One of the Guys: Women as Aggressors and Torturers

Did feminism die at Abu Ghraib?

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A classic feminist bumper sticker reads, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people too.” But behind that idea often lurks the assumption that women are a kinder, gentler type of people. So what are we to make of Private Lynndie England, the poster girl for the Abu Ghraib scandal? In her introduction to this compelling but conflicted collection of essays about the role of women in the dark side of America’s war on terror, Barbara Ehrenreich describes how England upended the idea that violence and cruelty are almost exclusively male traits. “[That] kind of feminism,” she writes, “died in Abu Ghraib.”

The soul-searching chapters that follow, however, largely sidestep the reality that women torture for the same reasons men do—stress, groupthink, and just plain sadism. Many of the writers can’t bring themselves to see England as a woman in charge of her own actions. One writes that “England is a disturbing figure because she seems so powerful and free.” General Janis Karpinski, the only high-ranking officer charged in the abuse scandal, offers a laborious excuse for England’s misconduct, arguing that her lover, Specialist Charles Graner, manipulated her into posing for those horrific photos. The existence of violent women remains so mind-blowing that even a female general can’t get beyond the ironically un-feminist explanation that they are merely pawns in men’s dirty games.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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