J. Soltys's Weblog

January 10, 2008

Gender Wars – Claiming Victim Status

I ran across this article about a week ago. It triggered some questions for me, and also brought about some relevant points issues I feel men face in the media and society.
The story is about women in the military and the mental health issues they are face due to the violence and hardships of war. It explains how we have traditionally focused on men, but we must now deal with helping women and their unique issues related to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health related issues. Let me be unequivocal in stating that I honor all men and women who sacrifice their physical and mental health in the best interest of this country and its citizens. What I am going to say is not meant to diminish the hardships our brave military women endure, but to show why I don’t trust advocates for women issues because of their unequal reactions to similar issues concerning men and women.
What irritated me most about this article is the ever present battle for victim status perpetrated by women issue advocates and their supporters (almost always female journalist) when men and women have the unfortunate opportunity to suffer from the same tragedy. In this case, it is the tragedies of war, and the article wants to establish how our female soldiers are suffering more than our men. It says,

Women are barred from ground jobs in infantry, armor and artillery units and are technically confined to support roles. But those jobs include some of the most dangerous: driving supply convoys, guarding checkpoints and searching women as part of neighborhood patrols.

I’m not going to deny that any role in a war zone is dangerous, but I find it hard to believe that going door to door flushing out trained fighters in classical urban warfare carries the same dangers and mental overload as delivering supplies. But what is stranger is the writer’s contradiction. She also states,

Although some of those women suffered PTSD, few saw actual fighting or were subjected to the stress of multiple deployments.

So I’m confused. Are women really suffering on the same level as men, or has the writer unknowingly accused women of being mentally weaker than men?
But then the article gets to its real purpose. If women issue advocates cannot successfully argue that women of war deserve more sympathy and a higher victimization status as men, then it must resort to its old tricks – copious doses of how evil men are.
The article discusses how women are greater victims of war due to women being subjected to numerous acts of criminal sexual behavior by fellow male soldiers. The article states,

For some, combat trauma is complicated and intensified by rape or other sexual abuse, often by comrades they’ve trained and fought beside. The VA says 20% of women seeking its care since 2002 showed symptoms of military sexual trauma, compared with 1.1% of male veterans. Many say they were preyed upon by men higher in the chain of command, crimes military women call “rape by rank.”

I am not going to say that criminal sexual behavior is not a problem in the military, but I do know that some research on this subject has proven some of the claims made by women issue advocates do not hold up under scrutiny.
For instance, this very article makes a claim I know to be unsubstantiated, yet has proliferated among feminist. The article states,

Some women in Iraq risked dehydration by refusing to drink liquids late in the day for fear of being raped while walking to latrines after dark.

Other reports have made the claim that some military women have actually died due to dehydration for fear of having to visit the latrines at night because,

There were male soldiers lying in wait out there for the women soldiers. They would pull them into the latrines, abuse them and rape them. When word of this spread, the women became afraid to go out.

This female writer – and other feminist writers – forget to inform their readers about some very important information concerning where that claim originated, or the controversies surrounding it. The accusations came from Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the same woman who was the commander in charge of the Abu Ghraib prison, and eventually demoted by the military for her mismanagement and denial of the abuses. Her claim of women dying from dehydration, and the accusation of men stalking latrines at night to rape women, didn’t surface until after her demotion. She claims,

Because the women, in fear of getting up in the hours of darkness to go out to the portatoilets or the latrines, were not drinking liquids after 3:00 or 4:00 in the afternoon. And in 120-degree heat or warmer, because there was no air conditioning at most of the facilities, they were dying from dehydration in their sleep. And rather than make everybody aware of that, because that’s shocking — and as a leader, if that’s not shocking to you, then you’re not much of a leader — so what they told the surgeon to do was, “Don’t brief those details anymore. And don’t say specifically that they’re women. You can provide that in a written report, but don’t brief it in the open anymore.”

But according to Women’s eNews,

Lory Manning, director of the Women in the Military project at the Women’s Research and Education Institute in Arlington, Va., says Karpinski’s story lacks credibility and appears to be an attempt to strike back at a system that sacrificed her while sparing superiors. “She’s really angry,” Manning said. “She feels like she was left to hang out to dry by her bosses.”

And the same article also states,

Anita Sanchez, spokesperson for the Miles Foundation, an organization in Newtown, Conn., that combats violence against women in the military, called Karpinski’s allegations about the cover-up of the deaths of female soldiers “questionable at best.”

Both Manning and Sanchez point out in the article,

Citing figures released by the Pentagon, Sanchez said no female master sergeants have died in Iraq. Of the more than 50 women who have died there, only two have died from illness, she said. The rest of the deaths arose from hostile fire or a variety of other causes including vehicular accidents, accidental gun discharge, possible suicide and other injuries.
Manning also noted that dehydration is not likely to cause death within a single day, even in a climate as hot as in the Middle East. But it can cause urinary tract infections, she noted, a problem that has caused discomfort for many female troops in Iraq. Manning added that Karpinski’s testimony is based entirely on one unnamed source: a medical doctor who has not come forward to corroborate Karpinski’s allegation. Karpinski says she cannot recall the doctor’s name.

I truly believe that some women are being sexually assaulted in the military, and it is our responsibility as men to make sure we do are part to help eradicate this behavior. However, finding the truth about rapes and sexual assaults is difficult because both men and women are going to deny any accusations projected towards them when evidence is limited. But feminist can’t get over seeing men only as liars and perpetrators, and women as angelic and victims; therefore the problem can never be honestly addressed.
Elaine Donnelly, President of the Center for Military Readiness wrote about how feminist and the media failed to follow up on one of the military’s most recognized scandals – Tailhook.
Let me share with you what she wrote concerning how most people ignored the eventual findings of the investigation:

While navy men saw careers sunk over being at the wrong party at the wrong time, some Navy women walked away from more serious offenses without a scratch. Take, in particular, Ensign Elizabeth Warnick, who accused Lieutenant Cole Cowden of attempting, with two other men, to gang-rape her. Under oath, Ensign Warnick admitted she had concocted the entire story to keep her fianci from learning she had willingly engaged in sex with Cowden, and had allowed men to drink “belly shots” from her navel. Despite the Navy’s stated policy forbidding false accusations, Ensign Warnick received nothing more than a slap on the wrist.
Disciplinary authorities failed to pursue other Navy women known to have participated in some of Tailhook’s more outlandish party traditions. Lieutenant Rolando Diaz, who shaved women’s legs in public, was prosecuted for “conduct unbecoming an officer,” but three female officers whose legs he shaved were not disciplined on an equal basis. Indeed, one of those three customers, according to Diaz, was none other than Paula Coughlin, who showed her appreciation by signing a banner with “You made me see God. The Paulster.” (This is the same media-savvy assault victim who had been invited to the White House to be consoled by George Bush.)
When her own case, one of just two assault cases brought to court martial, was finally brought to court, it crumbled. After first identifying the photograph of a man who had not even attended Tailhook as her assailant, Lieutenant Coughlin picked a Marine captain out of a line-up. But she said she remembered the captain wore an orange shirt, whereas a picture from Saturday night showed him in a green “Raging Rhino” T-shirt (the rhino is his squadron’s mascot). That, plus alibi witnesses, doomed Tailhook’s most celebrated case.

And consider this statistic I came across,

A 1992-93 study of female vets from the Gulf War and earlier revealed 90% said they experienced sexual harassment while in the military. Sexual harassment included anything from being pressured for sex to being stared at or relentlessly teased.

Being stared at constitutes sexual harassment? This reminds me of early feminist research on domestic violence, where female researchers asked women if they ever feared their spouse. If any women said yes, she was labeled a victim of domestic violence – translation: inflated numbers.

My point: It seems to me that men are victimized by a “competition” in which we compete for “victim” status with women when faced with the same crisis. Women want to lay claim to being the greater victim; therefore, sympathy, compassion, understanding, and resources generated towards helping all victims is disproportionally favored towards women.
There is an obvious disparity between men suffering war casualties versus the women, with men suffering in greater numbers, but women advocates want to not only raise awareness to the hardships of females – something I agree with – but also burden our suffering men with gender politics by trying to minimize their right to the same compassion, sympathy and resources as our women through lies and unsubstantiated claims.
Their hypocrisy is evident in domestic violence cases. Men’s advocates have pointed out the disparity concerning acknowledgement of attention and resources for male victims of domestic violence compared to female victims, with male victims discovering all resources consumed by female victims. Feminist counter its “in the numbers” meaning the number of female victims out-number the male victims; therefore, in fairness, women should receive most of the resources. But by their very own philosophy, it would require them to ignore the tragedies of female soldiers because their numbers “don’t add up”, but as we see, this is not the case.

This is why, as a men’s rights advocate, I get trapped in mixed feelings – wanting to help men as well as women in similar situations, but finding I reserve my sympathy for women victims due to the behavior of women’s right advocates and their desire to “out victimize” men.
In the meantime, my prayers are with all of our service personal – men and women equally. If I can’t beat the inequities perpetuated by feminist, I’m sure as hell not going to join them.

Mental toll of war hitting female servicemembers
Karpinski Raises Doubts About Military Sex Assault
Female Soldiers Died of Dehydration Rather Than Risk Sexual Assault
The Tailhook scandals – how the Navy’s sexual harassment investigation case was mishandled

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