When the war is covered in the mainstream media, it is done so via surface stories and photo ops that foreground facile heroism and testosterone fueled hypermasculinity. This hypermasculine narrative is evident when Bush dons a flight suit, when in-your-face banners triumphantly claim “Mission Accomplished,” when aircraft carriers and missiles are metaphorically constructed as the ultra-powerful, unstoppable American phallus. This macho war stance, while foregrounding supposed US strength and heroism, also works to hide a number of key issues – firstly, it hides the profit/power motivations of the war, secondly, it hides the gender, race, and class dynamics of the war, and thirdly, it hides the extreme bodily costs in terms of civilian as well as military causalities.
In regards to the profit/power motives of war and its masculinist undertones, the money hungry devil is metaphorically hidden in the red, white, and blue robes of a protective patriarch. This ‘good father’ is not vengeful, nor does he suffer from a ‘god complex,’ rather, he wants to protect his innocent American family by fortifying the walls of his house and keeping out all the ‘bad guys.’ As a concerned father, he also supposedly wants to help others in need – to save the ‘poor and oppressed’ veiled women of the Middle East, to bring democracy to the masses. The devil within, who desires control of the world’s natural resources as well as of the bodies and souls (and labor) of the worlds people, is shrouded in happy face patriotism and facile, flag-wagging nationalism.
This hypermasculine warrior stances hides the fact that the war is about securing US corporate interests. It is also about shoring up American masculinity both at the specific level of individual American males and at the broader level of America as a ‘manly’ country that is powerful, aggressive, and dominating. Opposition to the war is coded as ‘wimpy’ and those countries that the US is either trying to ‘democratize’ or those countries that do not support the war effort are metaphorically emasculated.
As feminist war critics such as Cynthia Enloe and Carol Cohn examine, decisions and actions regarding war are cast as issues of masculine power and strength. For example, when one refuses to partake in war or when one is targeted as an enemy, images of phallic penetration are often employed. From bumper stickers that read “Saddam, Bend Over” to cartoons that show Saddam in prayer position with a US missile pointed at his ass, the message is clear – the US aims to penetrate the world with its specific brand of masculinized military power.
This championing of a very particular type of masculinity has a very dangerous companion – a de-emphasis on intellectualism, analysis, and critical thinking. The US seems unconcerned with our rash stupidity in rushing into a war based on lies (let alone questioning the intelligence of our president) – rather, the US is concerned about being perceived as ‘backing down,’ ‘pulling out,’ or, that most un-macho of outcomes, ‘going soft.’ Tellingly, MSM war coverage also relies on a masculinized rhetoric that not only characterizes the macho body of the solider as heroic, but also defends the ‘reason’ and ‘logic’ of our leaders. Simultaneously, ‘enemies’ are cast as weak, illogical, and unintelligent (much like the representation in the recent pro-war movie masquerading as a super-hero flick, Iron Man).
If we as a nation lost our aggressive, power-hungry erection that goes around raping the rest of the world, maybe we could turn our attention towards fixing some REAL problems-like racism, poverty, corporatist globalization, sexism, the degradation of the environment, etc. Instead, like a rutting male who can’t think straight because all the blood has drained from his head and into his penis, we keep screwing the world. (For another post that uses rape as an analogy for US war mongering, as well as a good consideration of why an anti-war stance and feminism coincide, see Punk Ass Blog here.)
I wish our hypermasculine warrior stance would go limp.
I wish that as a nation we would heed the words of the wise Wau Wau Sisters and “Just Pull Out.”
On another note, I also wish there was as much interest in eradicating war and critiquing militarization as there is in so many other topics covered in the blogosphere. While dedicated anti-war or build peace blogs have large followings, it seems blogs focusing on feminism, anti-racism, sexuality, etc don’t generate as much interest when writing on war related topics. I know from my own blog, when I write about beauty, white privilege, or popular culture, I get a lot more readers than when I write about war. I don’t get this — like Kevin Moore from Moore Toons, I am surprised one needs to spell out that war is a feminist issue.