Rape, Destruction of Communities, and the Other
One thing that I found interesting in this week’s presentation was how systematic rape was often carried out with the implicit goal of destroying communities. This goal was most noticeable in the article about ISIS, which focused largely on mass rape resulting in the rejection of women in their communities. The end result was that as women were ostracized by their communities, they lost much of the family structure that was integral to the health of these communities. The aspect of this situation that stuck out most to me was the fact that many of these communities felt that their women were useless after being raped. In the article about ISIS, the author mentioned that “the most destructive power of rape as a weapon of war lies in the deep-rooted stigma attached to it.” I thought this was really interesting, because the author is suggesting that even worse than the horrific ordeal that is rape is the stigma that comes with it. These women are having their lives destroyed not only by their captors, but by their families, even to the point of being blamed for their own rape. I think this speaks to the lack of agency women have in many wars. They are victims of circumstance, unable to control what goes on around them because they are often not permitted to resist and the considered useless after their captors are finished with them.
I also think that these realities speak to the peculiar structural role of women in many of these societies. In the article about Yugoslavia, there were many mentions of Serbs raping Bosnian women in an attempt to populate Bosnian areas with Serbian children. There’s an interesting implication here: that women are (obviously) necessary for childbirth, but that they have no real impact on the children. I think that’s the dynamic we see repeated over and over again in these cases of rape being used as a weapon of war, one where women are not people, but instead objects to be used for pleasure and childbirth. To get to this point, I think invading cultures are combining two disparate, though not entirely dissimilar, morally repugnant ideas. The first is that these women are not people because they are not Japanese or Serbian or even American. The second is that these women are not people because they aren’t men. I think that this is an interesting collision of two different examples of the philosophical concept of the other. In one case, it’s people of a different gender. In the other, it’s people of a different culture. But in the end, I’m not sure there’s much of a difference, because both are saying these people are not people.