[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.