Short ‘n’ Stubby: Russell Williams roundup

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It was a foregone conclusion that Russell Williams, recently convicted of dozens of break/enters, thefts, plus two sexual assaults and two murders, should be stripped of his military rank. Ms. Manx approves, and wishes his military pension would also be taken away; it’s not as if he’s gonna have much use for it anyway, seeing as he’s serving two concurrent life sentences in Kingston Pen, with no chance of parole for a very long time. Maybe that, too, will come about in due course. Meanwhile, here are some other things the Stumpy Cat approves, in terms of journalism and blogging on the Williams case:

Our friend Elizabeth Pickett has an excellent piece up at Rabble, castigating the sensational coverage of his crimes as a “fetish” gone berserk. And she makes an excellent point:

One thing is clear: the effect of handling the case this way has been to feed into every stereotype about serial rapist murderers and to place Russell Williams as far away as possible from any description of humanness. That way we can file him tidily away in the mental vault we keep for depraved monsters.

Is that to ensure that few of us will be prompted to wonder just how and where he fits on our socially sanctioned continuum of male violence against women? Is that so we don’t learn something that would implicate our military institutions, our systems of law enforcement, our courts of law, our legislators, and all of us in a wilful and systematic blindness to the inequities and inequalities that oppress womenfolk every hour of every day of every year in which we live?

Similarly, Your Heart’s On the Left takes on the military’s culture of machismo. Surely it has nothing to do with this at all? Don’t be so sure. Remember, Williams isn’t a fetishist, and certainly not a cross-dresser. A psychopath who, in his fantasies, controls others, will naturally gravitate to a job in which he can do just that, unchallenged–and the upper echelons of the air force will cheerfully turn a blind eye to him, as they did here. He fit right in, and had he not been caught, he’d still be using his position of authority to advantage–and killing more women.

Also not to be missed, within the same piece: A mention of “trophy” pictures of a teenager brutally murdered by the now-infamous (and disbanded) Airborne regiment in Somalia. Remember Shidane Arone? Canadians of a certain age can’t forget him. Seems that Williams’s particular brand of psychopathy (he also photographed the women he raped and murdered, as well as himself in various articles of stolen underwear) was endorsed and sanctioned by the military’s culture of machismo and the glorification of violence. Of course, back then, THAT was swept aside as an “isolated” and “aberrant” incident, too. I guess it could look that way, if you forget that rape, torture and humiliation are old and brutal weapons of war. (Just ask the women of the Balkans what they fear most, being killed or being raped by their enemy. Rape was actually included in the “ethnic cleansing” programs that the region is so infamous for.)

The Regina Mom also seizes on the military-machismo aspect. Does it take us women to notice this sort of thing? Apparently, yes. Considering how much it affects us (and women within the military, like Williams’s first murder victim, Cpl. Marie-France Comeau), it stands to reason, does it not?

But happily, women aren’t the only ones who get it. A few good men also do, like the Chronicle-Herald‘s Laurent Le Perriès, who notes the connections that cannot be tidily explained away with words like “fetish”. He recognizes that our entire culture is pervaded by the idea of rape as a mainstream, virtually “normal” thing, which it ought not to be. Rape is being seen–still–as just an outcrop of sex, when in fact it is the most horrific, lasting and damaging kind of violence there is. The result is a distressing trivialization of the suffering of rape survivors–most of them female. And also slut-shaming and victim-blaming, which add insult to injury, isolating the victim/survivor from the mainstream of society.

And finally, as Antonia Zerbisias notes, as long as all these things are viewed out of their proper focus, we can expect to see a lot more slipshod policing of any crimes of violence against women. All the more reason, then, for us to hold our media and our institutions accountable for their part in cases like this.

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1 Response to Short ‘n’ Stubby: Russell Williams roundup

  1. Jim Hadstate says:

    The military has been described by more than one mental health professional researcher as a haven of aberrant sexual behavior. It glorifies the latent homosexual in men, particularly young men, and yet places them in the schizoid position of humiliating, reviling and rejecting them if they submit to the homosexual longings taught to them by their older and supervisory personnel within the military model. With that kind of mental short circuit along with an already broken moral and mental compass, they become rapists, or, in the extreme, like this monster, a…well…monster.
    This is not to say that all rapists are military men and all serial rape/murders are military men. But the thing that rapists and/or serial rapists and rape/murders and/or serial rape/murders seek is power and control. And the military is the perfect climate to offer that harvest and nurture new and perverse forms of it. Does anyone wonder why the most prevalent crime committed by the Armed Forces of any country anywhere is rape and or rape/murder whether reported or not? Particularly gang rape? In certain parts of the Armed Forces where the nature of the mission requires extensive solo time, solitary rape is the most prevalent. But the military is by and large a group beast. It is the only ‘normal’ way that these youngsters are taught that acting out sexually is OK.
    Make no mistake, this is not a defense of the military or a justification of the horrors they commit or the collateral “pleasures” that they think that their “service to their country” entitles them to. No, it is a condemnation of the entire currently in vogue military mindset wherever it is found.
    The only way I see to break the cycle is to begin a process of imposing the ‘civilian’ control of the military, which only a few countries have a moral and legal obligation to exert, and insist that the military be retrained by whatever tools available to the civilian mental health community, not military mental health professionals (we’ve seen what levels they have degenerated to). Those who refuse or resist being retrained into being less abusive of women or any other form of sexuality are to be dismissed summarily dishonorably. Then, perhaps, we can have a military that can be effective without brutality and without resorting to the overused, “Well that’s just the way war is.”
    No it’s not and it’s time you learned it general!

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