Last week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took to the capitol for the Benghazi hearing and rocked the show. After weeks of being criticized for being sick with the “Benghazi flu” — which was what Republicans were calling her cerebral blood clot that resulted in the hearings having to be postponed — she showed up recovered and more awesome than ever.
Clinton was ready to take on all of the haters who were more interested in finger pointing than trying to figure out how to prevent something like the Benghazi attack from happening again. Arguably the best part of the hearing was when Clinton yelled at Senator Ron Johnson from Wisconsin. If you haven’t seen it yet, look it up on YouTube. It’s excellent.
After such an outstanding and combative performance on Clinton’s part, it was really no surprise that the next day, last Thursday, the Secretary of Defense lifted the ban on women serving in combat positions.
Okay, maybe these two events aren’t exactly related. What they do have in common, however, is the absurdly sexist reaction to both stories in many segments of the media.
Clinton was reprimanded left and right for standing up for herself during the Benghazi hearings. The New York Post, for example, published a close-up of Clinton’s face as she was shouting with a huge title reading “No Wonder Bill’s Afraid: Hillary explodes with rage at Benghazi hearing”.
Basically, as they usually do when women do something strong and impressive, these outlets made Clinton seem like an overly emotional monster incapable of making rational decisions.
Instead of criticizing Clinton’s points, those opposed to her views criticized her emotions — because she is a woman. White heterosexual male politicians yell at each other all of the time, but take note that no one in the media treats them with the same lack of respect.
Then there are the arguments against women serving in combat positions. Turn on most any news channel and you’ll see a pompous white man talking about how much weaker women are than men, how we are too sexy and distracting (yes, people are really saying that) and how everyone is more likely to die if we are around.
My favorite completely idiotic point against women in combat came from pompous white man extraordinaire Professor Kingsley Browne of Wayne State University Law School. Browne argued on CNN that “large numbers of women fail to deploy with their units because of pregnancy, large numbers of women are shipped home because of pregnancy, something caused that pregnancy — and my guess is it was sex!”
Oh okay, so women are too busy in sexual positions to serve in a position of combat. Woe is me — if only we were capable of making rational decisions about sex maybe we could be trusted!
Sex in the military is a very serious issue. A woman in a combat zone is in fact far more likely to be raped by a fellow American soldier than die because of an irrational, overly emotional, hormonally-driven accident. According to statistics from the film The Invisible War — a documentary that highlights the epidemic of rape in the US military — in 2011 there were 3,192 reported sexual assaults in the military. Only 191 people were convicted at courts martial for these assaults.
It would seem then that the monsters in the military that are making the most irrational decisions are not the women, but the rapists and pigs that refuse to prosecute them. The most dangerous thing about a woman’s sexuality being anywhere near a combat unit has nothing to do with the woman herself. Imagine that.
These sorts of arguments — that women are too irrational, too emotional, too sexual — are not new to Clinton or to the women in today’s military. I’ve heard the same argument explaining why women should not be able to vote.
So whether we are exploding with rage at a senator or exploding with sexy in the military, it seems that there is little we can do to avoid the stereotypes and victim blaming that the media clings to. All I can say is keep fighting the good fight, ladies.