HuMan History: Women’s Suffering Can’t Change It

July 21st, 2010

This is the second of three recent Op-Ed columns from the New York Times which are being examined for their common view that the history of men, plural or singular, can somehow be ‘re-written’ by women.

Far from the image of an objective reporter, Nicholas Kristoff is a journalist immersed in documenting the moral failures of men which drive them to unspeakably destructive acts. He doesn’t only report but also intervenes, comprehending that some things cannot be encountered with the professional passivity of a paid observer. The violence he describes around the globe is directed both externally and inwardly, as is the usual case with aggression. External battles between nations are most easily documented, such as that between Israel and it’s neighbors. Much of Kristoff’s reporting is devoted to civil divisions in which men seek to subjugate or exterminate portions of their own societies, as seen in his visits to African nations. Unlike most reporters, his attention is drawn to the inevitable targeting of women who constitute the lowest rung of all societies. He chronicles these atrocities, and the occasional modest victory, very well.

Kristoff continued his series on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in a piece called, “Waiting for Ghandi”.
While a previous column discussed below advised men to forget the past and begin anew in an area where history–and mythology– reign supreme, this column expresses the hope that males immersed in violence might be shamed into negotiations. That shame would be instigated by the sight of women engaged in passive resistance and filmed for posterity as they are met with violence. Yes, it would put a powerful image before many cameras.

But what of the women?

Kristoff, like Ghandi, appears to regard women as if we hold the answer to all of society’s ills. As a matter of fact, we do. But, we aren’t going to share these most ‘un-secret’ of all strategies because we’re exhausted. Not only is the demand for these ‘secrets’ unceasing, but we are also expected to be impervious to the retribution exacted by men who fail to meet their own expectations of evolving to that sought-after, higher level of being. There is always a ‘reason’ for continuing their violent games.

And what of the women?

Women are indeed practiced at this because passive resistance (there is nothing ‘civil’ about flagrant disobedience) is a major strategy by which women stay alive in their own homes or retain their places in the work-force. However, passive resistance is not really a model of revolution. It is a protective shield to guard the spark of repressed humanity within oppressed humanity. It impresses others for only a very short time. Then the women will be left to pay the price of their demonstration.

Kristoff demonstrates the usual struggle of all men with the ‘Madonna/Whore’ division in which women are idealized. Nonetheless, that idealization of women still results in punishment for the assigned role of receptacles for male expression of sex and seed; of power and need. And sometimes of love, which is never returned as powerfully as required by the ‘thwarted’. Still, I had to question the very nature of the suggestion and read a bit about Ghandi’s view of women. It was very much the same. Women are necessary to save men from themselves.

Ghandi put women on pedestals to induce men to control themselves by example. By opening the door to females as voters, he assumed they would elect more reasonable individuals among the male half of the population. Females elected to any position of power would be expected to minimize the degree to which they visibly exercised it. Ghandi didn’t actually endorse social equality for women, fearing they would become equally violent and immoral with such freedom. This circular reasoning merely places men at the mercy of their atavistic impulses and makes women responsible for altering men’s goals. None of this requires the necessary and radical shifts in the gender hierarchy within society.

Hopefully, women will be permitted the garb required for their appointed task as peacemaker. A cape and tights, as provocative as the latter might appear, would seem necessary.

Wistful notions by men of peace making and describing huMan history. This reply was posted to Mr. Kristoff’s blog:


July 11th, 2010
3:54 pm
Mr. Kristoff,

You disappoint today with this easy discharge of responsibility from warring, patriarchal factions to solutions which will result in some transient shame to men through the public abuse of women. Women are at the lowest rung of the ladder of oppression in that even an oppressed male can own one. Female lives should not be risked for lack of clear written agreements by men to end their armed conflicts and respect the rights of other men to exist.

You have seen how women are weapons of war in Africa through rape; how women become human shields in Middle Eastern villages occupied by terrorists needing bases for their guns and rockets. Yet now you propose women risk their lives in an effort to shame men whose customs preclude women from appearing in such a public manner for subversive purposes. How should they dress and comport themselves to avoid condemnation and punishment by their own leaders? Their own husbands?

Women can’t solve the problem, when we are even denied equal rights under the constitution – any constitution. Equal rights of citizenship in this country are even granted to paper entities – corporations – as for its human, male residents. Those corporate, paper citizens reap profits from war and provide its weapons – propaganda, money and instruments of violence. Remove those weapons of war instead of placing women between those weapons and their primary targets. Make war unprofitable and refuse recognition to terrorist-led governments.

Having women lie at the feet of armed men with the responsibility of disarming them is simply unfair. The State Department should instead grant women political asylum to leave their men to enjoy their battles and flee to safer environs. Deprivation of the sex class might serve to end war since shame is nonexistent. And, if wars are to be won by media influenced opinion, have journalists travel en mass to these battlefields.

You get paid for it and have medical insurance.

Barbara Rubin

Post Script: A post regarding the column by David Brooks written about Mel Gibson’s case has been postponed pending verification of the content of the tapes by law enforcement.

Categories: Newspaper Commentary, NY Times, Published

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