It happens every day. In fact, it is pretty hard to avoid it. There are some things that can only be understood with a slap on the forehead. Things so mind-boggling that one wonders how humans managed to evolve thumbs while being this mentally inept. Case in point:
It is an impressive piece of work, if for no other reason than it demonstrates that Rush Limbaugh is not the only person willing to exploit a tragedy in order to push a political agenda. A little over a week ago Haiti was struck by an earthquake. The toll on the people has been horrific. The death toll is in the tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands. Many more are hurt, hungry and emotionally battered. Numerous reporters tell of people literally walking around for no apparent reason, people just in a complete daze. The situation continues to grow worse as the relief services try to get the medicine and food to those who need it in a country that was already on the brink before the quake and now virtually destroyed afterward. Communication has been one of the largest problems since the electrical grids were downed by the quake and the aftershocks. While chaos has fortunately not broken out, the level of tension is still very high and people are asking why they have not received any help.
At this point there is no telling who is exactly in more need than others. Obviously, children are at a particular risk for a host of issues, as are the elderly and those already sick or injured. However, in terms of overall need there is no real way to break it down. The simple fact is that everyone there needs help. Of course, that does not matter to some feminist organizations.
In a show of pure politics, several women’s organizations declared that women deserve aid over men. This claim went beyond simply providing for women’s hygiene needs, like tampons. As it was explains on Salon:
It isn’t just that women often require special care and resources post-disaster; human rights organizations say that they could also play a critical role in distributing much-needed aid. Women “are central actors in family and community life,” says Enarson, and are more likely to know “who in the neighborhood most needs help — where the single mothers, women with disabilities, widows and the poorest of the poor live.” Diana Duarte, a spokesperson for MADRE, an international women’s rights organization that has joined the relief effort, put it this way: “Women are often more integrated and more aware of the vulnerabilities of their communities.”
Even beyond the initial emergency response, there lies a long road to recovery that holds other unique challenges for women and girls. They are “at increased risk of gender-based violence, especially domestic violence and rape but also forced marriage at earlier ages” due to their increased dependence on men for protection and support, says Enarson. After a disaster of this magnitude, there will also be scores of “newly disabled, widowed or homeless women” in need of help. MADRE’s Duarte points out that women’s generally higher “level of poverty negatively effects their ability to access resources to rebuild.”
Ultimately, focusing on women during the recovery process is hopefully a means of helping all of Haiti’s survivors: It “is one way to build safer, more sustainable and more disaster resilient communities,” says Enarson. “It is the precious legacy of enormous tragedy and we cannot afford to squander it.”
Enarson and Duarte provide no actual evidence for their claims that women are much more important to the family and community life than men or that women know more about the needs of the community. Likewise, they provide no evidence to support the implication that women are at great risk for “gender-based violence” following the earthquake. What the pair presents is nothing but a political screed that implies aid should not be given to boys or men, at least not before girls and women have been helped first. One wonders how this would actually play out. Would the pair deny medical services to a man losing massive amounts of blood because a woman has a couple of scratches? Would they refuse to hand out water to boys and men who are clearly thirsty before giving water to all the girls and women first? Would they make men with urinary track infections wait while they handed out tampons to women?
In practice, the idea is patently stupid. As Robert Franklin notes:
…[T]he whole concept gets perilously close to saying that women, at least post-disaster, are actually more worthwhile than are men. According to Clark-Flory and the women she quotes, as the “central actors in family and community life,” women are just better placed to know what’s going on and to direct resources. If any of them think men deserve help, they avoid saying so.
Of course, criticizing that level of ambivalence does not sit well with feminists. Lucinda Marshall states:
First of all, the piece did not say that men and boys don’t deserve aid, it said that women have some needs that men don’t have that also need to be addressed. Secondly (having hopefully given female readers time to pick themselves up off the floor from laughing) — apparently Mr. Franklin, Esq. does not go to the grocery or drug store very often or he would know that hygiene is our oh so clean euphemism for sanitary products — oh wait, that is a euphemism too — okay, excuse my indelicacy — it means tampons and pads that women use when they MENSTRUATE (there, I said the word). As a general rule, most of the people who use those products are FEMALE. But if Mr. Franklin, Esq. really feels that he needs them, I’m sure we can send him a box with explicit instructions on where to shove them.
Unfortunately for Marshall, the piece really does imply that boys and men do not deserve aid, at least not before or at the same time that aid is given to women and girls. While Franklin did apparently miss the euphemism of “hygiene products” as meaning female sanitary products, his overall point is valid. The notion that providing women sanitary products somehow trumps the basic medical needs most boys and men is disturbing. That does not mean that a woman menstruating should not receive a pad or tampon, but in the grand scheme of things it is not as important as a boy or man with a broken limb receiving pain medication or antibiotics or water or food. Not having a tampon will not kill a woman. Not having food, water, clothing, shelter or proper medical services can kill a boy or man (or woman or girl).
Alex DiBranco defends Marshall, stating:
RH Reality Check points to another stop in the land of make-believe — “Amidst Haiti Disaster, Women’s Groups Seek to Deny Relief to Men,” on the website The Spearhead — that attacks the concern that women and girls will be vulnerable to violence and rape in the chaos following the earthquake. In a way, it’s kind of a nice land, where women and girls don’t have to constantly worry about these assaults, but a fantasy land nonetheless.
Following the 2005 Tsunami and Hurrican Katrina feminists made the same claims about attacks on women and girls, and ironically within the same time frame: no less than 48 hours after the disaster happened. How feminists got information that quickly is anyone’s guess. To my knowledge, no organization has releases any numbers suggesting a higher risk of overall violence against women and girls, i.e. “gender-based violence” (because when people specifically target boys and men apparently that does not count). The claim was made for what appears to be no reason other than to provoke an emotional response. The situation in Haiti is dangerous for everyone, not just female. Everyone is at risk for violence and the idea that women and girls deserve greater protection, but boys and men are expendable is not only sexist, it borders on pathological in a situation like this. Hundreds of thousands of people are injured and dead. One would think the politics would stop for a moment, but like Rush Limbuagh some feminists cannot seem to curb their bigotry even in the face of human tragedy.
Not to be outdone, Marcella Chester offered her own rant, not about Franklin’s post, but about men’s rights groups’ concern about false rape allegations. It is incredibly off-topic and demonstrates an intense bias, if not hatred, of those concerned with men’s issues. However, one comment did stand out:
This demand for equal resources is selective. MRAs often oppose equal resources and equal responses when the current system gives more to boys and men and directly neglects or harms girls and women. Every example of MRA gender fairness that I’ve seen supports boys and men always getting the same or more than girls and women. The fact that this MRA “fairness” standard systematically supports unfairness for girls and women is something they don’t want to be accountable for.
That Chester opines that giving males the same support as females equals a standard that “systematically supports unfairness for girls and women” is enlightening. Part of the problem many feminists have is that they do not think boys and men need help. Whether it is about disaster relief, sexual violence, domestic violence or health needs, feminists tend to balk when anyone suggests that boys and men should be treated with the same concern and care girls and women receive because feminists believe that males always have it better. Even in situations like Haiti where any rational person would argue that the human need outweighs any specific political concerns, feminists have no problem implying that a boy dying via drowning in his own blood is not nearly as important as a woman who tampons.
The complaint being made by Franklin and on Spearhead is that such trivial comparisons should not even happen. We should not value women over men, girls over boys, female over male. All Haitians deserve aid when they need it for whatever their needs are because it is the right thing to do. The idea that helping dying boys and men neglects or harms girls and women is not just monumentally stupid on a level that almost rivals President Bush’s lackluster response to Hurrican Katrina, in a situation like this where people will die if they do not receive the care they need in the right amount of time, arguing that females deserve to get tampons and pads before and above any male gets help regardless of the situation those males are in is tantamount to murder. There will be boys and men who die because some feminist organization thinks females inherently deserve help first.
It is disgusting and frankly embarrassing to see people exploiting other people’s suffering in this manner, especially as they do so from the nice safety of their homes. The idea that a man or boy’s life matters less than a tampon far beyond stupid, as is the notion that women and girls are inherently more important and more worthy of aid and saving.