[CONTENT NOTE: sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape and rape culture.)
You know, I have not been able to write about Afghanistan, and this is mainly because I have not been able to think coherently about Afghanistan.* See, I get flooded with All the Feelz, and flashbacks to the war crimes of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rice regime, CIA black sites, serious debates at the highest levels of government and across mainstream media platforms about the pros, cons, legality and morality of torture FFS, and every single evil spawned from U.S. conservative war lovers** since the events of 9/11, which were traumatic enough for me thankyouverymuch, and right up to and including the suicide bombing at a Kabul airport gate today.
Nevertheless, I was struck by a sentence in this morning’s New York Times email briefing:
The Taliban told women and girls to remain home while fighters were trained not to harass or harm them.
Now I can’t vouch for anything at the Times link, since of course I didn’t click it. And the Taliban telling women and girls to stay at home is not exactly news; it’s practically their entire raison d’être. The Taliban are conservatives, and generally speaking conservatives the world over want most emphatically for “their” women and girls to stay at home, with the obvious exceptions being sex workers, food servers, low-wage workers, and every other woman and girl in an obviously and inescapably subordinate role. (Go watch or read The Handmaid’s Tale. ‘Splains that whole patriarchy thing.)
What is shocking about that sentence is that it means there presently exists a government, on this very planet, that is training men – and its soldiers, no less! – not to harass or harm women and girls.
Let that sink in.
Let it sink in that the government is the fucking Taliban.
Let it sink in with the knowledge that sexual assault in the U.S. military is currently at epic and rapidly increasing levels, in very large part because war lovers in military leadership and their congressional sycophants refuse to route claims of sexual harassment, assault and rape to independent prosecutors outside of the accuser’s chain of command. It’s as if your boss or his BFF(s) rapes you, and your only recourse is to report it to…your boss.
Let it sink in, as if you were me, in the context that I have never once heard of our national or any state or local government in the United States training men – much less soldiers – not to harass or harm women and girls.
I sure as shit have been indoctrinated since birth that I had better not get myself raped, though! That is because I live in this world, and so do you, whatever your gender or sexuality, and whether you believe you do or not. Here is an excerpt from the excellent piece at that link that I just…well, uh, linked, which is well worth reading (and regularly rereading) in its entirely:
Rape culture is 1 in 6 women being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes. Rape culture is not even talking about the reality that many women are sexually assaulted multiple times in their lives. Rape culture is the way in which the constant threat of sexual assault affects women’s daily movements. Rape culture is telling girls and women to be careful about what you wear, how you wear it, how you carry yourself, where you walk, when you walk there, with whom you walk, whom you trust, what you do, where you do it, with whom you do it, what you drink, how much you drink, whether you make eye contact, if you’re alone, if you’re with a stranger, if you’re in a group, if you’re in a group of strangers, if it’s dark, if the area is unfamiliar, if you’re carrying something, how you carry it, what kind of shoes you’re wearing in case you have to run, what kind of purse you carry, what jewelry you wear, what time it is, what street it is, what environment it is, how many people you sleep with, what kind of people you sleep with, who your friends are, to whom you give your number, who’s around when the delivery guy comes, to get an apartment where you can see who’s at the door before they can see you, to check before you open the door to the delivery guy, to own a dog or a dog-sound-making machine, to get a roommate, to take self-defense, to always be alert always pay attention always watch your back always be aware of your surroundings and never let your guard down for a moment lest you be sexually assaulted and if you are and didn’t follow all the rules it’s your fault.
Rape culture is tasking victims with the burden of rape prevention. Rape culture is encouraging women to take self-defense as though that is the only solution required to preventing rape. Rape culture is admonishing women to “learn common sense” or “be more responsible” or “be aware of barroom risks” or “avoid these places” or “don’t dress this way,” and failing to admonish men to not rape.
Rape culture is “nothing” being the most frequent answer to a question about what people have been formally taught about rape.
Yes, I know: the Taliban’s motives are about as far from anti-sexist as it gets. And yes, even with chemo-brain I can cite right off the top of my head a virtually endless stream of reasons to deeply detest them, all of them, and every single fucking thing they stand for.
But is it really too much to ask that we, as in our inexplicably vaunted “Western” societies, do better than the motherfucking Taliban ferchrissakes, at training men, including soldiers, not to harass or harm women and girls?
No. No, it is not too much to ask. Besides, I’m not asking.
I AM DEMANDING.
And now, a brief musical interlude.
*This Afghanistan-topic-specific writers block dealio should not be taken to mean that I do not care, profoundly and deeply, about the ordinary people of Afghanistan: in fact, quite the opposite. However, when I begin to broach the topic, I become quickly overwhelmed with a deluge of thought fragments, vivid visual and auditory snippets of memories, and an ocean of emotions (my therapist calls it “flooding”). In this state, I cannot Do the Thing Known as Writing.
**I have always despised the term “war hawk.” It is a disgusting slur against hawks, which are positively glorious creatures.
Their eyesight is said to be among the keenest in the entire animal kingdom, whereas war lovers can barely see two feet ahead to the consequences of their own actions. Hawks can also see in color, while black-&-white thinking is practically the universal hallmark of conservative (including neoconservative) “thought.”
Sexual dimorphism is quite pronounced in hawks, with females larger and stronger than males by a factor of two-to-one in some species. With no disrespect to all of the non-patriarchal men of my species, war is, among other things, nearly always a hideous display of toxic masculinity. Moreover, young hawks mature very quickly after hatching, whereas war lovers (and conservatives generally) are rarely known to mature past the notorious Hulk Smash toddler phase of human development.
Last – but hardly least! – hawks eat squirrels. This just makes them even more fucking awesome, for doing their part to make the world a better place – unlike any conservative, ever.
Don’t take it too serious cuz the tali-twats have very strict rules, if the woman is dressed in the proper tent in the proper way then leave her alone, BUT… if she is not in the house, not escorted by male, not dressed properly then she is open game for anything you wish!!!!
At least that was the custom a few years ago as told to me by an X-muslin!
I don’t think much of the Taliban, but at least they don’t murder random children with drones, if only because they don’t have drones.
I guess I have to take you at your word. Maybe you should try educating yourself.
Iris Vander Pluym says
No cupcake, you most certainly do not. IDGAF. Why would I? (Hey, I hear there are, like, dozens of other blogs on the net you can go read if you don’t like mine. ISN’T THAT GREAT.)
Now that’s just silly. I do try educating myself, pretty much on the daily. One thing I’ve learned is to write clearly enough so that people who read here can understand me. As opposed to, say, spewing condescending, cryptic turds devoid of any clear meaning.
I do sometimes enjoy it when some ratfucker with an unwarranted superiority complex takes time out of their busy day to sneer down and ‘splain at me. It’d be pretty fuckin’ amusing if it weren’t so, you know, dismally unoriginal. *yawn*
It’s almost funny how bent out of shape some ‘people’ get when someone dares to suggest “hey, guys, maybe don’t rape people?”
But Sweetie, it gives me such good feels to know that at least one blogger here is dumber then me. Well, now that I think about it, make that two.
Then how about trying to learn about a subject prior to writing about it? Instead, you go by, well, if I have not heard about it under my tiny rock in my increasingly small echo chamber it must not exist. You know there is a thing called Google? Try something like “army boot camp sexual harassment course”. After the ads you get https://taskandpurpose.com/news/army-basic-training-sharp-program/
Your not just suggesting but outright stating that the Taliban is more thorough in training its soldiers in protecting women’s rights…it just shows a breathtaking level of willful ignorance.
Fuck you strawman.
@ ^ lochaber : Yup. Just ask a certain person whose initials are R & W.
@ Iris Vander Pluym : Epic rant. Truth. Well said.
Could just add that rape culture also says conflicting things about some of those things mentioned too.
@ marner : Maybe you (Iris Vander Pluym – ed) should try educating yourself.
Maybe you should try taking your own advice?
Here a few links for you to start – & Irisés position is backed up by more than enough sickening evidence FWIW :
WARNING : Sexual sassualts, misogyny, rape culture etc .. refs
A culture that fosters sexual assaults and sexual harassment persists despite prevention efforts, a new Pentagon study shows
For Oz :
Sexual assault still plagues Australia’s defence forces and ‘boys will be boys’ doesn’t help
For the UK :
WARNING : Secual sassualts, rape culture etc ..
Pretty much the definition of a strawman as my point was that the US has been trying to train its soldiers not to abuse women. And that pointing to the Taliban as having started said practice is, well wrong.
However, I would have been more effective and a much better human being if I had gently pointed that out with a link rather then being snarky and then responding to Iris’s response with venom. FWIW, I was and continue to be deeply affected by what happened the day Iris posted this and am dreading what the people and especially the women in Afghanistan will have to endure in the coming years.
Regardless, I could have been better and for that I apologize.
@ ^ marner : Okay. Fair enough. Thanks.
Iris Vander Pluym says
@SteveoR – thank you for your supportive words, and especially for doing great work in responding with citations to marner. (It is particularly helpful right now, as I have not had time since posting this piece to devote to blogging.)
Of course I was not exactly inclined to defend my own knowledge of sexual assault in the military to an apparent troll heretofore unknown ’round these parts, but I actually do stay on top of this the issue as best I can via several sources, including one of my Senators, Kirsten Gillibrand, who has made sexual assault in the military a particular focus of her work.
In fact, it was not until barely six weeks ago that her subcommittee passed “an amendment to the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee markup of the National Defense Authorization Act” that would – IF it makes it to passage in the final bill – finally take the decision to prosecute sexual assault crimes out of the chain of command. I’ve watched as military brass straight-up lied to congress and covered-up evidence in order to keep in place the sickening status quo, with entirely predictable and dismal results.
When I can,* I’ve also followed the work of Protect Our Defenders. Anyone who wants to “try to learn about a subject before writing about it” can sign up for their email newsletter here.
Astute followers of this comment thread will note that I have released from moderation two more comments from our guest, chock full of the same sneering condescension and unwarranted high self-regard we tend to find in typical specimens like this one, so if anyone is up for shooting the proverbial fish in a barrel today please feel free. Of course, eviscerating easy targets is rarely a very satisfying endeavor, but it has its perks nonetheless: the amusement factor (YMMV), fang sharpening, mockery practice, potentially attracting less tedious trolls who are more fun to chew on, etc. And will ya look at that? I actually have a little time.
First, in response to my benevolent and helpful suggestion that marner might be happier visiting one of the other 24 or so blogs that I’ve heard exist out there on the internet, he (I am 99.99% certain marner’s preferred pronoun is “he”**) proudly admits to trolling, condescension and insulting me, because – I shit you not! – it makes him feel smart:
LMAO. The Dunning-Kruger exhibit on display here is truly one for the textbooks.
We could certainly stop here and call it a day. But then, we might forever wonder what other gems might be worth excavating from marner’s piles of shit?
[HAZMAT SUIT? CHECK.]
Marner next quotes my statement that “I do try educating myself, pretty much on the daily,” and responds thusly:
Now, I was sure it went without saying that one cannot know everything there is to know on any particular subject, and this is especially true with one as plagued with minefields of irrational biases and power dynamics as sexual assault. Emphasis on the was; I am not so sure anymore, at least in marner’s case. So FWIW, I have now said it, explicitly.
Let us put aside the bumbling attempts at sarcasm and dull, shopworn anti-social justice projections (“echo chamber”? lol). Marner seems to think that, despite my (admittedly incomplete) knowledge of the subject, he can pull a “gotcha!” with a quick google search that turns up an article – or really, a headline (“A small tweak to how the Army trains new soldiers is dramatically reducing sexual assault reports”), that allegedly refutes my entire post.
Let us take a look at that article, shall we? I would be remiss if I did not mention that its source, Task & Purpose, has been a source of some troubling controversy. Its owner and CEO has a problem with throwing his weight around the newsroom, e.g. demanding changes to headlines and reducing the frequency of reporting on certain subjects, in an effort to appease conservative critics, and before Biden’s inauguration, to avoid offending the Trump administration. Unsurprisingly, a series of managing editors have quit. Recently, after years of fighting the good fight against reality’s well-known liberal bias and his own employees, the CEO/owner now claims to understand the basic tenets of editorial independence.
But actually, that’s not what made me involuntarily raise an eyebrow at the Task & Purpose headline, “A small tweak to how the Army trains new soldiers is dramatically reducing sexual assault reports.” My eyebrow apparently reacted to the fact that reducing sexual assault reports is obviously not the same thing as reducing sexual assaults. And sexual assaults in the military are already vastly underreported, due to a host of factors including insidious, downright Orwellian, life-altering forms of retaliation. Then my eyebrow moved again, because this headline sounds so much like all those annoying clickbait ads that say shit like “One small trick to losing 30 pounds of belly fat in a week!”
Marner’s cited article is about the army’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Prevention (“SHARP”) training. The “small tweak” is moving the timing of SHARP training for new recruits to the early days of training from roughly two weeks in, “despite the early days of training being ‘when most cases of inappropriate contact were reported.'” Further:
Wow! A 72% drop in sexual assault reports, all due to this one small tweak?! That is an astounding statistical result for a horrific problem that has plagued not just our military, but society at large for millennia! However, as we know, military pronouncements on this topic in particular require especially rigorous skepticism. (I would hope that even marner would agree, but I don’t like to count my trolls before they hatch.)
It turns out that all that gushing reporting early in the article becomes significantly less impressive as one reads on. The usual bag of tricks (e.g. the erasure of critical context, selective weasel-wording, burying important caveats much later in the piece, etc.) are all deployed, methinks to make readers believe that the U.S. military has made a world-changing discovery in rape prevention – and it turned out to be so simple, so close, it was practically right there under their noses, brought to light only after a small tweak in scheduling revealed it in all of its 72% magnificence.
The spokesperson for U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command called the 72% drop in assault reports at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri (one of four army basic training facilities) “preliminary,” and added that “it’s too soon to have ‘enough data to measure its success’ across Army training units.”
So, the data on which their big pronouncement is based is only preliminary, and there is not enough of it to draw meaningful conclusions about its applicability. Nevertheless, they’re going with 72%, a suspiciously specific number someone pulled out of somewhere…or something.
Then we learn, from an anonymous army official, that there is other “preliminary data,” from other sites, from which similar “findings” have also somehow been revealed. Is it…71%? 73%? Anonymous army official doesn’t say. Of course, anonymous army official doesn’t actually say anything meaningful at all.
Then there’s Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Lillard, the 3rd Chemical Brigade’s sexual assault response coordinator (yes, apparently a fucking dude is in charge of sexual assault response for the brigade…I just…I can’t…I…WHAT THE FUCK). Anyway, he has these pearls of wisdom to impart:
IT MOST CERTAINLY DOES. And much, much worse. There is literally no evidence to support this statement, and mountains of evidence that not only refute it, but support the opposite conclusion.
To sum up this “gotcha” article: a brigade (or several? not clear) of new recruits exposed to SHARP training in the early days after induction – which, it turns out, has historically been the time period when most sexual assaults were reported [%$#*@!! –Ed.] – report 72% fewer such incidents than brigades who have the same SHARP training roughly two weeks later. Preliminarily speaking, of course. And IF this undocumented data and conspicuous conclusions drawn therefrom are indeed valid, these miraculous results would only apply, as far as we can tell from Task & Purpose’s crack journalism, to the reporting of sexual assaults during the initial weeks of a new soldier’s training. No word on happens right after that (is there a spike in reports from a backlash?), and thereafter. And it’s a long, long road thereafter:
It never fucking ends.
As marner nears his eagerly awaited conclusion, he says:
As readers can see for themselves, I neither suggested nor outright stated any such thing. Here in reality, I did not assess or compare the Taliban’s to the U.S.’s thoroughness in training soldiers to “protect women’s rights.” I discussed a mere sliver of “women’s rights,” albeit an important one: the right to remain free from violent bodily harm and harassment. Indeed, only a small part of my post was directed to sexual assault within the U.S. military, and none of it was directed to its (unfathomably ineffective) anti-sexual harassment/assault training. And, as we have since learned via marner’s cited article, its new-&-72%-improved training lasts no more than a day. If I were to compare them, I might even wonder how the Taliban could possibly do any worse.
But that is not what I am doing, or saying, in the OP. I was pointing out how remarkable it is that the Taliban government has put into place a program to train its “fighters” (or its military branch, if you will) not to harm women and girls.
ALL WOMEN AND GIRLS.
Not just females fighters among them, if there are any. Civilians. Women. And, girls. All of them.
Has my government done that? Issued an edict from the top down to its military, or to its veterans like the ones at VA facilities harassing 1 in 4 of their female peers? I DON’T FUCKING THINK SO.
Instead, we elect rapists and gropers as our Commanders-In-Chief.
Instead, it’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of rape kits sit untested in storage facilities across the nation – “estimated,” because only a small number of state governments and ZERO FEDERAL AGENCIES can be bothered to even track this data, much less tackle the backlog and test the fucking rape kits.
Instead, we get dudes like marner completely misreading me (at best), taking grave offense at their own delusiona, and angrily flinging barely coherent poo (and weak-ass citations) all over my comments section.
Whatever else we can say about it, marner’s feverish arguing – badly – against something I never said does show a breathtaking failure of reading comprehension.
If I have time, I’ll deal with the rest of his crap later. I desperately need a shower.
In the meantime, if anyone else cares to educate themselves about the realities of sexual assault and harassment in the U.S. military even though the topic is tangential to the point of my post, this article is both current and comprehensive. [WARNING: it’s tough to stomach.]
*Full disclosure: some days I don’t have the emotional or mental bandwidth to do more than skim the headlines. Same with RAINN, UltraViolet, Women Against Abuse – really, any group I support that works against sexual assault and/or domestic violence, for reasons regular readers may know but I am disinclined to reiterate here.
**Only an infinitesimally tiny fraction of those whose preferred pronoun is “she” can convincingly pull off this subtype of comically arrogant buffoonery.