Naomi Wolfe has a “profoundly superficial” OP up at the Guardian about rape of female military members. And as sophomoric and shallow as she is on the subject, her halfwit commenters are just a parade of bigotry – anti-military bigotry, anti-male bigotry – they just reek. I was going to post a comment but it would have been pointless. The thread was just a hate-fest full of hate speech. So let’s focus on her article. She’s not doing military rape victims any favors.
Her article is superficial because:
- She focuses on male-on-female rape and sexual assault to the exclusion of anything else. In fact men assault women much less frequently than women do in the military – a friend of mine who was in the Army back in the early 70’s said she always had much more to fear from the lesbians than from any man because the lesbians knew they could get away with it. The men in charge didn’t care enough to do anything to stop them. (Women can’t rape, right? Or if they do, it’s really, really rare; nothing to see hear, move along. Where else do we hear that?) Of course Wolfe would not have made this obvious mistake if she had actually ever spoken to any military women, or really just knew anything at all about military life.
- She believes the military’s numbers, and the military services cook their numbers to suit their public opinion objectives. Considerations of what benefits the collective and the organization have always, and necessarily, outweighed any of justice for individuals – not that a privileged civilian like Wolfe would know anything about that. And just now that requires bigging up the problem so they don’t get accused of a cover-up, although Wolfe is too uniformed to keep from making exactly that accusation, as when she says “The numbers around the level of sex assault in the military are staggering.” It is part of “a military culture that promotes sex crime witch hunts for political reasons.” This kind of thing goes way back into the 40s. That should be no surprise to anyone; the military was just mirroring civilian society where lynchings based on rape accusations were standard practice.
- She makes uniformed comparisons like this “So, our women veterans are more likely to be traumatized by a sex assault by a fellow soldier, or a commander, than by their own battlefield or war experiences.” Well of course they are. Why does she think combat-related PTSD among female soldiers would not reflect the same incidence as other combat-related injuries among them – very low in comparison to their male peers?
- She lives in a civilian bubble and speculates rather than investigates, so she says inane things like this:
“The reaction to the film is an interesting Rorschach test for the country – revealing its attitudes to women, violence, sex and sexual violence. On the one hand, women in the military face rape and cover-up, as related by The Invisible War, because of an aggressive patriarchal culture. That military culture is a traditional one. In this time-honored, empire-honed culture, war is a manly space; women are interlopers and thus “fair game”, or else they are controlled and exploited as camp followers and sex workers.”
Hey Wolfe, in war everyone is an interloper and is fair game. And if you knew half as much about the patriarchy as you think you do, you would know that chivalry and the protection of women is a the core of it. Back to lynching – that was patriarchy on parade.
“Exploited as camp followers”? Camp followers lived off off the camps they followed. Who exactly is exploiting whom? But that not the kind of question that is even going to occur to someone with the anti-military and misandrist assumptions of someone like Wolfe. It’s obviously far more satisfying to wallow in comfortable mythologies.
Rape in the military is a serious issue however many few victims there are – multitudes, many, few or very few – the numbers don’t matter. It corrodes unit cohesiveness and destroys individual soldiers. It requires real counter-measures, and those require real analysis. Civilians can be as helpful in this effort as anyone, as long as they are not lazy and ignorant and shallow. Wolfe’s ham-fisted and ignorant attempt just muddies the water. It is the opposite of helpful.
What would a useful analysis look like? At a minimum it would:
Address the re-designation of women in the military as virtual men. In the Army at least and probably throughout the military women who complete the same training as men are generally considered the equals of those men. (Thus the donnybrooks over admissions to various schools and programs.) Once they come out of whatever training it is, they are functionally equals because presumably they have been formed by that training the same as the men. This is mirrored in the social realm, where military men and women form two genders on the one hand while spouses, female and male, form another, or two other genders. This is reflected in the language and in custom. Examples provided upon request.
Address the consequences of women being treated like men. Those are:
The presumption of consent. One of the obstacles to empathy that male victims of rape face is that they are presumed as males to always be up for sex, always be thinking of nothing but sex, and thus to be in a permanent state of consent. That holds for all men in this culture, and it is the main reason for the low levle of reporting on rapes by women. Because their rape wasn’t rape, it was consensual sex, so they have nothing to report. This also explains why the standard definitions of rape define away rape of men by women. And since military women are virtual men, they get the same treatment – denial and dismissal of their rapes.
The expectation of fight-to-the-death defense. Women get expected to react to a sexual come-on the way a man would – with homophobic fury. “You’re a troop, right? How come you didn’t kick the shit out of him? (“Cause if you can’t kick ass on one lone rapist, then what do the Soviets/AQ/Taliban have to fear from you?)”
Denial. It’s easy when you see a woman dressed exactly the same as a man – not woman-cut jeans, but EXACTLY the same cut of ACUs –to forget that she really still is a woman with many basic similarities to civilian women. That means that women are going to be targeted for sexual assault simply because more men are more interested in sex with women.
I have never seen an article anywhere that listed these points, let alone dealt with them. It would be a start. The military is reforming out some of the aspects of toxic masculinity that it is finally finding problematic as it finally starts to deal, however limpingly, with the epidemic of suicide and PTSD. That’s a start. The points I list above are another aspect of the oppressive male gender role most people, male and female, grow up with as normal.
The military is uniquely equipped and empowered to re-enculturate people. They do it all the time. Time to get up off their ass.
- The Woman Card - May 2, 2016
- Frat boy bachelorettes and the invasion of gay bars - April 15, 2016
- “Not my kid….” - February 22, 2016