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Sally C. Pipes - Contributor
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Sally C. Pipes is President and CEO, Pacific Research Institute [go to Pipes index]

Prison Scandal Sparks Feminist Confession
The logical result of PC policy...
[Sally C. Pipes] 6/9/04

The Abu Ghraib prison scandal, for all its horrors, has become the latest revelation of the confused state of feminism. Consider “Prison Abuse: Feminism’s Assumptions Upended,” by Barbara Ehrenreich, a high-profile feminist author, in a recent edition of the Los Angeles Times.

Feminist strategy, Ehrenreich wrote, “rested on the assumption, implicit or stated outright, that women were morally superior to men. We had a lot of debates over whether it was biology or conditioning that gave women the moral edge -- or simply the experience of being a woman in a sexist culture. But the assumption of superiority, or at least a lesser inclination toward cruelty and violence, was more or less beyond debate.”

That assumption made strategy easy. Given the moral superiority of women, one simply puts as many women as possible into positions of power and, by some strange invisible female hand, we will have a better society than the version offered by morally inferior, inherently violent men. That also applies to the military.

“Secretly,” confessed Ehrenreich. “I hoped that the presence of women would, over time, change the military, making it more respectful of other people and cultures, more capable of genuine peacekeeping.”

In other words, in the feminist vision, the mere presence of women would change the very role of the military from a fighting force to a kind of glorified Peace Corps. As for the vaunted sensitivity to other cultures, check out this confession.

“Although I opposed the 1991 Persian Gulf War,” says Ehrenreich. “I was proud of our servicewomen and delighted that their presence irked their Saudi hosts.”

Now there is cultural sensitivity for you. Doubtless Ehrenreich was also delighted that female prison guards irked Iraqis. Having females guard male prisoners would be an insane policy in California or New York. In an Islamic nation such as Iraq, it is absolute madness. Such lunacy is the legacy of the feminization of the American military. Here Ehrenreich can enlighten us further.

“Like most feminists,” she supported full opportunity for women in the military because “I knew women could fight” and “because the military is one of the few options around for low-income young people.” Both are false or misleading.

There are plenty of options other than the military for low-income people but Ehrenreich, a socialist, prefers government solutions. Women can fight, but not nearly as well as men, which is why men do the heavy lifting on the front lines.

Unlike men, women get pregnant, which means they are not deployable. Any journalist who tries to find out how many soldiers have become pregnant will run into the true policy of “don’t ask don’t tell.” Barbara Ehrenreich isn’t going to tell us, though she does note the obvious, that women don’t necessarily make the best prison guards.

What feminists like Ehrenreich and former congresswoman Pat Schroeder really found attractive about the military was that it is not a democracy but a command structure. Their politically correct policy and notions about gender roles could thus be imposed from the top down and enforced. Criticize the double standards or express doubts about co-ed basic training and you are out. Those double standards continue.

Soldiers Megan Ambuhl, Lynndie England, and Sabrina Harman were not the first to be prosecuted for abuses. A man was, Jeremy Sivits. A woman, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, was in charge of the Abu Ghraib prison during the time of the abuses. But Karpinski, the first woman general to command soldiers in a combat situation, was not dragged before the Senate Armed Services Committee like her male counterparts.

Meanwhile, it is good that Barbara Ehrenreich and fellow militant feminists have their illusions shattered. It would be much better to have a policy based on hard reality. CRO

copyright 2004 Pacific Research Institute

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