Monday, February 06, 2006

Another Reason The Enclave is Necessary

This is an excellent excerpt from www.globalissues.org, which summarized feminists' reaction to the Abhu Graib scandals. Barbara Ehrenreich's last statement says it all.

Go with the Goddess: One Love

Women, Militarism and Violence

It is often argued -- and accepted -- that women, being the “gentler sex”, and typically being the main care givers in society, are less aggressive than men. Feminists often argue that women, if given appropriate and full rights, could counter-balance a male-dominated world which is characterized by aggression in attitudes, thoughts, society and, ultimately, war.

In May 2004, the Occuptation/Coalition forces in Iraq were shown around the world to be committing torture and other grotesque acts on Iraqi captives. For feminists and others, what was also shocking was that some of these acts were being perpetrated by women in the U.S. military.

Feminist activist Barbara Ehrenreich captures some of the thoughts and reactions quite well:

Secretly, I hoped that the presence of women [in the U.S. army] would over time change the military, making it more respectful of other people and cultures, more capable of genuine peacekeeping. That's what I thought, but I don't think that anymore.

A certain kind of feminism, or perhaps I should say a certain kind of feminist naivete, died in Abu Ghraib [the prison facility from where most of the torture pictures and footage originated]. It was a feminism that saw men as the perpetual perpetrators, women as the perpetual victims and male sexual violence against women as the root of all injustice. Rape has repeatedly been an instrument of war and, to some feminists, it was beginning to look as if war was an extension of rape. There seemed to be at least some evidence that male sexual sadism was connected to our species' tragic propensity for violence. That was before we had seen female sexual sadism in action.

... But the assumption [within feminism] of [women's] superiority [over men], or at least a lesser inclination toward cruelty and violence, was more or less beyond debate. After all, women do most of the caring work in our culture, and in polls are consistently less inclined toward war than men.

... If that assumption had been accurate, then all we would have had to do to make the world a better place -- kinder, less violent, more just -- would have been to assimilate into what had been, for so many centuries, the world of men.

... What we need is a tough new kind of feminism with no illusions. Women do not change institutions simply by assimilating into them, only by consciously deciding to fight for change. We need a feminism that teaches a woman to say no -- not just to the date rapist or overly insistent boyfriend but, when necessary, to the military or corporate hierarchy within which she finds herself.

Barbara Ehrenreich, What Abu Ghraib Taught Me, Alternet, May 20, 2004

Towards the end of the article, Ehrenreich notes that gender equality often appears to be limited to allowing women to have equality in a male-dominated world, meaning women struggle to have rights to do what men do. But, if what men are doing is generally seen as negative, then gender equality in that context is not enough. As she ends:

To cite an old, and far from naive, feminist saying: “If you think equality is the goal, your standards are too low.” It is not enough to be equal to men, when the men are acting like beasts. It is not enough to assimilate. We need to create a world worth assimilating into.

Barbara Ehrenreich, What Abu Ghraib Taught Me, Alternet, May 20, 2004

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