Monday, April 18, 2011

Summary: Myers and Enloe

Peril in War Zones by Myers

Myers begins her piece with a story about a female soldier, Captain White. She was sexually abused and stalked by a man at her compound. There are several issues surrounding women's new found role in combat and in the military in general. Sexual harassment and abuse is one of the most widely publicized issues. The structure and outside pressures that act on these unusual living situations complicate things much more. Many men assume they won't be punished for their misdeeds because everyone should focus their attention on the life and death situation at hand. This is similar to Enloe's point in her article "Whom Do You Take Seriously," when she cites the numerous tactics governments have for disqualifying women's issues. In this case, it's a life or death situation so someone complaining about a stalker clearly doesn't rank on the list of high priorities. Obviously something is happening to keep women from reporting because only a mere 10% of cases are thought to be reported. Part of the problem is also seniority and the hierarchical system that plays out in the military. Reporting sexual abuse could have a very negative impact on a women's career. It can make her seem like more of a problem than she's worth. One woman who reported her abuse was discharged on honorable terms but still holds bitter feelings about reporting the abuse because she feels like her career would be on a different track had she said nothing at all. There has been an 8% increase in the incidence of sexual abuse in the military since 2008, however, some officials at the Pentagon claim that this is because of increased reporting rather than incidence. That would be a positive thing because it would mean that people are comfortable and don't believe there will be negative consequences for reporting their abuse. The fact that I found most disheartening after reading the article was that a woman soldier is more likely to be raped than killed in enemy fire. Women should be fearful of what the enemy can do to her, not what can be done to her by her own comrades. However, this is not only a crime committed against women. 10% of the victims were actually men, which is probably a much lower number considering the masculine, heterosexual culture of the military and the unlikelihood of men reporting something they find potentially shameful and embarrassing. I think it is definitely important to note that this is not strictly a women's issue, and that men can be affected just as much. I find it very disappointing that people who should be comrades and friends perform such vicious acts of violence on one another. It breaks the bonds between soldiers who should form one united front.

Living and Fighting Alongside Men by Myers

This article focuses more on the changes that have occurred on military bases to accommodate women, and also those that have not. The military has become much more in tune to the idea of women living on the bases with men. Women have their own showers and bathrooms, health services and CHU's. The military has also become more open to the idea of sex and dating by selling condoms at the convenience store. However, women still find issues with what remains a predominantly male culture. Sgt. Cloukey, a female soldier, confided that there is a certain amount of loneliness and isolation in being one of the few women fighting alongside men. She claims that she sometimes felt like a plague invading the macho male culture. It seems that many women have had to adapt. This reminded me of women's tactics in business to "act like a man." Many of the female soldiers have essentially taken on the role of a female with all males and done it with serious grace. A woman said that she just does what the boys do, sleep on the floor with all the other male soldiers and creating a contraption that allowed her to pee standing up without having to find bushes or create a disruption and distraction. These women adapting to the predominantly male culture as the military tries to adapt to their new role in combat and at the bases.

All the Men are in the Militias, All the Women are Victims by Enloe

Enloe starts with the story of Borislav Herak who lived in Sarajevo and was ethnically Serbian. However, his family was a large mix of Serbs and Muslims. Herak led a rather depressing life, pushing a cart around a textile factory and looking at porn for pleasure in his free time. He was not a violent man and yet something enticed him into joining a Serbian militia. He was charged with mass rape of Bosnian Muslim women and murder at the end of the war. Enloe points out that Herak was never necessarily a violent man and questions what led him to such extremes. She points out that Herak is a man and that masculinity and femininity have serious effects in nationalist wars. Enloe says that men's experiences are notably more often documented because they are seen to be the "crucial shapers" of action and since men and women go through roughly the same experience, men might be easier to track. However, Enloe believes this is wrong and states that women have just as much of a role in nationalist mobilization as anyone else, perhaps an even bigger role. She says that women's everyday decisions about what to cook, wear, whether to use contraceptives and who gets to stay in school determine much more than we could imagine. Decision making is power and even if those decisions are made in the home and thought to be trivial, they have a great effect. She says that by making Bosnian problems specifically gendered, we make all women victims. In fact, some men were more silenced and oppressed than their female counterparts.
Enloe goes on to explore how nationalist identity becomes instilled in citizens and how that in turn creates the warrior identity. She claims that this is a serious social construct and not a coincidence or natural phenomenon in the least. Men see themselves as masculine and needing to go to war based on propaganda, but also the roles that are assigned to women. The more femininity is defined as patriotism, respectability and attractiveness, the more men are lined up to be the fighters. When women are seen as the mothers of soldiering sons, the more the men are pigeon holed into being soldiers.
Enloe turns to Browning's research of the Nazi governments special police force and what it took to turn those men into mass killers. Not only that, but what kept them from raping their victims when the Serbs seemed to do so so often. Browning's research shows that most of the men in the force were not initially particularly anti-Semitic in their conception of German nationalism. He found that it took a steady stream of psychological battering to turn this men into killers. He states that it was the bureaucratic relationship among soldiers of different ranks, the relationship between officers and their troops, and the type of masculine friendship among soldiers. Enloe also looks at the "Tailhook Report" from 1991 that looked into male fighter pilots continual habit of harassing women. The superiors of these fighter pilots claimed that they were a specific breed of men and that they needed to drink excessively and chase after women if they were going to be able to fight well. This seems to me a lot like many of the excuses for men raping women. The excuse that men are naturally sexual creatures who need to be satisfied and can't be blamed if a woman tempts them.
Enloe includes an excerpt from an interview with Herak asking why he raped the Bosnian Muslim women. He essentially says that he only did it because he was told to and didn't want to be moved to the front lines where the fighting was more dangerous. It was supposed to be a bonding activity but he says it did not act as such. Most of the men felt guilty afterwards and none of them spoke of the event. Enloe closes her article by questioning how this stereotype of women as victims and men as members of the militia will continue to shape culture in the postwar society. She says that this social construct involved in creating this system will be very interestingly taken apart. Although she is unsure where this will lead the culture, she is curious about what it will mean for our notions of masculinity and femininity.

Spoils of War by Enloe

Enloe begins this piece by remembering an event from September 1995 when a 12 year old girl was raped in Okinawa by three U.S. Marines. A clearly unthinking Admiral Richard Macke essentially showed no remorse for the girl but said that his men were stupid because they could have bought a girl to have sex with and it would have caused much less trouble. Enloe points out that although we focus heavily on rape in wartime, we still condone explicit prostitution. We see it as a necessary outlet for soldiers and officials work together to figure out ways to allow men blatant access to women. She also notes that we pit women against one another. While we have sympathy for women and girls who are raped in wartime, we basically say that women who prostitute themselves to soldiers are acceptable and below ourselves. This is much like Susan Douglas saying that the climate and culture is to pit women against each other so we don't see the fact that the violence is really being done to us by society and cultural norms. Enloe states that all women are trying to support children and families and that we should have more empathy for whatever way a women tries to make this happen. The final note that Enloe ends on is that we should essentially see rape and prostitution in the military not as separate, but as connected.

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