The Easiest Targets for Violence

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The easiest targets for violence are women and female children.

I don't know what to say about Nicholas Kristof's editorial on rape as a weapon. Of course I've known about things like this for ages; of course my understanding that this sort of thing happens is one reason I'm a feminist. I guess I'll quote a passage:

it has become clear that mass rape is not just a byproduct of war but also sometimes a deliberate weapon.

“Rape in war has been going on since time immemorial,” said Stephen Lewis, a former Canadian ambassador who was the U.N.’s envoy for AIDS in Africa. “But it has taken a new twist as commanders have used it as a strategy of war.”

There are two reasons for this. First, mass rape is very effective militarily. From the viewpoint of a militia, getting into a firefight is risky, so it’s preferable to terrorize civilians sympathetic to a rival group and drive them away, depriving the rivals of support.

Second, mass rape attracts less international scrutiny than piles of bodies do, because the issue is indelicate and the victims are usually too ashamed to speak up.

I guess I'll say this:

Violence against women takes many forms. It is often deliberate. Sexual violence against women and girls has been used not only because it is so effective, but because it has often been seen as sex rather than violence. This attitude persists in our country--evidence of that is the frequency with which rapes aren't reported and the difficulty in proving rape: if a victim's unconscious, it's not rape, it's just a date; or if she was drinking, then it can't be rape, because drinking on a date is a way of consenting to sex.

Violence against women is a continuum. The treatment of Hillary Clinton in the recent campaign was not, of course, equal to a rape camp in Darfur, but it was born of the same hatred and contempt for women, as well as the belief that when sexuality or gender is used against women, it's not violence, it's sex: a Hillary nutcracker is appropriately funny, because it shows how Hillary is threatening or unappealing to men. Who cares about the fact that it actually involves violence against an image of Hillary, forcing something large and hard between her legs before you squeeze them as hard as you can? Men's sexuality and well-being is what has to be defended, and it's OK to attack women's sexuality in order to do that.

In fact, to some, it's OK to attack and/or exploit women's sexuality in order to give men anything they want: an orgasm, offspring, an income (WHEN did it become so cool to be a PIMP, for god's sake?), control of a particular region of the world. Women's sexuality is always fair game, and women's attempts to control their own sexuality must always be resisted, despite the fact that the world would be a better place for ALL OF US if women controlled their own sexuality and reproductive rights.

If you can't acknowledge that this is an attitude that persists in the world, you can't acknowledge something fundamental about the world we live in, and you're not really all that interested in justice or freedom or human rights. This is why I got so fed up when Mr. Nighttime (he of the endless ellipses........) discounted Katie Couric's pretty damn mild critique of the sexist treatment Ms. Clinton received from the media. (Every so often I wonder about when she stopped being Hillary Rodham, the name she went by until her husband began campaigning for president, and when she stopped being Hillary Rodham-Clinton, the name she went by when he was first elected. Obviously, our country couldn't even handle a female figurehead who didn't buy into all the trappings of conventional marriage, including giving up her maiden name.)

So the next time someone complains about sexism or misogyny, listen. Don't deflect the issue; don't try to discuss some other form of oppression. Don't be as slow on the uptake as the UN and its members, which are only now "recognizing the fact that systematic mass rape is at least as much an international outrage as, say, pirated DVDs."

Because systematic mass rape isn't some new invention or strange aberration. It's an extreme expression of an attitude towards women that exists everywhere on our planet.

2 Comments

One of the things we read about in history grad school was the use of rape as a tool of colonialism. A conquering nation can use rape as a way of diluting a culture -- the idea is to mix the blood so that they become a part of the new rulers. Besides being demoralizing and inhumane, rape (and possible resulting pregnancies) becomes a way of erasing a people.

The US might get outraged about rape if somebody could find a way to connect it with oil.

The US might get outraged about rape if somebody could find a way to connect it with oil.

good point.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on June 15, 2008 7:49 AM.

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