Last week I participated in a book discussion at the college where I work. We were discussing a book by a journalist who was kidnapped by the Taliban while reporting on the war in Afghanistan. During our discussion, one of my colleagues mentioned how dangerous these combat zones have become for journalists. She then said, “Look what happened to Lara Logan in Egypt. I mean, what was she thinking?”

Today as I listen to reports of the filmmaker and photojournalist killed in Libya, I can’t help but notice that not a single person has questioned their decision to be there. Instead, these men are lauded for bringing us the truth and taking risks in the process. Despite the fact that they chose to put themselves in harm’s way without protective gear, no one is questioning their judgment.

Several reports I’ve heard have pointed out the sensitivity with which Tim Hetherington captures images of war. I dare to suggest that Lara Logan brought a similar sensitivity to her work in Egypt. Simply due to her gender, she was better able to gain access to Egyptian women’s experiences, a perspective often overlooked in the coverage of that story.

The recent loss of these brave journalists in Libya is tragic, and I am not suggesting that they should not have been in a combat zone. I do, however, wish to draw attention to the very different narratives surrounding male and female journalists in conflict areas. With Lara Logan, the story was about her appearance and her gender, and it was chock full of victim-blaming. Newsweek immediately did a story about “Women in Harm’s Way.” Some even suggested she was enjoying all the attention her assault would bring her. She was not viewed as a brave journalist willing to venture into a dangerous situation to bring us the truth, but rather as a woman who took an unnecessary risk.

Over the next few days as you learn more about the story unfolding in Libya, please notice the narrative surrounding Tim Hetherington and his colleagues. They are described with praise, admiration and dedication. All of these words are undoubtedly appropriate, but should not be attributed selectively, based on the person’s gender.

This Mother’s Day, let’s remember the true intentions behind this holiday.

“Arise then…women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts! From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with Our own. It says: Disarm! Disarm!” Julia Ward Howe, Mother’s Day Proclamation, 1870

In honor of the peaceful sentiment of this day, mothers who have lost children in Iraq and Afghanistan will be holding a 24-hour vigil in front of the White House.

This Mothers Day (May 10), thousands of mothers will mark this occasion with tremendous loss mothers whose children have been killed or wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. Mothers from all over the country will gather in front of the White House for a 24-hour-vigil to honor the war dead and demand an end to the wars.

What can you do? Send a Mothers Day rose to Washington, D.C., and let the mothers of the fallen and wounded soldiers know that you stand with them against war. Roses will be presented to the mothers and tied to the fence outside the White House as a memorial to the dead and a call for peace.

For just $3, thanks to CREDO, you can join the anti-war efforts by sending a rose. Wage peace!

Salon reports that secret recordings have been released in which one Army psychologist admits that he is under a lot of pressure not to diagnose returning service members with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You can listen to the recording and read the details here.

But what Sgt. X wants to tell a reporter about is one doctor’s appointment at Fort Carson that his wife did not witness. When she couldn’t accompany him to an appointment with psychologist Douglas McNinch last June, Sgt. X tucked a recording device into his pocket and set it on voice-activation so it would capture what the doctor said. Sgt. X had no idea that the little machine in his pocket was about to capture recorded evidence of something wounded soldiers and their advocates have long suspected — that the military does not want Iraq veterans to be diagnosed with PTSD, a condition that obligates the military to provide expensive, intensive long-term care, including the possibility of lifetime disability payments. And, as Salon will explore in a second article Thursday, after the Army became aware of the tape, the Senate Armed Services Committee declined to investigate its implications, despite prodding from a senator who is not on the committee. The Army then conducted its own internal investigation — and cleared itself of any wrongdoing. (emphasis mine)

Just days ago, Ann Jones asked “How can we stop the epidemic of killing women and children by returning soldiers?” She notes that the young men we send to war are not the same ones returning home. She doesn’t blame them (several excerpts below, but read the entire post here).

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Men sent to Iraq or Afghanistan for two, three, or four tours of duty return to wives who find them “changed” and children they barely know. Tens of thousands return to inadequate, underfunded veterans’ services with appalling physical injuries, crippling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suck-it-up sergeants who hold to the belief that no good soldier seeks help. That, by the way, is a mighty convenient belief for the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, which have been notoriously slow to offer much of that help.

All too often, the war wounds turn into violence against the servicemen’s family members.

Even in the best of times, the incidence of violence against women is much higher in the military than among civilians. After war, it’s naturally worse — as with those combat team members at Fort Carson. In 2005, one of them, Pfc. Stephen Sherwood, returned from Iraq and fatally shot his wife, then himself. In September 2008, Pvt. John Needham, who received a medical discharge after a failed suicide attempt, beat his girlfriend to death. In October 2008, Spc. Robert H. Marko raped and murdered Judilianna Lawrence, a developmentally disabled teenager he met online.

When a New York Times reporter asked a master sergeant in the Special Forces to comment on these events, he responded: “S.F.’s [Special Forces members] don’t like to talk about emotional stuff. We are Type A people who just blow things like that off…”

As it turns out, the military is not only creating the problem but covering it up.

What the task force discovered was that soldiers rarely faced any consequences for beating or raping their wives. (Girlfriends didn’t even count.) In fact, soldiers were regularly sheltered on military bases from civilian orders of protection and criminal arrest warrants. The military, in short, did a much better job of protecting servicemen from punishment than protecting their wives from harm.

It is perhaps the same flawed medical evaluation process described above that prevents the cycle of violence from being addressed.

The military does evaluate the mental health of soldiers. Three times it evaluated the mental health of Robert H. Marko (the Fort Carson infantryman who raped and murdered a girl), and each time declared him fit for combat, even though his record noted his belief that, on his twenty-first birthday, he would be transformed into the “Black Raptor,” half-man, half-dinosaur.

As the current administration talks of military escalation in Afghanistan in this time of recession, the conversation must address the military personnel coming home. Will they have jobs? Will they be given psychological support and the necessary medical attention to transition home? Or will they be left alone, brain injuries and all, to make sense of their new lives?

No society that sends its men abroad to do violence can expect them to come home and be at peace. To let world peace begin at home, you have to stop making war. (Europe has largely done it.) Short of that, you have to take better care of your soldiers and the people they once knew how to love. (Ann Jones)

It can all be quite overwhelming sometimes.

I woke up to this: a reminder that some people have a very different definition than I do of “life,” and skewed ideas about who decides whose lives are worth saving.

Then I stumbled upon this discussion of the sexual assault in the Watchmen and the general narrative of a rape victim falling in love with her rapist. Apparently, some people laughed at the rape scene in this movie. I worry that some of those people that laughed may live near me, or may even be people I know. I also worry what message this movie sends to young people, especially boys, about sex.

I not only found the scene not funny, but felt that it was rather explicit rape apologia and victim-blaming. Dr. Manhattan was evidently violating Laurie’s trust and expressed wishes in a sexual context, and then justified his actions by pointing to her alleged failure.

Last night at dinner, the waiter joked with my friend that if she wasn’t careful, he might have to Chris Brown her. Because punching your girlfriend in the face until her mouth fills with blood is hilarious. Yet the discourse surrounding that incident managed to allude to the fact that Rihanna was at least somewhat to blame as well.

Then I just came across this article, discussing how we’re still blaming women for the violence perpetrated against them.

The findings of the poll, conducted for the Home Office, also disclosed about a quarter of people believe that wearing sexy or revealing clothing should lead to a woman being held partly responsible for being raped or sexually assaulted.

Several reminders of why International Women’s Day is important, Obama’s new post for international women’s issues is necessary, and how far we have to go.

From The Hook:

Four years after the college safety nonprofit Security on Campus filed a complaint against UVA for its mishandling of sexual assault cases, the Department of Education has ruled that the university has, in fact, violated federal law by threatening victims of sexual assault with punishment if they spoke about their cases.

The ruling has major implications for victims of sexual assault on college campuses across the country, according to the man who filed the complaint on behalf of then-UVA student Annie Hylton, now Annie Hylton McLaughlin.

“It means that victims can’t be silenced at UVA or anywhere else,” says S. Daniel Carter, director of public policy for Security on Campus.

Continue reading here.

(more…)

Sarah Palin is the governor of the state with the highest rate of rape per capita. Rather than being part of the solution, she is part of the problem. (ABC)

Alaska leads the nation in reported forcible rapes per capita, according to the FBI, with a rate two and a half times the national average–a ranking it has held for many years. Children are no safer: Public safety experts believe that the prevalence of rape and sexual assault of minors in Alaska makes the state’s record one of the worst in the U.S. And while solid statistics on domestic violence are hard to come by, most–including Gov. Palin–agree it is an “epidemic.”

Despite the governor’s pro-family image, public safety experts and advocates for women and children struggled when asked to explain how Palin’s leadership has helped address the crisis. And current and former officials from Palin’s administration confirmed that an ambitious plan to tackle the crisis has apparently sunk into doldrums after arriving at the governor’s office.

“She’s really done a lot of work on oil and gas, but when it comes to violence against women and children. . . we haven’t been on her radar as a priority,” said Peggy Brown, executive director of the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. The Juneau-based group is an umbrella organization for shelters and anti-violence programs around the state.

By ignoring and underfunding the problem, not to mention charging women for their own rape kits, she sends a clear message to her constituents and women all over the country just how little she values our safety.

State troopers respond to most domestic violence calls outside of Alaska’s major cities, but they’re too short-staffed and under-funded to do it well, according to Robert Claus, a recently retired trooper.

“The training says you always respond to domestic violence with two people, [but] for most of my career that hasn’t been possible,” said Claus, who lives on the remote island he patrolled for 15 years. “So how do you go down the list and do what you’re supposed to do – separate the people, transport one person while taking care of the kids and victim? You have to pick and choose. We haven’t seen the money to do that.”

Why would Palin choose to be part of the problem rather than part of the solution?

  • Of the 74.7% of Alaskans who have experienced or know someone who has experienced domestic violence and sexual assault, 66.5% tried to access services in their community orencouraged others to do so.
  • 28.6% did not access services or encourage others to do so because there were no services available at the time. (ANDVSA)

Was she distracted by Troopergate?

Whatever the excuse, it’s not good enough. Yet another example of how “A woman candidate is not the same thing as a woman’s candidate. Sarah Palin does not speak for me.” (Buy the shirt at feministing)

Amy Goodman of ‘Democracy Now!,’ was assaulted and detained while doing her job outside the Republican National Convention.

Here are some excerpts, but you can read the whole account here (Truthdig).

I was arrested with my two colleagues, “Democracy Now!” producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, while reporting on the first day of the RNC. I have been wrongly charged with a misdemeanor. My co-workers, who were simply reporting, may be charged with felony riot.

Behind all the patriotic hyperbole that accompanies the conventions, and the thousands of journalists and media workers who arrive to cover the staged events, there are serious violations of the basic right of freedom of the press. Here on the streets of St. Paul, the press is free to report on the official proceedings of the RNC, but not to report on the police violence and mass arrests directed at those who have come to petition their government, to protest.

I was at the Xcel Center on the convention floor, interviewing delegates. I had just made it to the Minnesota delegation when I got a call on my cell phone with news that Sharif and Nicole were being bloody arrested, in every sense. Filmmaker Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films and I raced on foot to the scene. Out of breath, we arrived at the parking lot. I went up to the line of riot police and asked to speak to a commanding officer, saying that they had arrested accredited journalists.

Within seconds, they grabbed me, pulled me behind the police line and forcibly twisted my arms behind my back and handcuffed me, the rigid plastic cuffs digging into my wrists. I saw Sharif, his arm bloody, his credentials hanging from his neck. I repeated we were accredited journalists, whereupon a Secret Service agent came over and ripped my convention credential from my neck. I was taken to the St. Paul police garage where cages were set up for protesters. I was charged with obstruction of a peace officer. Nicole and Sharif were taken to jail, facing riot charges.

You can read a transcript of Goodman’s arrest here and see video.  Over at FreePress you can sign a petition to drop charges against journalists who were simply doing their jobs.

What strikes me from Goodman’s article and the transcript is how violently they were treated when they asked respectful, basic questions of the officers or Secret Service personnel.  Goodman had her press pass ripped from around her neck and one of her producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous, had the plastic cuffs tightened by a man whom he had asked to loosen them because they were hurting him.  Obviously, at a full-blown riot the whole ‘innocent until proven guilty’ standard is difficult to follow, but these were well-known, accredited journalists trying to cover the protests as part of their job.  Where is the outcry?

John McCain, you do not speak for me. I consider it very presumptuous for anyone to ever claim to speak for “every American.”

Your view that the use of force is the best option in many situations, and your promises of more wars, are not what I want in a President, nor even a Congressman.

Your posturing on the war between George and Russia disgusts me. It has given us a glimpse into how you would lead. I see that your decisions will not be based on measured reactions to intelligence or reflections on history. You consistently promote the use of force over diplomacy, and we’ve seen the damage caused by that approach during these last eight years.

UPDATE: And McCain can’t make up his mind from one day to the next if countries in this century invade each other (like he voted for us to do in Iraq).

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