By Aisha Fayyazi Sarwari
Vulgarity is vulgarity, no matter what mouth it comes out of – Maya Angelou
Well then so is bullshit. Because that is what it would be called if someone asked President Obama in a public forum what his wife, Michalle Obama thought about the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Media commentators on CNN, ABC News, as well as on the recently featured Jon Stuart show pummeled US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton for being “undiplomatic” in her “hissy fit” when a Congolese student in Kinshasa asked her at a press briefing what “Mr. Clinton” (her husband, and former US President) thinks of a situation. She mildly lost her temper with the student, and rightly so, because the question was an insult to the office of the secretary of state.
The exact question, translated by an expert, went like this: “We’ve all heard about the Chinese contracts in this country — the interferences from the World Bank against this contract. What does Mr. Clinton think, through the mouth of Mrs. Clinton, and what does Mr. Mutumbo think on this situation?”
Ms. Clinton paused for a minute, and inquired if that was indeed the question from her translator. The translator confirmed that the student wanted to know essentially what the “Mr.” thought in the words of the “Mrs.” And Ms. Clinton even went as far to repeat the question from the Congolese student. She asked, “Wait. You want to know what Mr. Clinton thinks.”
And finally she assertively corrected the misogynistic student bread in a country that UN declares as the rape capital of the world: “My husband is not the secretary of state; I am. So you ask my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I’m not going to be channeling my husband.”
By lashing out at Hilary Clinton, the media in the US has declared itself no less guilty of supporting a culture of male domination, and outright double standards that count women as less than whole, no less, than African Congo is guilty of thousands upon thousands of attacks on women’s sexuality.
For years now UN aid workers have been unable to stop the gang rapes and horrific attacks on over 27,000 women from ages 3 to 75 in Congo since 2006. Hilary Clinton’s trip to Africa and particularly Congo was an attempt to take a proactive role in a more essential and pressing problem tied to illegal trafficking of precious minerals in Congo’s scenic mountains. The importance of which was not given due airtime than say former President Clinton’s rescuing of two journalists from North Korea during the same time Ms. Clinton was visiting Africa.
The vulgarity of the media attack on Hilary Clinton and that on the women of Congo is nurtured from the same root of a perverted form of civilization where women measure in negligible quantities. The difference is that one society does it in a more extreme form of rape and the other though public humiliation and scandal. This they do, as they call a fine and distinguished woman incompetent, questioning her personal relationship with Mr. Clinton, and are quick to (wrongly) report that the Congolese student was actually misquoted and he actually wanted to know Mr. Obama’s opinion. The Lede blog by NYT states that it was indeed Mr. Clinton’s opinion that was asked not President Obama’s.
The media pundits are investigating the wrong question. It does not matter if the student who asked the question actually wanted to know what President Obama thought, what should be investigated is why the question was not asked directly of her opinion, as a representative of all affairs of the United States of America — Perhaps because she was a woman.
Obscurantism is as prevalent in the Barbie-dolled anchorwomen world on Cable News as are the men who abuse women as weapons of war in Congo.
The violence in Congo is at ghastly levels, currently topped by a new militia group called the Rastas who have nothing but vengeance aimed at “destroying” women in the mineral-rich African country. The Rape-Centers now created in the country are flooded by women numbering in the thousands, some get treatment, others can’t survive that far. The UN claims that the perpetrators of this violence were bread from the Hutu rebels from the Rwandan Genocide over the past decade.
There is absolutely no possibility that a practical genocide-free world can be charted unless half of it, constituted by women are not given the right to have an opinion that counts independently for posterity’s sake.
It is precisely because of the awareness that Hilary Clinton’s Congo visit has brought to the use of rape as a weapon of war, that the New York Times recently published a report on the iron fisted rule of Indian forces in the disputed region of Kashmir on the border of India and Pakistan called “2 Killings Stoke Kashmiri Rage at Indian Force.”
The agenda-setting media networks at large ignored the thousands of extra judicial killings, the disappearances of women and the gang rapes by some of the 500,000 Indian security forces only to be disguised and covered up by high officials despite Human Rights Watch reports. Indian held Kashmir has one of the highest military to civilian ratios in the world.
This story however, did not escape the NYT limelight: “Asiya, a 17-year-old high school student, had been badly beaten. Blood streamed from her nose and a sharp gash in her forehead. She and her 22-year-old sister-in-law, Nilofar, had been gang raped before their deaths.”
The street protests and the consequent discovery that the police tried to cover up the evidence by bribing doctors led to more frustration by Kashmiris under Indian control. Eventually the director general of Kashmir’s police force admitted that his forces had made mistakes. “There is a prima facie feeling there was destruction of evidence, whether deliberate or inadvertent.”
The reason women are targeted so violently during wartime is because of immunity. When no one demands that people act in fairness and justice, there will be transgresses.
It is time for the media to laud the courage and conviction of the Secretary of State for working toward an ignored menace that is responsible for driving nations into darkness.
And it is time to ask those accusing her of intemperance to ask the same question that the Congolese student asked, of a man in power, and we’ll see how far their investigative reporting careers go.