Carrie Wooten

Patriarchal Brainwashing and the Harm it Can Cause

Filed By Carrie Wooten | October 07, 2006 12:20 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
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I was reading this story on news.google.com today. Apparently, Guantanamo still isn't being as hospitable to its detainees as the naval officers who work there might otherwise have us believe. Surprise, surprise. However, this wasn't what caught my attention. The article briefly discussed the investigation into the treatment of the prisoners back in 2004 and 2005 when this type of abuse first became publicly known. Here's a clip:

"...they confirmed abusive and degrading treatment of a suspected terrorist at Guantanamo Bay that included forcing him to wear a bra, dance with another man and behave like a dog."

Isn't it interesting that traditionally heteronormative female behavior like wearing a bra and dancing with another man are considered "abusive and degrading" to men. So much so, in fact, that they are used as torture methods?

Now, don't get me wrong, my point here is not to propose that these men weren't being tortured. I merely wish to highlight the disturbing and dangerous perspectives about women that seemingly permeate our armed forces.

Traditionally female behaviors are being demonstrated in a way that says women are no better than dogs. Anything "feminine" is viewed as abhorent to (male) soldier pride and dignity. It is "humiliating" for a man to act like a woman, and even moreso to actually force a man to. Even the author of the breaking news story above says so.

There is also not a gender-based reversal of this treatment. Female prisoners are never made to wear men's underwear, have mustaches or beards drawn on their faces, and start dancing around with their fellow female inmates. Rather, sexual terrorism is the technique of choice when dealing with women. So the domination of both male and female prisoners hindges on attempting to prove inherent weakness or subordination. A male prisoner is already in a highly acute state of inferiority, yet soldiers will push this further by making him act like a woman, thus, in their eyes, displaying the ultimate presentation of subjucation.

Obviously this attitude isn't relegated purely to the military, but is pervasive throughout our society and the world, as demonstrated by drawing clear battle lines between the sexes from a very young age in order to maintain the system of domination and subordination. But I think that they way we approach training our troops, and the fact that service to the country is still primarily a boy's club where women in uniform continue to be treated like sexual objects instead of fellow soldiers, only allows further perversion of how we treat women and men here at home and around the globe.

How can we demand the utmost respect of our soldiers around the world, when they've repeatedly proven themselves capable of being so brutal and mysogynistic?


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While I think you're on to something here I think we need to be careful not to paint with too wide of a brush. Not all soldiers are "brutal and misogynistic," just as not all women in the military are treated as sex objects. There are many fine, upstanding military men and women that serve the country heroically day in and day out for substandard pay and in horrible working conditions.

I also think that part of the power that the military is able to wield over the Guantanamo prisoners as it regard to the "female torture techniques" is simply that the simple act of wearing a bra or having to dance with a man is considered one of the ultimate degradation in Muslim societies. This is a culture where the women have to be covered up from head to toe and love between men results in death if the government or neighbors find out! Their fear of all things female sadly makes for an effective torture technique!

I guess what I'm saying is that while ANY torture technique - whether it degrades females in general or just the victim specifically - is ultimately the most embarrassing to our national psyche. We shouldn't be engaging in torture to start with! But playing on cultural prejudices against a group of people that we claim to give full civil rights to does take the cake.

Perhaps we'd be better off teaching the "infidels" (Remember when BushCo told us the war was a "crusade?") our beliefs on women in society - which while not perfect are a step above theirs - instead of bending and twisting the Geneva Conventions to allow for torture of foreign inmates who have never even been charged with a crime.

Bruce Parker II | October 8, 2006 4:33 PM

Bill,

You say:

"I also think that part of the power that the military is able to wield over the Guantanamo prisoners as it regard to the "female torture techniques" is simply that the simple act of wearing a bra or having to dance with a man is considered one of the ultimate degradation in Muslim societies."

I would agree with you however I would edit your statement by removing simply. Because the "simple" truth of the matter is that one of the ultimate degradation in White Christian Society (Read as American) is also being feminized in those ways. Even many gay men look down on drag queens and would themselves never dream of donning women's clothes. Drag can be read as an ultimate example of gay men making fun of femininity by exagerating it.

Perhaps as you accuse Carrie of using a big brush to paint with you would also do well to purchase some smaller brushes yourself there hot boy. Maybe, I will buy you one for your birthday.

Bruce