Tuesday April 22, 08
domestic policy awol
I spend a ridiculous amount of time thinking about foreign policy. Although this is a fairly new hobby, I have the art of reflection down to a science. Most of my opinions, theories, and solutions will never become policy--unless someone else who is in a position of power implements them. You see, I am not a politician, policy advisor, or even an activist. I am a think tank of one.
Some of the foreign policy issues that I am concerned with are the threat to Israel, Iran’s quest to develop nukes, and the global spread of Islamic fundamentalism--and all its repercussions--mostly its violent oppression of women.
I get outraged every time I learn of a new human rights violation e.g. honor killing, stoning, amputation, torture, sexual slavery, female genital mutilation, gender apartheid, dowry death, female infanticide, etc. It is so upsetting because here I am living in a free country while women in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East are suffering under patriarchal laws and religious and cultural customs.
The women’s movements in the US and UK have kind of come to a stand still. Women have won the rights to have equal opportunities to education, employment, credit, and home ownership. We now have laws to grant us reproductive rights and choices. And sexual harassment laws have been adopted to protect us from discrimination in our workplaces and educational institutions. Heck, just this last Sunday, Danica Patrick became the first woman to win an IndyCar race. We’ve come along way baby!
So, it seems like we have won the battle, I decided. Therefore, feminists should focus on the rights of women in third world countries. That is until I read this article, At War With Ourselves: Battling Sexual Violence in the Military.
Some highlights from the article:
U.S. servicewomen are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. It's time we dealt with this national disgrace.
U.S. servicewomen today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. At some Veterans Affairs hospitals, over 40 percent of female patients report having been sexually assaulted during their service, and almost one-third are survivors of rape.
Here in the States, a 2006 investigation by the Associated Press found that more than 100 high school-aged women were sexually assaulted or raped by male military recruiters. "Women were raped on recruiting office couches, assaulted in government cars and groped en route to entrance exams," the AP reported. Many recruiters found guilty of sexually assaulting women faced only administrative punishments, while a recruiter who molested teenage boys was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
These horrific statistics don't even take into account the experiences of American women working for government contractors in Iraq. A recent Nation magazine investigation by reporter Karen Houppert told the story of Lisa Smith (a pseudonym), who was gang-raped in Iraq this past January while working for Kellogg Brown & Root, the former Halliburton subsidiary. Houppert writes:
That dawn, naked, covered in blood and feces, bleeding from her anus, [Smith] found a US soldier she did not know lying naked in the bed next to her: his gun lay on the floor beside the bed, she could not rouse him and all she could remember of the night before was screaming and screaming as the soldier anally penetrated her while a colleague who worked for defense contractor KBR held her hand -- but instead of helping her, as she had hoped, he jammed his penis in her mouth.
Over the next few weeks Smith would be told to keep quiet about the incident by a KBR supervisor. The camp's military liaison officer also told her not to speak about what had happened, she says.
This brutal crime -- and KBR's subsequent cover-up -- are far from isolated events. Jamie Leigh Jones, who alleges that employees of KBR/Halliburton gang-raped her in Iraq in 2005, founded a non-profit to advocate for women who were assaulted while working as military contractors abroad. Jones' group is working with 40 victims. And a single Texas law firm is representing 15 women with sexual harassment, assault, rape, or retaliation (for reporting a sexual assault) claims against Halliburton and its affiliates.
The article goes on to offer some practical solutions to the problem e.g. think tank policies applied. Fine. Yes let’s do something about this.
But wait. What the fuck! American men are brutally raping their female comrades and there doesn’t seem to be an international outrage??? This information serves as an eye-opener for me: America--the role model of equality for all--the freedom fighter for women‘s rights--condones the rape of its own tribe members.
Wow, how can we expect the rest of the world to respect women when we don’t do it ourselves?
"Ah", you say, "But there is an international grassroots, campus-based, activist group called Men Against Rape." Men Against Rape? Men Against Rape?? Did I hear you correctly? Men Against Rape? "Yep," you affirm.
Does this sit well with you? My stomach is turning. Aren’t all men against rape? Do we need a group for those who are opposed to rape? If so, wouldn’t every single American be a member at birth--by default? Isn't the repulsion to rape innate--no socialization necessary? Thus, rape is the exception--an act committed by an evil, deviant, psychopathic misogynist. Shouldn’t the rapists be the ones who have a group--like as in group therapy?! Aren’t they the counter culture freaks that are marginalized—lurking outside the mainstream?! Or, is rape so common that we must band together to fight this domestic war against women? Are we in the minority? Is my husband against rape? My son? My dad? My uncle? My doctor? My President?
Dang, how can we fix all those backward, oppressive cultures when we can’t even acknowledge—let alone repair--our own deficiencies?
I’m sending out an S.O.S. to Batman: Batman how do we stop the violence against women in America? Can you help? See, the problem is so bad that we can’t rely on our government to protect us. You may be our only hope.