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Friday, 31 August 2007

It's alllllliiiiive!!!!!!

Caravia asks, rhetorically, I hope, "Is feminism dead?" There's nothing as fun as answering a rhetorical questions, so therefore, my answer is "if it was, you wouldn't be asking that question."

She goes on to point out that the key players in the Iraq war boondoggle have been almost all men. That's true, but I would caution against the drawing of certain conclusions based on that. Lest anyone think that women are automatically better, more peaceful leaders, may I draw your attention to Marget Thatcher. I think it's an error to assert the automatic superiority of women in any matter. Women suck just as much as men. We already have equality in stupidity.

The reason fewer women were in war planning has to do with the spectacular level of sexism in the US. However, it may also be the case that the war itself is a result of the same sexism. The US seems to be going through a certain crisis of masculinity. There's a desire afoot to assert a masculine presence. Columnists fret about a metaphorical castration of the armed services. Voter's positive evaluations of Bush before his re-election also seem to be mostly based on the perception of him as the more manly candidate. Therefore, I would say that the lack of women in high levels of the Pentagon did not cause this disastrous foreign adventure, but instead, is also an effect of the same social forces that caused the war. What better way to assert a hyper-masculine presence than kicking some ass.

Note that the war was marketed as "ass kicking." Toby Kieth sang, in the widely played song Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue, "An' you'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A. / 'Cos we'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way." Of course, it was not Iraq that "messed with" the United States, it was Al Quaeda, but an extensive misinformation campaign caused the majority of Americans to believe that Iraq was at fault. Kieth sang, "A mighty sucker-punch came flying in from somewhere in the back." obviously alluding to the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York. A sucker-punch is an unexpected hit: a tap on the shoulder from behind followed by a fist to the face. He felt this was a damage to the dignity of the US, singing metaphorically about a "big black eye," which is used, typically, not to just refer to an physical injury, but also a humiliation. In the barroom brawl in which he imagines foreign policy occurring, the US' masculinity has been compromised.

Alas, the "boot in ass" did not go as well as some might have hoped. Osama bin Laden was at large. There was no catharsis in extending the suffering of Afghanis and the already-destroyed infrastructure in Afghanistan. By contrast, there were plenty of things to blow up in Iraq.

The recipient of a sucker punch must retaliate to the punch or risk being labeled a "pussy." "Pussy," of course, is a crude word for a vagina as well as a descriptor for an insufficiently masculine man. The symbolism of the toppelling towers was not lost on the American subconscious. We were castrated, a hole left where once a tower stood.

The presence of more women in the Pentagon, then, wouldn't mean the women there would be any smarter or less loyal Bushie than their male colleagues, but it would imply that the crisis of masculinity was lessened or passed, thus causing a decrease in sexism and an increase in female participation.

Caravia goes on to note:

The idea with . . . peace movements driven by women is to raise awarness about the consequences of the war, the millions of civilian casualties. Not only the killed, but . . . the raped women, carrying the children of their rapists, the people killed in genocides around the world.

Her implication is, then, that male-driven peace movements focus on something other than civilian casualties. Perhaps they focus more on the (not inconsiderable) harm suffered by American soldiers? This is an interesting assertion and one that bears further analysis. It's certainly the case that woman are more able to have an immediate empathy with foreign victims of rape. American women are taught rape fear from an early age. Outside areas at night, mall parking garages, even the homes of friends are all fraught with danger. This ever-present rape awareness creates a connection between American women activists and their sisters in war zones. (I can't speak for European women's experiences.)

Others seem to have a harder time empathizing with women. In his song, Keith clearly imagines his metaphorical protagonist as male. What happens when somebody "sucker punches" a woman? Firstly, I doubt many would refer to it as a sucker-punch, but rather as an assault. And the response to an assault isn't to get into a brawl, but rather a more legalistic approach of calling the police, pressing charges, etc: a due process where, ideally, everyone involved is treated fairly and justly. This kind of response is one that might not work as well in a song ("Whip out my cell, before you can run / dial the operator at 9-1-1. / The police will come and put you in jail. / It takes 72 hours to set bail"), but is one that doesn't harm innocent bystanders or set off a larger, regional bar-brawl.

That Keith and others couldn't imagine themselves as acting as anything other than a humiliated man may stem from a horror at their tower being replaced by a hole but more likely shows that the crisis of masculinity was already present, probably brought about by other social factors, probably including economic insecurity. This shows that a thriving feminist movement could result in peace and also that it's tied to other struggles, like class inequality and the healthcare crisis.

1 comment:

Aileen said...

A response somewhere in between two blog posts: comment