"...including women and children"

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Michelle
"...including women and children"

 

Michelle

Why, oh why do journalists insist on reporting deaths in this manner? The latest example is in [url=http://www.rabble.ca/babble/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic&f=13&t=002569]this thread[/url] where the opening article reads:

quote:

According to residents of Cite Soleil, UN forces attacked their neighborhood in the early morning hours of Dec. 22, 2006 and killed more than 30 people including women and children.

This drives me nuts. Women are NOT children. Women are not LIKE children.

Women are adults, just like men. Women are civilians just like male civilians. Women are combatants, just like male combatants. Women are involved in resistance and fighting, just like men are. Women are no more or less "innocent bystanders" than men are. If the reasoning for including the number of children is because of their innocence and inexperience and naivete and lack of ability to understand harsh realities, then fine, separate children from the casualties. But don't frigging lump women in with that as if they're just like children.

WOMENARENOTCHILDRENARGHARGHARGH.

Sorry, just had to get that out of my system. I've said it before when I've seen articles about how x number of people were killed by a bomb, "including women and children" but this time I didn't want to derail the thread.

Free_Radical

I don't see how this equates women and children expect beyond the idea that their deaths are "worse". If anything, it brings up the question why the deaths of 30 men would, more or less, be shrugged-off.

I think it partly comes from the view that men [i]could[/i] be combatants - how often do we hear about authorities rounding-up "males of military age" (usually 14-50's) in numerous conflicts?

So even though men who are kiled could very well be just as innocent, there's a sort of attitude taken that the jury is still out - "the dead is a 20 year old guy, we can't just assume that he [i]wasn't[/i] guilty of something". With dead women and children it's seen as an open and closed case - "of course they were innocents, it's impossible for them not to be". They aren't "males of military age".

The complaint shouldn't be that women are equated with children (after all, it's "women and children" not "women/children"), but two things - the glossing over of male deaths, and the assumption that women are, somehow, incapable of being a combatant (or perhaps that they are incapable of being [i]anything[/i], other than "in the wrong place at the wrong time").

nonsuch

Ya, there is a set of unexamined assumptions at work there - though not necessarily - or not entirely - unfounded assumptions.

Women, on the whole, are less [i]likely[/i] to be declared [or guerilla] combatants than men of the same age-group. Mothers are more [i]likely[/i] to be hiding with their children in an attack than than are the fathers.

Then, you have to consider the probable causes of armed conflict, which is - statistically and historically - more likely to be male-oriented than female. Then, you have to consider where the carnage is taking place; whether that country has a lot of female soldiers. Most countries still don't, so it's a pretty safe bet that women currently getting bombed are mostly civilian, like the kids.

I see your problem, but i also see why it's important for media to emphasize the destruction of innocents, of potentially valuable people - even if some, or most, of the dead women might have been competent to fight.....
a bomb...?

It's really a question of which message is more important to convey.

Pride for Red D...

Michelle, I agree with you 100%- the way that's always put is that women are the weaker sex and thus guarantee them special status. The truth is that all human death are tragic.

On the other hand it is true historically that more men are soldiers than women (I think I'll restrict that to western culture as it's what I know best)- not to say of course that women haven't been important participants in other ways. It is also true that like in peacetime, women and children tend to bear the brunt of violence the most.

So while that phrase is downright sexist, from another angle it also has something to it.

nonsuch

Anybody up for a closer look at language as it relates to political reality?

Would it be good - ie, serve the cause of women's advancement - if journalists worded their copy [i]as if[/i] women were interchangeable with men in every place and every political and/or economic situation? Or might that bring about complacency - the general misconception that parity has already been achieved and there is nothing more to be aspired-to?

Steppenwolf Allende

Interesting take on this, Moderator Michelle. I guess that mannerism comes from several influences over the years.

One could be from the old traditionalist sentiment that since women are the ones who mostly directly raise and care for children, killing them has that much more moral violation.

The other could be just good old media sensationalism exploiting people's gut sentiments and emotions.

for example, despite my media training and whatever political savvy I may (or may not) have, I remember how angry and shocked I was when I saw a photo from the 1993 Oklahoma city bombing showing a mother and three small kids, one still in a half crushed stroller, all dead and dismembered under various chunks of rubble.

As sickening and saddening as that is, the harsh fact is that the commercial media, especially the corporate media, L-O-V-E-S it!

quote:

This drives me nuts. Women are NOT children. Women are not LIKE children.

Very true. However, in fairness, I don't know if that's the main reason for the phrase. Rather, it could be, like I suggested, more from the idea of the mother who protects the innocent and vulnerable child being killed as a moral outrage.

I guess, one could even argue why is it any less of a moral outrage if only men are killed. Isn't every life supposed (in theory obviously) to be considered of equal worth (not that it is in practice)?

Again it could also be from the old idea that since men are traditionally the main bread winners for the family, they also are expected to be the first to stand and fight and die for the families as well (even though in reality the women quite often end up having to do the same thing).

Of course, in the case of the article, which mentions aerial bombing, who stands and gets killed first is pretty irrelevant.

Michelle

quote:


Originally posted by Steppenwolf Allende:
[b]Very true. However, in fairness, I don't know if that's the main reason for the phrase. Rather, it could be, like I suggested, more from the idea of the mother who protects the innocent and vulnerable child being killed as a moral outrage.[/b]

But this assumes that the mother is as much of a political and/or social actor as her child. Not okay. And fathers protect their children too. And the earlier point made about how it's often men who get rounded up rather than women into forced military action - well, that makes those men and teenage boys just as much victims as women, doesn't it?

I'm sorry but it doesn't make sense to me. It comes out of an outdated mode of chivalry and women's place in society, that it's somehow worse to kill a woman than a man. Why? Because it's part of the old school infantalization of women, and the presumption that women are just as ignorant about the conflict and as non-participant (because of that ignorance) as children.

It's insulting and demeaning to group women with children in this sense. If what you mean is a woman's civilian status, then say "30 civilians, including children". Or if everyone killed wasn't a civilian, and there were men, women, and children, say "killing 30 people, including civilians, some of whom were children.

I think it's important to look at the assumptions behind saying "women and children" when talking about victims of war.

Now, this doesn't preclude talking about types of warfare that are specifically misogynist such as systematic rape. Yes, it should be pointed out when there have been actions that are directed solely at women (rape) or solely at men (kidnapping and forced into service).

But this is not what I'm talking about here. Here I'm talking about when people discuss a mass of civilian bomb victims, and they group "women and children" together as if they are equivalent political or social actors. They are not. Women are not children. Women are not like children.

[ 26 January 2007: Message edited by: Michelle ]

Palamedes

'Women and children' is used to express that the casualties were likely non-combatants.

However, that is no longer true, and to assume that because they were women, they were not involved in the conflict, is invalid.

Then again, sadly, there is no guarantee that the children are non-combatants.

jrose

quote:


the way that's always put is that women are the weaker sex and thus guarantee them special status. The truth is that all human death are tragic.

I agree. We've grown beyond the days of the Titanic, where it was women and children in to the lifeboats and men to defend themselves. Sure, the case is still true for children, but women are not the helpless beings that the media often portray us to be. A life is a life, and a death is a death, equally horrifying no matter what sex falls victim.

smokingeatingdr...

I think that this type of reporting is aimed at MEN. Perhaps, when men hear that women have been killed -- women who for them are their mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, and so on, it appears all the more alarming (which is what news reporting is all about).

Do you have to be a mysogynist if you feel not less but [i]different[/i] when you hear about women dying in a disaster?

Freudian analysis: We all care about our mothers more than our fathers (who we're competing with for our mother's affection anyway).

Theyre-All-Barbarians analysis: In those 'other' cultures the backwards men see themselves as protectors of their wives & mothers. When can we liberate these poor, unfortunate, women?

remind remind's picture

Have been thinking about this for days, about how it feels to hear to this and what is behind the; "including woman and children", and if it is indicative of a patriarchial ideology, or not. Or even as another suggested now is it a Freudian thing about mothers.

In the end, I feel it is is an instinctual response rather than a; programming response that women need protecting, or a non-acknowledging of women's roles in war and defense.

Within Limbic brain structures reside all instinctual actions. Not only our fight or flight self-preservation instincts are based there but also our pro-creation and protection of the species and/or genetical lines instincts. This instinctual action of protecting the females and off spring goes across the animal kingdom and is not particular just to humans.

The fact is the male of the animal species can procreate faster and with more partners than females. There is more of an investment on many levels by the female species in procreation actions. The male of the human species can have several dozens if wanted of genetical replicas on the go at the same time over a 9 month period, while a female can have usually only 1 over a extended period 9 month period.

The fewer women there are in any given society, not only threatens the instinctual preservation of genetical lines, but also the instinctual understanding of future procreation abilities for diversification of the gene pool within a given society.

IMV that is where our emotional revulsion at women and children dying in tragedies, conflicts or famine, over males, comes from. It is simply protection of the species. Remember emotions also reside in the limbic brain and are driven by our basic instincts. And our emotions drive our reactions. Most of human society is a "reaction" to something, rather than a rational action of doing something.

nonsuch

Is it okay to say i approve of remind?
I like big-picture thinking.
I like to see a little, annoying issue, such as how reporters phrase a (not-so-news)item, in the context of the desire of a species to continue.
It makes no difference, but that's how i feel.

remind remind's picture

quote:


Originally posted by nonsuch:
[b]It makes no difference, but that's how i feel.[/b]

[img]biggrin.gif" border="0[/img] You should see me deal with a kleenex box!

Polly B Polly B's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Palamedes:
[b]'Women and children' is used to express that the casualties were likely non-combatants.

[/b]


Perhaps it is reported this way because the women and children were not the intended [i]target[/i]?

Maysie Maysie's picture

quote:


Originally posted by Polly Brandybuck:
[b]

Perhaps it is reported this way because the women and children were not the intended [i]target[/i]?[/b]


Very interesting, Polly. Between your comment and remind's ruminations, I'm all a-thinking now too.

The myth is that women and children are not the intended targets of war. Since (mostly male) soldiers are one type of target, one could argue (but not me) that they expect that they may die or be killed, taken prisoner, etc, therefore it's less of a loss if this happens.

Not so with women and children, who are assumed to not be combatants and who are constructed as not ever used (strategically, politically, sexually) in the guts of war- and fear-mongering. Or so the myth goes.

As women around the globe know, women and children are always killed and raped in war as part of the domination of the "winners" or conquerors, but also because of that biological stuff that remind mentioned. A side benefit/effect to the "winning" side (or even retreating "losers") is such acts are a "humiliation" to men on the other side if women get pregnant by their war-time rapists, which they do. A view which sees women as both property of men (a function of patriarchy) and the ones who get pregnant (biologic reality).

That's all I have to say for now, but I appreciate the deeper level this discussion is going in.

remind remind's picture

quote:


Originally posted by bigcitygal:
[b] A side benefit/effect to the "winning" side (or even retreating "losers") is such acts are a "humiliation" to men on the other side if women get pregnant by their war-time rapists, which they do. A view which sees women as both property of men (a function of patriarchy) and the ones who get pregnant (biologic reality).
[/b]

Thank you for this, I had not thought deeply into the aspect of biological limbic driven actions, and how it plays into the patriarchial functions.

Rape of women and children in war has long been seen as one of the "rewards" of going to war. And had always thought if this was outlawed and punished severely. A kinda; perhaps not so many men would be willing to go, thinking. That might be a fallacy considering the biologically driven aspect of it.

Southlander

I hope the drive to rape woman in conquered countries is not purely bioloical? I would like to think it was more commen amongest men who are treated roughly either in childhood, and/or as soldiers, and if this is so, it will decrease as we get better. I heard the russians were much worse than the western allies in germany in 1944-45, but they have just been the story told from my side of the fence? Perhaps they had reason to hate the germans more, because of the starving Russians. Also ethnic similarities/ differences may decrease or increase the amount? I heard the Japanese set up Korean woman as sex slaves, but the westerners in prisioner of war camps were not treated much like this. Of course what we heard about WW2 may not have been the whole truth....

Polly B Polly B's picture

quote:


Originally posted by bigcitygal:
[b] The myth is that women and children are not the intended targets of war. Since (mostly male) soldiers are one type of target, one could argue (but not me) that they expect that they may die or be killed, taken prisoner, etc, therefore it's less of a loss if this happens.
[/b]

It's in the perception. When the media reports that "women and children" were killed in the bombing, it is in essence saying that the bomber fucked up, missed, got sloppy. Missed the real target and hit innocents instead. You don't ever hear that one side won the war by killing all the women and children and leaving the men standing.

And yes, women and children (non combatants too) have always been targetted, they have been considered expendable and spoils of war, and they have been marginalized and brutalized and dehumanized. You just never see that in the original game plan, alongside killing all fighting males.

Michelle

Bumping this because I'm searching for threads about chivalry and patriarchy, and it was so nice to see such a thoughtful discussion. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

Tommy_Paine

Years ago, I was working in an by-election, I can't remember in exactly what capacity, but it had me in the office more often than not. The candidate was either Dianne Whiteside or Caroline Davis. Can't remember, but either way, a good number of women also came out to volunteer, and most of them were, well, quite able to discuss feminism from a feminist point of view.

I remember at one point being alone with one woman, when a guy came in and made himself a pest. I thought him generally harmless but annoying, and I kept a careful ear out, because he was, in his own way, coming onto the woman. I find it hard to describe him in that he wasn't someone I'd call "mentally challenged", but well...not right.

So, I was paralyzed. I knew the woman was annoyed. But, thought I, if I intervened in this situation, would it carry the implication to the woman that I didn't think she could take care of herself? Or, was I using that as an excuse to avoid confrontation?

I tend to think that given time to think, I'm not too shit hot in these situations. I'm better if I don't think.

It worked itself out, but later the woman and I talked about it, and I shared with her my thinking. I think I did end up intervening in a non physical, and not even gruff way.

She was appreciative, and did not interpret my actions as any kind of implication that she couldn't take care of herself and needed male "help".

Just two people, working together.

I tend to view similar situations in that context.

Sineed

You sound like a gracious guy, Tommy, but I don't think you need to agonize so much over such things. If a woman is being hassled, and you can help, you do. No sane woman would feel oppressed by being rescued from someone who is harassing her.

Tommy_Paine

Well, that was many years ago, and I'm more experienced now.

A couple of years ago, I attended the Pride parade in Toronto with a number of women-- two from this message board in fact. They were dressed for the occasion, and all the way from the home where we congregated, to the subway station, to downtown I thought for sure we were going to run into some yob who would say, or do something rude or beyond rude.

And I was on the look out for that, and I was more than ready to intervene at the drop of a hat.

It had nothing to do with women not being able to take care of themselves, or some idea of male chivalry learned from Thomas Mallory's fantasy.

It's just the same as if I was out with the guys from work. They're your friends, and you have their back.

Noise

Remind:

quote:

The fact is the male of the animal species can procreate faster and with more partners than females. There is more of an investment on many levels by the female species in procreation actions. The male of the human species can have several dozens if wanted of genetical replicas on the go at the same time over a 9 month period, while a female can have usually only 1 over a extended period 9 month period.

You've got this correct... The males do the fighting while the women are to be raising the next generation of fighters. Especially true during times when human lifespan was no longer than 30 or 40 years, males were semi-disposable while females represented the future numbers/prosperity of a tribe or fledgling nation.

Pride for Red Delores put this in:

quote:

On the other hand it is true historically that more men are soldiers than women (I think I'll restrict that to western culture as it's what I know best)

This is true across almost all cultures that were involved in war, Tzu's art of war will have references to such, and you'll see Khan's refer to it as well... From a rather high level view, the number of females in a society will determine it's ability to expand in numbers and female soldiers cut into the ability to reproduce. There are a couple instances in history where the conquerer took to killing a large portion of the women in a society to stem the re-population of a defeated nation (mostly dark ages).

"...including women and children" would represent an assault on the future health of a society... Why exactly this feeling would survive and manifest itself in this manner is unknown for me.

Michelle

Bumping because I found my pet peeve again in another thread. [img]smile.gif" border="0[/img]

martin dufresne

It isn't the accounting of massacres where mostly women and children are killed and almost exclusively men do the killing that lumps women and children together "as if women were children". This is the making of the authors of these massacres, be they so-called "domestic tragedies" - where a disgruntled male murders his wife and children - or the bombing of unarmed civilians, in this week's case at a village wedding where all news reports indicate a disproportionate number of women and children among the dead and wounded.
In such cases, insisting on what could have been the case (equal numbers of female warriors and aircraft pilots and male civilian victims) can hide what was the case and reflects a systemic and significant policy, male combatants destroying civil society rather than enemy combatants, a crime according to the Geneva Convention that gets obscured when we refuse to make such distinctions.

remind remind's picture

quote:


Originally posted by martin dufresne:
[b]It isn't the accounting of massacres where mostly women and children are killed and almost exclusively men do the killing that lumps women and children together "as if women were children"... male combatants destroying civil society rather than enemy combatants, a crime according to the Geneva Convention that gets obscured when we refuse to make such distinctions.[/b]

I have to agree with martin in this instance.

janfromthebruce

I agree. [img]frown.gif" border="0[/img]

Michelle

Bumping again since it came up elsewhere. :)

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

Michelle: as a thought experiment I would suggest running through the various sex worker threads that have come up in the past couple of months and checking how frequently the "women and children" and "protecting the women and children" phrases occur. I think I have already commented on the implicit (hetero)sexism of those comments.

Infosaturated

I don't think women are being infantilized at all by the "women and children" phrasology unless we are prepared to jump on the men's rights bandwagon that proclaims men are just as frequently victims of domestic violence as women are.

In war, most of the time we are talking about male bombers and most of the time the women and children that get hit are non-combatants. In this case we aren't even assuming that the bombers aren't female.  The presence of women and children infers that the target was civilian not military therefore even some of the men present may not have been combatants either.

Likewise, in threads on prostitution, to de-gender the discussion and to ignore the prevalence of women and children is to obscure the integral nature of prostitution as a gendered industry.  While the issue of boys and men within the industry is a significant one that deserves to be addressed in a global sense women are disproportionately affected and that should be recognized.

Should we stop referring to "women" when we discuss rape and talk about "people" getting raped?

Should attendence at "take back the night" marches be reported as "# of people" marched rather than "# of women marched"?

Saying "children" instead of "women and children" when referring to victims of war would be to make invisible the fact that it is women who still bare the burden of most child care and during warfare when children are hit so are their mothers and other female caregivers.