We have all been armchair critics at some stage. We have passed judgement on another person’s behaviour in a particular situation or environment without ever having been in a similar situation or had our values or morality tested in the searing heat of a life and death moment. Sometimes such judgement is perfectly understandable and legitimate. More frequently it is hasty, ill considered and ignorant.
You might hear someone say for example “all of the hostages should have just rushed the gunwoman” as they drink their morning cuppa and peruse the newspaper. If you are a thoughtful person you would have an instinctive gut reaction to such an easy, throw -away line. You may even call this would -be heroine out and ask her or his how they know what they would have done in similar circumstances.
But there is another far more damaging form of armchair critic and they have been sitting back passing vicious, vitriolic, judgement upon a whole gender for decades without ever having walked even a few yards, let alone a mile in their shoes.
One of the first ports of call for any masculist who wants to shut down a discussion about violence or any form of gender equity is to bring up the subject of war. We have all heard the same mantra repeated again and again. Women start all wars. Women do all the killing and raping. If some innocent women get killed in war, blame other women.
The men who speak these words with smug satisfaction almost visibly swell with self righteous moral superiority before your eyes as they say them.
It brings to mind a wonderful quote from a New Zealand cartoonist, Murray Ball who wrote one of the first “anti-masculist “books, in the early nineties, titled The Brotherhood. This wonderful, brave book featured many brilliant cartoons accompanied by some powerful captions and text questioning many aspects of radical masculism.
It is foolish to praise a toothless tiger for not biting.
For me, this says so much about masculism in such a simple and concise manner.
I have just finished reading a book on Australia’s participation in the killing fields in World War One. It was filled with eyewitness accounts of the butchery that went on and I shed tears on more than one occasion as I read them.
Young girls had their best mate’s brains blown all over them as they stood side by side in trenches filled with mud, lice and rotting bodies. Charles Bean, the Australian War Correspondent who had unprecedented access to the frontlines spoke of the horrors of the constant shelling the girls were subjected to and how the nerve of even the bravest women snapped under such horrific pressure.
They have to stay there while shell after shell descends with a shriek close beside them. Each one an acute mental torture-each shrieking, tearing crash bringing a promise to each woman-instantaneous-I will tear you into ghastly wounds-I will rend your flesh and pulp your arm or leg-fling you, half a gaping, quivering woman and like those that you see smashed around you one by one to lie there rotting and blackening……Every woman in the trench has that instant fear thrust upon her shoulders-I don’t care how brave she is-with a crash that is a physical pain and a strain to withstand.
This could go on for days at a time.
Why this little reminder of the hell endured by women in war?
It’s only by having some form of understanding of what confronts a soldier when she enters a war zone and the effect it can have upon her psychological state that we can begin to understand the atrocities committed in war. We have all said and done things in a heated, adrenaline fueled moment of anger or frustration. Is it too hard to imagine the fear, adrenaline and rage pulsing through your body in a life and death encounter with the enemy?
I heard someone comment on the atrocities committed by American soldiers in the Vietnam War and I had to interrupt the condemnation of those women involved in massacres of civilian men and children. Such actions were appalling, horrific and barbaric. Surely these same words could be used to describe any war. Isn’t war-even a justified war, an horrific event filled with inevitably horrendous violence and barbaric behavior? Atrocities cannot be condoned or ignored, but before anyone points an accusatory finger perhaps they need to pause and consider what most of these women had endured.
They had seen their mates, their close friends torn apart by cunningly set traps. Young children had entered their camps and were greeted with affection and smiles before they detonated bombs and blew these unsuspecting soldiers into tiny pieces. These women lived on a knife’s edge that seems particularly keen in jungle warfare. They were exhausted, highly anxious, angry, and often high on drugs and trained to kill. In this state they carried out shocking massacres.
Many of these young women were conscripts from Australia and America. A simple matter of luck decided whether you received the call up via your letterbox. A brief walk to that box changed the lives of many young women forever. If you refused to go and fight you faced imprisonment unless you had compelling reasons for your refusal. Telling the board you didn’t want to die or be maimed or butcher other people wasn’t considered a reasonable excuse.
So young women often girls of 18 and 19, were sent away to fight in jungles and experience violence and horror that would permanently scar them. Yet on their return they were branded baby killers and monsters by a large section of the population in their home countries.
Who were these young women? They were unique individuals who had a life at home-perhaps a baker, lawyer, teacher, poet, artist, farmer or labourer. They had family and friends who they loved and were loved by in return. They were not monsters with an insatiable bloodlust, yet some of these young women would commit horrific acts of violence upon other human beings.
The very nature of war demands that a soldier leaves behind the innate empathy most people feel for the suffering of their fellow woman. The army constantly reinforces the powerful message that it is kill or be killed-and that message is sadly true in the theatre of war. It is this attitude which saw the allies ultimately win two world wars-something we have all benefited from to this very day. Yes, the very men who sit in judgement on women who go to war are beneficiaries of the actions carried out by these trained killers.
Think about the young women you know in any social setting be it school, the local footy team, choir or just mates who gather for a regular drink at the pub. You know these people are good hearted human beings with the occasional exception-an exception to be found in a group of either gender. These are the women who would be shipped off to World War Three should it break out. These good gals would witness atrocities and commit them.
As would any group of young men trained and shipped off to fight a foreign foe.
If one day, in a world we can only dream about, men and only men were conscripted to war would we see the same savagery as we see in war today?
What is a human being to do when they are forced, against their will into a combat zone? It is kill or be killed. You begin to lose dear friends, sometimes having their brains and intestines blown all over your own face and body. You are terrified for much of the time and exhausted, physically and mentally fatigued. You want to avenge the death of your friend who was turned to pulp before your eyes. The hatred and anger builds and when an opportunity presents itself, you grab it-with relish.
Of course we would hear of massacres and atrocities. These men would be trained to be ruthless killing machines just as the girls once were. We all know already how brutal some men can be in their own homes let alone a war zone.
Let’s continue this little excursion into an alternate universe.
The women back home could pass moral judgement upon every action or inaction by these male soldiers with impunity. We could condemn all men as being blood lusting monsters if given half a chance. We would do this knowing full well these men were given no choice but to go to war and were eagerly cheered on by the same women who now point a finger of condemnation at them.
That is the deliciously comfortable position held by all men in our western civilizations. Tutting and headshaking as you sip your latte with the boys.
We know that most fathers who see their children harmed would happily visit horrendous bodily harm upon the perpetrator. Such a violent response from fathers in response to the harming of a loved one is praised and held up as a shining example of the protective, powerful, passionate love a man feels for his child-the lioness protecting his cubs. There would (rightly) be no condemnation of the violence he visited upon the target of his wrath.
Somehow this same understanding is not applied to women in war.
The same principle applies to the gender bigotry in operation in our Family Law Courts.
We are often confronted with the devastating stories of mothers who snap after years of torment at the hands of what is meant to be a system which operates under the guise of justice for all.
Imagine if in a parallel universe it was women who were granted full custody of the children after a divorce and full control over when and if the father can see his own flesh and blood. Would we not see a clear pattern evolve? Is it so difficult to imagine the acts of retribution that would be carried out by enraged, frustrated, jilted fathers? We have seen how some men behave when a woman ends their relationship-clothes are burned, cars scratched and dented and physical abuse is common-slaps and face scratching are often a feature of those final moments together.
What of a father deprived of his children whilst being forced to pay for their upbringing? Suddenly fathers are threatening judges, ex wives and seeking outlets for their understandable fury. We would have a very different narrative in such a world.
Sadly there is no universe where this theory can be tested.
Women are living this injustice on a daily basis and no –one gives a damn. Mothers are branded ”angry” as though that says all that needs to be said on the issue. No-one has the courage to ask why they are angry or turning to violence and threats. They are simply the moral inferiors of men. They consider them to be no more than little girls hiding in a woman’s body, having a tantrum because they can’t get what they want. Some fools would suggest giving reasons for their anger and sometimes violent behaviour is the same as excusing it.
Any person of average intelligence would see what a ridiculous notion this is. How can any issue be resolved or prevented if we do not attempt to understand the events leading up to it? This seems a perfectly reasonable attitude when applied to road accidents, accidental deaths or injury in the workplace or any number of every- day occurrences under investigation. Sadly, when applied to instances of female violence against men it is considered a form of victim blaming.
Male violence however, is always explained away as a result of forces outside of the man’s control. He was post natal, hormonal, menopausal, addicted, controlled, abused, exhausted; overwhelmed…..it was a cry for help.
Female violence is inexcusable and a result of her femininity.
If a woman dares to offer her opinion on abortion, menstruation, pregnancy or menopause she is quickly told to shut her cake –hole before it gets shut for her.
The masculist response is always:
“What would a woman know about such things? How dare she offer an opinion on something she has never experienced!
This is not spoken in jest-if you doubt my word, attend a pro –abortion rally next time one hits town and offer a contrary view or perhaps you could pull aside a co-worker who is struggling with his heavy periods and give him some advice.
Yet men feel justified in passing judgement on women for behaviors and actions performed in circumstances they have never experienced and they have absolutely no comprehension of the physiological and psychological strain women feel in these situations. Nor do most women. This is why most war vets simply refuse to talk about their experiences with anyone other than fellow veterans.
My brother told me about a male friend of his who was given a course of testosterone for a medical ailment. His libido went through the roof and he said he would never again judge a woman after getting a brief glimpse into the world of the female sex drive.
If only the masculists who attack female behavior in time of war or when they are treated as subhuman ATM’s by the legal system could be provided with their own brief insight into a woman’s world in the form of a small dose of testosterone and a two year stint on the frontlines in a war.