Re-evaluate feminist rhetoric in light of international conditions
The construction of America’s concept of “war on women” came into full fruition in the recent presidential primary cycle. However, the phrase was coined in the late 1990s by Andrea Dworkin in response to GOP policies and political rhetoric surrounding women.
Recent outcry regarding Donald Trump’s misogynistic rhetoric — everything from likening women to pigs or dogs to talking about blood coming out of political commentator Megyn Kelly’s “wherever” — has since added more fuel to the fire. In a recent advertisement by the Make America Awesome Super PAC, an independent group that advocates for Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), the group attacked Republican frontrunner Donald Trump’s wife, Melania. The advertisement featured a 2000 nude image of Melania Trump on the cover of GQ magazine.
The advertisement circulated throughout Facebook prior to the Utah caucus and read, “Meet Melania Trump. Your next first lady. Or, you could support Ted Cruz on Tuesday,” according to a March 25 Washington Post article. Trump shot back with an attack against Cruz’s wife, Heidi Cruz, by posting an unattractive image of her beside an image of his model wife — despite Ted Cruz’s lack of involvement in the campaign.
However, all of these discussions regarding the concept of a war on women in America seem a bit hyperbolic. While Trump’s clear misogyny perpetuates toxic societal views of women and could lead to disastrous attempts at forming discriminatory legislation, this is anything but a war.
Yes, women in this country still experience various and unacceptable levels of inequality regarding unfair wages for similar jobs and fewer women in high-power government positions and careers. The average woman in the United States receives only 79 percent of what men make as of 2014, according to the American Study of University Women. This means the gender wage gap is 21 percent. For every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 79 cents.
Additionally, according to a March 7, 2014 article in the Nation, the United States took a big hit regarding equality when the number of women in the national legislature ranked at ninety-eighth in the world and the number of women who hold Congressional seats became a low 20 percent. However, this is no “war on women.”
These are issues that must be resolved, but they should not be battled through bombastic speeches by grandstanding politicians.
While we discuss the issue of “war on women,” maybe we should apply the term where it is more appropriate.
Time and time again, women around the world are denied basic, fundamental rights — the right to education, the right to own property and the right to be safe. In the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, there is an actual “war on women.” There, rape of women is used as a weapon in an inactive war.
The sexual violence in DR Congo is startling and debilitating. According to a June 2011 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, 48 women are raped every hour. More recent reports from local health facilities find that number has lowered to 40 women every hour, according to May 22, 2015 Guardian article. Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist who has treated more than 40,000 women since the beginning of the 1998 Congo War, expressed of rape: “It is a method of torture. It is a way to terrorise the population. When I see some of the injuries on the women and children, I realise this type of violence has little to do with sex and much more with power through a sort of terrorism.”
Regional actors launched DR Congo into war in 1996, following the Rwandan genocide, when President Mobutu Sese Seko refused to separate the genocidaires — the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda — from Hutu civilians in the refugee camps. General Paul Kagame — now the President of Rwanda — invaded the country with his allies.
Following that war, another war was launched in 1998. A war once fought over politics and security devolved into a resource war.
While not currently an active war, the rates of sexual violence still remain sky-high as militias from over nine countries fight over the country’s resources: tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold. In the town of Shabunda, filmmaker and photojournalist Fiona-Lloyd Davis said, “Women told me how they expected to be raped. Not once but many times. The women I met spoke of gang rapes, three or four times. Sometimes it was ‘only’ two soldiers, more often gangs of men, 10, 20, over and over again.” If the violence isn’t bad enough, there is also no expectation of justice for these women and girls.
In November 2012, at least 76 women and girls were raped in the town Minova and outlying areas by government troops. Due to public outcry, the military court went along with a trial where only two low-level officials were found guilty of the crime of rape, according to Human Rights Watch.
This shows the lack of courage within the court. When the government soldiers are allowed to rape with impunity and the criminal justice system is weak, violence against women and girls is essentially given the stamp of approval by the government.
In Congo, men rape women in an attempt to destabilize the traditional Congolese family, eat away at a woman’s honor and destroy a woman’s insides. This is a war on women. Let’s get our rhetoric right.