Fighting for Women’s Freedom

by Featured Guest on March 9, 2012

By Ethical

When US led western military forces needed to drum up ongoing support for the war in Afghanistan, one of the issues that really galvanized public sympathy was the deplorable status of women there.

Council on Foreign Relations

Following the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, Afghan women emerged as a high-profile focus of U.S. policy. Women’s progress was promoted as a powerful, positive product of the international presence in the war-scarred country.

Women, it was said, had very few rights and were treated virtually as property. To western sensibilities this imbalance of power was immoral, repugnant, and objectionable. Something had to be done.

Upon seizing power, the Taliban regime instituted a system of gender apartheid effectively thrusting the women of Afghanistan into a state of virtual house arrest. Under Taliban rule women were stripped of all human rights – their work, visibility, opportunity for education, voice, healthcare, and mobility.

Afghanistan Online

The repression of women is still prevalent in rural areas where many families still restrict their own mothers, daughters, wives and sisters from participation in public life. They are still forced into marriages and denied a basic education. Numerous school for girls have been burned down and little girls have even been poisoned to death for daring to go to school.

By contrast in the west women enjoy far greater rights and privileges. Popular wisdom is that western society as a whole has benefitted as a result. In fact many western economist’s insist that the freedom enjoyed by women in the west enables their greater economic participation, which in turn may be largely responsible for the greater productivity and greater wealth of economies here.

Ricardo Hausman, Laura D. Tyson and Saadia Zahidi, The Global Gender Gap Report, 2007, World Economic Forum 2007

“Numerous studies indicate that sustainable development is dependent on improving the economic and political status of women and that reducing gender inequality enhances productivity and economic growth”

Being practical we judge ourselves by tangible things like our economic success; as western societies the strength of our economies is inevitably proof that our way of life is also in some real sense superior.

So it’s from a very lofty moral high ground that western men come to Muslim countries to fight for women to enjoy the same rights and privileges there as they do in the west; the freedom to walk the streets without the veil, the freedom to work outside the home, the freedom to independently determine their own course in life. We know these rights lead to more just and prosperous societies.

Not to say servicemen ever have a reason not to be proud. They are not politicians. Whatever their country’s mission, in this case taking on the responsibility of enforcing women’s rights in other parts of the world, there is honor in having served their country. And they can be proud of their country too. Whatever evils western forces are unjustly accused of perpetrating in foreign lands, young men in the military can at least rest in the proud and unassailable truth that we practice what we preach. Women in the west have not been denied those rights.

Not that taking the moral high ground has been easy. Especially when the wife has been unfaithful at home, men can have a difficult time putting their tour of duty sacrifices in perspective. And that’s before they return to find their spouses gone along their children and all they ever owned.

Richard Crouch, Attorney at Law, Crouch & Crouch

It has been suggested that when our mobilized and deployed National Guard and Reserves return from doing their duty Over There and have saved us and our civilization from destruction, many of them will return, not to ticker-tape parades, but to handcuffs and a jail cell. Now why would this be? Because, of course, they owe child support.

…  some of Our Boys are in totally inaccessible places thousands of miles away. If they didn’t do something about this problem before they left, it’s kind of all over by this time. And just how many do you think managed to “do something,” when under orders, with 100 other things on their minds and hardly any time to do anything? So what will happen when Our Boy is obligated to pay monthly child support and/or alimony determined according to his nice civilian salary, and he is now in some godforsaken hole in some freezing Antipodean desert, getting dogface pay? Obviously, there is one hell of an arrearage building up to greet him upon the hero’s return.

Unfortunately more men will face the handcuffs instead of the ticker tape parade; the military divorce rate is rising:

David R. Usher,

Divorce rates in America are still over 50%. For the military it is even higher — albeit nobody knows exactly what the real number is since the Pentagon doesn’t report home-front casualty rates.

For any military man, returning to face jail after your spouse ran off leaving you with a support debt you don’t earn enough to pay is a bitter pill to swallow. Fact is it doesn’t sound fair to anyone. But instead of hearing about change for the better, we hear even worse:

Taron James of Torrance, Calif., a decorated Navy veteran, carried out hazardous reconnaissance missions behind Iraqi lines in the aftermath of the first Persian Gulf War. While overseas, James was notified that a woman he knew back home was demanding that he pay child support for her newborn son. Los Angeles County entered a default paternity judgment against James, in part because James’ military commitments made it difficult for him to defend himself.

Despite DNA evidence that James was not the father, the county garnisheed James’ wages for a decade and employed numerous punitive measures against him, costing him a management position and forcing him to drop out of college. James eventually got the judgment set aside, but last week a California Court of Appeal refused to order that James be reimbursed for the wages the county garnisheed.

Thankfully our brave servicemen who face potential beheadings at the hands of the Taliban probably don’t bother with these worries they don’t know to be definite likelihoods. They’re brash and confident, everything young men need to be to face death without flinching. Being young men with loving wives, they likely wouldn’t concern themselves about what hasn’t happened yet, and assume that if any of the horror stories they hear about does actually befall them, they’ll just state their case really clearly (those other guys must have mumbled) and the powers that be will straighten things out. Few of them would likely pay attention to the increasing feminization of divorce laws that free woman of any duty to be a good wife and mother, while stripping fathers of their parental role and putting an ever increasing burden of financial responsibility on men. Many won’t truly learn how precarious the legal position of fathers truly is, and how onerous the financial burden on divorced men, until they return home. That’s when despite best efforts, they may find themselves stuck in an ever deepening injustice they just can’t set straight. Even if they weren’t mumbling.

It’s a terrible irony that sees them crushed under the very same feminist system they were fighting to put in place in a foreign country half way across the world. But it’s this very same irony that may come with the blessing of opening all our eyes to consider a different perspective.

Violence Against Men

Environments where there is more violence against women are also environments where there is more violence against men. In dangerous or lawless states, the only rights that exist are those that can be enforced, purchased, or traded through influence.

Rights then are actually a luxury, and there is nowhere on earth where they are inalienable. The only real rights anyone has are those that the society can reasonably enforce at any given time. In remote places where the only enforcement of law to protect women are her father, brother, or eventually her husband, any decision to enforce the law is not to be taken lightly. Enforcing a woman’s right to be free from sexual violence for example may protect the woman from the humiliation of rape, but can potentially involve an even greater threat to the safety of a woman’s own family who are tasked with defending her honor. In a place where there are no police limiting conflict, any conflict can escalate uncontrollably. Any decision to defend her honor can mean those men laying down their very lives.

Conflict is then to be avoided even if it restricts the rights of the potential victim. Feminists call this “blaming the victim”.

Friends or family may blame the victim in order to feel safe themselves: “She got raped because she walked alone after midnight. I’d never do that, so rape won’t happen to me.”

I say it’s asking the victim to share in the responsibility. If a village in some war torn region of the world is going to have to send its men to fight another village and possibly die because someone in that other village raped one of its women, there are probably going to be a few of the woman’s male family members who would rather she just stay indoors, wear a veil, and make the men some sandwiches. Watching the game on TV with your dad and brothers over some afghan tea while munching sandwiches is a lot less stressful if your sister (who’s stacked and looks like a supermodel) hasn’t been prancing around in her miniskirt near another village you don’t want to end up being in a blood feud with, or if you’re in Somalia … near where the local warlords are dividing their profits from piracy.

In short some environments are just more dangerous than others. Many places are made so by the presence of commodities that generate a great imbalance of wealth and power such as oil, precious gems, or in the case of Afghanistan drugs. This imbalance combined with weak or corrupt government mean that rights are in short supply for BOTH genders. Perhaps in light of this it’s time to give different cultures a little latitude to come up with their own solutions as to what they’re willing to compromise in terms of the rights of some in order to assure greater degree of freedom from violence for all. Perhaps before passing judgment on others it’s time to re-examine the anti-male laws we are currently reaping and the underlying feminism they came from, and re-evaluate whether we really want to sell what we’ve sown.

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