Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Guantanamo

When my TV boyfriend Dan Abrams was talking about the female interrogators at Guantanamo rubbing themselves on the prisoners or pretending to wipe menstrual blood on them, he argued that it wasn't any different from the many ways that law enforcement officers lie to and manipulate people they are questioning. He was more concerned that the strategy didn't seem particularly effective, not that it was employed. It bothered me when he said it, but it's taken me a long time to articulate what exactly the problem is. Some of his guests were bothered that the interrogators deliberately chose interrogation strategies that would offend strict Muslims. I think this is part of the problem, certainly. It kind of falls into the "Golden Rule" realm. If we don't want our soldiers captured, tortured, and confronted with things that mock their religions, we shouldn't do it to others. But on the other hand, tough shit if some religions don't allow men to interact with women that aren't related to them. We aren't a theocracy and we aren't bound by any religious doctrine. We do what we need to do and if you don't like it, don't get on our bad side. On the third hand, of course, is the nagging suspicion that some of these folks haven't done anything to get on our bad sides other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as with the British guys recently released. But this morning, I realized what's really been bothering me about this, aside from the general nausea about our government keeping people beyond the reach of the Constitution*. I think the whole thing says something deeply unsettling about how we see women and women's roles in our society. There's an old joke that goes like this: A man comes up to a woman and says would you sleep with me for five million dollars? The woman says, five million? Really? The man says, yeah, I'm a successful business man and I've got plenty of cash. The woman thinks about it for a while and says, okay. The man says, will you sleep with me for fifty dollars. The woman says, Hell, no, what kind of woman do you think I am? And the man says, I think we've already established what kind of woman you are. Now we're just negotiating. I think the thing that bothers me most is that the Big Three monotheistic religions have deep, embedded problems with women and we, as a culture steeped in Christianity, have those same big problems with women. So, we know what buttons to push because they're our buttons. It's not like one of the interrogators was like "You're afraid of human hair. How strange. Look at all the hair I have." and we all sat there with Dan Abrams dumbfounded at the foreignness of being afraid of human hair. These interrogators were like "you're afraid of evidence of women's sexuality?" and then, they didn't choose to exploit that fear in ways that these Muslim prisoners would have been moved by--they could have accomplished that with just touching the prisoners or sitting near them or talking to them--they exploited that fear in the ways that move us, Americans--the short skirts, the fondling of breasts, the menstrual blood (real or simulated). Plus, obviously, it wasn't just about offending Muslim sensibilities or male interrogators could have also given lap dances to the prisoners or simulated smearing them with ejaculate, since none of the Big Three are all that keen on homosexual activity. But that would have crossed a line we as Americans hate to see crossed. Manly men--like CIA agents--are heterosexual and can never be asked to trade on their sexuality in ways that might compromise the perception of their heterosexuality. We're the ones with the madonna/whore complex--and with it the sneaking suspicion that any and all women are secretly dirty and bad--and we're the ones yet again struggling with the woman question. Do women have bodily autonomy or does the government have the right to tell us what we can and cannot do with our bodies? Is having a baby the most important task a woman has, a just punishment for sexual activity, or a loving choice? Is getting prescriptions filled a matter of course or at the discretion of someone other than you and your doctor? Can you expect to learn how your own body works in a sex ed class or is it best to keep that information from you? Are you sexually available to everyone who expresses an interest in you unless you insist on being sexually available to no one or do you have the right to decide the circumstances of your sex life? And, do you have the right to work without having to perform sexual favors to keep your job? Because, really, regardless of whether it was the idea of the interrogators or someone higher up, it's inappropriate for women paid by the federal government to be giving lap dances, even to unwilling recipients. We are more and have a human right to be treated as more by our employers than our sexuality. It bugs me that the attitude at Guantanamo--the attitude of everyone there, male and female, prisoner and interrogator--seems to have been that women are defined by their sex. I mean, we're supposed to be fighting a war against people whose world-view is supposed to be utterly incompatible to ours. Well, duh, they don't just "hate our freedom" in some general sense, they hate our freedom in specific ways. And what is it that they hate? Well, surprise, surprise, it's the same thing our religious fundamentalists hate, our "decadence," which tends to mean the freedoms our women have. American female interrogators pushing their boobs into prisoners' faces confirms both the worst fears of the Muslim world, and also the worst fears/deepest fantasies of the American world. It confirms the suspicion that every woman has her price and reinforces the belief that, while it is illegal for a woman to trade on her own sexuality for profit, it's completely appropriate for the government to dictate and regulate a woman's sexual behavior. And that's what bugs me about this, that it says something particularly unpleasant about who gets to tell me what to do with myself. *Today Dan said that he thought it was okay to keep people beyond the reach of the Constitution because the framers could have never envisioned people so hell-bent on destroying us and that we ought to be okay with it because one of the weaknesses of our justice system is the rights it gives the defendants. Poor Dan has clearly lost his mind on this. Either we have a Constitution that we use to guide us in all circumstances or we don't. And if the Constitution doesn't apply to everyone, we should all be very afraid.

4 Comments:

Blogger Greg Jerrett said...

Here is a good response to your buddy Dan who said the founding fathers couldnt have imagined an enemy hell bent on our destruction ... HE'S FULL OF SHIT.

The Constitution was written not long after a little thing I like to call The American Revolution. No offense to the American zeitgeist, but that HAD to be harder than anything we went through on 9/11. I mean, it was a war for feck's sake, a war we very nearly lost on several occasions and only won through sheer bloody guts.

So Dan's argument is effed up.

Also ... I noticed you had links to me and Ben Godar, did you go to ISU? -gjerrett@yahoo.com

2/17/2005 02:36:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

I was just about to be all like "Holy Shit, you went to ISU? I went to that little cloistered Methodist college down the street," but then I realized you meant the other ISU... er... the OTHER other ISU.

No, I was flipping through the MLA program one year and saw a number of sessions devoted to Midwestern Literature. As any good Midwesterner would do when confronted with the idea that she has some distinct culture, I laughed and laughed and laughed at this.

But then I got to thinking, what the hell, maybe a Midwestern writer is a distinct animal. So, now, whenever I hit "next blog" and stumble across someone from back home who amuses me or provokes thought, I link to them.

I stumbled across you, read you for a little while and decided you fit the bill, and then followed your link to Godar and thought, what the hell, I liked Suck.

2/17/2005 08:39:00 AM  
Blogger the Professor said...

So I think this was a beautifully written post. And, I agree with Greg. Do we really think we're going to get somewhere safe and healthy assuming that the 9/11 attacks were the worst thing (American) history has seen?

I have more to say here and on other exciting posts, but I'm now 6 days behind on work and too excited about Annie Sprinkle to focus.

2/17/2005 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Steve Pick said...

Another beautiful post, Aunt B. You worked out exactly what's been bothering me about all this, without me having to work it out for myself. If all goes well, that should save me enough time to write my own post about Tuesday night's Law and Order SUV for my blog.

Anyway, the bit about questioning why men weren't used to torture these prisoners with their sexuality was spot on.

2/17/2005 03:26:00 PM  

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