Updated May 7, 2017
By Jerry A. Boggs
Nothing, it seems, provokes the international community’s outrage more than the atrocities and lesser abuses that governments direct at women and girls. Amnesty International sounds this alarm:
“…[G]overnments have continued to inflict sexual, physical, and other psychological violence against women with impunity … In recent years, the horrific stories of rape in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the mass rape by the military and the militia in Rwanda have shown how particularly vulnerable women are in conflicts -– how they are often singled out for human rights violations which are not inflicted on men and how assault on a woman’s body is used as a weapon of war.”
In a speech to the First Ladies’ Conference on Domestic Violence in San Salvador in 1998, feminist politician Hillary Clinton said, “Women have always been the primary victims of war. Women lose their husbands, their fathers, their sons in combat. Women often have to flee from the only homes they have ever known. Women are often the refugees from conflict and sometimes, more frequently in today’s warfare, victims. Women are often left with the responsibility, alone, of raising the children.”
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, at the March 1999 Inter-Agency Videoconference for a World Free of Violence against Women, lamented, “Violence against women is perhaps the most shameful human rights violation. And, it is perhaps the most pervasive.”
And so it goes, up and down the international community, from human rights groups and heads of state, to organized feminists and the mainstream media – all regularly and rightly deploring governments’ savaging of females.
Yet when it comes to the inhumane treatment of noncombatant men and boys, nearly everyone seems to have a severe case of laryngitis.
By expressing little or no outrage for male victims of government barbarity — or altogether denying there are male victims, as Amnesty often seems to do — the international community does worse than merely expose an antimale bias that gainsays its own long-running plea for equal treatment of the sexes. It also helps perpetuate state-directed brutality against both men and women.
Perhaps before one can even be willing to hear how a greater outrage over anti-female violence could possibly perpetuate this violence, one must be disaffected of the feminist-and-media-driven notion that females are overwhelmingly the marks for governments’ enormities. One must be convinced that men, including non-combatant men, are marked at least as much and that an equal outrage for male victims is therefore justified.
Enter Adam Jones. He is executive director of the Canadian-based human rights group, Gendercide Watch, and professor of international studies at the Center for Research and Training in Economics in Mexico City.
Defining “gendercide” as gender-selective mass killings, Jones has amassed considerable documentation and published scholarly works showing that non-combatant males are subjected to atrocities and mistreatments comparable to, and in many cases worse than, those dealt females. Non-combatant men, says Jones, “have been and continue to be the most frequent targets of mass killing and genocidal slaughter, as well as a host of lesser atrocities and abuses. The mass killing of males, particularly of ‘battle-age’ men, has roots deep in the history of conflict between human communities. Despite this prevalence of gendercide against males…the subject has received almost no attention across a wide range of policy areas, humanitarian initiatives, and academic disciplines. We at Gendercide Watch feel it is one of the great taboos of the contemporary age, and must be ignored no longer.”
(Jones puts “battle-age” in quotation marks “to problematize a term that rolls off the tongue too easily. The ‘battle-age’ construction implicitly assumes that if a male is of an age that renders him liable to military conscription and combat, his entire identity should be so defined. This renders the analyst complicit with those who would subordinate the destiny of ‘battle age’ males to this outside demand – akin to defining women by their capacity to be raped, and suggesting as well that ‘battle-age’ men are ‘asking for it.’ With this equation of males and combatants completed, the analyst or policymaker can move to the final stage of effacing all non-combatant males from the policy and analytical equation, a phenomenon that is also commonplace.”)
Jones’ Gendercide.org is rich in examples of widely ignored gendercides of males. Some from the 20th century are:
Kosovo, 1999: “Although the Milosevic regime’s genocidal assault on Kosovar society swept up all other sectors of the population, killing many and expelling hundreds of thousands, the most systematic and severe atrocities were inflicted disproportionately upon non-combatant men.”
Srebrenica (Bosnia), 1995: “The long-term success of ethnic cleansing depended on killing off the Muslim men, without whom the population’s women and children would have no means of returning.”
Rwanda, 1994: “[After the massacre] Rwanda became a country of women. It is currently estimated that 70 per cent of the population is female and that 50 per cent of all households are headed by women.”
Iraq, 1988, 1990-91: During the 1990-91 Gulf War, though officials and the media decried Iraqi troops’ abuse of Kuwaiti and foreign women, little was said of the broader Iraqi system of detention, torture, and execution of tens of thousands of Kuwaitis who were nearly all male. The Iraqi regime’s postwar attack on the Shia “marsh Arabs” in southern Iraq appears to have been highly gender-specific. A Middle East Watch researcher explained, “The troops are arresting all males over 15 and taking them to Radwaniyeh [prison camp]. They’re never seen again.” Thousands are estimated to have died, often after horrific torture. In 1988, during the suppression of rebellious Iraqi Kurds, Middle East Watch reported instances in which men and boys among the captured villagers were executed on the spot. Many tens of thousands of Kurdish males disappeared. The organization suspects that most of them, if not all, were murdered by Iraqi security forces.
Delhi, 1984: In “Delhi: Gangster Rule,” Madhu Kishwar reports on the 1984 anti-Sikh rioting in New Delhi following the assassination of Indira Gandhi: “The nature of the attacks confirm [sic] that there was a deliberate plan to kill as many Sikh men as possible, hence nothing was left to chance. That also explains why in almost all cases, after hitting or stabbing, the victims were doused with kerosene or petrol and burnt, so as to leave no possibility of their surviving. Between October 31 and November 4, more than 2,500 men were murdered in different parts of Delhi, according to several careful unofficial estimates. There have been very few cases of women being killed except when they got trapped in houses which were set on fire. Almost all the women interviewed described how men and young boys were special targets. When women tried to protect the men of their families, they were given a few blows and were forcibly separated from the men. Even when they clung to the men, trying to save them, they were hardly ever attacked the way men were. I have not yet heard of a case of a woman being assaulted and then burnt to death by the mob.”
Bangladesh, 1971 (then East Pakistan): In February of that year, the generals of West Pakistan decided to crush the Awami League, which had demanded regional autonomy for East Pakistan and an end to military rule. “Kill three million of them,” said President Yahya Khan at the February conference, “and the rest will eat out of our hands.” At the end of this brutal campaign, 80 percent of the estimated 3 million lives taken in the systematic mass killings were males, many of them adolescent boys.
World War II, 1941-42: During Operation Barbarossa in just eight months of 1941-42. Invading German armies killed approximately 2.8 million Soviet PoWs through starvation, exposure, and summary execution. “This little-known gendercide,” says Adam Jones, “vies with the genocide in Rwanda as the most concentrated mass killing in human history.” Adam Jones classifies this as a gendercide because “PoW did not just mean men who had seen military service. Nazi policy was explicitly that all men between 15 and 65 were to be taken to PoW camps.”
France, 1941-44: “The collaborationist French government also pressed a million more [men] into service as slave laborers [many of whom died from starvation] to aid the Nazi war effort.” -AHC TV’s “Surrender: The Fall of the Reich,” May 4, 2015 (The documentary graphically shows how brutally French officials, the Nazis, and the Soviets treated their own men.)
Germany, 1938: Adolf Hitler conscripted 400,000 male laborers to construct reinforced defenses along Germany’s border with France. Many of these men died.
Armenia, 1915: According to Jones as interviewed in March 2000 by the Ottawa Citizen’s Christina Spencer, “The first step of that brutal terror was the disarming of conscript Armenian soldiers in the Turkish army. They were turned into pack animals, ‘driven by the whips and bayonets of the Turks into the mountains.’ The weak were left to die or were shot. Next, civilian males were taken from their towns and slaughtered. At this point, the rest of the population — women, children, the elderly — were deported.”
Syria, 2012: The government there is killing mostly males, as young as 12. “They told us that on Friday, in the Jobar district of Homs, they had witnessed a massacre. Ahmed Ibrahim told me that 36 men and boys were taken away. Among them were four members of his own family including his 12-year-old son, Hozaifa. All were dead now, he said.” –Gendercide.org
Myanmar, 2015: Burmese slaves kept in locked cages and forced to catch seafood. They lived on a few bites of rice and curry a day in a space barely big enough to lie down, stuck until the next trawler forces them back to sea. “They said the captains on their fishing boats forced them to drink unclean water and work 20- to 22-hour shifts with no days off. Almost all said they were kicked, whipped with toxic stingray tails or otherwise beaten if they complained or tried to rest.” –Nationalpost.com
Istanbul, 2015: Mohammed, 14, uses a wheelchair to move around the tiny apartment where he lives in the Turkish city of Sanliurfa with his brother and a friend of the family who acts as his nurse. ISIS chopped off Mohammed’s right hand and left foot two weeks ago. ISIS tried to turn Mohammed into a child soldier. The group disfigured him because he refused to cooperate. Much has been written about ISIS’s monstrous treatment of girls, forcing them to become child brides or sex slaves, passed from fighter to fighter. This is a story about what ISIS is doing to the boys in areas under its control. –NBC News, “ISIS Brutalizes Boys to Create an Army of Child Soldiers, Victims Say,” August 25, 2015
Forty million Soviet men were killed between 1914 and 1945. Some families lost every man in the family: dad, son, brother, uncle. Yet a headline in Parade, the largest-selling weekly magazine in the world, reads “Short End of the Stick” with the article explaining Soviet women are getting the short end of the stick because they are stuck with factory and street-cleaner positions. In Bosnia, the civil war has wiped out men so disproportionately that only 30% of the Bosnian population are men. Do headlines tell us, “War leaves Bosnia with 30% Men”? No. Parade’s headline reads, “Women Look to Gain Power in Bosnia.” The focus on the sacrifice made by men as a gender was not only ignored, but Bosnia has specifically been used as an example of the type of war in which both sexes are killed equally. When there’s a story about a man being killed, the focus is not on the sacrifice of men, but of their role. We discover the sacrifice of men as a gender only when it is needed to help us understand the new burdens on women.–The Myth of Male Power, by Warren Farrell
“It seems to me that every society rests on the deaths of men.” –Oliver Wendell Holmes
Adam Jones also tackles military conscription as a gender-selective abuse. Though sexual slavery of females is easily seen as such an abuse, conscription is not. But Jones says it is “a variant, perhaps the most destructive one, of forced labour, an institution that has led to millions of overwhelmingly male deaths throughout history.”
More than 36 million military men died in the last century’s top 20 wars alone. Even today the Russian Army, according to Gendercide Watch, “remains a death-trap for conscripted men – though not at the hands of a foreign invader. As many as 10,000 soldiers die each year from hazing, assaults, murder, and suicide.”
In Afghanistan in 2001, because the media blitzed us with reports – justifiably so – on how the Taliban oppressed Afghan women, hardly anyone learned how life was for Afghan soldiers. In pre-Taliban times, when Afghan women enjoyed many rights, war still took a heavy toll on the men. Of Afghanistan’s conflict with the Soviets that began in 1979, Tamim Ansary, a writer in San Francisco, said in a Salon article: “The refugees in Pakistan, those millions who lived in the squalid camps that spawned the Taliban, were mostly the women and children of the men who stayed in the country to fight the Soviets and die like ants.” Ansary omitted the fact that the vast majority of these males, many in their teens, fought because they were forced to do so, and that the requirement to risk dying “like ants” was not thrust upon females. The later advent of the Taliban and its oppression of Afghan women did not mean that males no longer had to worry about war, about being killed or horribly maimed in battle. For some Afghan men, their fate came earlier than expected from their own government, as when Taliban forces, preparing for their war with America, began conducting house-to-house searches for recruits. “Some recruits who refused to join up,” said the Washington Post citing a defector, “were shot….”
“…[I]f they [warring tribes] couldn’t recruit able-bodied young boys, they simply kidnapped them. Most of the recruits were 12, 13, 14 years old, but some were young as 6.” —Wray Herbert, U.S. News & World Report, December 29, 2004
To better appreciate the gender component in military conscription, consider that some countries engaging in guerrilla warfare conscript boys young as six! In Sierra Leone in 1999, says Carol Bellamy, executive director of the UN Children’s Fund, seven-year-olds were among the 2,000 child soldiers who were under arms. Boys are often abducted from their homes, beaten, and told, “You either fight or we will kill you.” The humanitarian group Save The Children estimates that more than 1.5 million child soldiers – virtually all boys, by my estimate – have been killed in conflicts from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Kashmir from 1985 to 1995.
Now consider that although often desperate for soldiers, the countries that recruit young boys rarely recruit, say, 15-to-17-year-old girls, who are much bigger and stronger than 7-year-old boys, emotionally as well as physically, and hence more combat-capable and military-useful. (The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers says, “In many countries, girls too are used as soldiers, though generally in much smaller numbers than boys.”)
The reasons for the conscription of boys undoubtedly include chivalry and the convenience of same-sex armies. But perhaps above all, the nations using boy soldiers may suspect that if in the name of gender equality they equally conscripted girls, the number of people around the world decrying the use of child soldiers — and the efforts to rescue the children — would surge a hundred fold and possibly deprive them of a valuable resource.
Still another broadly ignored government brutality that targets males, as Jones indicates, is the forced labor of civilians. “Throughout history and continuing in modern times,” he wrote in an April 2001 letter to the International Labour Organization (ILO), “the practice of forced labour has overwhelmingly targeted adult able-bodied men, leading to millions if not tens of millions of deaths. Despite this grim record, the ILO’s Forced Labour Convention designates one group and one group only as legitimate targets for forced labour [stress added]: these same adult able-bodied men. Article 11 of the Convention states that ‘Only adult able-bodied males who are of an apparent age of not less than 18 and not more than 45 years may be called upon for forced or compulsory labour,’ so long as ‘ they are physically fit for the work required and the conditions under which it is to be carried out’ and ‘the number of adult able-bodied men indispensable for family and social life’ is allowed to remain in communities targeted for forced labour. In addition, the ILO states that both the forced labour involved in military conscription and the use of prison labour are acceptable under the terms of the Convention. Both of these institutions, of course, target males close to 100 percent of the time.”
As just one example of forced male labor, the International Committee of the Red Cross charged that during the Bosnian war, hundreds of people in Serb-held areas were “being forced into what amounts to slave labor in dozens of towns and villages….” The forced laborers were, “for the most part, Croatian and Muslim civilian men.”
Imagine the international community’s outrage if the ILO Forced Labour Convention designated only able-bodied females as legitimate targets for forced labor.
On rare occasion forced laborers are women. Even then they are luckier than the men. Addressing the enslaving of black Christians in Sudan by Arab militias, newspaper columnist Walter Williams wrote, “They shoot the men and enslave the women and children.” His topic, like that of many who opine on Sudan’s troubles, was slavery. It was not the greater atrocity of men being killed. This atrocity he brought up only once, in passing. He then quickly returned our attention to the women and children. It isn’t difficult to guess what would have been his topic — or how much more vociferous would be the media and feminists — were the Arab militias enslaving the men and children and shooting the women.
No one knows the extent to which human trafficking exists around the world, but many believe able-bodied males represent the most vulnerable group. A recent United Nations report, “Trafficking in Persons: Global Patterns,” noted, “It is men especially who might be expected to be trafficked for forced labor purposes.” -Research writer Carey Roberts
An anti-female atrocity, one that is widely deplored by the media and thus made well known to the world, is “honor” killings or disfigurings of women who disgrace their families. This violence, while not state-directed, is still ignored by police often enough to be deemed virtually government-sanctioned.
Covering the topic for ABC television’s “20/20” in January 1999, correspondent Diane Sawyer intoned somberly, “In Jordan alone, a quarter of all the homicides are honor killings, an average of 25 women at least every year.”
The male counterpart to honor killings is the “blood feud.” It is rarely mentioned in the media and is therefore almost unheard of. It is even more ignored by governments than honor killings of women.
The institution of the blood feud, dating to the 15th century and extant in the Balkans, Sicily, and Corsica, was established for the purpose of “cleansing honor.” Offenses to honor include calling a man a liar and insulting a man’s wife. Offenses are paid for, and honor cleansed, says Noel Malcolm, author of Kosovo: A Short History, “by killing any male member of the family of the original offender, and the spilt blood of that victim then cries out to its own family for purification.”
The blood feud has always exempted females, since killing a woman is considered an extreme violation of a man’s personal honor. “The strongest taboo of all concerned the murder of women,” says Malcolm, “and any woman could walk through raging gunfire in the knowledge that she would never be shot at.”
Conceivably, assuming Malcolm’s definitions of the blood feud and the “strongest taboo” are correct, a woman could kill a man in another family, then, to avenge his death, that family would kill not her but a male in her family! How quickly would the international community stop ignoring blood feuds if they permitted a man to kill a woman in another family, then, to avenge her death, permitted that family to kill not him but a woman in his family?
Since the collapse of the Soviet Empire, blood feuds have returned full-throttle in Albania, where reconciliation attempts have seen limited success. “Every year,” says Adam Jones, “at least a thousand men and boys die in blood-feud killings in Albania alone; the lives of tens of thousands more are spent in isolation and perpetual fear.”
Yet, in covering honor killings, ABC’s “20/20” kept its millions of viewers in the dark about blood feuds and about the vastly larger number of murdered males. It left them to feel outraged only at the “average of at least 25 honor killings of women each year in Jordan alone.” Apparently to “20/20’s” staff, the murder of 25 women is more outrageous -– and more news-worthy -– than a thousand murdered men and boys.
Further exemplifying their greater mistreatment of males, governments often punish males more severely than females for the same violations of law. This was true of Afghanistan’s Taliban government, though the mainstream media painted the opposite picture with their exclusive focus on that government’s oppression of women. The Taliban’s penal code required that males be punished for violations by females. In December 2001, a Detroit-area television station ran a story about an Afghan woman who defied the Taliban by operating a school. When Taliban troops discovered her, they beat her father.
When an Afghan man or any other man must endure brutality as well as shame for the religiously “inappropriate” or “illegal” behavior of his family members, we can perhaps better understand why he so strongly “wants to control” his children and his wife: from his view, it makes more sense for them to be oppressed than for him to be both oppressed and brutalized, especially if for a while after being beaten he is unable to work and support them.
The Taliban’s penal code also mandated that males be arrested for many other “violations.” “While a woman can be beaten if her face accidentally shows from under her head-to-toe covering,” writes gender expert Cathy Young, author of Ceasefire! Why Women and Men Must Join Forces to Achieve True Equality, “a man can be beaten if his beard isn’t long enough [if too much of his face shows]. While a woman who commits adultery faces execution, the same fate awaits her male lover.”
Men were punished even if they didn’t break a certain “rule.” Taliban forces systematically detained and executed male civilians in north-central Afghanistan to deter communities from cooperating with opposition forces. According to one report, Taliban troops were repeatedly described as rounding up unarmed men and boys from their homes and work sites and shooting them in the head. There were no reports of females being shot in the head to deter communities from violating the “Don’t cooperate” rule.
Such punishments of Afghan males, unlike those of Afghan females, somehow failed to get a lot of coverage in the mainstream media, especially national television, the sole source of news for a huge number of Americans.
Social researcher Warren Farrell, author of the riveting Father and Child Reunion, tells of the 1990 Associated Press story about Bobby Sherrill, who worked in Kuwait. When Sherrill returned to the United States, he was arrested, handcuffed, and taken before a magistrate. He had failed to pay full child support for ninety days. The reason? While he was in Kuwait, Iraq invaded the country and he was kidnapped and taken hostage for three months, during which his father paid some but not all of the support. This explanation failed to impress the magistrate, and he demanded an immediate cash payment. Because Sherrill did not have it on him at the time, he was jailed. (Is there an unwritten law somewhere that requires non-custodial fathers to always carry with them a large sum of cash?)
“I think there’s a lack of equality in the justice system. Women serve half of the sentence a man does for the same crime, if she serves time in jail at all,” said Donna LeClerc, director of the Women Who Batter intervention program.
What if Sherrill had been a woman? It is extremely difficult for me to believe she would have been treated so unmercifully for being unable to pay child support as a result of her being kidnapped, being held hostage for three months, and having no cash on her when arrested. Few magistrates would have had the will to jail her under such circumstances and risk incurring the public’s wrath, especially feminists’ wrath. Cathy Young would appear to agree. In Ceasefire! she writes: “There is a deeply entrenched habit in our legal system and our culture of treating female offenders more leniently….” If it were male offenders who were treated more leniently, no doubt many in the media and feminist circles would describe the situation for female offenders as an atrocity. Yet because it is men who are treated less leniently, little is said of it and few people realize that even in the United States, which is often called the world’s most civilized nation, mostly men are denied the civilized part by their government.
“On the other hand, prosecutors, lawyers, police officers, and law students, regardless of their own gender, evaluated male defendants more harshly than women defendants.” –Science Daily
Cathy Young serves up another example of more severe male punishment: “When American teenager Michael Fay was sentenced [in 1994] to be caned for spray-painting cars in Singapore, the public debate centered on whether harsh penalties were too high a price to pay for public order. The fact that caning is imposed only on men was barely noticed. What if a teenage girl were to be whipped for a petty offense in a country where this penalty was reserved for females? Wouldn’t women’s groups, politicians, and the media have treated this as an outrage against women?” Young apparently thinks yes, for she wrote earlier in a Detroit News column, “…[I]t’s a fact that violence against women shocks us far more than violence against men.”
“A society that despises its men gets despicable men.” –Tresco, a HuffPost Super User
And it is this fact — which is the worst sexism — along with stepped-up feminist pressure to end violence against women worldwide, that has influenced the international community to protest anti-female atrocities and abuses to the point that, as Adam Jones says of Canada’s female-focused mobilizing efforts around ex-Yugoslavia, “one could forget any other category of victim exists.”
While the international community’s outrage mostly for female victims intends well, it helps perpetuate governments’ brutality against both males and females for the following reasons: First, there is little evidence to support feminists’ claim in recent years that the greater outcry for female victims has resulted in rape and sexual slavery being taken seriously as war crimes. Cathy Young wrote in September 1996:
“‘It’s about women and children being tortured and murdered,’ said a Court TV ad for the war crimes trial dealing with the horrors in the former Yugoslavia. Earlier this month, women’s rights activists at the 7th International Forum of the Association for Women in Development in Washington, D.C., said the atrocities against women in the Balkans might not have happened if rape and sexual slavery had been taken seriously as war crimes after World War II. Let’s look at what has happened to Bosnian men. Time after time, Serb troops would separate the adult men from the women and children, load them onto buses and take them to concentration camps. Many men were subjected to horrible tortures, even forced to sexually mutilate each other. Thousands were massacred. That such crimes were taken seriously after World War II apparently did little to deter the perpetrators.”
As long as the international community’s outrage is mostly for female victims, some warring groups may think eradicating males will more or less be tolerated if care is taken to safeguard females. But in reality, waging war on males while trying not to harm females is somewhat akin to dynamiting a garden in a vain attempt to kill the weeds but not the vegetables. As stated, women are often beaten or killed for trying to impede warriors’ all-important objective of slaughtering men and boys. Sometimes women simply have the misfortune of being in the path of marauding troops whose respect for life has been traumatized out of them because they have been, Jones says, “brutalized and indoctrinated into committing atrocious and genocidal acts against civilian populations or disarmed enemy forces.” They are not unlike the U.S. troops who in the Vietnam War massacred 300 My Lai villagers, including infants. Such hardened soldiers, realizing they have already committed war crimes against non-combatant males and that their own lives can be violently concluded at any moment, may only sneer at threats of prosecution for committing war crimes against females. Some of them, perhaps having learned of the international community’s demand for treating the sexes equally, may also have learned of the international community’s unequal concern for male victims of governments’ barbarity. Perhaps they are inwardly offended and angered by the hypocrisy and sexism — as a lot of female soldiers surely would be if the concern were mostly for males. “Why should I care for others,” they may think, “when no one cares for me?” Horrible as it is to contemplate, some soldiers may be embittered enough to react to warnings to tread carefully around females in the same defiant manner in which recalcitrants react to “Keep off the grass” signs. [For an example of men’s internalized resentment over the lack of concern for males, see “Segregating Children From Men.”]
“In large part, the atrocities of war are committed as a response to the fear men feel. Terror and humiliation are the combustible fuels of rage.” —Patricia Pearson, When She Was Bad, p. 53 hardcover
Historically, warring nations and tribes have attacked the enemy’s civilian population as a strategy to terrorize and demoralize. The idea is that if an attack on civilians is massive and shocking enough, an enemy nation might lose its will to fight and surrender, either on its own or under pressure from its citizens. One such attack is the mass sexual assault of women. It often succeeds in terrorizing and demoralizing because, to repeat Cathy Young, violence against women shocks us far more than violence against men.
Thus, the more we protest only atrocities against women, suggesting that this violence is more psychologically damaging to a nation, the more we signal that, as Amnesty International puts it, “assault on a woman’s body [can be] used as a weapon of war.”
It is true that were the outrage for male victims and female victims equalized tomorrow, the strategic value of assaulting women might not change for some time; the media- and feminist-fueled construct of women as helpless, vulnerable, and deserving special protection — like children — is simply too ingrained in everyone’s psyche.
But the international community’s current trend of denouncing only or mostly the atrocities against females can, in the eyes of some warring nations, only help sustain the value of those atrocities. The lesser outrage for male victims (it’s lesser largely because for many people “man as victim,” like “woman as victimizer,” is repellent) tends to reinforce — and may in part stem from — the view of males as disposable. Many of us see males this way, explains Warren Farrell, “because we have learned that the more effectively we prepare men to sacrifice themselves, the more we feel protected.” This need for protection, along with the need of a nation to show its will to fight and defend itself from aggressors, may cause many people to think men should be considered disposable. But this view of males carries a significant downside that seems to be rarely thought out. For every aggressive nation or group that “men are disposable” unnerves, it may prompt one or two others to prematurely reject non-violent methods of resolving conflict, and to choose war, setting in motion the atrocities that claim many lives of both males and females.
Warren Farrell: There is something about women’s role that is also never mentioned. Can you figure it out? Women not sacrificing their lives in war is never discussed as female privilege, as matriarchy. We saw in the Canadian study of newspapers discussed above how violence against women was portrayed disproportionately to men’s, and was personalized even as men’s was at best a cold statistic. Here’s why this bias hurts women…. When only women’s suffering is personalized, it motivates us to rescue the woman and assume the cause must be the man. So in problems like domestic violence we blame the man and ignore the male-female dance that leads to both sexes battering each other equally. This hurts women because, when the man feels he is the assumed cause, he becomes resistant to counseling. He experiences the counseling as identical to his wife – unable to hear him. To him, the counseling is now part of the problem. No, it’s worse than that. Hope disappears, and cynicism appears. And it doesn’t stop there…. He feels both his wife and the system are ganging up against him. Now it’s him against the world, and that’s the set up for mass killings followed by a suicide, which is, and will remain, the male style until men become no more or less worthy as victims than women.
Human rights groups, feminists, the mainstream media, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan must cease, as Prof. Adam Jones puts it, “hierarchizing human suffering” to the extent that, for example, “the mass rape of women is privileged over the mass slaughter of (non-combatant) men.”
Politicians such as presidential candidate Hillary Clinton must understand that women do not become war’s primary victims by surviving genocides and being driven away from their homes to squalid camps where they have the hope, however dim, of rescue and restoration.
An example of why there always is the hope of rescue, even when violent groups capture women rather than drive them away after slaughtering the men:
Nigeria’s military has rescued 234 more women and children from a forested area of northeastern Nigeria controlled by Boko Haram extremists who have kidnapped hundreds of girls in recent years, the Nigerian defense ministry said Saturday. The latest rescue, announced by the Nigeria Defense Headquarters on Twitter, brings the total for the week to more than 677 females the Nigerian military claims to have rescued. –USA Today, May 2, 2015
After three years, Boko Haram freed 82 Nigeria Chibok schoolgirls from a kidnapped group of 276. The abduction of the so-called “Chibok girls” triggered a global outcry and sparked a huge social media campaign. [Few remember the schoolboys who instead of being kidnapped were murdered on sight by Boko Haram. So we are left thinking again about abuse and violence against females.] –BBC News, May 7, 2017
War’s primary victims are, and have always been, the men who are killed — the husbands, fathers, and sons of the women whose lives generally are spared.
The international community must express an equal outrage for male victims of atrocities and other abuses. It is a matter not only of honoring true gender equality, but of curbing governments’ brutality against both sexes. As the nuclear age advances, especially in the Middle East, it may also be a matter of preserving our very existence.