30 December, 2006

Evidence of Male Dispensability Part 1 – the News Media

Posted in Male Disposability, Media, Reposts, War at 11:11 am by Daran

(Originally posted at Creative Destruction. I still haven’t got around to writing part 2.)

In preparing my response to Jeff’s comment to my recent post on Women and the Draft, I seem to have wondered rather far from the topic.

Jeff:

I was pointing out the relationships between the general oppression of women (i.e. they’re not allowed to participate in some jobs, don’t make as much money as men do, etc.) to the fact that they aren’t required to register with SS. You can deny a connection, but there is one–if women were thought of as equals of men, you can be pretty sure that the SS would require them to register as well. Instead, they are generaly thought of as not able to handle combat situations (which, of course, they are handling in Iraq and Afghanistan as we speak), or being as valuable for some jobs, etc. If this weren’t the case, they would likely be required to register with the SS. Thus the connection.

I agree with Robert’s analysis. Women are excluded from SS not because they are regarded as incapable, but because we live in a culture which regards men, but not women as expendable. It simply doesn’t matter to us if men are slaughtered en mass. We care about women; we don’t care about men. Gender-selective conscription is one manifestation of this cultural “value”, but we can also see it in the attitude of the news media, of humanitarian organisations, in the sanctioning of discrimination in national and international law, and of course, in feminist discourse. I’ll deal with these other issues in another post. In this one I look at the media.

Consider the following news report (cited by Dr. Adam Jones):

The Death March of the Kosovo Refugees
MORINA, Albania, April 18 (AFP) — Among the thousands of refugees fleeing Kosovo, none suffer worse than those forced to travel for days and nights on end on foot. While many cross the border into Albania and Macedonia in cars or open trailers drawn by tractors, the rest have had to walk, harried by Serbian troops on what for some became a death march. Staggering up to the red barrier marking the frontier, carrying children and baggage, and supporting the elderly, they sob as they gulp down food offered by humanitarian organisations. Their accounts, consistent, precise and detailed, describe a Kosovo that has been turned into a hell, criss-crossed day and night by columns of refugees expelled from the Serbian province in ferocious “ethnic cleansing.” “We walked almost without stopping for four days and four nights,” groaned Hysnije Abazi, 22, from Kladernica in central Kosovo. “We were escorted all the time by Serbs in vehicles or on foot. We were not allowed to drink, stop, rest or shelter from the rain. Before we set off they set fire to our cars and tractors and ordered us to march in columns.” They also took away all the males aged 15 or over [!]. Crinkle-haired Afertita Kajtazi, 23, her eyes ringed with fatigue, said their [i.e., the refugees’] treatment was deliberately harsh.

Dr. Jones’s emphasis. What was happening to those young men is they were being massacred, but the point I’m trying to make here is not the treatment by the Serbs, but by the media. As Dr. Jones notes this ‘”genocidal cull of ethnic-Albanian males”(7) takes place in the blink of an eye, amidst a torrent of frankly lachrymose descriptions of the convoys of helpless “worthies.”‘

Compare and contrast the above with this report about a massacre of women in East Timor (due again to Dr. Jones)

Michael Valpy,
“Rape and Murder in Sight of Our Lady”
The Sydney Morning Herald, 4 November 1999
(originally in The Globe and Mail, 1 November 1999)

THE heart of darkness in East Timor is the Catholic Church compound in this coastal market town – so still and empty, a silent statement on the evil that was done here.

What took place on the day and night of September 6 is not known in detail to Australian Army investigators. The number of victims and their identities are uncertain. What is known is that most were women and girls.

The evidence attests to that: the jumble of bras, underpants and sanitary napkins on the steps leading up to the church; the children’s leg bones; a hank of a woman’s hair; the scorched skeletal remains of two women behind the church; the thick bloodstain on a schoolroom door, covered by bougainvillea petals baking beneath the sun.

Certainly what happened was male savagery as old as history – rape, killing, burning, razing – in a church, a school, in the adjacent huge, grey, concrete shell of a cathedral called Ave Maria under construction to the glory of God. Savagery against the defenceless, as women and children usually are; vengeance on a people who voted for independence from their Indonesian military overlords and landowners.

[etc., etc., etc.]

The story of what happened in the compound is incomplete. The investigators have not found many witnesses. Most of the Suai region’s population, between 10,000 and 14,000, is still missing. Women and children were carted away on trucks to Indonesia’s neighbouring West Timor province, about 30 kilometres away, where they are still being held. The whereabouts of many of the men is not known.

This is what the Australians have pieced together. The evil began a few days after the August 30 independence referendum. Indonesians owned many of the coffee and agricultural plantations around Suai. The town was a stronghold of the pro-Indonesia militias, most of whom were from West Timor. Some of the militiamen, mainly local officials, had been recruited in town.

After the vote result became known, soldiers and militia gangs began rounding up people from the outlying villages, bringing them to Suai’s district military headquarters.

Father Hilario Madeira, pastor of the church of Nossa Senhora de Fatima (Our Lady of Fatima), went to the headquarters and got permission for the people to move to the church compound.

Several thousand, mostly women, set up a shanty town there. Many of the men, prime targets of the militias, had already fled to the hills, Lieutenant Mayne said. The women were thought to be safe once they got inside the compound. Safe from murder, he emphasised. No-one was safe from rape.

At dawn on September 6, militia and some soldiers took up positions along the front wall of the compound, across the street from the market in the centre of town. They began firing at the crowd inside. There was panic. Most people ran helter-skelter from the compound. Some didn’t. Some went into the partially built cathedral to hide. About 200 ran to the church. It is believed that children were in the classrooms of the adjacent school.

[etc., etc., etc.,]

The first emphasis is Dr. Jones’s. The second is mine.

This massacre of women was unquestionably an appalling crime, but set against the backdrop of even greater attrocities being perpetrated against men which, again “take place in the blink of an eye”.

These are hardly exceptional pieces. The marginalisation of male victimisation is a standard trope in the news media. It cannot be explained by a cultural attitude the see women as “less capable” than men; clearly the men are no more capable of defending themselves from slaughter than the women. The value that is reflected here is the low value our culture places on male lives. I strongly urge you to read Dr. Jones’s papers in full.

Edited for typos, spelling and markup.

Edited to trim the Herald article. If you wish, you can read it in all its tear-jerking detail here.

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