My Petit Trianon

Monday, August 07, 2006

Politically incorrect deaths

A couple a weeks ago I read in a newspaper about a Palestinian mother who told the reporter that she would be glad if all her sons died as martyrs in their struggle against Israel and the US. The story served as a grim reminder of the fact that not all women are peacebuilders just by the virtue of being women.

Many women's NGOs working in the security sector reform like to portray women as natural peacebuilders in post-conflict contexts. This is understandable because women continue to be excluded from peace negotiation tables. What is regrettable is that in order to push for women's rights, activists keep on reproducing the outdated notions of good women/bad men and women as victims/men as perpetrators.

Few weeks ago I attended an international symposium on sexual violence against women in conflicts. In the end of the symposium we drafted a declaration. During the discussion something disturbing happened. One female delegate pointed out that in conflicts also civilian men experience and die from gender-based violence, which should be included in the declaration. The chairwoman dismissed the intervention claiming that it would be a 'politically incorrect' thing to do.

Now, I became a feminist when I noticed how women are invisible and excluded from public arena. I became a feminist when I saw how one half of the world is marginalised, oppressed and abused by the other half.
For me feminism has never been about being 'politically correct'. When men as gendered human beings suffer from sexual abuse and die because of it, my feminism dictates that the international community has to address it.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

You can't go home again

In the late 1980's when I lived in the San Francisco Bay area I used to listen to talk radio. My favourite station was KGO and there the host Lee Rodgers. Politically Rodgers was conservative, but so was I. The world was different back then with the Soviet Union and all. My conservatism focused on foreign policy, on social issues I've always been a Liberal. During the last fifteen years my political views have evolved because the world changed and I grew older. When I moved back to Europe I missed the lively debate taking place in the US. So, when last summer after all those years I found out about internet streaming I was excited. I found the radio station, KSFO where Rodgers is on. Was I up for a surprise. And I learned a new term, 'hate radio'.

The host I had known had turned into a raving relic of the Cold War. He and his co-host Melanie Morgan, the one who called for the execution of the NYT editor Bill Keller, engage in endless rants about 'stupid Liberals' and 'dumb Liberal bastards'. One morning Rodgers called the UN 'an evil institution' because UN peacekeepers have abused local women in Africa. I should have reminded him that peacekeepers have committed crimes also in the Balkans, NATO peacekeepers that is.

What has happened to political debate in the US? I've admired American political culture where pundits do not hide their political loyalties. It has always been a pleasure to read and listen to commentators even if I don't agree with their opinions. Now the scene seems to be dominated by the likes of Ann Coulter. No cleverness, no wit, just rants about how they all are surrounded by idiots. Must be tough.

In his article about Mel Gibson's anti-Semitic remarks Neal Gabler of Salon.com writes that ten years ago Gibson would have been ostracized for his behaviour, but not today. In George W. Bush America extreme views and hate speech are tolerated, even supported. I don't know how this happened, but what I've learned is that you can't go home again.