I was all fired up the other day to write about the heinous way women are treated in Afghanistan; the brutal absurdity of imprisoning women for being raped and of forcing them to marry the men who raped them; and how unhealthy it is for a society to give men absolute power over women. I was going to write about how conflicted I am about our leaving Afghanistan: Is it good to leave them to themselves, or is it bad since, obviously, the women aren’t much better off after our ten-year offensive. I even intended to bring in World War II and how we didn’t leave Europe, another scene of debilitatingly horrific acts of violence, until we had defeated Hitler and the evil of his regime.
Then my partner said that I should think about how many women in the military are raped. “Google ‘rape military.’” Then he mentioned a female soldier who accused a man (working for a contractor) of raping her, and how he got off with barely a slap on the wrist. And her, he said, she was jailed.
He’s right: All the wrongs committed against women cannot be dropped on the laps of Afghani men. We can’t just pooh-pooh the men of Afghanistan who conceal women behind burkas and walls, and who torch their schools, and rape them with bestial impunity, because the rest of the world doesn’t exactly present a shining example of gentlemanly behavior.
Women in the Congo, Bosnia, Kuwait, Sudan, Sri Lanka, and Rwanda have been raped as a course of war, as they have been during other conflicts, and throughout history. Reports of Libyan soldiers raping citizens have surfaced, as have sexual assaults by Egyptian police against demonstrators.
I googled “us military rape statistics,” and 2,230,000 results came up. That’s a lot of stories about men in the military who rape, and women (in the military and civilians) who have been raped by our representatives.
And here in the US, where we attempt to look down on their mistreatment of their women, well, we actually have a term for when a man doesn’t get that “no means no.” Date rape is not quite akin to opening a door for a woman. And the acceptance of the twisted logic of “she asked for it” by wearing a dress that was too tight or too revealing, or by being out too late, or by drinking too much is a psychic rape of all women. Women do not ask to be violated. No, Americans are not beacons in any one’s night.
People say that in Afghanistan it is an expression of their culture. Yeah, sure. Men take every right from a woman except the right to inhale and exhale and we let “culture” cover for that constant humiliation and exercise of power. Then what is it here? Can someone state as truth that rape is a reflection of our culture because we so degrade women by objectifying and sexualizing them? Have we let the deviants define us?
Is the genesis of these rapes by Afghani men, African rebels, European fighters, and American soldiers the same? Is the problem a universal acceptance of “boys will be boys”? Have we conceded the stage to the bullies?
Googling “rape” brings up 206,000,000 results. No, we cannot breathe a sigh of relief that at least we don’t live there—because we do. Women can be strong, but not as strong as a 200 lb. man with societal support (for what else is indifference?) on his side.
Is rape the scourge of our time? We have defeated illnesses, now we must defeat a sickness.
A person who rapes is sick in the crudest sense of the word. And it is unhealthy to ignore a sickness in our midst. Why is it that we arrest prostitutes and not Johns? Why are we always protecting the men? Why are we protecting those who need no protection?
Maybe we women are being forced back to being the weaker sex because society is unable or unwilling to protecting us. What does that say about American culture?