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J. Steven Svoboda
- Published on Amazon.com
Apart from the rarest exceptions (such as the not-to-be-missed "Female `Circumcision' in Africa: Culture, Controversy, and Change," Edited by Bettina Shell-Duncan and Ylva Hernlund), edited volumes tend to be hit-and-miss affairs. It's hard enough simply to find an appropriate topic, to accumulate contributions that are varied enough to provide interest but not so different that they work at cross-purposes, and to publish the work. Maintaining a razor-like focus as can easily be done with an individually authored book by definition becomes almost impossible with an edited volume.
Editor Adam Jones does just about as good a job with "Gendercide and Genocide" as can reasonably be done. (Full disclosure: I have been personally acquainted with Adam for years and am a strong supporter of his work.) The book manages for the most part to walk the fine line between being too diffuse in focus and suffering from a "me-too" tone. While this is necessarily a somewhat academically oriented book, it still has plenty that will be of interest for any follower of the gender transition movement and/or human rights.
Contributing three of the eleven pieces himself, Jones verges dangerously close to dominating his own edited volume. Yet this decision is justified by Jones' undeniable skill as a researcher, writer, and creative thinker. The founder of award-winning Gendercide Watch ([...]) has never been afraid to challenge received gender wisdom or long-held human rights perspectives, while at the same time never stinting on his footnotes. Jones' book-opening contribution, bearing the same title as the volume, starts us off with a bang. The author questions subtle yet telling ways in which we frame discussions, such as by making "womenandchildren" equivalent to the civilian population and discussing "battle-age males" as if all persons bearing a Y chromosome are potential paratroopers whose murder can almost be justified as a wartime precaution. (Why Jones adroitly asks in a footnote, do we not speak of "rape-age women"?) As David Buchanan also stresses in his piece, often the first stage in acts of genocide--in Kosovo, in Armenia--in Nazi Germany--is acts of "gendercide" against males perceived as potential soldiers.
Evelin Gerda Lindner follows with a piece that mostly says "me too" to the Jones opener. Oystein Gullvag Holter contributes a superb, thought-provoking piece on gender and sex, noting that gender was remarkably absent from discussion of the 118 men aboard the sunken submarine whom Russian leaders left to die in 2000 by failing to call for international assistance until it was too late. Her unfortunate suggestion that the nuclear family represents "a segregation mechanism comparable to apartheid" is redeemed on the following page by the perceptive observation that gender stereotypes hide genuine gender roles, particular in war. Holter advises that skepticism is warranted of claims that 99% of the world's violence is performed by men. Even if men are more involved in violence than women, there is usually a shared understanding between the sexes about it. She also rightly critiques the "process of collective denial" that alleges that men cannot be raped. United Nations acknowledgement of men's issues, she aptly quips, "is a `cide' issue, not a `side' issue."
Jones' second piece comes next, providing a blood-curdling picture of the unbelievable horror and the sociopolitical roots of the Rwandan genocide. Jones calls for and also starts to provide a gender-inclusive analysis of this unspeakable chapter in our race's seemingly interminable history of inhumanity. He shreds jaw-dropping claims that women have suffered the most (!) from Rwanda because the genocide mainly exterminated males, leaving many females mourning male family members. He also provides compelling sketches of a few of the many female architects of the carnage in Rwanda. "When women are provided with positive and negative incentives similar to those of men," Jones notes, "their degree of participation in genocide, and the violence and cruelty they exhibit, will run closely parallel to those of their male counterparts."
Lawyer David Buchanan follows with a stunning call for equal treatment of men in human rights, forcefully condemning Amnesty International's refusal to adopt a somewhat mildly phrased resolution supporting fair treatment for men. Buchanan notes that both Amnesty and the other leading international human rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch (both of whom I have worked for), have flinched from clearly documenting large-scale patterns of violence against males during armed conflict. Why, the author asks, do human rights advocates closely examine the precise motives of those who kill males (were they killed because they are men, or because they are potential conscripts for the other side?) while finding similar hand-wringing unnecessary when it is persons of the female persuasion who are dying horrible deaths?
It is Augusta C. DelZotto who turns in this remarkable volume's most spellbinding contribution, providing an absolutely riveting analysis of black male gendercide in the United States. We learn that both the US Veteran's Administration and the Federal Housing Authority poured millions of dollars into suburban development of good-quality, low-mortgage homes, homes which were in general available only to white ex-soldiers. Later, the notorious "man in the house" rule of the US' Aid to Families and Dependent Children (AFDC--a program for which I used to provide legal help to applicants) routinely barred assistance to any applicant living under the same roof as an adult man.
Thanks are due to DelZotto and to Jones for opening a door on another unfortunate chapter in the saga of the US' relation with blacks, particularly black males.
From here, the average quality of the articles declines a bit. Stefanie S. Rixecker evidently wants to be the most challenging contributor but ends up simply being the weakest, turning in a poorly reasoned speculation that the Human Genome Project may constitute a form of genocide against gays and lesbians. Stuart Stein brings a welcome rigor to his analysis of the relationship of sex-selective killings to genocide but for my money, it doesn't pay off as we might like. Why is the author even taking the time to contribute to a book on a topic that he considers a dead end?
R. Charli Carpenter follows as a representative of what I can only term the feminist establishment, though she herself would no doubt bitterly resist that term. Yet Carpenter is incisive and brilliant, scoring many good points, particularly in the closing pages of her contribution. Why is the term "men and boys" frequently juxtaposed to the phrase "women and children"? How is it, she asks, that older boys are not defined as children? She intriguingly suggests that the state itself could be conceived of as an "honor system," and rightly takes Jones to task for blurring issues by deliberately conflating sex and social gender.
Jones follows with a rebuttal to the previous two pieces, which is cogent yet (perhaps inevitably) has an air of a re-run of previously heard arguments. You have to give Adam Jones credit, though, for maintaining his fiery commitment to his struggle to draw attention to male human rights victims. The volume-closing piece by Terrell Carver is an unenlightening piece of dronethink by a token feminist. His work is a peculiar choice to close an engaging, thought-provoking, highly recommended volume on human rights violations that discriminate based on gender.