During the Holocaust, women and children were victims of medical experiments. Jewish women were raped and beaten and subjected to unethical sterilization experiments. Roma women were threatened with the possibility that they could give birth to animals if impregnated by non-human sperm as well as with experiments testing the effects of diseases. Every race viewed as “inferior” was attacked with unspeakable evils. And before them, startlingly close, was the Rape of Nanjing, in which soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army brutally raped 80,000 Chinese women.
Through stolen power, men have used women’s bodies and women’s ability to give birth as a weapon for the last resort of patriarchy: war and genocide.
In various points of history, national security and “ethnic cleansing” was achieved, through mass rape. And the practice isn’t abandoned in present times. In 1992, a Serbian ruling party document entitled “Warning” was released to emphasize that the birthrates of Muslim, Roman Catholic, and Albanian women were higher than those of Serbian women. A program of “population renewal” was mandated as the resolution. Serbian women were pushed to produce soldiers, and non-Serbian women were targeted for mass rape, resulting in either impregnation or death for the purpose of “ethnic” cleansing.
This practice sounds illogical, but through the application of patriarchy the reasoning is obvious. As children were believed to take the ethnic identity of the father due to patriarchal myth, this method would successfully increase Serbian population size. And the victims believed it to be true. Raped women would be discarded, unwanted and unwelcome by their own people and families, and unable to contribute to their communities as they were now viewed as the property of enemy and the unit by which the enemy achieves national security via increased population.
Before the arrival of the Serbian military into enemy territory for the sole purpose of mass rape, supporting residents would rape the women in their communities, who were then forced to leave by societal pressures. Then, Croatian and Bosnian-Herzegovinian women were raped and murdered within Serb concentration camps. And lastly there were death/rape camps in which Serbians beat, raped, and force-impregnated women.
In 1993 Rwanda, a civil war erupted in response to colonial suppression of the Hutu women. Belgium colonialists had split the population into “races” and forced the belief that the superior of the two were the Tutsi, who had unproven European roots arbitrarily estimated from “European” features, and were therefore more beautiful. The colonialists went as far as to issue identity cards to all Rwandans to place them in groups. In 1959, Rwanda regained independence, and there began a waves of violence against Tutsi women. When the genocide officially began, their bodies were especially and readily targeted, attacked, and destroyed.
It was not only the whole of the women’s bodies that were attacked, but parts of them that had been idealized. This mentality tore the bodies of Tutsi women into parts–noses, necks, fingers, and anything that had been used to classify them as closer to Europeans, including genitals. These attacks were both symbolic and physical. Rape survivors reported that their rapists actually believed the women were different inside and mutilated them to cut them open for inspection.
Cultural practice of not marrying women “marked” by the enemy race drove systematic rape and murder of these women. They were seen as dishonored, and unable to bear Tutsi children after having been raped by Hutu men.
Hatred of the other and fear for national security inspired random killings and car bombings of which Iraqi women were victims. The American definition of national security and the violence that is justified in its name devastates women and girls the hardest. Having lost family members who were imprisoned, killed, or forced to leave to find work, women become the heads of households in a society that does not allow them the independence to do so, yet they are expected to run everything efficiently. Infant mortality skyrocketed and malnutrition in children under the age of 5 increased by 7 percent. Women were expected to care for children as men were occupied with the war, to feed and clothe them properly while working nonstop and fearing for the lives of their families due to the harsh conditions of war–an invisible burden; if it is women’s work, it must be easy. (This mentality is apparent in the very system on which society is built. In India, for example, harvesting rice is viewed as hard labor when done by men and easy work when done by women.) While men are glorified and immortalized in history books and monuments for the wars in which they fight and die, women are quickly forgotten for continually struggling to rebuild from the damage and nurture back into health and prosperity the destroyed communities for which they live and by which they are tormented.
3 thoughts on “patriarchy, war, and women”
I just feel so angry. It festers in me. This pain that lingers in my knowledge of collective female suffering.
I know how that feels. Researching for this depressed me for hours.
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