Like a lot of people, I’ve argued that sentimentality about the "innocence" of women and children goes hand in hand with brutality. It doesn't protect them; it makes them targets. It threatens and punishes them for failing to meet an impossible ideal.
Echidne recently posted some quotes from a "pro-male" website, which display a stomach-turning hatred of women per se. As bad as those quotes are, though, they pale in comparison to an e-mail received by Feministing:
I strongly believe that each of you feminists deserved to be anal-fucked and gang-raped and then we will cut your boobs and empty whole magazines of 16 bullets into your vaginas. Then post live digital videos of the rape+executions on all men's sites around the world for our AAA entertainment.With that image indelibly in mind, let’s consider this report from the Democratic Republic of the Congo:
COOPER (voice-over): Dr. Luc Malemo has a hospital ward full of girls and women who have been raped and developed fistulas, holes in their vaginas or rectums that make it impossible to control bodily functions.What a coincidence, eh? In his flawed but frightening book Male Fantasies, Klaus Theweleit catalogs the obsessive reiteration of such images in the literature of the proto-Nazi Freikorps, where the psychological equivalence of guns, bayonets, and penises is a good deal closer to text than subtext. Theweleit’s argument (or one of them; his work is, to put it politely, sprawling) is that the male fantasy of the pure, sexless woman was threatened by Weimar culture, upon which they'd projected the male fantasy of vampiric female sexuality. In dreams begin responsibilities, as the saying is.
(on camera): Why do so many rape victims here develop fistulas?
MALEMO: We — we think that — that the — the first reason, that the rape is too violent. Some of them, they will use, after – after raping the lady, they will use maybe — they may use a weapon, a knife, or even a piece of wood. And some of them have been shot…after being raped.
I’ve complained many times about that sullen stalking-horse Maggie Gallagher, who finds it seemly to present a man’s murder of a child – or terroristic destruction of an apartment building - as a logical consequence of female choices. What makes Gallagher’s arguments so exemplary, and so despicable, is that the “choices” of the women in question – which set in motion the "understandable" machinery of male vengeance – are usually constrained by violence, or the threat of violence, or culturally approved ignorance (i.e., "innocence"), or poverty, and are thus not choices at all.
To Gallagher, the stern lesson of the Amish school shooting is that there is "a stain on the human soul." At the same time she says, with winning optimism, "I do not have to be complicit." Echidne agrees with this, though not in a sense that Gallagher would approve:
Why this silence, this looking-aside? Why make loud comments about possible motives but not look at the obvious one: that these men hated girls? Is it because on some level the society accepts such a hatred, because if we start focusing on it we have to ask some mighty unpleasant questions?That sounds about right to me. Some readers may recall a recent post of mine describing Hamid Karzai’s decision to improve his standing with the Taliban by throwing women, for all intents and purposes, to the wolves. I ended that post by implying that for all our excited talk about a “clash of civilizations,” our mainstream values are perhaps not quite as unique as we’d like to believe. When politicians can gain or maintain power by using women as symbols of sexual danger and moral disorder – “trapdoors into nothingness,” as one member of the Freikorps put it – they tend to do it.
To observers like Gallagher, whether women “deserve” what happens to them afterwards depends on their position on the delusory continuum between innocence and experience. Precisely because they are complicit, they prefer not to look too closely at the continuum between misogyny and murder.