The Nature of War

Poater by Michaelsen Rolf (Norway)

After I wrote my last post about women impinging on men’s territory, it occurred to me that I had hit on the very reason why there’s a war between the sexes in the first place.  Because what is war anyway but a conflict over territory? Even when the purported reason for the war is to protect some ideal or philosophy, it all boils down to a battle for territory.

Take the war in Iraq. Bush justified it as a fight for democracy, but in reality it was to protect our territory. Those who orchestrated the war wanted to make sure that no one (read terrorists) would ever be able to take over America. And, to be honest, it was also to protect our “territory” in the sense of our access to Middle Eastern oil.

Everyone has territory. It can be physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, philosophical, familial—you name it, we all have it. The reason why territory is so important to us is because what we “possess” makes up a great deal of our identities. Who would you be without your possessions, both material and immaterial? Without your home, your family, your religion, your ideas? And make no mistake, even with those things that are also possessed by others (like religion), we will still protect our version of it.

One of the things we possess is our roles. If anyone tries to take over our “God-given” roles, we become defensive, even aggressive. Thus the man feels threatened when his wife makes more than he does, because his special role is to be the provider. And his wife tends to shut him out of the things that define her role as a wife and mother: nurturing and consoling the children, decorating and maintaining the home.

That’s why it’s hard to let go of these roles even among egalitarian couples. The father might be all for his wife contributing to the family’s net worth, and yet resents it when she does it better than he does. The mother is all for sharing parenting and household tasks, but finds fault with everything her husband does.

It’s not so much that we want to prevent others  from trespassing on our territory, it’s that we want to retain control over it. They can “visit” all they want; we just don’t want them to take over. You can see this dynamic when women become mothers. It’s especially hard when our children are infants, for instance, to relinquish control over their care. We want our husbands to help out, but we feel uncomfortable or even angry when they try to do too much.

By the time our children are older and we could really use help taking them to doctor appointments and attending their school events, not to mention disciplining them, the pattern is already set. We may chafe under the responsibilities of child-rearing, but by then we’ve bought into the idea that they’re our responsibilities.

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What Makes Eve Ensler Ill: Cancer or the Congo?

I just found out that Eve Ensler has uterine cancer. Her prognosis, she reports, is good, but uterine cancer is nothing to fool around with. If caught early, 5-year survival rates can be as high as 96%. Ensler does not share at which stage her cancer was detected. At any rate, she has been through hell physically for the past few months. But, she insists, it is nothing compared to the hell she goes through every time she hears of the latest atrocities being committed in the Congo.

In her article, which appeared in several newspapers simultaneously, she writes:

The stories of continued rapes, machete killings, grotesque mutilations, outright murdering of human rights activists – these images and events create nausea and weakness much worse than chemo or antibiotics or pain meds ever could. But even harder to deal with, in the weakened state that I have been in, is knowing that despite the ongoing horrific atrocities that have taken the lives of more than 6 million people and left more than 500,000 women and girls raped and tortured, the international power elite appear to be doing nothing.

She describes all the attempts she and her foundation, V-Day, have made to interest world leaders in the plight of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and how those appeals have fallen on deaf ears. When she appeals to Michelle Obama (through a high-end official), she is told that “femicide was not her ‘brand.’ Mrs. Obama was focusing on childhood obesity.” (Ensler’s reaction? “It surprised me that a woman with her capabilities lacked ambidextrous skills.”)

I realize that the U.S., or any one entity, for that matter, can’t solve all the world’s problems. But does that mean that we should ignore them? Women and children are the real victims of war. But the revenge-rapes and brutal massacres, not to mention being left without husbands and fathers, are largely written off as “collateral damage.” The death of soldiers is tragic enough, but women and children don’t even have any means of defending themselves.

If the Congo were in our own back yard, we might be moved to do something about the conditions there. But because it is half a world away, we  feel that we can put it out of our minds. But Eve Ensler, even though you might think she has more important things to worry about, can’t put it out of hers.

For more background on the situation in the DRC, read Ensler’s article from a year ago, “An apathetic, greedy west has abandoned war-torn Congo.”

Friday Videos: Lithia (1995)

In 1995, the (New) Outer Limits television show broadcast “Lithia.” Here are the five video segments that make up this episode, for those who are interested in a science fiction allegory of the differences between men and women. Of course it’s simplistic (it’s television), but there is some food here for thought.

Outer Limits – Lithia (1of5)The most popular videos are here

Outer Limits – Lithia (2of5)More amazing video clips are a click away

Outer Limits – Lithia (3of5)Watch more amazing videos here

Outer Limits – Lithia (4of5)The best video clips are here

Outer Limits – Lithia (5of5)Watch today’s top amazing videos here