Wednesday, May 31, 2006

How Soldiers are Killing Themselves, and Patriarchy is Killing Us All

On the way to work this morning I found a discarded newspaper with the headline – “Military starts online stress screening”. The Pentagon is sponsoring a program that allows soldiers and others connected to the military to fill out an anonymous online survey to determine whether or not they should look for help to address symptoms of depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

What does this have to do with patriarchy? Patriarchy is unequal expectation through sex role differentiation, homophobia and unequal rewards and punishments based on gender – and it is also a part of the various institutions that organize our lives. The military is one of these institutions, and while many individual soldiers are actively resisting its influences, like our society it is fundamentally patriarchal - as Huibin Amee Chew writes in Why the War is Sexist, only more severely so. And so sexual assault is a component of military culture– used as a weapon of war abroad, and at home to enforce hierarchy and traditional behavior within the military itself.

But as evidenced by the above AP news story – to dehumanize others we lose something of our wholeness as well. As men in this culture we are trained to be soldiers from day one, unable to ask for help (unless it can be given anonymously). The mental illness the Pentagon is attempting to respond to, even by their own acknowledgement, is the result of a specific environment, and only a particularly honest and obvious example of why challenging the environment of patriarchy is about transcending the depression, stress and anxiety that eats away at more and more of us.

Patrick Lincoln. Share

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