#61 Wielding Masculinity Inside Abu Ghraib by Cynthia Enloe
April 22, 2012 § 1 Comment
In “Wielding Masculinity Inside Abu Ghraib,” Cynthia Enloe discusses the lack of gender specific insight into the Abu Ghraid scandal. When shocking photos of military prisoners being humiliated and tortured by military personnel were released, part of the shock was in seeing women engaged in torture. Following the release was a media fascination surrounding Lynndie England over the other perpetrators. She claims viewers were shocked to see a woman commit such atrocites, and are more comfortable viewing females and Army wives or nurses, rather than in typically masculine acts of torture.
In response to the scandal in general, the military gave the “bad apple” explanation, saying that only a few bad people engage is this type of behavior. Cynthia describes how this explanation allows the behavior to continue without any real reassessment of the military, and furthermore she suggests the whole barrel has gone bad. Through several methods the military has become more susceptible to such abuse. First, they shrank down definition of torture, allowing abusive techniques to be used in gathering information. Second, officials who approve of and use torture have been and are continually put into major positions of power within the military. And finally, intense pressure to get information has blurred lines between military policing and interrogation. Furthermore, personnel at the prison described an atmosphere of chaos and coercion.
I found Cynthia’s assessment of how the military has increasingly become more violent in interrogation extremely interesting and an accurate portrayal of the processes involved in this shift. She also makes good points about how the analysis of what happened should really include a more women’s studies approach. However, her main assessment of how the media was obsessed with Lynndie because she was a female was not as convincing. First off, when the Abu Ghraib incident happened, I personally never heard there was a woman involved. After seeing the photos, I did not recognize Lynndie as female, and actually thought all of the perpetrators were male until reading this essay. Many of the discussions that followed were about human rights abuses, military power, and largely ignored the issue of gender as I recall it. Based on what I remember, I feel she over exaggerated the importance of one of the torturers being female. Does anyone else remember a specifically gendered outcry?