a bird and a bottle

Is She For Real? Column Blames Women for Military Rapes

In a column in a recent Orlando Sentinel, columnist Kathleen Parker lights into Salon and the NY Times for their recent articles about women in the military, sexual assault, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Why is she so mad at the NYT and Salon? Well, because she thinks that the sexual assaults experienced by numerous women soldiers is “not quite rape.” Huh? Here’s Parker in her own words:

Both stories, however, contain enough errors to raise questions about whether the rape-assault rate is as high as suggested. The Salon story reports, for example, that one woman was “coerced into sex” by a commanding officer, which the Salon writer asserts is “legally defined as rape by the military.”

This is simply not true. According to the Manual for Courts-Martial, rape is defined as “an act of sexual intercourse by force and without consent.” The same woman also was prominently featured in the Times story, where she said she was “manipulated into sex.”

Not quite rape, in other words.

It’s funny that she’s going after two articles for their supposed inaccuracies when, as Salon’s Broadsheet notes, her definition of rape is “not quite” right.

Parker is right — the manual does define rape in those terms. But, reading just a few lines down from the manual’s upfront definition of rape, you’ll find this: “Consent, however, may not be inferred if resistance would have been futile…” The soldier was “coerced” into sex; meaning forced to do something that she didn’t want to do; meaning “resistance would have been futile”; meaning she was raped.

Galling, huh? But it’s not even the worst part. Parker goes on to blame not the patriarchal and chauvinistic military structure for the rapes, but the women victims and their feminist predecessors. I’m not kidding:

Clearly, some of what is considered sexual harassment falls into the category of harmless sport — the usual towel-snapping that is, in fact, a way to neutralize sex.

But more overt sexual aggression may be the product of something few will acknowledge, at least on the record: resentment.

Off the record, in dozens of interviews over a period of years, male soldiers and officers have confided that many men resent women because they’ve been forced to pretend that women are equals, and men know they’re not.

The lie breeds contempt, which leads to a simmering rage that sometimes finds expression in aggression toward those deemed responsible.

Targeting women isn’t excusable, obviously. It’s also not the women’s fault that they’ve been put in this untenable situation — exposed both to combat and to the repressed fury of sexually charged young men.

The fault lies with the Pentagon and others who have capitulated to feminist pressures to insert women into combat. Although women are prohibited from direct ground combat and are assigned primarily to support roles, the lack of clear boundaries in Iraq has eliminated the distinction.

Right. So men are excused because their resentment of women usurping their time-honored role as soldiers justifies these rapes. Don’t blame the perpetrators or their commanders who sanctioned such behavior. Blame feminists who dared to claim that women might not actually be equal to men (gasp!). Blame “feminist pressures” for equality (god forbid!). Yes, the distinction between combat and support has been erased by the unrelenting violence in Iraq. But that’s more an indictment of the war than a reason to point fingers at the brave women who enlisted to fight in it.

But, see, to Parker, not only are feminists and women soldiers to blame for their rapes, they’re responsible for the fact that this war has been such an unmitigated disaster.

Finally, our commanders and fighting men could focus on the business of war rather than tending to gender skirmishes that distract commanders and steal time, resources and energy from the military’s purpose.

Right-o. Because if the men could just focus on fighting the war and not getting killed (rather than tending to silly concerns like equality and rape), the war wouldn’t be going so badly.

This is propaganda in its lowest form.


5 Comments so far
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You know, lately I’m finding myself increasingly alienated whenever a feminist tries shoehorning any criticism of feminism into a sexist strawman.

That said, Parker’s column is so meticulously a sexist strawman that if I didn’t know better, I’d say it was satire. Generally, I measure those things based on what they let me work with. When it’s a serious argument, I tend to resent anyone who acts like no criticism of The Cause can ever be valid. When it’s something at the level of “Men rape women because they don’t believe women are their equals,” all I can do is either make a connection to desegregating the military or hope someone else makes it for me so that I don’t have to make a painfully obvious point.

Comment by Alon Levy

Alon, I can sympathize with the “everything anti-feminist is sexist” frustration…which is part of why I’ve been writing so much about criminal justice (a feminist time out, if you will).

I think that criticism of certain aspects of feminism is Ok and sometimes even warranted (this is not to say that there is only one feminism, but rather that it’s ok to question something that a feminist claims is feminist). But this column is just *so* egregious. And it fits into a common trope which is to blame everything having to do with women on feminism. That’s not valid criticism from within by someone who cares. That’s scapegoating. And it deserves to be called out.

Do you disagree? Can you elaborate on your frustration?

Comment by bean

I’ve never seen anything from Parker to indicate that she believes rape ever occurs. So far, her inclination when a rape happens is to explain why it’s not rape, and after awhile, you realize that she doesn’t believe in rape. Or, more to the point, she doesn’t believe that there’s anything wrong with coerced sex to the level that it should be treated as a crime, at least when it happens to women.

Comment by Amanda Marcotte

I don’t know much about her – is she a prolific woman blamer?

If it’s true that she doesn’t think rape ever occurs, it means she doesn’t think women have any sexual agency at all, doesn’t it? I mean, if women can’t deny consent, then women can’t consent, right?

I wonder, does she think a man can be raped?

Comment by bean

Do you disagree?

No, not at all – hence my comment about the column. It gives a strong impression that the author would prescribe more gender inequality as the solution to every problem, just like some people prescribe tax cuts, higher spending, stricter law enforcement, or a violent revolution as the solution to everything. That’s why my first reaction to Parker’s article, which would ordinarily be “It’s wrong because of X” (or “hmmm, good point…”) is instead “how the fuck could anyone be that stupid?”

Can you elaborate on your frustration?

To be fair, it’s not just with feminism – it’s with every political movement I can think of. The biggest culprits, at least on the left, are actually the labor liberals, who seem to not understand and not want to understand that people can think their positions on economic issues out and still come to conclusions to the right of Robert Reich’s.

The specifics are a bit fuzzier, but a big part of it is that pathologies I thought were only the domain of a few radicals turn out to be unhealthily common. For example, there’s the overemphasis on abstract principles and platitudes as opposed to concrete policy positions.

Comment by Alon Levy

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