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1,000 Words. More to Come

May
13
2004

Having flashed the rude, sexually predatory and patently unattractive side of Western feminism at the world, Pfc. Lynndie England is now retreating into a role that’s easy for all of us – East and West, male and female — to understand. She’s the plebe, the tool of higher authority.


Five months pregnant with another reserve officer’s child, she may well get away with painting herself as a victim. And yes, it is very difficult to believe that what happened at Abu Ghraib wasn’t somehow condoned. The timing of Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller’s visits, the references to “Gitmo-izing” – are unsettling if not suspicious. And it’s perfectly possible that England was encouraged by her superiors, older, more experienced men from home, to pose the way she did.
But why? Every women I know has asked that question. And none seem to have the answers. At least no answers that comfort them.
So let’s consider some ugly possibilities.
The Bush Adminstration’s decision to equate the World Trade Center bombings with Iraq and to convince Americans that some how, some way, Saddam Hussein was involved, is the root of this little bit of ugliness. All that talk about crusades and saving civilization, all the accusations on the web about appeasement for those who opposed the war? It’s created a climate that is rhetorically ugly and vengeful. Throw in the cavalier treatment the U.S. has been dishing out toward its perceived enemies – does anyone still believe John Walker Lindh wasn’t tortured? – at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and it’s not hard to see the path England and her fellow Abu Ghriab “guards” followed. Reading the “tit-for-tat” comments around Nick Berg’s murder – and there was something very, very funny going on with that guy – you can see, the us v. them stuff hasn’t stopped. It’s just racheting up. On both sides. We are all losing our way.
The U.S. went to “liberate” Iraq, remember? It’s getting harder and harder to think that wasn’t just an excuse, as Joe Klein observes this week, to launch our little jihad for our own little obscure reasons. I know that’s not what’s being said. But that’s what was heard by a lot of people; even some very smart people, world travelers, sophisticates who should know – and think — better. The Trade Center’s collapse blinded many and made them want revenge. And that’s what’s really captured in those photos. American rage. And fear. A deep, horrible fear.
Now, Pfc. England and her boyfriend and superior, Cpl. Charles Graner are no world travelers. She may be able to hunt and shoot with the boys back home but lemme tell ya, she wouldn’t know an Sunni from a Shia, let alone a Hindu from a Sikh. Did you notice that most of the faces we’ve seen from the 372nd Military Police Company are white? And, by the standards of many people in the U.S. – particularly the kind of people who are going to read this – poor? Ever been in a doublewide trailer? They shake when a hard wind blows. And prison guards, well, let’s just skim Fox Butterfield’s piece on U.S. prisons and level with the observation that Graner, a white guy, probably oversaw a population that was mostly black, maybe even Muslim.
A 21-year-old far away from home, fearful and very much wanting the approval of older, more secure men – men she or even he knows from the comfort of home – might indeed behave the way England behaved. Here’s something else: Maybe she did it for love or sex. And maybe she can’t tell the difference. The S&M aura that comes off of those photos – the leash, the grinning, the cigarette hanging from England’s lips – is almost palpable. Now, I live in San Francisco where they sell latex body suits in storefront windows and where a little leather, well, that’s cause for a summer street fair. But, well, this community is known for its tolerence, sexual and otherwise.
S&M isn’t the natural outgrowth of the feminist movement. But once again, the pictures of feminine physical superiority – the conscious ridicule of men accustomed to asserting a powerful, unquestioned and unchallenged role in their society, is what we have shown the world. The sex role reversal upsets us – the idea that women can be so horrible topples our illusions about the better nature of the so-called fairer sex — but think about what it looks like in a place where women are regarded without rancor or hatred as powerless. And think, too, about the fear of sexual humiliation and of women at the heart of World Trade Center bomber Mohammed Atta’s farewell message.
These are the fears of men who don’t understand why their world must change because they see that change – embodied by women in t-shirts and camo pants – as a direct threat to their existence. In a world where people work their brains, not their hands, there is no guarantee of superiority based on physical strength. It is a rude and sudden change and it’s one we are ushering in – even without Lynndie England’s help – suddenly and without much sympathy.
The fear of sexual humiliation – a means of coping with the threat that feminism’s economic power gives women – is one that Western culture is still grappling with. Poorly, too. Idiots like Ann Coulter, an upper class example of someone who takes advantage of the economic freedom feminism gives while exploiting sex role stereotyping from another era – say Abu Ghriab is proof that women are “too vicious” to serve in the military. If only that were true, we’d probably have world peace. Talk about your mutual destruction pacts.
No, women aren’t too vicious to serve. Like men, placed in horrible situations, they behave horribly. Oh, baby, you’ve come a long, long way. And we have — we all have — so very much further to go.

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