Posts tagged Masculinity

Men in Uniform #2

(Via Austro-Athenian Empire 2009-03-21.)

The office at the Adiv fabric-printing shop in south Tel Aviv handles a constant stream of customers, many of them soldiers in uniform, who come to order custom clothing featuring their unit’s insignia, usually accompanied by a slogan and drawing of their choosing. Elsewhere on the premises, the sketches are turned into plates used for imprinting the ordered items, mainly T-shirts and baseball caps, but also hoodies, fleece jackets and pants. A young Arab man from Jaffa supervises the workers who imprint the words and pictures, and afterward hands over the finished product.

Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children’s graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques — these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty. The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription Better use Durex, next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter’s T-shirt from the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, 1 shot, 2 kills. A graduation shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, No matter how it begins, we’ll put an end to it.

. . . A few of the images underscore actions whose existence the army officially denies – such as confirming the kill (shooting a bullet into an enemy victim’s head from close range, to ensure he is dead), or harming religious sites, or female or child non-combatants. In many cases, the content is submitted for approval to one of the unit’s commanders. The latter, however, do not always have control over what gets printed, because the artwork is a private initiative of soldiers that they never hear about. Drawings or slogans previously banned in certain units have been approved for distribution elsewhere. For example, shirts declaring, We won’t chill ’til we confirm the kill were banned in the past (the IDF claims that the practice doesn’t exist), yet the Haruv battalion printed some last year.

The slogan Let every Arab mother know that her son’s fate is in my hands! had previously been banned for use on another infantry unit’s shirt. A Givati soldier said this week, however, that at the end of last year, his platoon printed up dozens of shirts, fleece jackets and pants bearing this slogan.

It has a drawing depicting a soldier as the Angel of Death, next to a gun and an Arab town, he explains. The text was very powerful. The funniest part was that when our soldier came to get the shirts, the man who printed them was an Arab, and the soldier felt so bad that he told the girl at the counter to bring them to him.

— Uri Blau, Ha’aretz (2009-03-20): Dead Palestinian babies and bombed mosques – IDF fashion 2009

One of the most consistent themes running through the designs for these t-shirts is the use of sexualized violence — in particular, cartoons of rape and verbal threats of rape against women and men identified with the enemy — as the punchline and the basis for bonding among the men in uniform.

There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages [sic –R.G.]. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, Bet you got raped!

. . . After Operation Cast Lead [the Israeli government’s invasion of Gaza from December 2008 – January 2009], soldiers from that battalion printed a T-shirt depicting a vulture sexually penetrating Hamas’ prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, accompanied by a particularly graphic slogan. S., a soldier in the platoon that ordered the shirt, said the idea came from a similar shirt, printed after the Second Lebanon War, that featured Hassan Nasrallah instead of Haniyeh. . . .

[Ha’aretz:] What’s the problem with this shirt?

S.: It bothers some people to see these things, from a religious standpoint …

. . .

[IDF veteran Yossi] Kaufman has also been exposed to T-shirts of the sort described here. I know there are shirts like these, he says. I’ve heard and also seen a little. These are not shirts that soldiers can wear in civilian life, because they would get stoned, nor at a battalion get-together, because the battalion commander would be pissed off. They wear them on very rare occasions. There’s all sorts of black humor stuff, mainly from snipers . . . . There’s a Golani or Givati shirt of a soldier raping a girl, and underneath it says, No virgins, no terror attacks. I laughed, but it was pretty awful. When I was asked once to draw things like that, I said it wasn’t appropriate.

. . .

Sociologist Dr. Orna Sasson-Levy, of Bar-Ilan University, author of Identities in Uniform: Masculinities and Femininities in the Israeli Military, said that the phenomenon is part of a radicalization process the entire country is undergoing, and the soldiers are at its forefront. I think that ever since the second intifada there has been a continual shift to the right. The pullout from Gaza and its outcome — the calm that never arrived — led to a further shift rightward.

This tendency is most strikingly evident among soldiers who encounter various situations in the territories on a daily basis. There is less meticulousness than in the past, and increasing callousness. There is a perception that the Palestinian is not a person, a human being entitled to basic rights, and therefore anything may be done to him. [sic –R.G.]

Could the printing of clothing be viewed also as a means of venting aggression?

Sasson-Levy: No. I think it strengthens and stimulates aggression and legitimizes it. What disturbs me is that a shirt is something that has permanence. The soldiers later wear it in civilian life; their girlfriends wear it afterward. It is not a statement, but rather something physical that remains, that is out there in the world. Beyond that, I think the link made between sexist views and nationalist views, as in the Screw Haniyeh shirt, is interesting. National chauvinism and gender chauvinism combine and strengthen one another. It establishes a masculinity shaped by violent aggression toward women and Arabs; a masculinity that considers it legitimate to speak in a crude and violent manner toward women and Arabs.

Col. (res.) Ron Levy began his military service in the Sayeret Matkal elite commando force before the Six-Day War. He was the IDF’s chief psychologist, and headed the army’s mental health department in the 1980s.

Levy: I’m familiar with things of this sort going back 40, 50 years, and each time they take a different form. Psychologically speaking, this is one of the ways in which soldiers project their anger, frustration and violence. It is a certain expression of things, which I call below the belt. [sic –R.G.]

— Uri Blau, Ha’aretz (2009-03-20): Dead Palestinian babies and bombed mosques – IDF fashion 2009

See also:

Masculinity Studies 102: Let’s ask the experts.

Over at Hit and Run, Kerry Howley, a contributing editor at Reason, explains part of what she finds lacking in a common anti-feminist argument to the effect that large-scale socioeconomic disparities between men and women are the result of inborn differences, rather than pervasive forms of sexism.

The different-preferences-create-different-outcomes argument is ambitiously superficial and question begging. Absent any account of how preferences are shaped, I’m not sure why anti-feminists think they’re saying something intelligent when they boldly assert that men and women want different things. IWF loves to talk about Title IX, and it’s a great example of a cultural shift affecting preferences in young women. Did 14-year-old girls just not like sports before Title IX and the rise of the girl jock? Or did Title IX help create a culture where a broader range of interests could be engendered and cultivated? Does the fact that girls in 1950 did not aspire to captain high school soccer teams say anything interesting about women? I don’t think so.

— Kerry Howley, Hit and Run (2007-11-29): Men Are From North Dakota and Women Are From South Dakota

I’m sure she’s entitled to her opinion. But now let’s see what a real expert has to say about whether or not women experience discrimination in America today: Mr. Brian Sorgatz!

What gender inequality? I ask in earnest. In 2007 in the United States, discrimination based on gender is like highway robbery. Technically, it still exists, but it’s been shrunk to a tiny remnant of the problem it once was.

— Brian Sorgatz, 29 November 2007, 1:55 pm

Well, that’s that. If some dude can’t think of any major examples of inequalities that American women face in 2007, must not be a problem after all. Any woman who thinks she has noticed counterexamples had better get on board with a theory that can make some kind of peace with the realities of human nature.

Like this one, offered by another male expert on discrimination against women:

I think it has much more to do with mate selection criteria — women tend to place more emphasis on men who earn large amounts of money, while men tend to place more emphasis on women who are physically attractive and have the personality traits to make a good mother. This sexual selection pressure would result in men making the tradeoffs and sacrifices that result in higher average salaries, while women would be more likely to pursue other values. Both are rationally pursuing the goals that they perceive benefit them most.

— prolefeed, 29 November 2007, 4:01 pm

Did you know that if you take a series of 1950s sitcom punchlines and slap a sticker with the words mate selection criteria on top of them, that makes it Scientific?

Meanwhile, three minutes later:

Prolefeed, you just raised the I.Q. of the entire thread. Thanks for that.

(Again, it’s not that Prolefeed is necessarily right in every particular. But his thinking is admirably sophisticated.)

— Brian Sorgatz, 29 November 2007, 4:04 pm

The hedge is important. We do have to leave room for other well-researched theories proposed by other men. For example, we must remain open to the possibility that 13,000 years and more of patriarchy turns out to all be the result of the (probably genetic) advantage in upper-body strength that the very strongest men have over the very strongest women. Who knew that so much could turn on a bench-press?

Further reading:

Men in Uniform

Somewhere in Alabama, an all-male gang of elite cops from New Jersey spent some down-time from protecting and serving by getting off on sexy drunken displays of power and violence.

HOBOKEN, N.J. — The Hoboken Police Department’s SWAT team has been disbanded, just days after officials learned of racy photos showing the unit’s commander and other officers cavorting with waitresses from a Hooters restaurant in Alabama.

Judging from the selection from the photo slide show, it seems that these photos involve more than just a trip to Hooters, and include some that are more explicit than just racy.

On the same day Hoboken’s new public safety director was sworn in, he gave the city’s police chief orders to disband the SWAT team and to order the lieutenant at the center of the controversy to desk duty.

After seeing the photos of Lt. Angelo Andriani and other members of the Hoboken police SWAT, newly appointed Public Safety Director Bill Bergin said he had to act decisively.

Bergin listed his reasons for disbanding the SWAT team in a phone interview with Newschannel 4’s Pei-Sze Cheng: The brazenness of the whole situation, because everything in the photographs, which I was shocked at, had Hoboken all over it, from the uniforms, to the police car, the bus that was involved.

Bergin ordered the police chief to disband the SWAT team and to have Andriani return from his extended vacation and assign him to desk duty immediately.

The photos were taken last year on a return trip from Louisiana, where the Hoboken officers helped with the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

They show the waitresses holding shotguns and other weapons belonging to officers under Andriani’s command.

— WNBC (2007-11-16): N.J. SWAT Team Disbanded After Racy Hooters Photos Emerge

Elsewhere in New Jersey, another man in uniform, Anthony Senatore, used his power as a professional narc to extort sexual favors from a woman he’d pressured into becoming a drug informant. Then, after she tried to put a stop to it, he stalked her, forced his way into her house, and raped her. After his victim filed a lawsuit, Senatore was reassigned to a desk job. Although the boss cops and everybody else do concede that Senatore repeatedly exploited his position to coerce sex from the woman, the state A.G. has decided to sweep it under the rug and declined to prosecute on the rape charge. This, apparently, is what passes for having found no wrongdoing on the officer’s part in the eyes of the (male) mayor and the (male) police chief.

JACKSON — The state Attorney General has decided not to prosecute a police detective who is accused, in a civil lawsuit, of raping a drug informant in 2005 and impregnating her with a son who was born eight months later, township officials confirmed Wednesday. Advertisement

The lawsuit filed last year by the informant, identified only as Jane Doe, still is pending in federal court. However, Mayor Mark A. Seda said Wednesday that the attorney general’s decision exonerates Officer Anthony Senatore.

Apparently they found no wrongdoing on the officer’s part, Seda said, adding that Senatore remains on the Jackson force but is no longer a detective.

According to the lawsuit, Senatore enlisted Jane Doe in April 2005 as a drug informant, in exchange for money and prosecutorial considerations for her children and estranged husband, all of whom have been investigated by the Jackson police.

But soon after Jane Doe became an informant, the detective’s behavior changed, according to the suit.

By means of intimidation, threat, harassment, coercion and/or promises of judicial and prosecutorial consideration for plaintiff and her family, Senatore repeatedly propositioned and solicited plaintiff for sexual relations from late April through July 2005, the suit alleges.

During that time, he had sex with her in her home, in police vehicles and in wooded locations in and around Jackson, according to the suit.

When Jane Doe tried to break off the relationship, Senatore’s deviant, predatory behavior intensified, culminating in a savagely brutal rape in her home on July 25, 2005, according to the suit. As a result of that rape, the plaintiff became pregnant and gave birth to a son March 26, 2006, according to the suit.

The suit accuses the township, the police department and then-Public Safety Director Samuel DiPasquale of permitting and encouraging police officers, including Senatore, to sexually harass and have sex with female informants, female defendants and other women they encountered while on duty.

In case you were curious, this is how seriously the boys in blue take their job of protecting you and me from all the weirdoes and creeps running around out there:

Shortly after the suit was filed, Senatore was removed from the detective bureau and placed on administrative duty where his only responsibilities included paperwork, the mayor said.

Senatore is now back in circulation as a patrolman, though, because the police department is short staffed, Seda said. He did not know whether the officer will be reinstated to the detective bureau.

But don’t worry. They are seriously concerned about how this predator’s pattern of bullying, sexual harassment, sexual coercion, and rape against a woman substantially under his legally-backed power — which they dignify as a relationship with an informant — will adversely affect their P.R., and maybe a court case. Senatore may be back patrolling the streets, but hey, they might consider adding a couple of clauses to their internal policies.

When an officer’s character is in question, it puts us at risk, Seda said. We didn’t want to give any criminal a loophole to get out of charges.

… With the Attorney General’s investigation complete, the town and the police department are looking into how Senatore was able to take advantage of his job and engage in a relationship with an informant [sic], Seda said.

That’s certainly something we wouldn’t want to see happen again, the mayor said. We’re looking at our policy internally to see what we can do to prevent that.

— Fraidy Reiss, Asbury Park Press (2007-11-08): Detective won’t be prosecuted; Detective won’t be prosecuted

(Stories via Lindsay Beyerstein 2007-11-17 and ACLU Blog 2007-11-17.)

Masculinity Studies 101: Color Coding

Today’s lesson comes to us (thanks to Feminist Law Professors) from a recent trend-story from Ananova on gun stores’ efforts to draw women in as customers:

Firearms shops in the US are stocking pink rifles and shotguns to encourage girls to get into shooting.

A report in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel says the Gander Mountain hunting store in Waukesha stocks several pink guns.

They include a Remington 20-gauge shotgun with a pink and black stock emblazoned with the slogan: Shoot like a girl if you can!

Store manager Chris Hanson said the guns were aimed, so to speak, at girls and women interested in hunting.

He said the shotgun, and a Crickett rifle with a bright pink stock, were both selling well.

In Baraboo, Jim Astle, owner of Jim’s Gun Supply in Baraboo, has been coating guns in pink and other colours for four years. His 12-year-old daughter owns a pink camouflage shotgun.

Females want to shoot guns, but they want them to look pretty, too, he said. Guys could give a rat’s butt what their gun looks like.

Now, if it were true that guys emphatically don’t care what their gun looks like, then you would expect that a guy would be just as happy to carry a gun that looks like this:

an AR-15 assault rifle painted pink

… as he would a gun that looks like this:

an black AR-15 assault rifle

I encourage you to give any gun-loving male that you happen to know the choice between the two, and see whether he is really indifferent to how his gun looks.

Most men actually have very strong preferences respecting fashion, appearance, color, and so on. Male society enforces these preferences as prevailing norms for masculinity, vigorously and often violently. Anyone who pays a few second’s worth of attention to branding in pop culture can find this out, if he or she did not already know it. But because men and their preferences are treated as the default case, especially when it comes to echt-male pursuits such as shooting, these strong preferences are rendered invisible, whereas women’s are marked out for special observation and remark. This has the further effect of allowing men to pose as especially pragmatic, as if they are coolly unconcerned with pursuits and preferences that they characterize as both feminine and frivolous. Even though, in fact, they have similar pursuits and similar preferences with which they are no less concerned.

War and manhood

(Links via Dulce Et Decorum Est 2006-07-31 and comments on Tennessee Guerrilla Women 2006-07-30.)

Here is a view of war and manhood from the bottom of the ranks.

I came over here because I wanted to kill people.

Over a mess-tent dinner of turkey cutlets, the bony-faced 21-year-old private from West Texas looked right at me as he talked about killing Iraqis with casual indifference. It was February, and we were at his small patrol base about 20 miles south of Baghdad. The truth is, it wasn’t all I thought it was cracked up to be. I mean, I thought killing somebody would be this life-changing experience. And then I did it, and I was like, All right, whatever.

He shrugged.

I shot a guy who wouldn’t stop when we were out at a traffic checkpoint and it was like nothing, he went on. Over here, killing people is like squashing an ant. I mean, you kill somebody and it’s like All right, let’s go get some pizza.

At the time, the soldier’s matter-of-fact manner struck me chiefly as a rare example of honesty. I was on a nine-month assignment as an embedded reporter in Iraq, spending much of my time with grunts like him — mostly young (and immature) small-town kids who sign up for a job as killers, lured by some gut-level desire for excitement and adventure. This was not the first group I had run into that was full of young men who shared a dark sense of humor and were clearly desensitized to death. I thought this soldier was just one of the exceptions who wasn’t afraid to say what he really thought, a frank and reflective kid, a sort of Holden Caulfield in a war zone.

But the private was Steven D. Green.

— Andrew Tilghman, Washington Post (2006-07-30, B01): I came over here because I wanted to kill people.

When Tilghman met Green, Green was angry and disillusioned about the war. He seethed about the old men’s demands for restraint (We’re out here getting attacked all the time and we’re in trouble when somebody accidentally gets shot?), and about the meaninglessness of this war:

See, this war is different from all the ones that our fathers and grandfathers fought. Those wars were for something. This war is for nothing.

— Quoted by Andrew Tilghman, Washington Post (2006-07-30, B01): I came over here because I wanted to kill people.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Green was wrong about the wars that our fathers and grandfathers fought. Or any other war fought by men in the name of the National Manhood. Meanwhile, here is another view of war and manhood, from the top of the ranks:

The Wars Our Fathers and Grandfathers Fought

photo: burnt corpses lie in a ruined street

Aftermath of the Tokyo firebombing, 10 March 1945

photo: an aerial view of Hiroshima, leveled

Aftermath of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, 6 August 1945

photo: leveled houses around the Nagasaki railroad station

Nagasaki railroad station

photo: a ruined residential neighborhood, with all the homes burnt or toppled

Iwakawa-machi residential neighborhood, Nagasaki

BombingOfSnuol.jpg

Aftermath of U.S. bombing of Snuŏl, Cambodia on 3 May 1970.

AUSTRALIA intervened to stop key US military strikes against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, fearing they might constitute a war crime.

Major General Maurie McNarn, then a brigadier and commander of Australian forces in Iraq, on several occasions played a red card against the American plans, which included hits on individuals. His objections drew anger from some senior US military figures.

In one instance, Major General McNarn vetoed a US plan to drop a range of huge non-precision bombs on Baghdad, causing one angry US Air Force general to call the Australian a pencil dick.

However, US military command accepted Major General McNarn’s objection and the US plans were scrapped.

The revelation of how Australia actively and successfully used its veto power in the 2003 invasion of Iraq is contained in a new book on the US-Australian alliance, The Partnership, by The Weekend Australian‘s foreign editor, Greg Sheridan.

… The book reveals that Major General McNarn — now the head of the Defence Intelligence Organisation — delivered a great shock to the US when he first used the red card and then put his objections to the proposed US military strike in writing.

Shit, exclaimed one American when he saw the document. What if this leaks? Major General McNarn replied that if the US did not take the illegal action, it would not matter.

As coalition forces prepared plans to take Baghdad, Major General McNarn vetoed three of five proposed US Air Force weapon systems — mostly huge bombs — on the grounds that they were not accurate for a radius of less than 16m and, as a result, were unsuitable for use in a built-up area.

— Cameron Stewart, The Australian (2006-07-29): Aussie veto stopped US war crimes

There are of course two stories here. The first story, the one emphasized by the news report, is that the Australian general halted the U.S. generals’ plans to indiscriminately bomb Baghdad–which would have made the war even more of an abattoir for Iraqi civilians than it became even with the more restrained bombing. The second story is that the U.S. generals made plans to indiscriminately bomb Baghdad. Plans they were invested in, and plans they were enraged to see blocked.