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Rape and Sexual Assault

Where in the Name of All that is Holy Are the Comfort Women? An Open Letter to Ken Burns on “The War– An Intimate History”

‘The War,’ Mr. Burns, is the starvation prostitution forced upon tens of thousands of European and Japanese girls (some barely into their teens) by the ridiculous conflicts men create to display their phallic brutality. It is also the brothel attached to a military base in Arizona stocked with ‘worn-out whores’ and reserved exclusively for black solders, so that the white GI’s would not have to ‘contaminate’ their penises by raping the same prostitutes. Thousands of black GI’s passed through this brothel daily, and who knows what insane, pathetic creatures they left dead of rape and misery.‘The War,’ Mr. Burns, is not your blind, masculine-centric vision of it, full of all these lies about valor and sacrifice and courage and nobility. There is little that is noble about the raping, war-making brute we call a soldier. — Dr. Suki Falconberg

The powerful video above begins, “I was not a human being.”

I’ve been following Ken Burns’ PBS special on World War II, The War:  An Intimate History. *  There is much I have to say about this series.  At the moment, though, I just want to publish the following letter.   I’ve been continually thinking as I watched that if at least one of the nine segments did not pertain to the the Comfort Women, so-called, which I have blogged about here, here, and here, I would never forgive Burns and would certainly never take his work seriously again.

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Which means I am never going to forgive Ken Burns or take his work seriously again.  Because I am not seeing any photos like the photo above, of enslaved young girls, surrounded by their smiling captors.

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Where are scenes like this one, above, depicting women who had been tricked into thinking they had obtained jobs in a garment factory.  They were assembled and photographed as though they were new”employees,” then were kidnapped and loaded into wagons, like so much livestock and taken to “Comfort Stations” where they were enslaved, prostituted, and raped by soldiers, including American GIs. 

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Why doesn’t Burns include interviews with, and footage of,  women who had become pregnant via these rapes, like these “Comfort Women,” again guarded by a smiling soldier?  These photos of degraded, brutalized women together with their smiling captors are macabre.

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Where are the interviews with former Comfort Women who are activists, who, like the women in the bottom photo,  have been demonstrating before the Japanese Embassy every Wednesday for the past 13 years, demanding justice?  Why were they not consulted for this “documentary”? 

Why does Burns participate in the erasure of their lives and the crimes against humanity that they suffered?

The language and cadence of the title of Burns’ “documentary” bear a striking resemblance to the title of Natalie Angier’s groundbreaking feminist book, Woman:  An Intimate Geography suggesting Burns has some familiarity with the book, which makes the omission of the enslaving of the “Comfort Women” dark, scary, inexcusable, misogynist.

“A Letter to Ken Burns about The War: An Intimate History”

By Dr. Suki Falconberg

9/28/07

‘The War,’ Mr. Burns, is the Yokosuka rape queues in August 1945, with GI’s lined up for blocks, two abreast, to get at the Japanese girls enslaved in ‘comfort stations’ for them—with the full cooperation of the American and Japanese authorities. Destitute, vulnerable girls were raped into unconsciousness as the men joked and laughed and jostled in line, waiting their turn. Some girls bled to death. Some committed suicide—that is, the lucky ones who could escape. Not one ‘comfort girl’ has told her story—due to shame. Why did you not tell this particular ‘intimate history’ of ‘The War,’ Mr. Burns? Especially since ‘usage’ of the girls was almost 100%. Why has the small detail that almost every GI in Japan, 1945, was a rapist escaped you? Why his this big ‘dirty secret’ of war never been covered?

‘The War,’ Mr. Burns, is the men who lined up to use the prostitutes on Hotel Street in Honolulu: women were raped 100 times a day—a different man entered the girl every three minutes. Why should I mourn these rapists when they were killed in the attack at Pearl Harbor? They slaughtered the bodies of these women in a fashion far more brutal than any bombing could ever be.

‘The War,’ Mr. Burns, is the widespread rape of French girls by GI’s after they ‘liberated’ Paris. Rape by American soldiers was so common that Eisenhower actually had to acknowledge it was happening, although he did nothing to stop it.

‘The War’ is the public parks in Palermo, where pimps considerately laid out mattresses so the GI’s could fuck starving Italian girls comfortably, for a dollar or two a turn.

‘The War’ is homeless, prostituted girls in Berlin doing it in the rubble for a few cents and agreeing to ‘share’ a GI bed so they would simply have a place to sleep that night. This, after they had already had the insides raped out of them by the invading Russian army and then were labeled ‘whores’ since it was a convenient way for the authorities to deal with these ‘ruined’ women.

The War’ is the village in Okinawa where GI’s raped every woman, girl, and child—the victims were too sick and starving to even try to run from their attackers.

‘The War,’ Mr. Burns, is the starvation prostitution forced upon tens of thousands of European and Japanese girls (some barely into their teens) by the ridiculous conflicts men create to display their phallic brutality. It is also the brothel attached to a military base in Arizona stocked with ‘worn-out whores’ and reserved exclusively for black solders, so that the white GI’s would not have to ‘contaminate’ their penises by raping the same prostitutes. Thousands of black GI’s passed through this brothel daily, and who knows what insane, pathetic creatures they left dead of rape and misery.

‘The War,’ Mr. Burns, is not your blind, masculine-centric vision of it, full of all these lies about valor and sacrifice and courage and nobility. There is little that is noble about the raping, war-making brute we call a soldier.

I was raped and prostituted by the U.S. Military. Why don’t you tell my story, Mr. Burns? It is far more ‘colorful’ than that of these soldiers who raped their way through Europe and Asia Don’t you want to know what it’s like to be mounted by a line of soldiers? It is a hell beyond any possible imagining. It has happened to me.

My PTSD, as it is so fashionably called, is far more intense than that of the men who raped the life and dignity and beauty out of me. The emotional damage to the soldier does not compare to the suffering he inflicts on the women he ravages.

War is never good for women. War sexually enslaves women. Men gain by war. They have the pleasure of rape: they mount starving women, ‘cheap whores,’ and take their pleasure, and the woman is silenced forever by her shame.

What a male abomination is not just your grandiose seven-part, tidy version of ‘The War,’ but PBS as well. You pretend to be enlightened but you are as blind and callous and cruel as the soldier rapists who destroyed the lives and bodies of so many women.

I looked at your so-called ‘companion volume’ to the series. The index carries not one reference to rape, prostitution, military brothels, or the sexual suffering of millions of woman. How can you overlook, ignore, dismiss a ‘fact’ so enormous? As if these women simply never existed.

What a betrayal of our raped bodies is your grand, masculine-centric version of ‘The War.’ Even your title indicates that you own this territory, this war, your war. It is, indeed, your war—since all wars are the product of your male phallic cruelty.

War never ‘liberates’ women. War sexually destroys us. It has never been otherwise. Briseis had no say in her fate as a ‘captive’ woman. No one asked her what she thought of the arrangement. No one has asked the Filipina women trafficked onto the fifty U.S. bases in Iraq what they think of their lot as the GI’s line up for their five-minute shot inside them.

Men make war because they love war. Don’t ask me to feel sorry for the way they ‘suffer.’

Dr. Suki Falconberg, Rape/Prostitution Survivor

Link and thanks to Sam at Genderberg for finding the link to Falconberg’s open letter.

 Japan Comfort Women and the Denial of Justice

Friends of the Lolas

Janelle Park Lee

Heart

Discussion

32 thoughts on “Where in the Name of All that is Holy Are the Comfort Women? An Open Letter to Ken Burns on “The War– An Intimate History”

  1. Thank-you so much for keeping these horrific crimes in your blog.
    I feel that when men label women and girls as “prostitutes”, they allow then to see them as sub-human. When there excuse of war, soldiers are encouraged to view all women as “whores”. They are given permission to torture in the name of relaxation.
    It is so sick and sad. There is no language that speak of such pain and grief.

    Posted by Rebecca | October 2, 2007, 8:35 pm
  2. Thank you Heart and also thanks to Sam at Genderburg for continuing to raise this issue. Repeatedly we hear the same old myths – women ‘choose’ to work in prostitution. War continues to be mythologised as ‘good guys’ liberating the oppressed. Only women are never liberated, instead they continue to be perceived by these ‘good guys’ as just whores and hence male soldiers rape them with impunity. Whores – the real whores in my view are the hypocritical men who rape women and then discard them as being immoral. Even the term ‘comfort women’ was defined by men in order to hide the reality these women were men’s sexual slaves and objects – not human beings. Now I hear the European Parliament are considering differentiating between prostituted women who supposedly ‘choose’ to work in prostitution and ‘forced prostitution.’ This is contrary to the UN definition of forced trafficking, including trafficking into sexual slavery. The issue remains the same – men continue to believe there must always be a plentiful supply of discardable women and girls for men to rape, sexually abuse and then discard as rubbish. All because far too many men believe it is their right and entitlement. Why else has Ken Burns chosen to omit the realities of war from womens’ perspective. If men were raped and sexually abused in similar numbers to women there would be a global outcry but of course women in Catherine McKinnon’s excellent words – ‘are not human.’

    Posted by jennifer drew | October 2, 2007, 9:54 pm
  3. As a women, I am so proud of those women, who still have the strength to stand up and fight back. My Goddess what courage.
    If there are medals in eternity they will win them. The shame is not theirs, it belongs to every man who laid their hands upon them.
    These women can be proud of each beautiful,bold, breath they take.

    Posted by helzeph | October 2, 2007, 10:22 pm
  4. Heart can we not sign a copy of this letter, to send to PBS, and to Ken Burns (whose work I already loathed but this is beyond the pale).

    Next week, to do with my work, I have to “honour” November 11th, Remembrance Day, and the veterans who “gave their lives and youth so we could live in freedom”. How little can I manage and still keep my job.

    Posted by Sis | October 2, 2007, 10:47 pm
  5. Comfort and her discontents

    Ken Burns has made the appalling choice not to recount history in its ferocity, but rather to build up the nation’s wish for how it wants to see itself and its past– the “Greatest Generation” pablum as coined by Tom Brokow and continued by Burns et al.

    Burns perpetuates myths and comfortable memories about World War II. The war is seen only through the eyes of Americans — the valorous soldiers and the sacrificing families on the home front. Even the hard edges available in an all-American review of that war go unmentioned, barely hinted at, like the killing of Japanese soldiers rather than taking them prisoner, even on the ocassions when they rarely surrendered.

    The problem is that such half-truths about WWII, because they do contain some truth, are harder to name and expose than outright lies and total omissions. The comfort women, the factories of women made available to American GIs — these are just some of the omissions. And as my girlfriend says, lies of omissions are still lies, just harder to combat and more insidious.

    Viewing the movie-for-televsion version of the war we the audience can luxuriate in our home front experience, secure in the knowledge that our loved ones were fighting only the good fight. Each night when the credits roll and the patriotic, plaintive song plays, pride swells through the heart, and only the head intervenes saying, “no, no, I am not going to run the flag up the flagpole first thing tomorrow morning.”

    Thanks, Ken, for making a mockery of history and making it that much harder for truth to tell her stories.

    Posted by twitch | October 2, 2007, 11:26 pm
  6. Right on target and it’s reassuring to know that someone else sees through the flimsy, smarmy, fluffy tripe that is a Ken Burns film. There is no power to which he is not the sychophant.

    Posted by Beeborb | October 2, 2007, 11:34 pm
  7. Just going through my bank statement from Bank of America and atop the document was a blurb about the company’s support and sponsorship of the film–just informing.

    Posted by pisaquaririse | October 3, 2007, 2:03 am
  8. You just feel like a tear drop in an ocean when you complain about these things, take some itsy action.

    Like me returning the pot I neglected to notice had been made in China. They could not believe it, at the store. Worse, two friends think I’m nuts.

    I suppose you could write a letter, cancel your credit card. Get a different one, which abuses some other segment of women struggle.

    I’m in a rotten mood. Rrrrrr!

    Posted by Sis | October 3, 2007, 3:54 am
  9. Yeah, Sis, I hear you. A lot of the time I just look at the state of the world and look at all the groups of women, and all the action/s that needs to be taken and wonder where the hell we are supposed to start.

    What happened to the Japanese ‘Comfort Women’ is indescribably horrific to me. And yet it is what happens to all women in all wars to varying degrees. We really need to stop all war. Period. Including the war on women that is being waged even during ‘peace’ time. How do we do this??? What can we do to say that we’ve had enough, that we won’t be taking it anymore? How do we get other women to say no too?

    Posted by allecto | October 3, 2007, 1:39 pm
  10. Well, I think we write our rears off for one thing. Most of us here are writers, and damn fine ones.

    Recently articles I’ve written here for my blog have been cited to all over the place, on Fox News stories, on MSNBC, on Wikipedia (many places). If we just keep it up, do our homework, write well, do the research, our voices will be heard eventually, in time. I’ve got quite a few articles now that come up on “Find Articles”, (which you have to pay for but still), which have been published in off our backs and which will be used in research people do.

    Here in Washington we had an incident where a young woman left her job at Fred Meyers for home and then basically vanished. They found her 8 days later (!) alive (!) down a ravine. Her SUV had missed a curve and ended up down the embankment in blackberry bushes (very thick here, they can hide a house). Although her husband traversed the length of highway many times, he didn’t see anything. She was suspended upside down by her seat belt all that time. (!) In her smashed car. Anyway, her husband reported it to the police, of course, but they didn’t find her either until finally they got a court order and “pinged” her cell phone to draw a bead on where she was.

    Anyway, the husband is incensed because he felt like it took the police too long to find her, in part because you have to get a court order to ping a missing person’s cell. So he wants to get legislation that will allow cell phone owners to say when they sign up that if they go missing, they give their permission to “ping” without a court order.

    He’s been all over the news with that and is meeting with the governor to give him a letter about the proposed legislation.

    I’m saying all of this because this is fresh in my mind and it’s an example of how a moment can be seized to make change. When something like this is all over the papers and someone has some idea of how things could have gone differently, it is then, when heads are rolling, that you can sometimes get access to people who can make real change, or at least to journalists who will raise some sand about it.

    The young woman with the horrible experience with the flip flops from Wal Mart is a good example of seizing a moment, too.

    Watching for those moments is central to political activism, I think, having an eye for the moments, too, which you get by voraciously reading the news. I read three newspapers every single day, the front page section, the local section, the business section, and I skim the sports. Also the lifestyle section if I see something important (that shouldn’t have been in there usually, about women). I am on a heinous number of lists where women contribute news articles. This gives a feel, though, for when the time might be right to really give some time to something, hoping it will get picked up by other, larger voices.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | October 3, 2007, 3:38 pm
  11. I also wish we could sign on to Falconberg’s letter somehow. What a brave and courageous woman, in contrast to those rapist soldiers. I just sent an e-mail through the “contact us” page of the war series.

    Posted by Kali | October 3, 2007, 6:47 pm
  12. Thanks, Kali, for your example. I followed it.

    I just sent PBS a modified copy of my letter here. In the politest of ways I told them what a bunch of idiots they are to have given their imprimatur (sp?) to this crappy film. I don’t know what good such feedback to PBS does, but it’s one of the few ways I know of to try to let them know how badly they’ve screwed up.

    Posted by twitch | October 3, 2007, 7:40 pm
  13. My heart goes out to all women raped in war – by all sides.
    Those photos are so telling, aren’t they? The women, so called ‘comfort women’ look sad and abused, and the men, in all the photos, smile. It is so totally sick.

    When is the war to free women? Will it ever come?

    And for the pro-prostition crowd, go fuck yourselves. There is far too much forced prostitution to defend ‘the industry’. Go on, just try to defend being raped by 20+ men per day for a little food and water.

    For every fucking ‘Happy Hooker’ story you have, there are hundreds who ain’t so happy.

    END MEN’S SEXUAL TYRANNY AGAINST WOMEN.
    END PROSTITUTION.
    END RAPE IN WAR.

    Posted by stormy | October 3, 2007, 8:08 pm
  14. You could always mention that you were mid-pen into buying lifetime subscriptions for PBS for all your nieces, nephews, grandchildren and several Girl Guide troops. But NOT NOW. Really money talks. So who actually $$ backed this film? Who were the on-air advertisers, and who got sponsorship mention in the credits at the end. Those people need a letter too.

    Posted by Sis | October 3, 2007, 8:44 pm
  15. To Sis,

    You know, at some point today I’m going to have to get back to work on what I’m paid to do. But I just finished telling off another anti-abortion crusader what I thought of his anonymous a–. To wit:

    To NNHC,

    Let me be very clear. You and your ilk are not the arbiters of when human life begins or who has the right to end human life, if indeed, that is what a fetus is — “human” at whatever stage of development one names.

    Access to abortion is a moral good. Abortion is a moral good. Individuals making their own decisions instead of being forced into bringing unwanted children into the world is a moral good. Oppressing women in the name of “humanity” is NOT a moral good.

    What is clear is that your ridiculous, sanctimonious posts are part of a long tradition to pit women’s lives against human lives. Such a dichotomy does not exist. You are an agent of destruction — the destruction of individuals’ lives who are brave enough to make decisions about their own lives but humble enough to let you make your own decisions too.

    I have no patience for your disguise of crusader for little babies. You are simply the latest soldier in the war against women.

    Posted by twitch | October 3, 2007, 9:19 pm
  16. Right. Geez I’ll know who to call when I want to singe someone.

    By the way, did you read the story I posted today on the Lorraine Rothman tribute? Can women in the States get menstrual extraction, anywhere? Think of the problems it would solve if we could perform our own extractions (literally, abortions) with Lorraine’s kid Del-Em, and our own specula, of course.

    It was a raging good idea, that self-administered menstrual extraction. What ever happened to it?

    Posted by Sis | October 4, 2007, 12:54 am
  17. Stormy, it’s like anal sex. Men who are so rah rah for this, never bend over. Why. Oh Why?

    Posted by Sis | October 4, 2007, 1:12 am
  18. Oh well, I’ve just had a good cry reading this, so what’s new? I used to volunteer at a refugee and asylum seekers project for destitute clients. This means that they have failed to secure status here in the UK and the projects remit (amongst other things) is to help prove their certain threat of persecution on return to their homeland.

    Its common knowledge that so many of women asylum-seekers are victims of savage sexual violence, but are denied refuge in the UK because their cases are unrecognised by British asylum law.

    Some research done with the help of counsellors at the project showed that at least 70% of the women are rape victims, some abused repeatedly while imprisoned by soldiers and police. Some are pregnant when they arrive and it’s not wanted babies they carry in their bellies.

    Trouble is the male powers that be don’t particularly see rape as *persecution* and gender is not specifically enumerated as one of the grounds for establishing refugee status. They have fled torture, rape and oppression, in the hope of finding sanctuary here in the UK. But once here, they have to contend with destitution – and a government system geared up to sending them back.

    Oh yeah, and if I hear one more Brit whinging that the “refugees” are just arriving here in the UK to secure a “better” lifestyle. I’ll scream.

    Posted by sparklematrix | October 4, 2007, 10:57 am
  19. FWIW, I think Canada recently granted refugee status to women escaping “domestic” violence. Does sexual enslavement count? Gang rape? Stalking?

    (Too early for me to research – haven’t had my strong black tea yet. Kettle’s on.)

    Mary

    Posted by amazonwomenrise | October 4, 2007, 12:01 pm
  20. Sis,

    I knew some women meeting back in the late 1980s who were learning about how to do menstrual extraction. This was in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’m moving back there in November and will try to find them to ask what happened with that. It was quite secret and none of them was to reveal who the other members of the group were.

    At the time I felt it was kind of extreme and unnecessary. Now that the Supreme Court’s make-up has changed and the right wing has become so entrenched in various institutions, menstrual extraction doesn’t look so far-fetched or sci-fi anymore.

    Posted by twitch | October 4, 2007, 2:34 pm
  21. Well read over in the Lorraine Rothman thread, and about her and Carol Downer’s work, and you will see it’s not extreme, that’s just the spin the medical profession puts on it to control us, keep us depending on them and their deadly and carcinogenic procedures and chemicals. What could be more extreme than high dose estrogen BCP and HRT?

    I’m still getting copied on tributes to her everyday in my inbox, from older (and some younger) gyne-radical feminists all over the globe.

    Posted by Sis | October 4, 2007, 4:37 pm
  22. “Appalling” isn’t the half of it. I am unable to play those videos, as I can barely wade through the text.

    I am still in shock that this is what mainstream feminists (e.g., Pandagon, Shakespeare’s Sister) consider part of feminism. I know my thoughts shouldn’t go there immediately when presented with such human rights atrocities, but I’ve learned what I can expect from men at this point. To have found feminism and learned relatively popular liberal feminists were on board as well is what infuriates me most about these stories somehow.

    But, that’s not what I should focus on right now, I know. Utterly nauseating.

    Posted by K.A. | October 4, 2007, 6:19 pm
  23. K.A., are you saying that Shakes and the women at Pandagon think Burns’ series is good, or? A lot lot lot of people don’t know about the comfort women, or if they know, they don’t know there were 200,000-400,000 of them. And they don’t know that the comfort women weren’t Japanese women only, and that the phenomenon wasn’t restricted to Japan, but that Japanese, Filipina, Dutch and other European women, many races of women were “comfort women;” the comfort women were kidnapped wherever the Japanese were victors during the war.

    That’s our task and our sad fate, as radical feminists, to be continually, continually, the messengers that bring the bad news about what has happened to women in the world. We feel it too. Nevertheless, go forth, women, let Shakes and the people at Pandagon know what you know, even if they get pissed at you. We have to do it because it’s the right thing and because we are committed to women, regardless the response.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | October 4, 2007, 7:17 pm
  24. And hey, K.A., I know what you mean, but don’t be afraid to watch that youtube video– it’s powerful, well done, and it shows the courage of the women. It’s extremely moving, but it’s not gratuitous in any way.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | October 4, 2007, 7:31 pm
  25. I think racism is playing a big role here; both in not wanting to point fingers at the Japanese (we so librul) and in *wanting* to pretend it was *only* the Japanese who did this.

    Posted by Sis | October 4, 2007, 7:32 pm
  26. amazonwomenrise

    “FWIW, I think Canada recently granted refugee status to women escaping “domestic” violence“

    That’s interesting. Sorry for the OT Heart but Mary we worked with a few women experiencing DV from other countries but unfortunately we could only help those from the European Union. Saying that, the laws seem to change weekly and are hard to keep up with – so it may have changed here in the UK. I doubt it though.

    Posted by sparklematrix | October 4, 2007, 8:34 pm
  27. Thank you for this piece. I never knew about any of this despicable horror until very recently. Keep up the amazing work.

    Posted by destinyskitchen | October 8, 2007, 1:13 am
  28. I have not seen the new Burns series but I don’t doubt he did not mention the subjugation and rape of women. He writes and directs his work, he tells the stories he wants to tell. I’m not at all sure I’d want Ken Burns telling this story at all.

    This is something that is worth the telling in its own right, not as part of a broad history of WWII but as a part of the history of war and women. It must be written by women, preferrably by women who have experienced it first hand. It must contain first-hand accounts. It should be financed by women and their partners who care, not big corporations or advertisers.

    The resulting documentary or series should be distributed on CD to educators and private groups. Something like this would be a hard sell for commercial television or even PBS which relies on corporate gifts for support. A few stations in liberal markets might broadcast it, but the majority won’t. A different outlet would likely need to be found.

    Is anyone interested in putting this project together? I know some people with industry experience, I could contribute some names.

    Posted by Zoe | October 13, 2007, 10:25 pm
  29. A lot lot lot of people don’t know about the comfort women, or if they know, they don’t know there were 200,000-400,000 of them.

    I had never been exposed to the subject before seeing it on your blog. Not once in high school, college, in my own personal research online or in other places. I’m so glad that I DO know about it now.

    Promoting Ken Burns helps get PBS the attention and funding they need, which I believe is really all they care about when they back his work. I’ve never watched a Ken Burns documentary and I don’t intend to anytime soon. They always seem too packaged and swiftly educational to be really worth exploring.

    Posted by gingermiss | October 14, 2007, 4:48 pm
  30. Ugh. For some reason just last night I was thinking of the BBC and their shitty stories about how women who drink are asking to be raped and that awful rape trial reality show they did, and I thought how glad I was that PBS doesn’t rise to the BBC’s level of shittiness. And then I thought, “Oh damn, I bet now I’ll find out about some awful shit they’ve done, too.” Better to know than not, though, I guess.

    Its common knowledge that so many of women asylum-seekers are victims of savage sexual violence, but are denied refuge in the UK because their cases are unrecognised by British asylum law.

    Sparklematrix, didn’t they also find out about a year or so ago that British immigration officials have gone to the homes of female refugees (or maybe it was female immigrants in general) and raped them — or, as the stupid press put it, the officials “demanded sex in exchange for getting the papers they were already entitled to” or some fucking whitewashed version.

    Anyhow, I don’t know who this Ken Burns character is, but I will be sure to avoid his bullshit wherever I see it — I have a feeling I probably have seen his stuff without realizing it, because I remember when I started taking Dutch literature classes how shocked I was at how different their WWII stories were from what I’d been taught, which is probably because I was learning it from Burns’ movies or similar ones. One Dutch class that focused specifically on WWII was so awful, yet honest, that I didn’t even finish it. I also remember when I was actually in Holland and had the misfortune of being at somebody’s house when they were watching the movie Pearl Harbor. There’s a part at the end that says something like, “World War II was a war that greatly changed America,” but in the Dutch subtitles it was changed to “World war II was a war that greatly changed America and the world” (emphasis mine).

    It’s just ridiculous, this view of war that we have in the US, that it’s this noble, liberating thing, when we don’t even fucking know what it’s like. Not a single living American has been around when we’ve experienced war on our own soil, and anybody who tries to tell me that 9/11 counts gets to have their face introduced to my right fist. But try, just try, to read the stories of people from occupied countries during WWII, and then tell me if you still think that war was so sexy and liberating.

    And I’ve heard the bullshit about how if we hadn’t gone to war against Germany the Nazis would run the earth now and yada yada yada, but you know what would’ve been really great? For none of that shit to have happened to begin with, for NO Jews to have been killed, for Germany to not have been plunged into poverty and desperation to begin with as a result of a previous war, for so many countries that we care about less than a European country to NOT still be annihilating minorities and women, for our world to not be run not like it’s a video game but like it’s a place inhabited by actual humans and animals and all sorts of amazing life. But as long as we keep on with this stupid dominator, rah-rah war mentality, we’re just going to see the same shit happen, over and over again, because we refuse to see that the very actions we take to stamp it out only ensure that it will happen over and over again, that the very act of war makes people more violent, more desperate, more cruel and creates suffering and poverty and inequality rather than alleviating it. Really, if war could prevent war, I’m pretty goddamn sure we wouldn’t have it anymore, seeing as we’ve had so much of it already. But war isn’t really about liberating anyone or making anything better — it’s about money and power for already-powerful men, and sadly, it’s all too obvious that the supposed “side effects” of war that don’t get talked about, like sexual enslavement of women, only serve to further the agendas of the men doing the dominating. There was a time when I thought the media was the main culprit behind patriarchy, and then I thought it was religion, and now, increasingly, I’m beginning to think that it’s war.

    Of course, in time I’ll probably come to realize that it’s a combination of all sorts of things, but right now I’m just shocked at HOW MUCH war serves to further oppress women. People are always, “Oh, war is so oppressive to MEN because they have to fight in it more often,” but fuck, if most people were given the choice between being a man in an occupied country or a woman, which do you think they would choose? Or a choice between being a woman in the military or a man? Hey, you can either be a man and be in danger of combat-related death, or be a woman and be in danger of combat-related death, being raped by the people you’re fighting, or being raped by the guys on your own side. Hell, you might even have all three happen! No, war isn’t good for men, but it’s even worse for women. Which is why men in power don’t give a shit and keep creating more of it, and their little lackeys in the media keep trumpeting about how great it is because they’re privileged enough to be able to ignore the realities of it.

    Posted by mekhit | October 22, 2007, 12:53 am
  31. The question is: did the coward respond?

    Posted by Betty Bonndoggle | October 24, 2007, 5:28 pm
  32. Coming in late on this: I think the idea of a film about women’s experiences of war is outstanding. Someone was asking, above, how it could be distributed.

    Might I suggest Ladyslipper Music? They not only distribute music made by women, they also distribute feminist videos. They’d be all over this like white on rice.

    Posted by R.E. | January 25, 2008, 3:17 pm

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