the war on our minds
Rape a woman, go to jail. The woman goes to jail, that is. Turn to the foreign press to find out what it means for Uncle Sam to be in charge in Afghanistan:
The Independent/ Terri Judd/Afghanistan
"....Two-thirds of the women in Lashkar Gah's medieval-looking jail have been convicted of illegal sexual relations, but most are simply rape victims – mirroring the situation nationwide. The system does not distinguish between those who have been attacked and those who have chosen to run off with a man.
Sitting among the plastic flowers around his desk, where an optimistic United Nations scales of justice poster competed for space with images of Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai, Colonel Ghulam Ali, a high-ranking regional security officer, explained sternly that he supported the authorities' right to convict victims of rape. "In Afghanistan whether it is forced or not forced it is a crime because the Islamic rules say that it is," he claimed. "I think it is good. There are many diseases that can be created in today's world, such as HIV, through illegal sexual relations."....
Judd writes in the Independent article that the youngest in the jail is only thirteen. This is happening not just under the noses but under the silent gun barrels of the US and its NATO allies in Afghanistan. Those gun barrels speak long and loud when aimed at the Taliban or anyone who opposes military rule. They do not speak to protect or honor the women. The situation, however, is no accident, but a reflection of the US government's attitude towards people who do not matter--and towards women in particular. This horror is brought to you by the same people in the Bush regime who have recently been attempting to label birth control in the US as abortion practice, in order to get it banned.
If women in the US don't matter, then women in the occupied lands matter even less, right? Oh, but I have been speaking of the holy war in Afghanistan, where despite the fact that no investigation was conducted, we are supposed to believe that the government, and by extension the people, were guilty of collaboration in the 2001 airplane crashes. (If there had been an investigation, the crime scene would have been preserved as in all crime scenes. Who knows what would have been brought to light?) In Afghanistan, though we disrespect the people to the point of strafing their wedding parties and selecting their government, the issue of women-as-chattel is too sensitive. We can't offend the men, it seems. We kill them by the score, but Heaven forfend we should abrogate their right to rape women.
Patriarchy is alive and well in the US. Economically, if manifests via the disparate wages for women, not just within a given job classification, but overall as a reflection of the fact that childrearing is still stubbornly applied to women. It's like housework--the man might dabble in it now and again as a favor, but it's really up to the women to get it done. Without cultural mandates from the churches nor equal parenting time off, women are forced time and again to tsacrifice either their careers or their children, while men are praised roundly just for taking the kids now and again, if they do that much. This all reflects an attitude so basic that it is taboo to say it out loud: officially and as a result of US policy and religious doctrine, women do not matter in the US. Why? Because men are superior.
That's what is called living a lie. We all suffer from it every day, because it forces us into false gender roles. It isn't natural to pretend that men are more important, that they're better, smarter, stronger.
Whoops, did I imply men are not stronger? I meant that. Men go through a multi-year phase in which they are quite strong, and stronger than women the same age. This lasts, typically, from about the age of fourteen to the mid-sixties. Girls are stronger than boys from around eight to thirteen, and women are often stronger than men from age sixty-five to ninety. By 'stronger' here I mean not just more able, but capable of surviving longer. Childrearing does indeed begin in the comparatively strong arms of the mother; who is stronger then, the baby boy or the mother? But we do not hear that women are superior for their strategic endurance. I mention all this by way of stating what should be obvious: we cannot afford to pretend that masculinity is superior to femininity.
Yet we do. We constantly dramatize and glorify a brutal exaggeration of masculinity in our television programs, movies, and visual and literary arts. All this has led to undeveloped psyches in women and in men. Men especially are alienated from their emotions, and eventually, their capability for emotion. US men are shamed into thinking themselves far apart from children and women, shamed into pretending that they do not share the spectrum of feelings associated with life among other ages and genders. Men should be equal participants in all aspects of life, including caring for elders and children. Instead men are trappped into a sort of false constant warrior mode. Their psyches are thus vulnerable to tampering with those who understand their weakness.
This brings me to the conservative corporate rulers, who easily tap into the minds of men by threatening them with feminization. A man is insufficiently manly, they imply, if he allows women the rights to their bodies, if he agrees with ordinary measures to protect the weak and the poor, if he tolerates or even sides with gays, and of course if he is gay then he's not even properly a man. These are the insidious lies that fatten the parasite class. Most men can be expected to fall for these canards, because --since the posture of manliness as it is defined under patriarchy is so false-- few men can afford to risk even the appearance of disloyalty to cultural conservatism. Weakness poses as strength, strength is attacked as weakness. So it is that Senator McCain can participate in the bombing of Vietnam, and stand against abortion rights for women, and look manly in the eyes of the domesticated US male. In fact he is the paragon of weakness. He is weak mentally and psychically, because though he is aged and infirm, he must pose as a swaggering fighter to be the icon of the sexists. Likewise Senator Obama can participate in threatening puny Iran--a reprehensibly weak act--in order to look manly. It's pitiful, really.
I can spot the weakest person in any crowd right away--it's the man taking a bellicose posture against me for being a male-to-female transgendered person. This should be a warning to anyone who thinks that culturally conservative attitudes are just a sort of social flavor. On the contrary, our minds are domesticated by our fear of the feminine. Anyone who wants to understand and overthrow corporate dominance has to understand that. So it's not just a sideshow when the Republicans attack equal rights for glbt persons. It's not some minor affair, and as long as we flinch and look the other way, we will suffer the dominance of the parasite class. Their Karl Roves and their Senator Santorums understand that they can control a third of the electorate directly, and uneasily sway a larger portion, by attacking gays as the subconscious symbol of everyone's repressed spectrum of orientation, gender, and passion. To defend against this, we must each admit that we are equal morally. And that is where the conservatives can dig into the psyche, getting us to betray ourselves first to accept the thought-chains that they offer. As long as we repeat phrases llke "lifestyle choice," let alone firebrand phrases like "homosexual agenda," weare participating in our own domestication.
Break the mind control of conservatism. Admit that gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgender, and questioning behavior is natural and evolutionarily necessary to animal and human survival. Reject the anti-scientific, anti-human argument that passion, bonding, and gender orientation must always serve reproduction directly. It can't, it shouldn't, and our brains are fare more complex than that, thank goodness. We are not mere insects, we are people. Admit that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning behavior has some corner of yoiur brain right now. It cannot be otherwise--the mind abhors a vacuum, and whether or not you ever take on one of those labels, the capacity resides in your mind somewhere. 'Heterosexual' is an overapplied and artificial concept; we're all queer to some degree, at some time in our lives. As long as we pretend otherwise, we give our psychic autonomy away to the controlling class. Those who utterly reject patriarchy and its pattern of shaming have taken control of their own lives.
Just to punctuate this screed, I'd like to point to two separate incidents in which men reacted to my appearance. The first was years ago, when I was first transitioning from male to female; I went to a late-night pharmacy to refill my estrogen pills. The pharmacist that night was a man who had recently immigrated from a culture that is not far from the patriarchalist hell I described in Afghanistan. He paused when he saw the prescription slip, then looked at me again, and then started laughing. He laughed long and hard, and tried to catch his breath, and then started laughing again. His eyes took on a desperate look. He could scarcely communicate. The laughter took on a brittle, spasmic tone, and it became clear to me that he was trying to stop laughing. He could not. His mind was trapped in a loop that he could not reconcile. I left, pitying him, feeling guilty and wondering if I had broken his mind. But I was only the catalyst. I could hear his desperate laughter as I left the pharmacy that night.
The second incident occurred at my day job, driving a city bus. I helped a middle-aged man in a wheelchair into the bus, using the hydraulic lift and the retracting chair restraints. He was accompanied by a woman, probably his wife, and it was obvious that he was not used to being in the mobility device. He and his wife did not have that practiced ease that comes with long usage, moreover, he seemed to resist his wife's efforts to aid him. I've been in a wheelchair myself and I know how confining it is, how everyone makes you invisible. This man was clearly still dealing with the loss of his agency, and, more importantly for this little story, his place in the male-dominated hierarchy. He accepted my assistance graciously enough until he 'read' me, that is, until he discovered that I am transgendered. Then he broke. He got that same glazed, desperate look in his eye, and he started laughing uncontrollably. This incident happened just a month ago. He tried to justify his spasm by insulting me and arguing with his wife, but he could not stop laughing. It was obvious that he wanted to stop, and his wife was desperately humiliated by his behavior and told him so, but he could not control it, because he wasn't there anymore.
Ironically, this second incident was very liberating to me. Don't get me wrong, this was not a victory for me; I felt terrible to be the last domino in his ugly public mental breakdown. But it finally got the idea through my head that all the public confrontations against me have come from a place of emptiness and weakness. The new wheelchair rider couldn't accept that he had reached such a nadir that his body should be aided and strapped into a bus by someone he deemed a monster, a gender apostate, a mockery of his fall from the apex of patriarchy. For me the incident shows the destructive power of agreeing with patriarcy. For the men, it is a false role that will crumble, inexorably, sooner or later. For the rest of us it is unacceptable domination. Let's face our internal damage, get some strength about us, and move on.