exactly right. That kind of behavior is almost expected, and sometimes even congratulated! And sometimes it’s really hard for women to speak out about it. But it needs to be talked about more.

      Reply Report comment
  3. Thomas Fowler

    Dear Nina / Lady Freethinker,

    I am writing to you in response to the recent brief Twitter exchange that we had, as I do not think 140 characters is enough to express adequately what I have been trying to say.

    This began (for me at least) when I challenged your Twitter report: “This Woman Was Gunned Down for Not Giving Out Her Number.”

    While in no way denying the tragedy of this shooting of young mother of three children, I feel compelled to point out the inaccuracy entailed in this summary of the event. The story that you yourself link to reports the following:

    A man “who her family says they’ve never seen before” was nevertheless present at the funeral of what we are only told is “another family member”. It is then reported that: ” “He said, ‘Can I get your name, your number,'” Spears’ relative said. “She said, ‘I have a man I can’t talk to you.’ “.

    I mean no disrespect to the family of this woman, but legally speaking, you will notice that even (the source which you link to) has been very careful to state that ‘ Spears’ relative said.’ – this is a clear acknowledgment that the actual circumstances of Spears’ shooting have yet to be confirmed.

    Please take care to note that I am *not* saying that the anonymous relative is not telling the truth, only that the comment he has made has not (yet at least) been corroborated or confirmed.

    I happen to think that this is important because not only was the shooter apparently present at the funeral and/or wake of the unnamed family member (in this report at least), but we then learn that:

    “her family says the harassment continued until 2 am”

    Now, even without access to the specific details, it would not be unreasonable to assume that the funeral of the anonymous deceased took place many,*many* hours before the circa 2am shooting incident.

    Let’s say for sake of argument that the funeral took place late in the afternoon, say 5pm, then between the funeral and the shooting that still leaves somewhere between 7 and 9 hours worth of drinking (and/or potentially drug-taking) – even at the most conservative of estimates, that is an astonishingly long time in which to get drunk/loaded/bombed etc.

    The point here being that when the reporters from who you link to say: “Then suddenly the man began shooting.” there seem to me to be at least several plausible explanations as to why this individual opened fire, not one of which may be remotely related to the alleged claim that Mary “Unique” Spears did (or did not) refuse to give this man her number.

    An example of one of these alternative plausible explanations is that, as reports “… [her family] say the [shooter] grabbed and hit Spears. [Spears’s] fiancee confronted him as a fight broke out.”

    The report continues:

    “[The shooter] shot her one time,” Spears’ relative said. “And she tried to run. And he shot her two more times in her head.”

    The suspect fired more shots through the crowd injuring Spears’ fiancee and four other family members … ”

    The point of all this is not to end in some tl;dr fiasco, but to point out to you that your claim that the reason for this poor young woman’s death was that – as you claimed on Twitter and pretty much do so here also – “This Woman Was Gunned Down for Not Giving Out Her Number” is at best so improbable as to be not worth considering, and at best a highly idiosyncratic interpretation of a news story to which both you and the reporters of that same story have only a very limited knowledge.

    Given that the actual shooting took place at 2am, and given that it took place only after a fight had broken out between the shooter and the victim’s fiancée, to try to suggest that this young woman died as a result of living in a misogynistic society is as probable as me claiming that she was killed as result of the level of Midi-Chlorians in the shooter’s system.

    Let me clear here that when you say:

    “Every woman — no matter what their size, color or facial features — knows what it’s like to be approached by a stranger demanding attention”

    I absolutely believe, despite the fact that this is anecdotal evidence. I have enough women friends to know that this is a lived reality for many (all?) women.

    However, to extrapolate from the unfortunate death of Miss Spears that there is an ” epidemic of harassment” is just nonsense.

    You are more than welcome to believe in and express whatever nonsense you like, but if you are going to go by the Twitter name of “Lady *Freethinker*” you really do need to be prepared to back up your claims with some kind of evidence – otherwise, everything you say is simply anecdotal and, essentially therefore, of no value or interest to anyone but you and a very close circle of friends.

    If you are content to reach that circle and only that circle – fine. Although if that is the case, it does seem rather a waste of time making a Blog if the only people who are going to ever read it are people you already know.


    Thomas Fowler, Cambridge, United Kingdom

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  4. ScottB

    >However, to extrapolate from the unfortunate death of Miss Spears that there is an ” epidemic of harassment” is just nonsense.

    And here’s where you’ve gone completely off the rails.

    First of all, of you got back and read that in context, she _just pointed out_ times when she was harrassed. At _minimum_, you’d need to say “…to extrapolate from the unfortunate death of Miss Spears and your own personal experience…” to be close to being correct.

    Do you know some women? Go talk to them. Ask them whether they’ve been harrassed. See what they say. I’m hoping they say something different. I hope it’s a US problem and not a more global one. But I suspect you’re just going off without knowing what you’re talking about at all.

    Here’s your homework: go find a large blog or a youtube post with a lot of comments that talks about feminism. Read the comments. When I did this, I found a number that were trying to come up with the worst name-calling they could and a handful that were threatening. It’s not even remotely OK.

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    • Thomas Fowler

      Dear Scott B,

      Excuse me, but how could you manage to quote this line: “However, to extrapolate from the unfortunate death of Miss Spears that there is an ” epidemic of harassment” is just nonsense.” without also acknowledging the concession which came before it:

      Let me [be] clear here that when you say:

      “Every woman — no matter what their size, color or facial features — knows what it’s like to be approached by a stranger demanding attention”

      I absolutely believe [it], despite the fact that this is anecdotal evidence. I have enough women friends to know that this is a lived reality for many (all?) women.

      This rather renders redundant the challenge you issued “Do you know some women? Go talk to them. Ask them whether they’ve been harrassed. See what they say.”

      Nina / Lady Freethinker’s title is “This Woman Was Gunned Down for Not Giving Out Her Number”

      That is a pretty damn unambiguous claim that it was this and this alone that caused the shooting – can you not see that a poorly constructed argument does not help a cause, however worthy that cause may be, but undermines it?

      It is extremely divisive to take the lines of ‘if you’re not with us, your against us’/’if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem’ etc.

      Those might make good slogans for fridge magnets and T-shirts, but they are otherwise needlessly antagonistic.

      There *is* violence against women – no one, least of all me, denies that. But determining its causes is a complex issue and certainly far more complex than simply stating vaguely the Patriarchy did it – you might as well claim that Satan did it for all the explanatory power it has.

      To suggest that anyone such as myself who does not accept such types of explanation are therefore de facto in support of threatening and abusive language towards women, either in their real or their online life is nonsense (and slightly insulting to be honest).

      I’ll pass on the homework – but only because I am already well aware of the kinds of filth that ends up on Twitter feeds and 4 Chan and what have you.

      But here’s something I would like to propose to you: you say “It’s not even remotely OK.”

      Fine, I think we can agree on that.

      But now can you explain to me (if you’ve the time or inclination) what practically can be done about this harassment that would not result in serious restrictions to individual liberties?

      I’m quite serious about this.


      Thomas Fowler

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      • Scott Berry

        >But now can you explain to me (if you’ve the time or inclination) what practically can be done about this harassment that would not result in serious restrictions to individual liberties?

        I think the first and easiest thing that can be done is for us to stop giving the behavior a pass. If you’re with someone and they start catcalling someone, tell them to stop it. When you see it online in groups you frequent, point it out as bad behavior.

        That certainly won’t stop it cold, but it would be close to how racism is treated today. Yes, there are some rocks you can turn over and find people being openly racist on the internet (to be fair, you can find pretty much everything on the internet), but generally it’s understood that this is not societally accepted behavior. If your aunt is making racist remarks at the family picnic, there’s a reasonable chance that someone will tell her off for it. That’s not a restriction on liberty, but fighting bad choices with better choices.

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        • Lady Freethinker

          Scott, I agree — the best way to help prevent this is to stop giving people a “pass.” As long as harassment is brushed aside like it’s no big deal (or even that it’s what “manly” men do), it won’t get better. And it IS better than the 1950s (from what I know about the era, anyway), but I feel like female progress has gotten stagnant, and feminism has become a dirty word. It’s not about being anti-man (I love men!), but about giving women the respect we deserve.

      • Scott Berry

        By the way, I issued the earlier challenge because I thought there was a discrepancy between someone demanding attention (which is a touch annoying) and harassment (which is worse than that). It sounds like I misread you, so…good. 😉

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      • Lady Freethinker

        Hi Thomas,

        I think the point I’m trying to make is that, not matter what the cause, there exists an epidemic of harassment toward women — and harassment sometimes leads to violence, which is what happened here. About one in five women have been raped (according to the CDC), which is a very disturbing figure.

        The attitude of some men (NOT most, but far too many) is that women are objects, or property to be won and to do whatever they please with. And for whatever reason, it’s been extremely difficult for women to fight back against this, because “boys will be boys” and if you speak out then you’re some kind of “bitch.” Scott mentioned the vitriol against feminist women, and it’s true — to call yourself a “feminist” is to invite judgement and backlash. Speaking up against racism is OK, speaking up against misogyny, not so much. But we all need to do it more, or it won’t end.

        Reply Report comment
  5. Thomas Fowler

    Dear Nina (Lady Freethinker) and Scott,

    Thanks both for taking the time to respond and I hope you won’t take it amiss if I reply to both of you together – while you are of course both individuals and each of you make slightly different points, I think they are similar enough to give one answer (Scott, just FYI I will mainly be addressing Nina).

    Another quick note / apology, is that I know I can be quite strident in my opinions sometimes, but especially in Nina’s case, as I am actually trying to challenge your way of thinking on this set of issues so it will likely come across as adversarial. (Also I’ll try and be short, but I can’t make any promises there!).

    Scott mentioned the vitriol against feminist women, and it’s true — to call yourself a “feminist” is to invite judgement and backlash.

    I think you need to be careful here in assuming that the “judgement and backlash” are due to self-defining as a “feminist” and not for other reasons. From my perspective, and I am not alone in saying this, there seems to be a core of unexamined contradictions to much contemporary Feminism and at least in my experience, it is this that most often invites criticism and not the fact of being a woman and/or feminist. I don’t think any of the evidence I have seen put forward to support many of the arguments for contemporary Feminism stand up to much scrutiny, relying as they so often seem to do on repeating the same groundless assertions or presenting statistics which are highly questionable (either through the research design or a highly biased interpretation of the data).

    For instance, when people (such as yourself, Nina) claim that “there exists an epidemic of harassment toward women” and someone like myself challenges that proposition, he/she finds him/herself of being accused of:
    (a) denying that women are harassed (I don’t);
    (b) being a misogynist and/or an anti-Feminist (I’m not);
    (c) being ignorant and insensitive to the lived experiences of women (I may be but I hope I’m not);
    (d) and, quite often these days, being a Neoliberal / Rape apologist / Tea party / tin-foil hat wearing etc. etc. (certainly not)

    This is incredibly frustrating – in an open society, it should be more than possible to challenge someone’s claims without having their character or motives impugned. It should even be possible to challenge someone’s claims even when broadly speaking you are sympathetic to their cause. Here’s an example:

    About one in five women have been raped (according to the CDC), which is a very disturbing figure.

    I was absolutely astonished by this statistic and so clicked on the link you (Nina) supplied; I then went further and downloaded the original report on which the datasheet you provided was based (Black et al. 2010). Sure enough, the report actually says:

    “Nearly 1 in 5 women in the United States has been raped in her lifetime (18.3%) (Table 2.1). This translates to almost 22 million women in the United States. The most common form of rape victimization experienced by women was completed forced penetration, experienced by 12.3% of women in the United States”
    (Black et al. 2010:18).

    Still somewhat surprised by this (and also curious about the distinction made between “rap[e]” and “form[s] of rape victimization”), I wanted to know more about how the data had been gather and what kind of questions had been asked. So I then turned to Appendix C which lists the original questions from the phone survey – please look carefully at the words and verbs (my emphasis) on this key section of their questionnaire:

    “When you were drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent, how many people ever…

    had vaginal sex with you? By vaginal sex, we mean that a man or boy put his penis in your vagina
    made you receive anal sex, meaning they put their penis into your anus?
    made you perform oral sex, meaning that they put their penis in your mouth or made you
    penetrate their vagina or anus with your mouth?
    made you receive oral sex, meaning that they put their mouth on your vagina or anus?”
    (Black et al. 2010:106).

    It should be very obvious to you (Nina) as a journalist that there are serious issues with the design of this part of the questionnaire.

    First, people from different groups reporting two different types of experience are being considered together: i.e. those who are drunk or high but still capable of giving consent to (vaginal) sexual activity, and those who were passed out and unable to consent of any kind.

    Second, notice also that only the first of these questions has the more neutral verb ‘had’ whereas all the others are ‘made’ – why the glaring discrepancy? It seems to me that the only plausible excuse for this is that ‘had’ would be correct if the person had been unconscious as the victim’s volition cannot be forced under those circumstances. But then volition does or at least certainly may play a role when one is ‘drunk, high or drugged’ because the question does not discriminate between e.g. being drunk and having a drink. As this was a phone survey only, there was no way of knowing how much alcohol was in the bloodstream so a respondent who was many times over the recommended limit may have reported being ‘not that drunk’ whereas someone who’d only had a glass or two of wine could have reported being ‘really quite drunk’. And either way, the question is not asked whether or not the respondents considered that the alcohol / narcotics they were using had adversely affected their decision-making.

    I am loathe to suggest that authors of the report designed this section in the way that they did in order to manipulate the figures upward – that would be very cynical of me. But then that leaves me with the conclusion that the research was poorly designed and therefore gives unreliable results.

    So in short, any woman who answered ‘Yes’ to having had sex with someone while drunk would have been added to that 18.3% (22 million or 1 in 5) figure of women “reported experiencing rape at some time in their lives.” (the CDC datasheet you linked to). This also, presumably, means that any man who has had sexual relations with a woman while she (and/or he) has been drinking alcohol or taking narcotics is a potential rapist.

    To be honest, if you were to believe this report the obvious conclusion would be a call for the reintroduction of Prohibition in the US.

    It cannot just be a case of “teaching men not to rape” if sex while inebriated can be classed as a rape experience. It must suggest a case where both men and women are taught not to drink or take drugs (you may adhere to that as a sensible policy, personally I don’t).

    Now it is at just this kind of point where people who challenge this kind of research as being a covert misogynist, a rape apologist, someone who denies harassment etc. That would be unfair.

    I don’t deny that harassment is an issue, what I claim is that living in a supposedly male-dominated society is the cause. I’m not even denying that the real figure for women experiencing rape may be as high as 18.3%, but it isn’t that report that is going to be able to prove it one way or the other.

    I think the first and easiest thing that can be done is for us to stop giving the behavior a pass

    Can I remind you here, as I think you yourself (Scott) noted, that in fact the fatal shootings began when “Spears[‘s] … fiancee confronted him as a fight broke out. Then suddenly the man began shooting.”

    In other words, the behavior wasn’t given a free pass and it resulted in violence.

    If you’re with someone and they start catcalling someone, tell them to stop it.

    This is fine if you know the person you are with, but to be frank, not one of my male friends has ever indulged in this kind of behavior. It is, however, incredibly common to see and hear this kind of thing on the streets of British cities late at night, which are infamous in Europe for their drunkenness, violence and debauchery. There are not infrequent stories in the British press of men who have been beaten to death for trying to do exactly what you have just suggested.

    I imagine it would be much the same in the US.

    How likely would you be if, say, a group of large, fit young men at a bar, wearing clothes that identify them as gang members, were cat-calling a woman, or calling her by insulting names (bitch, whore etc.) – how likely would you be to tell them to quit then?

    That’s why I say that the only solutions that I can think of that would be effective against the behavior of those young men would all entail restrictions on personal liberty, e.g. a larger and much more proactive police force using a zero-tolerance policy (which, as in Ferguson MO, can apparently create problems of its own) or an education system in which it is not only the children but also the parents who are educated (which idea appalls me quite frankly).

    That’s also one of the key contradictions I find in most strands of modern Feminist thought that I am aware of: that is, if we were to follow their recommendations to the letter, the result would be a remarkably repressive police state.

    Of course, they would refute that, suggesting that what actually needs containing and repressing is male aggression.

    But then how do you curtail male aggression?:

    a) If you think the cause is cultural, how do you curb aggression without instituting some kind of programme of political indoctrination – which to be truly effective would mean overriding the concerns of those with different political or religious ideals and would therefore have to be authoritarian in order to succeed;

    b) If you think the cause is biological, how do you curb aggression without using pharmaceutical means of dampening down or restraining male aggression? That would be an appalling abuse of human rights and, besides, what mother would consent to have her son be drugged in such a way?

    c) If you think the cause is legal/social, how do you curb aggression without recourse to a police force, a force which itself would need to be constituted of exactly the kind of aggressive young men whose negative influence you are trying to restrict?



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    • Lady Freethinker

      Hi Thomas,

      I appreciate you taking the time to formulate thoughtful responses, and I hope I never implied that I think you have misogynistic values, because I don’t.

      That said, I think it’s extremely difficult for you to understand the fear that women have to deal with, because we really are vulnerable to violence that stems from misogyny. Even if that study wasn’t perfect, much evidence shows an unacceptable level of violence toward women: take the sex slave industry, for instance.

      For more insight on how women feel the need to shield themselves (often on a daily basis), this should be enlightening:

      And it doesn’t take indoctrination, force or loss of freedom to change misogyny any more than it does to change racism. It takes a shift in cultural attitude, and a willingness to call people out on bad behavior.

      As far as feminism goes, every movement has good and bad members, but that doesn’t mean that women should be blasted for acknowledging injustice (which happens regularly to those who identify themselves as “feminists”).

      At any rate, I accept your feedback with an open mind, but I’m still not going to let my guard down next time a stranger approaches me on the street!

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  6. Thomas Fowler

    Hi Nina,

    Thank you for replying and thank you also for not leaping to conclusions and assuming that I myself am misogynistic or otherwise dismissive of the issue of harassment.

    I’m surprised but also interested that you feel it must be difficult for me to appreciate women’s fear of crime, their responses to it. I’d go further and say that I’m genuinely curious why you might imagine myself and other men to be ignorant and/or disinterested in such fears.

    In almost every country in the world, it is men of all ages and particularly young men that are many, many times more likely to the victim of a serious physical assault (including victims of murder) outside the home and/or at the hands of strangers.

    Several of the Tweets in that list you sent me discuss using keys as a weapon, or carrying homemade pepper spray and a knife. In the UK, where as you probably know firearms are tightly controlled, it’s not uncommon for men (and boys) to have cricket or baseball bats at home and, increasingly, swords, crossbows and other martial arts weapons (even I own a short sword, which is kept next to my bed upstairs in the even of a forced entry burglary). Younger men and boys carrying knives with them is also increasingly common, so much so that despite an overall falling crime rate, stabbings have seen a significant rise. Time and again, when quizzed about why they feel the need to arm themselves, they report that they do it out of fear of being assaulted.

    Conversely, it is women who are many, many times more likely to be the victim of physical or sexual assault (again including murder) but inside the home, by intimates – spouses, partners, husbands and, in comparatively rarer cases, parents and siblings.

    In other words, I’m saying that physical and sexual violence against women is very real, but that it is important to note that it is likely to be a woman’s own intimate committing that violence and not a random stranger. This is not to imply that assaults from strangers are any less horrific, but that, it seems to me, that the focus of Feminism’s efforts against sexual violence should not be targeted at women as a group, or men as a group but at at-risk couples in relationships and their families.

    Relationships change people and change the way people relate to their partner or loved one and it is not static, but changes constantly (in both positive and negative directions).

    The fact that there abusive relationships between lesbian partners is a very real phenomena further suggests to me that it is how intimates treat each other that is what really counts, not misogyny (which as I’ve said seems fine as far as it goes but it simply too vague a notion to be of any real help in gaining a better understanding about why violence exists.).


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