What do little girls have to do with our wars?

This is a guest post by Soraya Chemaly. Soraya Chemaly writes about the role of gender in culture, politics, religion and media. She is a regular contributor to Huffington Post, Fem2.0, The Feminist Wire, BitchFlicks and Alternet, among other media. She has appeared as a guest on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, Sirius XM progressive radio, and is a frequent HuffPost Live Panelist. Follow her on Twitter at @schemaly.

This week a Taliban hit squad in Pakistan targeted and shot Malala Yousafzai, a 14-year old who was fighting for the right of girls to be educated. I cried at the inhumanity on and off all day when I heard. Maybe she should have just dressed the part and saved her life. I’m not being flip. I wish with all my heart that she didn’t have to be shot in the head to become a “global icon” for the plight of girls. But the plight of girls is the plight of the world. That’s what people need to come to terms with.

What would you think when I say that if a country dedicates itself to reducing its rates of violence against girls and women it also lowers its propensity for engaging in military conflict? What if rape and domestic violence and all these “women’s issues” and “social issues” are integrally part of “manly” “national security” ones?

This is common sense, but apparently that’s irrelevant. Which is why I am so glad that now it’s also legitimately documented in a quiet but powerfully provocative book, Sex and World Peace. Why the authors’ findings should be provocative is beyond me but I am glad they are finally being talked about.

If you take one idea away from the year 2012 this should be it: The very best indicator and predictor of a state’s peacefulness is not wealth, military expenditures or religion; the best predictor is how well its girls and women are treated. There is a direct relationship between the treatment of women in everyday life – in homes, on streets, at schools and work – and a nation’s propensity for engaging in war. And before you start making exceptions for, say, the U.S., think about this: Democracies with high levels of violence against women are as insecure and unstable as non-democracies. It turns out that the security of girls and women is the measure of the security of the state they live in. In very few countries do we have a clear and culturally evident equality in the equal value of boys and girls.

Consider the simplest fact that everywhere, when you want to humiliate a boy or a “real man” you accuse him of being a “girl.” If the US, if he’s a rookie football player, you give him a little girl’s backpack to show him his “place” or, if he’s an Iraqi prisoner, you make him wear girls’ underwear to demonstrate your complete power over his body. In Afghanistan, cross-dressed dancing boys are “invisible victims” of rape. It’s a shaming tool and a cheap weapon. If you’re a boy – you understand your intrinsic superior value. If you’re a girl or a woman it’s a slap in the face every time you see it or hear it. Most of us brush it off and go about our business. But it wears away in your brain nonetheless. How can it not? It really is everywhere a subtle, backhanded reminder that your way of being is a way to denigrate and insult others.

The linguistic and actual subjugation of girls is a ubiquitous cultural meme that feeds a real and deadly harm. And, it turns out, has everything to do with war. I imagine however that most people aren’t considering what all of this has to do with our likelihood of going to war. Some of our political leaders certainly haven’t.

By now, you might know that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the US. But, domestic violence is one aspect of multi-dimensional assaults that one in three women in the world experience everyday: street harassment, rape, child marriage, female infanticide, spousal murder and more. Borders and nationality are irrelevant in the big picture of the epidemiology of this violence. Any careful consumption of news reveals a daily litany of horrors – France, Eygpt, Afghanistan, the US, South Africa, India, Congo, Brazil, Morocco, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Syria, the U.S.. Everything from small indignities to big ones, from public executions to private ones. You get the point. One third of all women is more than one billion women. It’s why you should rise up on February 14th 2013 in support of Eve Ensler’s V-Day #onebillionrising movement. When the word “women” isn’t even mentioned in a US presidential debate on “domestic policy” you know we’re in trouble. Imaging that anyone with power is going to talk about “girls” in the context of international security and diplomacy is laughable. But, that doesn’t make it right.

Sex and World Peace was written by Valerie M. Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmett. Their findings are derived from more than 10 years of study. During this time, this group of multi-disciplinary researchers created the Womanstats Project and Database, the most comprehensive aggregation of data regarding the status of girls and women in the world. The database, which contains more than 130,000 datapoints, includes more than 375 variables for 175 countries, all of which have populations of at least 200,000 people.

The authors analyzed a broad spectrum of behaviors to rank women’s status. They looked at domestic violence, maternal mortality, rape, and women’s political participation, physical security and rated them on a scale of 0 (best) to 4 (worst). Not one nation rated a 0. The US, for women’s physical security, came in at 2 (the world average is 3.4).

In addition to granular empirical analysis, the authors mapped these data to illustrate the distribution of violence against women geographically and to graphically illustrate the scope of the issues. The maps are fascinating and can be found here. The authors acknowledge that, while empirically sound, substantive and certainly provocative, their findings are preliminary and further analysis, within the context of conventional explanations,must take place before they are considered authoritative.

What could possibly be at the root of these findings? Well, it is interesting to consider the idea that war is a function of how we treat people who we understand to be different from us. I wrote about this idea and book earlier this year for Women Under Siege. This independent project, started by Gloria Steinem and directed by Lauren Wolfe, documents how rape and other forms of sexualized violence have been and continue to be used as tools in genocide and conflict. Their most recent study charts the use of rape as a tool of terror in Syria. In that piece, I explained that idea, of difference, this way:

Gender is the fundamental construct for how a society understands difference. Regardless of which state we are talking about, tolerance for domestic violences, street harassment, rape and restrictions on women’s reproductive freedoms are among several indicators of gender inequality rooted in such difference. These behaviors correlate to state security in multiple dimensions. In the simplest terms, states in which women are subjected to violence and uncontested male rule at home, where they are not allowed equal freedoms and rights to bodily integrity, privacy, and equal protection under the law, are those most likely to engage in violence as nations, the authors report.

I understand that there are many other intersectional factors that make up “difference” and how we define what is “other” in culture, e.g. race, class, sexual identity, religion – but, as Shirley Chisholm said, “The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says: It’s a girl.” The exact same thing happens to boys – only with a radically polarized set of stereotypes. The first and most profound difference, globally, remains gender.

Please think hard about what this means. Then talk about it! Then share it! Blog, Tumble, Tweet, Like whatever. It’s a big idea with daily relevance and real and powerful consequences: Microaggression against girls and women in private, in neighborhoods, in communities is integrally connected to macroaggressive national behavior. The greater the polarization of gender in a household, the higher tolerance there is for violence and oppression and the greater the violence experienced by women and girls in those households the greater the likelihood of militarization and national violence.

All over the world, societies are experiencing cultural and political backlash against fifty years of dissolving gender polarity. Our presidential election is providing two very stark options from this perspective. For the first time in decades, the Republican Party continues its evisceration of the the Violence Against Women Act, while simultaneously and repeatedly making rape apologist statements and enacting violence through legislation. This party proudly embraces a traditional, conservative, primacy of the father, “privacy of the family” worldview. It is also no coincidence that the Republican Party is also mightily invested in the idea of a strong military. Men are men. Women are women. Men are violent. Women aren’t. Conservative men and women both hold this view. Regardless of nation, women’s inequality is maintained most effectively through adherence to this very complementary, gender hierarchical world view. The family is where girls and women, and boys, are most often isolated and victimized. On the other hand, the Democratic Party, does not. That party at least more actively seeks to find ways for women to live strong, independent lives, free from violence and to allow men and women to define for themselves the nature of their families.

What we do in this country has implications for everyone. This is why I want to cry or shake someone (gasp, a woman with a violent thought!) when opinion writers like Kathleen Parker write sentences like “How about we ditch the gender nonsense and declare this the year of the American?” When you consider the perpetuation and tolerance for this type of culture as a result of Republican obstructionism and “fiscal” conservativism it’s simply shameful. A willful, self-serving blindness, provincial in its considerations.

It goes without saying, although I am saying it, that boys and men are oppressed and hurt by violence as well. In some parts of the world, their masculinity is perverted so that there is barely any humanity left. Boys are held to destructive standards of masculinity that not only perpetuate violence but also mean that when boys are preyed upon, sexually especially, a debilitating faux-ignorance and deafening silence has been the cultural response. There are healthy masculinity alternatives to what Gloria Steinem so accurately described as a “cult of masculinity.” How else do you describe a culture that makes a man kill his three daughters by putting a poisonous snake in their bed because he finally has a son? Or gives rapists, rape being just “another method of conception,” rights of custody?

But the fact that violence is essential to patriarchal culture doesn’t mean this is the only way we can exist. And, I know, war is not going anywhere anytime soon. But, it’s far easier to decide to treat little boys and girls equally in a home than to say we will stop fighting wars because they are evil. I just don’t understand why as a society, we wouldn’t eliminate, and as systematically as possible, the violence that girls and women face every day. If in a few generations we find a more peaceful world, then what’s the harm?

#onebillionrising


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90 comments for “What do little girls have to do with our wars?

  1. October 12, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    One third of all women is more than one billion women. It’s why you should rise up on February 14th 2013 in support of Eve Ensler’s V-Day #onebillionrising movement.

    Speaking as a survivor and a citizen of one of those horrible misogynistic countries, I would infinitely rather fucking NOT participate in that racist clusterfuck of a trivialising monstrosity of one billion rising, fuck you very much. I just watched the trailer – well, as much as I could get through without wanting to puke – and I’m frankly ashamed that a writer on Feministe is even suggesting that a movement that could produce something that fucking ridiculous deserves any other response than to be shot in its figurative fucking face, much less that people should get actually behind Eve Ensler and her creepy racist agenda. (Don’t think it’s racist? Go be born in a developing country, live twenty years there and get back to me about it.) Why don’t you fuckers go back in time to when I was being abused and tell me I should just dance my worries away? Or, if you want to be actually useful in stopping abuse, go back in time and give little me a big fucking gun.

    So say one billion people go out in the streets on Feb 14 and say that rape is a no-good very bad terrible horrible thing. Cool! Revolution!

    Or, you know, reality. Which is that after everybody dances and is all woo and whee and yay on the streets, some of them are going to go back into their houses where they’re being raped and abused. Some of them are going to go back into their houses to rape and abuse. Most of them are not going to talk about it when people are being raped and abused around them (seriously, google the stats on the consequences when children, much less adults, reveal that they’re being sexually abused, even when they’re telling people who are mandated reporters). Many of them are going to be “but”ing every victim who reports and “maybe”ing every kid who tells them about Creepy Uncle Ronald.

    The people who are going to go out and dance and then do work in their communities to end rape and abuse? Were doing it anyway.

    And then there’s people like me who are fucking viscerally disgusted that we’re being used as a posterchild for some author’s feel-good woo-woo publicity movement and wouldn’t turn up to dance if you paid us six figures and offered to The Eternal Sunshine all our abuse away.

    Fuck this. I’m angry, upset, triggered as fuck and feeling betrayed. Probably not really coherent right now.

    Being disbelieved when I told traumatised me even more than the abuse. Being trivialised like this doesn’t traumatise me, but I don’t think the anger I feel over this is a small or a shallow thing. Fuck these people, fuck Eve Ensler, fuck every last person who thinks this movement is a good or a non-racist thing, and fuck you for pimping it on this site or any other.

    • October 12, 2012 at 2:38 pm

      Oh, and fuck this movement for its trans erasure. Because trans women don’t get raped and abused and killed at vastly higher rates than cis women or anything. At least not according to Ensler and her transphobic bullshit agenda.

      • Donna L
        October 12, 2012 at 3:08 pm

        Ensler doesn’t include trans women when she talks about women?

      • October 12, 2012 at 3:26 pm

        Nope. If not explicitly, then passively, by equating body parts with gender ( of the “women must have vaginas/only vagina-havers are women” school). I thought The Vagina Monologues was transphobic before I even knew what transphobia was, in that sort of dim grasping way that that happens. And it’s only gotten worse in retrospect. Also the violence portrayed is sort of… I dunno, I couldn’t see too far past the racism and the OMFG TRIGGERED myself, but there’s a whole lot of not mentioning trans folk on that site.

        Also personally I think that if you’re going to discuss the relative risk levels of groups of women (black women, women in developing nations etc), excluding trans women is doubly side-eye-worthy, since trans women are more likely to face any given violence than cis women. But that’s more nitpicky, perhaps.

      • GallingGalla
        October 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm

        The short of it: She pretty much defines women by the presence of a vagina – it’s what the Vagina Monologues are all about.

        It’s true that she’s done Vagina Monologues with an all trans women cast (as documented in the short film Beautiful Daughters). But she didn’t source any trans-specific monologues – she had them performing monologues written for cis women. So this feels very off for me, like she was doing it for ally cred than true solidarity.

        I was actually invited to participate in one performance, but I was totally turned off by the gender essentialism. I don’t have a vagina, so the idea of performing a monologue celebrating vaginas as the definition of women made me sick. It was totally jarring to me to watch Beautiful Daughters and see trans women, some of whom had clearly stated that they don’t have vaginas, reading monologues glorifying vaginas as markers for womanhood.

        I just feel that Ensler’s narratives / projects in general are very white European / American centered and disappointingly gender-essentialist.

        So I’ll have nothing to do with one billion rising.

      • amblingalong
        October 13, 2012 at 6:46 am

        It’s true that she’s done Vagina Monologues with an all trans women cast (as documented in the short film Beautiful Daughters). But she didn’t source any trans-specific monologues – she had them performing monologues written for cis women. So this feels very off for me, like she was doing it for ally cred than true solidarity.

        Yeah, it was a bit like when TV studios get criticized for a lack of racial diversity on their shows, and then add a (nearly always light-skinned) black man who is middle-class and never ever talks about race and is, for all intents and purposes, a white person in disguise.

        Eve Ensler has been very open about her belief in the mystical powers of womanhood, centered on the vagina. She has defended herself from charges of gender-essentialism and transphobia only to the degree she has claimed aformentioned vagina-goddess beliefs do not constitute transphobia.

        She also has written about her beliefs that rape experienced by men, as well as rape committed by women, is not the same thing as “real rape.” Which alone is enough to convince me the world would be a better place without her in it.

      • amblingalong
        October 13, 2012 at 6:48 am

        Incidentally, that last line of my post above was just meant to suggest I think she’s done a lot of harm to people; I realized after I posted that it sounds kind of threatening, which wasn’t my intent.

    • DP
      October 12, 2012 at 4:19 pm

      I am almost certainly missing something…but why is the movement racist?

      • im
        October 12, 2012 at 5:30 pm

        … same here. I’m guessing it’s something about being patronizing, or talky movements with limited immediate physical action?

        Still, reading the commetns for this blog post is like dropping a soup can on the floor and one day it blows up in jets of flame.

        More intersted in consequences of equality affecting militarism.

      • October 12, 2012 at 7:49 pm

        Ah, I should have clarified. The trailer’s ridiculously racist, with coded-Middle Eastern music and a whole whack of racist imagery, “sexy” rape scenes with a black woman (who’s the only one in a revealing outfit, by the way, because that’s what black women need, more Jezebel stereotyping). Then there’s the fact that the only white abuser is only shown in a blurred image raising a hand to a woman, while brown/black men are shown engaged in graphic, easily visible violence, and the white woman is shown protecting her daughter while brown/black women are shown abusing other women or enabling their abuse. And that’s just in the first minute of the trailer, which is as far as I got before rapid discretion shots of genital mutilation which about made me throw up and did make my wife cry for about an hour. UNWARNED FOR cutaway shots of genital mutilation, by the way. “Violence and abuse” does not cover that. Ugh. Just fucking ugh.

        Though

        talky movements with limited immediate physical action

        this covers it too. I’m sure women being abused in (insert brown people country) are going to be VERY grateful that a bunch of white women actually DANCED for them. I mean, they danced! On a February day! Valentine’s day! They could have been making out with boyfriends, but they took the time to like dance for five minutes! What more do you brown people need? What do you want? Blood? *

        *I’m well aware that thousands of white women are in fact engaged in useful and effective aid to non-white women worldwide. This is not about them.

      • Beatrice
        October 13, 2012 at 3:37 am

        Thanks for explaining the racism in the video. It made me think.

        Totally agreeing with the uselessness of this “dancing in the street” thing. It will make participants feel all warm and fuzzy, but only those already privileged people will benefit.

    • PrettyAmiable
      October 13, 2012 at 8:46 am

      mac, just wanted to jump in and say that I’m sorry this triggered you. I really hope your today is amazing.

      • October 14, 2012 at 9:49 am

        PA, thanks! I didn’t notice that until just now. My yesterday was pretty awesome!

  2. October 12, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    I understand that there are many other intersectional factors that make up “difference” and how we define what is “other” in culture, e.g. race, class, sexual identity, religion – but, as Shirley Chisholm said, “The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says: It’s a girl.” The exact same thing happens to boys – only with a radically polarized set of stereotypes. The first and most profound difference, globally, remains gender.

    This doesn’t sit well with me. Class and race also start from birth, and they also make a hell of a difference, especially in conjunction with gender. I don’t understand the point of down-playing intersectionality. I don’t see what that achieves. Acknowledging intersectionality doesn’t make gender discrimination less valid or important. In fact, I think it makes our conversations about oppression *more* valid and productive when we don’t try to essentialize categories. The truth is that even as a woman, I am far less discriminated against because I am also white and wealthy. I receive more respect and consideration under the law. I am less likely to have my rights and autonomy violated. My risk of assault and exploitation is significantly lower. As a cis woman, the validity of my gender identity and the integrity of my physical self are far less likely to be questioned or violated. The list goes on.

    The scale and scope of violence against women globally is horrifying. I am not immune from it and I am certainly invested in ending it. But I don’t need to dismiss the ways in which I am protected and supported by this system in other ways.

    • October 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      Yeah, this, pretty much. Telling me the Important Similarity between Ann Romney and I transcends the Little Differences of race, class, sexuality, neurotypicality, fertility, religion, nationality… yeah, I’m not buying that.

      • Alara Rogers
        October 12, 2012 at 5:44 pm

        The Important Similarity between you and Ann Romney primarily affects how your family and friends treat you. Racism is typically aimed at strangers; to the extent that family and friends are racist to you, it’s usually internalized racism that they’re applying to themselves as well. The same goes for class.

        Gender is the only difference in which members of the child’s family immediately start treating the child as being inferior to or different from them. (Aside from age, which is hard to work with because children really are less capable than adults.) A lot of the ways oppressed people treat their children that are seen as negative, and consequences of racism/classism, are actually training to survive in a racist society/classist society, not in and of themselves racism/classism (for example, studies indicate that black parents are frequently much harsher with their children than white ones, which sounds bad until you realize that the consequence for mild misbehavior for a black child in society might be death or the destruction of their future, whereas the same misbehavior would have been given a free pass if the child was white. So harsh discipline from the parents might save the child’s life. This is horrible and should not happen, but it’s not happening because the parents think the child is inferior and deserves this; it’s happening because the parents know the shit the child will suffer if they don’t do it. Oppression of girls by male family members is rarely about what’s actually best for the girl to survive in a sexist society.)

        Obviously, how our families treat us vary wildly. I was actually favored over my brothers and treated as more intelligent and more capable. It’s a lot easier to see what happens to one class of people at the hands of another class, where they are not related and the interactions are in the public sphere, as a real and concrete thing. But that’s exactly the problem. Sexism’s first vector of action is within the family; if a girl avoids that, she may avoid most of the negative consequences of sexism lifelong. Sexism is less a systematic oppression by one class over another than it’s an oppression of family members by other family members, enacted a billion times.

        So I see the gender difference as more fundamental than class and race. Class and race allow you to have solidarity with others of your kind against the oppressors. Sexism requires that in order to side with your own kind against the oppressors, you have to turn against your own family and side with strangers. This is very hard for humans to do, and is probably the reason why sexism is nearly universal and has been so hard to combat. Classes can overturn the other class in a revolution, nations enslave other nations and then fall and are themselves enslaved, races often end up achieving dominance by oppressing yet another race. But women have never risen up and dominated men, anywhere in the world, and quite probably never will, because we love the little shitheads and the violence of establishing a revolution is much less than the violence of maintaining an unequal status quo.

        It’s not that class oppression and race oppression aren’t awful, and arguably, they are usually more awful than the oppression people face for being female (aside from in certain countries.) But they don’t come *first* and they don’t happen inside the family.

      • Soraya Chemaly
        October 13, 2012 at 1:25 pm

        Thanks for bringing the connection to the family back into the conversation in this way, especially given the centrality of is role in the ideas examined in the book.

      • October 13, 2012 at 2:14 pm

        Okay, I find this a more compelling rationale than the others offered, but I’m still not sold on the fundamentality of gender.

        I don’t see how internalized racism differs that much from sexism. Most of the sexist upbringing I got was from my female relatives anyway, who were, of course, in charge of child-rearing, so much of that was internalized anyway. It does not hurt less to know that we are all in it together. I also had *more* female family members (and single mothers are more common than single fathers still) and better, closer relationships with my female family members, because, again, they were the ones who were expected to be relationship-oriented. The familial solidarity didn’t make the sexism suck less. I imagine the same would be true of internalized racism in a family.

        Not to mention, the impact of sexism on me personally has been negligible compared to that on women who are facing multiple axes of oppression. Sexism wasn’t something I even noticed until I was in my twenties, because it was both very pervasive but also… kind of mild. Background noise. My queerness was much more of an issue for me from a young age, because as a queer person I felt completely alone, whereas a woman I always had other women to look to. For something ostensibly “fundamental”, it was pretty easy to wipe a lot of its effects out with a hearty helping of wealth and racial privilege, among others.

        And beyond family dynamics (and beyond my own subjective experiences, which I recognize aren’t universal), poverty has an enormous effect on so many aspects of life. Being born into a poor family, even if you are all in the same boat, generally means less likely to meet subsistence needs, less health care, more stress, more interpersonal violence (as a result of the increased stress), more coping methods of last resort (e.g., substance abuse), all of which are negatively reinforcing. (Which isn’t to say that economically disadvantaged people can’t and don’t cope, help themselves, and help each other – god, no, human resilience is pretty powerful – but the deck is very much not stacked in their favour.) Economic oppression plays very much into the bottom tiers of Maslow’s hierarchy, moreso than gender oppression on its own, I would say, *except* that of course gender and economic oppression tend to go hand-in-hand anyway.

        Because my point all along is what is the point of defining a “fundamental” oppression? Especially one that clearly won’t be fundamental for lots of people affected by it? That’s what I’ve been asking. How does it help? What does it bring to the conversation? No one has answered that question to my satisfaction yet.

        I don’t think there is any particular oppression that starts first or goes deeper or is more primal than any other and I don’t care. Because I don’t think it matters. And I’m suspicious of the motives of people who do.

      • DonnaL
        October 13, 2012 at 2:49 pm

        Isn’t insisting that sexism is the first, most fundamental, and most important oppression the very definition of Oppression Olympics? As Jadey says, what’s the point?

        as a queer person I felt completely alone, whereas a woman I always had other women to look to

        I think a lot of straight people really don’t get this. It’s a difference that I’ve found very notable — and it plays out even here. It’s difficult to explain, really, how damaging it was for me that I never met anyone else who was trans until I was about 45 years old.

      • October 13, 2012 at 9:18 pm

        It should also be noted that the idea that your sex/gender is fixed and known at birth is cissexist as well. A trans woman is not treated like a woman from birth. Vagina-centric definitions of womanhood just don’t work.

        Obviously trans women are not the majority of women, but this is what I mean about this line of thinking taking away more than it adds – it tries to essentialize what cannot and should not be essentialized.

      • October 13, 2012 at 8:15 pm

        Gender is the only difference in which members of the child’s family immediately start treating the child as being inferior to or different from them.

        Alara, I really disagree. Hueism is equally immediate. Ableism kicks in pre-birth sometimes, with modern technology. Religious beliefs about birth and time often colour kids’ future. I knew a family, for example, that ruthlessly abused a child because his horoscope suggested he would bring his father economic difficulty. His horoscope. (Yeah, let that one sink in, right? Fuck people, seriously.) And that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head.

        Also, in terms of pervasive feelings of isolation:

        My queerness was much more of an issue for me from a young age, because as a queer person I felt completely alone, whereas a woman I always had other women to look to.

        THIS. I always felt that I was less trammelled, less alone, less vulnerable and endangered as a woman than as a non-straight person.

        Personally, I don’t think ranking oppressions is good. I think that people who insist that one ism is THE BIGGEST are a bit suspect at worst, and a bit clueless at best. The combinations matter.

        Also

        Isn’t insisting that sexism is the first, most fundamental, and most important oppression the very definition of Oppression Olympics?

        THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS.

    • im
      October 12, 2012 at 5:33 pm

      One thing that botheres me is that these discussions tend to be very US / Europe centered whereas I think the study is about countries where there is no white majority or overclass? In that case, race (as we think of it anyway) should have less of an effect?

      I doubt that trans rights are actually all that revealing for the rights-vs-war analysis, IIAC they are only on the map in a few countries?

      • October 12, 2012 at 5:54 pm

        White people don’t have to be involved for there to be ethnic/racial hierarchies in a country, but from a global perspective (which is what this post is focused on – the *entire* world population), hell yes white privilege matters, minority that we are. Class divides are also omnipresent, at least as much as gender divides.

        Trans rights may not be widely respected or recognized, but trans people exist and are fighting for their rights all over the damn planet. On the Trans* Day of Remembrance, the victims are certainly not restricted to American/European/”Western” countries. I have no idea what point you think you are making. The same groups of people are marginalized all over the globe for inter-related reasons. There’s no point in focusing only on one aspect of this and ignoring all the other important factors.

      • Donna L
        October 12, 2012 at 8:40 pm

        I doubt that trans rights are actually all that revealing for the rights-vs-war analysis, IIAC they are only on the map in a few countries?

        Nonsense. There are trans people all over the world, and — no matter what some people might tell you — always have been. To suggest that it’s just a “Western thing” makes about as much sense as the garbage spouted by people who claim that homosexuality didn’t exist in Africa before colonialism.

      • October 12, 2012 at 7:55 pm

        I think the study is about countries where there is no white majority or overclass? In that case, race (as we think of it anyway) should have less of an effect?

        Brb laughing hysterically at the idea that white people have to be a majority in a country to be fucking over the people of that country. Poll some Iraqis about that someday. Or black South Africans. Or any of the other 100-odd colonised countries. LOLERIFFIC.

        History. Get you some before you pipe up on these issues again.

        I doubt that trans rights are actually all that revealing for the rights-vs-war analysis, IIAC they are only on the map in a few countries?

        Trans people only exist in a few countries? Or trans rights are only considered important in a few countries?

        …personally I wasn’t aware trans rights were considered all that important in any country. But snark aside, FWIW, I think that trans rights are extremely revealing in the rights-vs-war analysis, it just has to be applied a bit differently (colonial history makes a difference, economic ties make a difference even if people don’t think it does – internalised racism has done some fascinating things to trans rights in India for one, and it’s the result of a lovely combination of the two).

      • Rhoanna
        October 13, 2012 at 9:59 am

        I doubt that trans rights are actually all that revealing for the rights-vs-war analysis, IIAC they are only on the map in a few countries?

        Well, unless I missed it, you don’t have anything to worry about. Woman Stats doesn’t have any maps about transgender rights, nor does their larger data appear to address trans rights. And while I don’t have a copy of Sex & World Peace, Amazon’s search inside didn’t find anything for transgender. So no worries about anyone attempting to do that analysis.

      • October 13, 2012 at 10:41 am

        Okie…so my comments don’t seem to be out of mod for like ages after I posted them, so: tl;dr ask Iraqis how white people can be an overclass without even being citizens, let alone a racial majority.

        And trans rights are extremely revealing in the rights-vs-war analysis, it just has to be applied a bit differently. Colonial history makes a difference, economic ties make a difference even if people don’t think it does – internalised racism has done some fascinating things to trans rights in India for one, and it’s the result of a lovely combination of the two.

    • Beatrice
      October 13, 2012 at 3:17 am

      Jadey,

      QFT, the whole comment.

    • Lu
      October 14, 2012 at 6:07 am

      I presume the primary reason the study focused on gender is because the relevant statistics would be most readily available. My personal belief is that you would find similar results with any other type of oppression.

  3. October 12, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Brilliant piece, thank you. How so many billions of supposedly educated people can be blind to this basic fact never ceases to disturb me. During his voyages around the Pacific, Cook encountered many distinct Polynesian cultures, that had been separated for some time although they shared the same history. There were only one or two places where women had substantial authority in society. Tonga was one. These were also the only places that were peaceful. It was always clear that this was not a coincidence. History 101.

  4. matlun
    October 12, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    I think the whole analysis is deeply flawed.

    First, correlation is not causation. Does gender equality actually cause a more peaceful and moral society? Or is gender equality simply one natural component of such as society so that you see them together?

    I do not think that erasure of gender or any other group identification is key either. A good society does not require homogeneous culture and identities. It is a society where difference (both group and individual difference) is accepted. The goal is more and more people and groups being included in the “in group” and fewer classified as “other”. Not everyone being assimilated into a single group.

    • doberman
      October 12, 2012 at 6:25 pm

      Agreed. The most successful society will be one where we capitalise on our differences, be they gender or class/intelligence, instead of fighting about them.

      • PrettyAmiable
        October 13, 2012 at 8:34 am

        And how would you recommend a society capitalize on gender differences, doberman?

      • matlun
        October 13, 2012 at 9:39 am

        +1 to PrettyAmiable here: That sounded very suspect. How should you “capitalize” on group differences?

        We should treat people as individuals and not according to group membership. Individual differences can certainly be a positive to allow different specializations. But gender or other group differences? I have a hard time finding a good interpretation of that statement.

      • doberman
        October 13, 2012 at 6:52 pm

        Sorry, what I meant was I don’t think it’s good to have a culture where everyone strives towards the same ideals: business success, artistic or scientific achievement, regardless of their gender or class. Current liberal education teaches children that they can all achieve such things if they try hard enough, which ends up disappointing many children and creating this segregation between those who have achieved and those who have not. Ideally, everyone would be valued for their contribution to society, even if they aren’t capable of being entrepeneurs, rocket scientists or aristic geniuses.

      • PrettyAmiable
        October 13, 2012 at 8:02 pm

        I’m pretty sure you just handwaved the question. I would really like a specific example of how we can capitalize on differences between groups. Acknowledging that a society needs other players besides captains of industry or rocket scientists or whatever doesn’t touch the statement in question at all.

        I’m sure you know I’m pushing because I cannot find a way for this to not be incredibly sexist and classist.

      • Ledasmom
        October 18, 2012 at 10:10 am

        Yeah, that sort of thing always seems to result in somebody being told they should be Perfectly Happy in a role somebody else decided they’re “better suited” for.
        I mean, everybody being valued for their contribution sounds good, but I don’t like the undertone of “Oh, it’s all right that your parents couldn’t afford tutors and piano lessons, sweetie; you can do this shit job, and we’ll appreciate you for it, even if under other circumstances you could have been a literal rocket scientist.”
        It seems to be a consolation prize for not actually achieving equality, is what I’m trying to say in my sleep-deprived way.

  5. im
    October 12, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    I suspect that both issues (gender rights and likeliness to be militaristic) are both the result of a single hidden variable, a general culture of enlightenment. (Both the greatly-broadened children of the late 1700s European movement and a more general view. Note I didn’t say equality specifically, it’s more than that.)

    Although I am a little worried about the negative implications of this correlation.

  6. Soraya Chemaly
    October 12, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Ok – sorry, again – can’t specifically respond to comments. First of all, comments are assuming an awful lot about race/sexuality/gender/age that is not implied in what I wrote. In the first comment on transerasure – I am assuming that the erasure you are talking about is the #onebillionrising movement,but it is hard to tell. My exposure to that project comes from their materials and also from hearing Eve Ensler speak. Yes, she did write the Vagina Monologues. No, she is not as far as I have seen erasing people not born with vaginas from her equations regarding rape and violence. She explicitly talks about the rape of all humans. People who defy gender essentialist categories all pay the price for the polarities described, and yes, some far more than others. But, if you think these experiences are excluded why don’t you tell them? On the intersectionality front “Telling me the Important Similarity between Ann Romney and I transcends the Little Differences of race, class, sexuality, neurotypicality, fertility, religion, nationality… yeah, I’m not buying that.” This strikes me as a classic pitting of one wave of feminism against another and, as such, a very American-centric, 20th century framing of feminisms. In exactly the same vein, I – coming from a polyethnic, mixed race family of radically different financial means, and having lived in a majority black country as a not-black and not-white person – could say the exact same thing: namely that your qualifiers are a privilege. I share some things with Ann Romney, too. Then again, I don’t. But, she’s segregated as valuable and used in one way to prop up a system that denigrates us all as a class and a poor, dark, non-CISgendered person is used in a different way to do the exact same thing. In this sense it’s not about what we are, at intersections, but about what we are NOT.

    I’ve talked to women activists from Afghanistan, Rwanda, Congo, Zimbabwe, Syria, India and other countries about the issue of whether and how movements like #onebillionrising and books and movies like Half the Sky can actually do good. It’s a fine line between being the “industrial white savior complex” and the value of genuinely raising the awareness of people who would NEVER in a million years either seek out information about violence of this nature or think that it is meaningful or relevant to their lives in any way. Without fail these activists, in response, say to not take our own rights for granted. Making connections between what happens between cultures necessarily requires a kind of reductionism, but that doesn’t make the connections any less valid.

    • October 12, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      This strikes me as a classic pitting of one wave of feminism against another and, as such, a very American-centric, 20th century framing of feminisms.

      I’m not interested in pitting anyone against each other (there enough of that already) and I’m pretty sure I made no argument that effect. But what I don’t understand is why it is in any way useful to make an argument for why gender-based oppression has primacy over other axes of oppression. I simply do not understand how that helps. To me, *that* is pitting one oppression against another.

      For the record, not an American here.

      I imagine Mac will have some enlightening commentary as well. For the record, she is also not an American. And did you just say that she is “privileged” by her qualifiers? Are you even aware of what her “qualifiers” are?

      • Donna L
        October 12, 2012 at 8:48 pm

        Yes, she did write the Vagina Monologues. No, she is not as far as I have seen erasing people not born with vaginas from her equations regarding rape and violence. She explicitly talks about the rape of all humans.

        The problem isn’t that she doesn’t care about the rape of all humans; the problem would be if she puts trans women either in the “male” category in some other human category different from women. But I’ll shut up now; I don’t want to be accused of “trans-jacking” a thread that’s supposed to be about something else.

      • Donna L
        October 12, 2012 at 8:48 pm

        or in some category . . . .”

      • amblingalong
        October 13, 2012 at 12:34 am

        But I’ll shut up now; I don’t want to be accused of “trans-jacking” a thread that’s supposed to be about something else.

        I’m guessing this was meant sarcastically, but just in case it wasn’t:

        a) fuck anyone who accuses you of that and
        b) this thread is encouraging people to support someone who is (in my opinion, at least) incredibly transphobic/racist/awful in general, so bringing up trans* issues is super important. Not that it should be your job to do it, of course.

      • October 13, 2012 at 1:58 am

        Seconding amblingalong with VELOCITY here!

    • October 12, 2012 at 9:16 pm

      It’s very interesting how you can’t respond to any specific comment, but all your quotes are directed at me.

      No, she is not as far as I have seen erasing people not born with vaginas from her equations regarding rape and violence. She explicitly talks about the rape of all humans.

      Yes, and isn’t it awfully interesting that trans women aren’t women, but part of “all humans”? Having also read the monologues, I’m not remotely convinced Ensler isn’t transphobic as all fuck, in her perceptions if not her actions.

      But, if you think these experiences are excluded why don’t you tell them?

      Because you know I’m not. Clearly. We are frenemies on Facebook or something.

      This strikes me as a classic pitting of one wave of feminism against another and, as such, a very American-centric, 20th century framing of feminisms.

      Might want to find out if I’m American before accusing me of classically pitting anything against anything. As far as I was aware, I was pitting my outrage against Ensler’s asshattery.

      In exactly the same vein, I – coming from a polyethnic, mixed race family of radically different financial means, and having lived in a majority black country as a not-black and not-white person – could say the exact same thing: namely that your qualifiers are a privilege.

      Oh, sweetie. I see your mixed-race family, lower-class, being part of a racial minority. And then I raise you disabilities, non-neurotypicality, being a survivor, having lower levels of education (at the moment), being (mostly) gay and in a same-sex relationship, with a child, and being an immigrant. If you’re going to play oppression olympics on the internet, please to be picking your opponents with a bit more care.

      I’ve talked to women activists from Afghanistan, Rwanda, Congo, Zimbabwe, Syria, India

      How nice for you! And now you’ve met another. Hi! I’m a former activist for women, from India! And I think onebillionrising is so brimmingly full of so much quality shit that it’s sending sewage missiles into space.

      Without fail these activists, in response, say to not take our own rights for granted.

      I do notice that they didn’t actually answer your question. This is probably because their only honest response there would have been to tell you you’re a condescending, disingenuous fucknut for equating colonising dipshits like Kristof or publicity-chasing transphobes like Ensler with actual activists engaged in active aid of marginalised populations. How polite they were to you! I’m kind of in awe, actually.

      • October 12, 2012 at 9:22 pm

        Honestly I’m not sure whether to be flattered or annoyed that people who don’t know me on the internet automatically assume I’m a rich white American.

        Oh, wait, I’m very sure. Annoyed.

      • amblingalong
        October 13, 2012 at 12:41 am

        Honestly I’m not sure whether to be flattered or annoyed that people who don’t know me on the internet automatically assume I’m a rich white American.

        I’m guessing a lot of those people assume everyone is all of those things.

        Re: your exchange with the author, yeah, co-signed in it’s entirely. Eve Ensler skeeves the fuck out of me, and is representative of a form of ‘feminism’ which is a huge part of the reason POC and more broadly people who aren’t middle to upper class white American cis woman have such a conflicted relationship with the movement as a whole.

      • October 13, 2012 at 2:07 am

        Exactly, amblingalong. It’s also important to note that I didn’t actually disagree with most of Soraya’s article, I went off on a total rant about exactly two sentences of it, over two comments. In response to which I was essentially called a privileged little shit. And had a laughably inept attempt at oppression olympics chucked at me. o_O

        Honestly? The whole “we’re sisters first, all else is irrelevant!” attitude? I’ve never seen it being endorsed by someone who wasn’t of the colour-blind school of dealing with race. Maybe that’s just anecdotal evidence, but eh. I just have a knee-jerk mistrust of anyone who uses that phrase, and Soraya hasn’t (despite a brilliant previous post on Feministe) really proven it false with this post, IMO.

      • Soraya Chemaly
        October 15, 2012 at 1:21 pm

        Ok – am hoping this shows up in the right threat. I think your comment on the Ensler video is correct, and would add that I have some concerns about the portrayal of women being responsible for their own abuse unless they right back, which is, as we all know, rarely a possibility. I am also a real opponent of the “slum tourism” variation of what you called, I think accurately, “poverty porn.” I find it really difficult sometimes however, after immersive consumption of what is always difficult content, to draw correlations to far less extreme versions of violence, without , as I think I said above, seeming to condescend or trivialize. It’s a constant struggle. After reading through our notes, after a long weekend, sorry for the delay, my conclusion is that we are largely in agreement and are actually saying the same things to one another. I appreciate the feedback very much. Am sometimes admittedly exhausted by the need for very detailed nuance in every piece. This is not to dismiss any concerns voiced here, but only to say that cutting more than half the words of a piece to make it more readable, as happened with this one, necessarily means being more reductionist than optimal. Thank you for taking the time to go back and forth on this topics here, however.

      • Soraya Chemaly
        October 13, 2012 at 1:20 pm

        Ok – I actually meant that technically, in that the reply option wasn’t working. But, yes, yours were the bulk of the comments when I checked. I didn’t assume you were American, or rich, or white – as a matter of fact – I assumed you did the same thing to me. But I am sensitive to what I think are frames of reference about waves of feminism that strike me as rooted in their descriptions – regardless of either of our origins. In my case, I think it ultimately has more to do with the presence of religion as an oppressive weapon – not so much age, or color, etc. What do you think the role of, in this case, writers is or should be? It’s impossible to represent someone else’s stories with authenticity, but the people I write about and have spoken to, re above, are often in no position to create their own media, per long-standing debate about “publicity seeking” white saviors. Nor is any of them passive. However, there is a fine line when sharing information about what they do and need. From your perspective what happens? To your point below, we are in complete agreement – I know that none of the violence we’re talking about is limited in the ways described. So, one way of writing about it is to draw connections between the underlying principles that generate subjugation and oppression on a spectrum. It’s hard to do that without trivializing the greater violence or seeming to be condescending and privileged. Then you run the risk of the objections you raise here. That was the source of my question – which I’m asking you. Nowhere do I write about women being passive victims waiting to be saved or do I think that its only white people who assume they are out of the picture. I am not a woman living in a developing country, although I have in the past. Regardless of what you may think my opinion of women in other parts of the world is, what is evident in the US is that most people assume women are “equal enough” and share nothing with others in the world. They also don’t assume connections between misogyny, transphobia and homophobia. I spend a lot of time writing about street harassment for this reason. This forum is a distilled environment of active and interested people, but its very hard to put in dent in mainstream media representations of race/gender/sexuality/colonialism. I have zero interest in an oppression olympics and the comparison to my own experience was made for that very point. You probably think that seeking overlap in how we are not instead of how we are is stupid. There is no community that I am “naturally” a part of – except a straight one, which has all the related privileges. It seems to me that the thread we have is concerned with Eve Ensler and has spilled over into these other things through a series of assumptions on both our parts.

      • October 13, 2012 at 8:03 pm

        Okay, so there’s one thing we need to get clear right off the bat, since my other comments weren’t clear enough: I do NOT have a problem with the vast majority of your article. I think we disagree fundamentally on whether the universality of being women is more important than race/class, but that’s just two ways of approaching social justice and it’s easy enough to agree to disagree, there. Almost all my criticism has been of Eve Ensler and onebillionrising, which I DO think is capitalising on women’s pain to generate publicity for a frankly fairly horrible human being. I thought your article was just fine. My comments about

        I didn’t assume you were American, or rich, or white – as a matter of fact – I assumed you did the same thing to me.

        Um, maybe I’m not parsing this right, it’s scrambling my brain a bit. I don’t know if you’re saying I assumed you were rich, American and white, or if you’re saying I didn’t. For the record, I didn’t think you were white or American at all, and I try really hard not to assume anyone has money unless they say they do, specifically. I didn’t say in any of my comments that you’re privileged, or any such thing. I was only referring to Eve that way, because she IS privileged, and using that privilege in a skeevy way.

        In which case, what “qualifiers” do I have that are privileged, which you were talking about? If you weren’t assuming nationality/race/wev, what qualifiers did you have in mind here:

        In exactly the same vein, I [could] say the exact same thing: namely that your qualifiers are a privilege.

        I’m really not sure that assuming wasn’t exactly what you were doing to me.

        What do you think the role of, in this case, writers is or should be?

        I think that you, as a writer, are doing just fine in portraying or discussing suffering without putting on a colonialist bullshit lens. It’s Eve Ensler trying to pretend she’s an activist when she’s all feel-good woo-woo and loltransphobia that gets my goat.

        However, there is a fine line when sharing information about what they do and need. From your perspective what happens?

        I think that there’s detailed compassionate description of human suffering and then there’s poverty porn (or abuse porn in this case). For a good example of the first, in this context, see violenceunsilenced.com etc. Ensler’s trailer is pure “brown women get abused” pornography and it’s extremely sick-making; piled on a movement that’s essentially All Talk, it’s a fucking betrayal by a claimed feminist and I am never going to view it as anything but.

        You probably think that seeking overlap in how we are not instead of how we are is stupid.

        If you’re saying that finding universals is more important than admitting to differences, then yes. I don’t think that the Bonds Of Womanhood or whatever are going to be more important than every other axis of marginalisation, and if I said something like that to a disabled poor black trans woman in an inner-city (to pick an example of a woman more intersectionally fucked than I am) I hope that she’d slap me for being a privileged, clueless ditz.

    • October 13, 2012 at 10:58 am

      the value of genuinely raising the awareness of people who would NEVER in a million years either seek out information about violence of this nature

      Soraya, on a less annoyed note: “violence of this nature” is happening all over the world.

      Rape is not (solely) a third-world phenomenon.
      Domestic violence is not (solely) a third-world phenomenon.
      Abuse is not (solely) a third-world phenomenon.

      So when you say that white people are completely unaware of violence of this nature (not just highly specific things like FGM) and that they need graphic films of sexual abuse and violence to awaken them to the fact that they’re not excluded from worldwide statistics, you are being either really disingenuous or completely dismissive of white people’s identification as survivors/victims. Neither looks really good.

      Also, to jump immediately from my comment to “you’re calling all activists racist people with saviour complexes” is both baffling in terms of a conversation and kind of skeevy in terms of how you’re actually thinking of women in developing nations. Uh, we’re not all just passive victims waiting to be freed by the power of a nice booty-shakin’.

  7. October 12, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    And yes, I realize I am getting into the realm of, “Why can’t we just take the guest bloggers in good faith?” here, but, seriously, I am doing my utmost to respond to what has been written as best as I can understand it. And what I’m reading is increasingly bugging the hell out of me.

  8. FYouMudFlaps
    October 13, 2012 at 12:10 am

    Sometimes it can be a slippery slope from cultural relativism to racism. As in, there ARE times when relativism has no jurisdiction and the culture (as a whole, not targeting innocent individuals obviously) needs to be taken to task; I’m looking at you Jamaica and Russia for your grisly homophobia, and you too Central Africa for your FGM. Obviously if anyone takes that TOO far it can turn to outright racism. One is NEVER to target individuals who emigrate from say Cameroon and lambaste them for that country’s proliferation of sexism. I could totally picture some young, idealistic and sanctimonious white feminist doing something like protesting a Nigerian establishment and refusing to eat “FGM food” or something like that. That kind of stuff can’t go down, and at the same time, we can’t look away and whistle as Russia and Jamaica actively persecute its LGBT people.

    • October 13, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      This is getting away from the main topic, but, seriously, can we stop essentializing nations like this? Yes, Jamaica, for example, has a problem with prejudice against queer people (particularly gay men and I’m assuming probably trans women too) right now. The homophobia is real and dangerous. But can we stop singling out nations as if they represent the worst the planet has to offer? Or else maybe next time you should think of including Canada on that list, for our absolutely appalling racism toward and colonialist abuse of Aboriginal populations, which is also real and dangerous.

      Because somehow it’s always *certain* countries, usually poorer developing nations, that are held up as paragons of human rights violations. And, frankly, as bad as these things are, they are nothing that wasn’t going on in the more “developed” (said with utmost irony) nations within the last century, last few decades even (and, in some cases, as recently as right the fuck now). So let’s stop pushing the idea that it’s up to “first world” saviours who have it all figured out to go and save those poor backwards “third world” countries from themselves. Maybe we should A) stop fucking around those countries even more, with war and economic controls, which exacerbate the conditions that make it harder for the activists in these countries to challenge prevailing social norms and B) work on our own goddamned problems too, given that there are plenty of people in the US, Canada, the UK, etc., who are happy to actively persecute LGBT people as well.

      I want human rights violations to stop, obviously, but if history tells us anything, actual systemic change has to come from within the relevant context, and not because some self-righteous neighbour decides they know how to fix everything.

      • DonnaL
        October 13, 2012 at 1:26 pm

        I agree. There are few places worse and more dangerous for LGBT people (perhaps especially Jewish LGBT people!) right now than Russia, and to a lesser extent Poland, the Baltic states, etc., and they certainly aren’t Third World developing countries.

      • October 13, 2012 at 1:36 pm

        And I should recognize that FYouMudFlaps did mention Russia as well, and I definitely don’t want to downplay the dangers and differences in scope of violence in some regions.

    • doberman
      October 13, 2012 at 2:01 pm

      I don’t buy into the whole liberal concept of cultural relativism. Either something is a human rights violation or it’s not. This view that “that would be horrible if it happened here, but since it’s happening in another culture it’s fine” is laughable. People in other cultures don’t have some magical higher tolerance for being abused. Until liberalism gets that sorted out and stops pandering, it’ll be a laughing stock. And furthermore it’ll simply be overrun by cultural fascists, as we have seen in Europe.

  9. amblingalong
    October 13, 2012 at 12:30 am

    Incidentally, large portions of this article were reproduced, unattributed, from an article written by the authors of Sex and World Peace, available here. That’s plagiarism by any meaningful standard.

    Eve Ensler, who the author wants us to support, is a rape-apologist, a transphobe, and a colossal racist. She is a lot like Naomi Wolf, both in their sacred-vagina-moon-goddess ideology, and the way both of them cheapen the term feminism by applying it to themselves.

    • DonnaL
      October 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      I agree that the fourth paragraph of the post (following the introduction) is plagiarized — if you call paraphrasing the source you’re discussing plagiarism; the author does seem to have changed a few words here and there. I don’t think the rest of it is plagiarized, although I didn’t spend a lot of time comparing.

      I think this is a good discussion of the problematic aspects of the Vagina Monologues, including not only the essentialism and cissexism, but the rape apology (one of the monologues originally used the term “a good rape” to characterize the encounter that’s the subject of that monologue, which clearly was a case of statutory rape):

      http://ahousingjourney.tumblr.com/post/17760920061/vagina-monologues

      I also know that trans women trying out for productions of the play have been rejected when their trans history is “visible,” unless the production includes the optional “They Tried to Beat the Girl Out of My Boy” monologue, which I’ve never seen or read but the title of which is itself problematic.

      I have not been able to find anything at all that Eve Ensler herself has said or written that sounds transphobic, other than by implication.

      • DonnaL
        October 13, 2012 at 1:23 pm

        anything at all that Eve Ensler herself has said or written

        I mean, of course, outside the text of the Vagina Monologues itself, as in essays or speeches.

      • amblingalong
        October 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm

        I’m not sure it’s just paraphrasing; for example, one line in the original reads:

        What’s more, democracies with higher levels of violence against women are as insecure and unstable as nondemocracies.

        and a corresponding line in the author’s post reads:

        Democracies with high levels of violence against women are as insecure and unstable as non-democracies.

        The entirety of the changes was to make ‘higher’ into ‘high’ and add an (incorrect) dash.

        I’m not just looking for an excuse to attack the author here, but I do take plagiarism really seriously. I totally understand why other people might not have similarly strong feelings.

        Re: They Tried to Beat the Girl Out of My Boy, the story (in my opinion) is really problematic (and not just the name), though it does try.

        The biggest problem I see is that it represents the fundamental difficulty trans* people face as disliking the body they have, and once that difficulty is overcome, boom, no more problems. The main character has GRS and afterwards “People are so much nicer to me now” (because before, they thought the narrator was gay, and thus bullied her) and “My mother was worried what people would think of her, that she made this happen until I came to church And everyone said you have a beautiful daughter.” The father of the main character pays for the surgery. All this is in a story which Ensler wrote explicitly to try to encompass the experiences of all trans* people.

        So (again, from my cis perspective) the story is one which erases the fact that

        a) the discrimination faced by trans* people is not due to being mistaken for gay
        b) it does not end with transitioning
        c) not all trans* people do transition
        d) the family members of trans* people are not universally supportive of their identity or decision to transition

        Oh, and why does this trans* person identify as trans*? Because women “touch, pet, hug, help and hold;” they are “soft and listen.” Which is super gender essentialist and basically positions Eve Ensler’s personal ideology as the Real Reason For Trans*.

        As for her other writings/speeches, I think the parts that strikes me as really transphobic (and I totally defer to your judgment here if you disagree) is her positioning of the locus of womanhood as being genitalia-centered, and her erasure of the unique oppression trans* people face; she goes for a “well, we talked about sexism and homophobia, which sort of covers it” approach at times, which pisses me off.

        Frankly, I think she’s really sexist, as well, and really nasty towards asexual people. Even among cis*women, there are many, many people who don’t particular find their genital anatomy to be the most important aspect of their identity.

      • LotusBecca
        October 14, 2012 at 5:14 am

        They Tried to Beat the Girl out of My Boy was part of the Vagina Monologues that my college put on in 2008, and I went and saw it performed. I agree with pretty much everything you said here amblingalong. It’s a very stereotypical view. If only it being trans* were that easy. . .I know it hasn’t been for me, and I have many advantages that other trans* people don’t (being white, young-ish, having some financial stability, and a having relatively supportive family).

    • Soraya Chemaly
      October 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm

      Hi – not plagarism, but a formatting problem caused by multiple cut and pastes/edits/HTMLcoding/visualpreview/worddoc edits. The paragraph is almost identical because of that: it was initially a block quote (as appears here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/violence-against-women_b_1959746.html).

  10. steve
    October 13, 2012 at 2:52 am

    I always fear we are nearing a dangerous a tipping point when too many men have power. I feel like we need slightly more than half of the leaders in this country need to be women just to stay at a safe point.

    It will feel good to talk proudly of my own gender for once but I can’t as long as the rape and oppression of women and girls continues and men refuse to stand against it. I see too many men being rape apologist. If I have to choose a side, I’ll choose the side of the victims.

    • amblingalong
      October 13, 2012 at 6:35 am

      If I have to choose a side, I’ll choose the side of the victims.

      Let’s be careful not to erase the fact that a significant number of rape victims (~15%) aren’t women, m’kay?

      I always fear we are nearing a dangerous a tipping point when too many men have power.

      Not that I disagree with you re: needing more women in politics, but this is a kind of strange statement considering that there has never in the history of the country been anything like equal gender representation in government.

      • matlun
        October 13, 2012 at 7:15 am

        Not that I disagree with you re: needing more women in politics

        I kind of do, actually. As long as they come from the same culture with the same politics, the gender of the politicians matter very little IME. For example: Looking at the current crop of powerful US women, are they really that much better than the men?

      • amblingalong
        October 13, 2012 at 5:07 pm

        I don’t just see it as a means to an end, though. I totally agree that the idea that if only the US Senate had 50 female Senators, feminism would win and gender oppression would end for ever is… naive, at best. Sarah Palin becoming president would not fix sexism. But I do think having more women’s voices in places of political power is a valuable goal in and of itself.

    • yes
      October 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm

      You make a good point, Steve. We’re coming perilously close to having a largely male government. If only we could go back to the more evenly gender-balanced trends of the 1950’s.

  11. anna
    October 13, 2012 at 11:47 am

    “The very best indicator and predictor of a state’s peacefulness is not wealth, military expenditures or religion; the best predictor is how well its girls and women are treated. ”

    Even if it wasn’t, sexism would still be wrong.

    The best reason to treat girls and women like human beings is because they are human beings, not because it’s necessary for peace.

    • Beatrice
      October 13, 2012 at 12:00 pm

      I think the author got correlation and causation a bit mixed up.

      I’m not finding it unbelievable that there is a correlation between nation’s willingness to kill foreigners and nation’s willingness to treat their own “other” badly. But I don’t think there is causation there.

      Or are we supposed to accept some sort of biological determinism where women are loving and nurturing, while men are violent brutes?

      • EG
        October 13, 2012 at 12:59 pm

        I can imagine versions of causation that are not so essentialist:

        1) Societies that are peaceful and more stable have less of a need for scapegoating people, and so are more amenable to extending rights to women and girls.

        2) Societies that extend rights to women and girls are able to spread wealth more evenly (i.e. by not automatically excluding half of the population), thus causing less social conflict, thus generating less perceived need for violent solutions to internal problems, which would then get extended to international problems.

        Of course, I just made those up. They could both be so much horsefeathers. I haven’t done the research to know. I’m just saying that there could be causation that is less simplistic than “women are peaceful and nurturing.”

      • October 13, 2012 at 1:11 pm

        1) Societies that are peaceful and more stable have less of a need for scapegoating people, and so are more amenable to extending rights to women and girls.

        2) Societies that extend rights to women and girls are able to spread wealth more evenly (i.e. by not automatically excluding half of the population), thus causing less social conflict, thus generating less perceived need for violent solutions to internal problems, which would then get extended to international problems.

        Most likely it’s a system of complex multifaceted and reciprocal causality (with some correlation thrown in, but all correlation really means usually is that there are other factors which also simultaneously contribute both war and violence against women – we live in a causal reality!), as are most things we do.

        Personally, though, I do find the perspective of war/instability -> subjugation of/violence against women to be more compelling than the reverse. I completely reject the notion that women are somehow innately more peace-friendly and loving, etc, and if we were in charge the world would be a happier, better place. Bull. Shit. We’ve seen women in charge who buy into the same stupid bullshit that male leaders do, and make the same sort of short-sighted, self-serving, and outright cruel choices of what to do with that power.

        I do agree that more equal cultures are better for everyone to live in, but only because 1) stability and prosperity tend to *precede* pursuit of equality and 2) equality for women tends to be associated with broader ideals of equality for all. Not because gender constitutes the essential category of discrimination, which is such laughable horse-pucky I’m still having trouble accepting people can endorse that view with sincerity.

      • EG
        October 13, 2012 at 1:14 pm

        Agreed on every point, Jadey.

      • Beatrice
        October 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm

        But that doesn’t sound like causation to me.

        1) Societies that are peaceful and more stable have less of a need for scapegoating people, and so are more amenable to extending rights to women and girls.

        I might be wrong, but I don’t see causation here, in either direction. Just that there is a relation between the way society treats people outside and inside.

        2) Societies that extend rights to women and girls are able to spread wealth more evenly (i.e. by not automatically excluding half of the population), thus causing less social conflict, thus generating less perceived need for violent solutions to internal problems, which would then get extended to international problems.

        Again, there are a lot more factors.

        You could say similar things about treatment of minorities. Think of people of color in US. If they had better opportunities, there would be a more equal spreading of wealth like in your example.

        Would that have an influence on wars? Questionable. It might make a difference considering that a lot of people US likes to hate outside of its borders are not white.

        We’re basically just throwing hypotheses around. I would like to know what was the author’s idea behind this. It’s sort of just thrown in there and I’m not really sure how she has come to that conclusion.

        Admittedly, the “biological determinism” might have been a cheap shot, but I was going with the easiest explanation.

        (I had a surreal conversation yesterday with a woman who was trying to convince me that women are inherently more ethical and moral than men (but sadly, have gotten stupid lately, trying to emulate men instead of using their superior ethics). World peace was mentioned. So… I might have jumped on the author prematurely because that conversation came to mind.)

      • Beatrice
        October 13, 2012 at 1:23 pm

        Jadey,

        Good points.
        Regarding 1), I realize that I managed to completely erase things like rape used as weapon of war or expectations of women who stay behind their warrior husbands (women in military conveniently usually get forgotten too).
        So yeah, there can be seen a causation from war to bad treatment of women.

      • October 13, 2012 at 2:06 pm

        Personally, though, I do find the perspective of war/instability -> subjugation of/violence against women to be more compelling than the reverse. I completely reject the notion that women are somehow innately more peace-friendly and loving, etc, and if we were in charge the world would be a happier, better place.

        I don’t think the reverse implies that women are morally superior to men or that they are better leaders. One could explain the reverse by saying that, well, a society that treats women as lesser human beings is hypocritical, and hypocritical social attitudes are highly detrimental to society.

      • October 13, 2012 at 2:26 pm

        stability and prosperity tend to *precede* pursuit of equality

        I disagree; social welfare doesn’t merely precede equality. If you’re talking about equality of opportunity, then it’s literally impossible to have stability and prosperity without a harmony of interests in society. You can’t possibly have one without the other.

      • doberman
        October 13, 2012 at 2:41 pm

        If you’re talking about equality of opportunity, then it’s literally impossible to have stability and prosperity without a harmony of interests in society.

        On the contrary. Lack of “equality” (as it is commonly defined in social justice) doesn’t necessarily lead to disharmony of interests.

      • October 13, 2012 at 2:44 pm

        On the contrary. Lack of “equality” (as it is commonly defined in social justice) doesn’t necessarily lead to disharmony of interests.

        I’m not necessarily talking about the equal distribution of welfare, just so you know. Equality of opportunity and equality of distribution are not the same, although the former may imply some of the latter.

      • October 13, 2012 at 2:45 pm

        I don’t think the reverse implies that women are morally superior to men or that they are better leaders. One could explain the reverse by saying that, well, a society that treats women as lesser human beings is hypocritical, and hypocritical social attitudes are highly detrimental to society.

        Yes, I agree that this does not directly follow. I was more harkening back to other comments above which had suggested this would be the case, and the OP which seemed to be sliding in this direction as well, though less obviously.

        I disagree; social welfare doesn’t merely precede equality. If you’re talking about equality of opportunity, then it’s literally impossible to have stability and prosperity without a harmony of interests in society. You can’t possibly have one without the other.

        I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to suggest that one only “merely” preceded the other. Complex reinforcing systems, again, and I absolutely agree that you need both working together for the full achievement of either. But I do tend to see strong instability/pronounced militarism as a pretty strong factor working against the pursuit of expanding civil rights for a lot of reasons, which is why I find the idea of arguing the complete opposite (i.e., make people respect women as a way to end wars) completely absurd and unworkable.

      • doberman
        October 13, 2012 at 2:50 pm

        I’m not necessarily talking about the equal distribution of welfare, just so you know. Equality of opportunity and equality of distribution are not the same, although the former may imply some of the latter.

        I understood what you meant. Believe me, I’m fundamentally opposed to equality of distribution.

        What I mean is that it may be possible for people to embrace inequality of opportunity if they see it as beneficial to the society they live in.

      • October 14, 2012 at 12:24 am

        @Jadey, doberman:

        No disagreement here.

      • Soraya Chemaly
        October 13, 2012 at 1:31 pm

        That’s why I said “indicator” – the studies referenced in the book – and there are lots of them – all openly deal with issues of causality and correlations. The authors of the book also clearly believe that their findings are preliminary to a lot more more before they should be considered authoritative.

  12. Omar
    October 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    So… the practice of bachay baazee and Abu Ghraib was really a humiliating attack on women in America?

  13. Bagelsan
    October 13, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Aside from all the great stuff that commenters have brought up above… it kind of bugged me that Malala Yousafzai was the intro to this post. I couldn’t quite understand what she’s being held up as an example of. That the Taliban are assholes? That girls and women are treated badly? That last one’s true everywhere; most girls who get shot in other countries don’t become examples of what beasts their menfolk are, though.

  14. Alara Rogers
    October 15, 2012 at 11:06 am

    I have a sneaking suspicion that, while women are just as capable as men of being asshats, the nature of human warfare and human violence suggests that a society *has* to at least start out by being extremely misogynistic in order to develop a militaristic outlook. Once such an outlook exists, women can be recruited into it. But every highly militarized society in human history has had one of two things (or both) true about it:

    – it is misogynistic and presents warlike behavior as “masculine”, in opposition to “feminine” behavior, which is seen as more peaceful and also weaker and more likely to be victimized
    – it sees itself as being under threat to its survival.

    Societies where they strongly feel like, if they don’t fight, everyone around them will kill them… those have in the past, and currently, managed to be highly militaristic without excluding women from either society in general, or the war effort in particular. But aggressive societies, conquering societies, societies plagued by warlords and dictators and military juntas… you don’t see women in those armies. Women may rule the nation, but generally because they were related to a powerful man, not because they were democratically elected on their own merits.

    So it’s not that women are better people than men. It’s that human women perceive war as a thing you do when you are under direct threat, and human men perceive war as a thing you do to distinguish yourselves from women, and this exists in so many cultures from so many different places around the world it’s hard not to imagine that it’s at least partially hard-wired. Any given woman in our world, which has glorified war for so long, is just as capable as any given man of being a hawk, of being a soldier, of committing wartime atrocities… but, in aggregate, women don’t do this unless they are deliberately trying to seek power that has been reserved to men only, or unless they see their society as under attack and war a necessity for safety.

    So I do think there’s causality — or at the least a really really strong correlation because they’re both caused by the same factors. Societies that oppress women use war as a means for men to identify themselves as not-women… and societies that oppress women strenuously use violence to do it, as opposed to mere social opprobrium. People are more willing to fight social opprobrium for freedom than the possibility of being beaten or murdered. So you have a society where men, in general, are socialized to believe that beating or killing the person they love for disobedience is an acceptable idea, and backed up by the law… this leads to a society where men are comfortable with violence. And you have a society where men are taught that they are better than women, and that they prove this superiority by being more violent and ruthless… that leads to more war and internal conflict.

    You can’t affect one without the other. If you could snap your fingers and magically give women equal rights without addressing the cultural issues, *maybe* the culture would remain as warlike… but since the women in those cultures were already raised to think of themselves as more peaceful, giving them equal rights would probably automatically lead to a less warlike society. And what’s more realistic is that in the course of women fighting for their rights, the society changes, and stops forcing men to prove their masculinity through violence.

    We’ve never seen a society where women dominate, so it’s hard to imagine what that would even be like. But we have seen that all militaristic societies who are not under obvious external threat employ misogyny to “toughen” men into people who can kill. I don’t think women are better than men, but I do think that human warfare — as opposed to mere aggression — is a direct outgrowth of the oppression of women, and that in an equal society, maybe we would still punch each other in the nose on occasion but we would not organize into large groups for the specific purpose of killing other people, unless those people were actively and obviously trying to kill us.

    • matlun
      October 15, 2012 at 12:32 pm

      I am not sure I agree with this. If you really are a primitive tribe in a long time warlike situation, simple survival dictates that men are the warriors and are being killed off while the women have to be continually pregnant to ensure the continuation of the tribe. It is a very depressing type of society (and also a bit of an exaggeration), but it is a pattern that has been seen in many early societies. I think this starting point explains many of the reasons that so many societies have developed the same type of misogynistic tropes.

      The interesting question is that now that we live in a different environment where these types of survival strategies are not needed, how do we change the culture to a better one? How do we succeed in abandoning all this old baggage?

  15. Alara Rogers
    October 15, 2012 at 11:15 am

    That last one’s true everywhere; most girls who get shot in other countries don’t become examples of what beasts their menfolk are, though.

    Most girls in other countries who get shot are not shot specifically because they are girls agitating for the right to have an education.

    The US, Britain, Japan, Brazil, all kinds of places in the world suffer from systemic misogyny and the oppression of women, but none of them have organized terrorist groups running around with the support of elements within the government who kill women solely for wanting an education. This goes beyond societal oppression of women and misogyny into outright and literal warfare against women… not like the Republicans and their proxy war using the law, but literal war, with guns and soldiers.

    That being said, most Pakistani reactions I have heard of are utterly horrified. The actions of the Taliban reflect on the Taliban. Malala presumably has male relatives who are either actively supporting her or not standing in her way, since in Pakistan male relatives have a lot of legal power to control women — if her male relatives agreed that she should not have an education, she would be unlikely to be able to blog or be an activist. Malala’s menfolk are not beasts. But she lives in a country which contains organized anti-woman terrorist groups that are emboldened by considerable public support, and *those* are evil fuckheads (I won’t even besmirch animals by calling them beasts.) The rest of us are fortunate enough to live in places where the violence has to be contained within the family, or be plausibly deniable as the actions of a rogue individual, or involves using the law to try to infringe on female bodies and biology… and those things are pretty damn awful but not even in the same league as being shot by an organized team of strangers for arguing that people like you should get an education.

  16. CH
    October 15, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    Great article, (only slightly compromised by mention Ensler’s 1billionrising nonsense). I don’t think other intersections of oppression were dismissed or given short shrift. The writer has the courage of her convictions and stays on topic: *gender* violence and its relation to global conflict/war. Thank you.

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