I prefer my misogyny out in the open. I like it niiiiiice and inflammatory. People can react to it, and it can be dealt with.
We don’t live in that world. We live in a world where misogyny slips into cracks, into subtext, into what is *not* said.
We also live in a world where misogyny is deeply intertwined with corruptive and reactionary view of politics.
Perfect example: Benedict Carey’s Memorial Day article in the NY Times.
Carey’s article is nominally about the increased rates of mental illness among women in the military than men.
One of the biggest adjustments the United States military attempted during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was cultural: the integration of women into an intensely male world.
I know I know a US military that “attempts” “adjustments” is a horribly reactionary frame; move past it, move past it, there’s worse.
The evidence that Carey, the Times’ reporter on brain and memory science, provides for the increased mental illness rate among women has more holes than Hitler at the end of Inglorious Basterds. But leave that to one side (or check the bottom of the post *), move past it, move past it, there’s worse.
The reached for (and “reached” is definitely the verb, if not “shitted-out”) explanation is that women can’t access brotherly love.
For men, the bonds of unconditional love among fellow combatants — that lifeblood of male military culture — are sustaining. But in dozens of interviews with women who served, they often said such deep emotional sustenance eluded them.
[. . .]
“It creates a kind of bond between members, a love that transcends anything you’ve ever known,” David H. Marlowe, the founder of the Army’s behavioral health unit, who died last year, once said. “You come to the absolute belief that the noblest and most important thing you can do is die for the others.”
Many women in the military did not have that kind of love — at least when they were deployed. “It’s like, I got all the downside of serving in the Army and none of the upside, the camaraderie,“
Hmm. Are the ways that women fail to access this “lifeblood of military culture” different from the ways men fail to?
- Hint: this is not Batman
Benedict Carey doesn’t know, because Benedict Carey lumps all men together and all women together. Men do not have difficulty accessing this camaraderie; women do. This “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” framing, the individualization of the problem, is endemic to centrist political reporting, and glosses over the institutional dynamics that contribute to problems. This is an individual problem for people to deal with, not a social problem for communities and institutions.
What’s puzzling, and acts as a key to unlocking the piece’s deeper misogyny, is that Carey quotes a woman that offers a way for the Army to deal with this predicament.
“It’s such a tricky thing to navigate; you have to learn to approach guys like a sister, not as a potential romantic partner,” said Anne, a woman who served two tours in Iraq and wanted her full name omitted because she is currently on active duty. “When you do that, they’ll do anything for you. But so many females coming into the Army, they’re so young, they don’t understand how to do that.”
Provide training and create a culture where men and women generally interact with each other platonically, not as people eyeing each other at a club in 1 in the morning.
These boots were made for creating an atmosphere of sexuality
But Carey doesn’t frame the quote this way; it occurs during a dump of quoting women describing their experiences, and its implications go unremarked.
We’re on to something, here.
The “Men are Martian, Women Venetian” frame that emphasizes individuals and ignores how institutions create the context in which they operate partly explains why he does this. There’s a deeper reason though. It ain’t pretty.
For all his focus on individual experience, Carey misses A GIANT FUCKING ENORMOUS matzoh ball: how the differences among women contribute to the difference in their experience.
Carey doesn’t even rhetorically ask whether women of different ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds experience this lack of social integration differently. This is baffling, because, as with the quote above outlining a perfect institutional response the Army could take, Carey provides quotes highlighting the importance of ethnicity and class in individual experiences:
[Social Scientists] have found that the mental costs borne by those in the minority are similar. Members of such groups tend to report as many insults and bad days as members of the dominant culture. But compared with the majority, they feel far less secure.
She also learned how to handle the rich girl comments: “So what, I’m here just like you.”
How ethnicity and socioeconomic status affects the ways women handle stress in the military isn’t just something Carey overlooked; it’s explicitly in Carey’s narration of the issue. But it’s not in his analysis at all. Every woman is white, and every woman is upper class.
If that’s even the term for it. Carey chooses to frame his story around a young Lieutenant who developed mental problems: feelings of inadequacy, numbness, anxiety, panic attacks. She went to Philips Exeter Academy, one of the most elite prep schools in the world; graduated from Wellesley; and has been traveling the world for a couple years as a way of combating her illness. Her father is an international venture capitalist for software firms.
She’s a sympathetic figure, and I wish her nothing but the best in her struggles.
Benedict Carey treats her ethnicity and wealth as invisible. As unworthy of discussion. If someone’s ethnicity or socioeconomic status differs from hers, Carey doesn’t find that relevant enough while exploring women reacting to stress in the military to even ask whether it matters.
All the things Carey does re-enforce each other, making a tepee of social shittiness to trap women. If males are all able to access brotherly communion that women have difficulty sharing, and the military itself doesn’t shape the problem, the stress and mental anguish women experience are due to something innate to being a female – ethnicity and class don’t affect things, after all – and can only be changed by women acting differently on an individual level.
The message is: a woman’s isolation and alienation in a social space is a problem specific to something innate about women, not a social problem; and women need to deal with it individually, not collectively; and certainly not men, and not institutions.
Notice how free-floating the message is once its received. It applies to a woman working the line at McDonald’s as well as someone in upper-middle-management who rarely sees another person wearing a skirt.
“Your feelings of isolation and alienation are because of you. You’re the only one who can deal with them. Hope you have enough money to travel the world.”
The ultimate con here is one I’ve already lost by discussing this stupid, shitty, misogynist article by Benedict Carey: we shouldn’t be getting our patterns of thought from the media. It shouldn’t matter that Benedict Carey wrote a piece that ignores how the military institutionally creates a social environment, that erases distinctions among ethnicity and class, and treats all men and all women as two homogenous groups. The words should have the same affect being printed in the NY Times as being printed on a handout you get while walking through the airport from someone waving a tambourine.
But in order for that to happen, your parents would have had to raise you differently. It’s probably too late now.
I suggest meditation. Or Jack Daniels. I use both quite liberally, and concurrently.
* He cites a study from the Journal of General Internal Medicine to talk about the increased risks women face over men when they return to civilian life. The *conclusion of the study* is “the post-deployment adjustment of our nation’s growing population of female Veterans seems comparable to that of our nation’s male Veterans.” Umm.
He cites a finding in that study that the expected rate of depression among enlisted women is likely between 1.1 and 1.6 times that of men. But the expected rate of women in general to experience depression is twice that of men in general. Umm.
The study relies on self-reporting of sexual harassment, depression, and PTSD. I am not a betting man, as it is against my church, but if I were allowed to bet I would bet that male soldiers are less likely to self-report those things. Umm
The other piece of data Benedict Carey provides, although without attribution, is that “Army data show that the suicide rate for female soldiers tripled during deployment, to 14 per 100,000 from 4 per 100,000 back home — unlike the rate for men, which rose more modestly.” So. During a deployment when women were being used in combat roles in an unprecedented way, the suicide rate for women rose more than it did for men. Umm.
And that’s the hard data in Benedict Carey’s piece.
The nicest touch is that in his discussion of how minority populations in general face more stress, he says the data isn’t there for women in the military:
The search for answers continues.
Researchers are now asking how much “all those little things” — the differences inherent in being on the margins of a culture — affect a person’s mood, especially under the stress of combat.
Carey explicitly says he’s pulling stuff up outta his ass. That the story he’s trying to sell about women’s mental illness in the military – that it’s due to maladjustment with a male culture – is a story, unbacked by data.
So, to be clear, the shitty parts of the story – that ignore the military’s role, lump all men as homogenous and ignore ethnic and socioeconomic differences among women, and creates such a shitty message – are not driven by data. They’re driven by Benedict Carey.