The prisoner-abuse scandal in Abu Ghraib, Iraq was heavily publicized at the time. Though media-supplied rationalizations abound, at the time, even certain feminists were forced to admit that the behavior of certain female soldiers toward Iraqi prisoners could not easily be dismissed.
Says Kathleen Parker:
“The American women of Abu Ghraib have put to eternal rest any notion that girls are made of sugar ‘n’ spice and prompted a flurry of possible answers to the question: How could women have done such things? . . . Some feminists have expressed deep disappointment to discover that women can be just as bad as men. Barbara Ehrenreich wrote that a certain kind of feminism – a feminist naiveté – died in Abu Ghraib. No longer could men be viewed as perpetual perpetrators and women as perpetual victims. Activists in the men’s movement – some of them victims of domestic violence – expressed no surprise. ‘What happened in Abu Ghraib is no isolated incident, no aberration,’ wrote Ray Blumhorst for MensNewsDaily.com. ‘I have little doubt that all of the females implicated at Abu Ghraib will have little trouble finding jobs in the multibillion-dollar VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) domestic violence industry, just as soon as ‘American, gender feminist justice’ rationalizes away all their misbehavior.”
To illuminate the sexism Blumhorst is referring to here, imagine that “some masculists” had “expressed deep disappointment to discover that men can be just as dumb as women.” Now do we see the sexism?
The shock contained in the question “How could women have done such things?” is scarcely any different from the Victorian conviction “A woman is not capable of such a thing”—a conviction that sheltered Lizzie Borden (who: “took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks/When she saw what she had done, gave her father forty-one”) from legal accountability in a Massachusetts court room well over a century ago.
The feminist naiveté is humanity’s naiveté with regard to the dark side of Woman’s human nature. And that naiveté most definitely did not die in Abu Ghraib. National Coalition For Men (NCFM) member Ray Blumhorst is right of course; the culture enlisted “experts” to perform whatever ideological sleight of hand necessary to protect the myth of female moral superiority.
Mary Jo Malone for the St. Petersburg Times expresses the standard female chauvinist perspective:
“I can’t get that picture of [Lynndie] England out of my head because this is not how women are expected to behave. Feminism taught me 30 years ago that not only had women gotten a raw deal from men, we were morally superior to them. When it came to distinguishing right from wrong, the needle of our compass always pointed to true north. Our thinking was hardly radical. Victorian was more like it: Men were competitive and dangerous, women cooperative and comforting. Men were brutish, women gentle.”
No, this is not how women are expected to behave, certainly not within a culture as female chauvinist as is the feminist culture. By contrast, how does society react to male chauvinism?
Larry Summers, then president of Harvard University, had only to suggest that biological factors might constitute one of the reasons for Man’s ongoing dominance in math and science, and it was enough to take him down. Any notion of male superiority is attacked with a vengeance. Meanwhile, as the “How could women have done such things?” reaction to Abu Ghraib makes clear, feminists have felt scant challenge to assumptions of female superiority.
I observe the positive stereotypes regarding men (intellect, competence, prestige; toughness, strength, courage) plummeting while the positive stereotypes of women (beauty, grace, goodness; home, family, parenting) diminish only a little. Moreover, I’m seeing women’s presumed innocence diminish more within the false reality of the movie screen (in which fictional characters face no real consequences), than in the true reality of a court of law (for the same crime, men still suffer a 63% longer average prison sentence while women more often receive probation).
Sally Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, quotes more of Ehrenreich’s musings in the wake of Abu Ghraib:
“Feminist strategy Ehrenreich wrote, ‘rested on the assumption, implicit or stated outright, that women were morally superior to men. We had a lot of debates over whether it was biology or conditioning that gave women the moral edge — or simply the experience of being a woman in a sexist culture. But the assumption of superiority, or at least a lesser inclination toward cruelty and violence, was more or less beyond debate.’ That assumption made strategy easy. Given the moral superiority of women, one simply puts as many women as possible into positions of power and, by some strange invisible female hand, we will have a better society than the version offered by morally inferior, inherently violent men.”
Men are assumed to be more inclined toward “cruelty,” and “morally inferior” and “inherently violent” yet it is also assumed that “the experience of being a woman in a sexist culture” stands alone as a uniquely female experience?
Should the sexist myth of female moral superiority ever really fade away, it will come as part of a massive gender paradigm shift that; apparently, we’re still not ready for. Truth be told, the goings on at Abu Ghraib (2004) faded from memory a long time ago. Every decade, the culture undergoes this same amnesia regarding women behaving badly. Even so, I assume that the ManBad/WomanGood myth is destined to diminish over time. As women become obligated to do the things men have always done, women become what men have always been. As the veil of protection lifts, the true human nature of Woman is revealed. And, as women climb ever higher up various success ladders, the need for female accountability rises apace.
Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher—the more women leaders there are, the more women we have sending men off to war in the usual numbers. But shouldn’t female leaders be sending females off to war? Charges of “draft evasion” have plagued many candidates, including presidential candidate Bill Clinton. But aren’t all female candidates “draft evaders”? We denigrate men for being “warlike,” then turn around and imprison men for “draft dodging.” We denigrate soldiers as the violent cause of war, then execute those same men for “cowardice” should they run away from violence.
Is it feminism’s intention to replace male leaders with female leaders while men remain the cannon fodder? Will imprisoning men remain a “growth industry” even as pressure mounts to abolish female prisons entirely? Would such an arrangement be justified because men really do have less human value? Are men really just no damn good? I have a radical notion: it’s not men who are evil; it’s the high-power judgment microscope through which men are viewed, that’s what’s evil.
- Tim Goldich