Sic Transit Gloria Steinem
“I must introduce a...protest against the abuse of the current term ‘social justice.’ From meaning ‘justice in relations between groups or classes’ it may slip into meaning a particular assumption as to what these relationships should be; and a course of action might be supported because it represented the aim of ‘social justice,’ which from the point of view of ‘justice’ was not just. The term ‘social justice’ is in danger of losing its rational content — which would be replaced by a powerful emotional charge. I believe that I have used the term myself: it should never be employed unless the user is prepared to define clearly what social justice means to him, and why he thinks it just.”-T.S. Eliot
If you’ve never been to college or if you graduated more than a decade ago, you probably never realized how problematic insults such as “grow some balls,” “pussy,” and “bitch” are. When attempting to address “masculine” short-comings, men (and many women) often invoke such insults, which reinforce gender stereotypes and negative associations with the feminine. In addition to being well outside the bounds of polite society and squarely in the insidious realm of “hate speech,” these negative associations continue to persist in contemporary discourse in the form of exclusionary gendering and toxic masculinity, the perpetual reinforcement of which drives international aggression, war, and even genocide. Calling someone a “pussy” is exactly the same as committing violence against that person. Exactly the same. The phallocentric narrative powering Western imperialism is realized through a relentless oppression of the Other and is characterized by sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, and xenophobia. The post-modern de-constructionist project only focuses on the West, however, and ignores sub-Saharan Africa where they rape babies as a “cure” for AIDS and the Islamic world where women and non-Muslims are treated like garbage to be raped and enslaved. The more repressive the culture, the more intractably patriarchal, the more fetishized it is by the Left, making the culture in question beyond any and all reproach or critique. These cultures get a Post-Colonial Hall Pass.
So how exactly do genitalia-based insults (save ones that are negatively associated with “male-ness,” such as “you dick”) equate to exploitation, oppression, death, and destruction? I’m glad you asked. Per J. Ann Tickner, “socially constructed masculinity has been projected onto the international behavior of states.” These hyper-masculinities ideologically reflect the vigor and power of the state, conflating narratives of conquest with narratives of desire; victory is a validation of manhood and can be equated with sexual prowess. For Tickner:
Hegemonic masculinity requires for its construction an oppositional relationship to a devalued femininity…The most dangerous threat to a man and a state is to be like a woman because women are weak, fearful, indecisive, and dependent—stereotypes that still surface when assessing women’s suitability for the military and the conduct of foreign policy today.
Gender stereotyping, then, appears to be critical for the maintenance of the status quo, of the phallocentric or male-dominant society (but again, only as it applies to the West). For Tickner, “the culturally dominant side of the binary (the masculine) requires the other side of the binary (the feminine) to give it meaning. There could be no hierarchy without the two terms together.”
The hierarchy places more value on one side of the binary, thereby forcing the other into a subordinate position. Derfel Cadarn argues that contemporary post-structuralist and feminist theories demonstrate the “extent to which such binaries entail a violent hierarchy.” For Cadarn:
One term of the opposition is always dominant (man over woman, birth over death, white over black), and that, in fact, the binary opposition itself exists to confirm that dominance. This means that any activity or state that does not fit the binary opposition will become subject to repression.
The structure not only of society but also of language—according to theorists including Frantz Fanon, Jacques Derrida (he of the de-constructionism as a means to disturb or displace binaries), and Edward Said—is reliant on the enforcement of these binary oppositions, particularly as this enforcement pertains to imperialism and colonialism. Ejona Shahinaj states: “In Black Skin, White Masks Frantz Fanon provides us with a key to understanding some of the dynamics of language as an efficient mode to understand the malicious effects of colonialism and racism on society. Like Said, Fanon was cognizant of the crucial role of language in preserving the systemic structures of oppression, violence and exclusion, as well as creating the image of the necessary ‘Other.’”
Binary oppositions make stratification within a society possible, and for the Left, they serve to justify and drive imperialist and colonialist practices. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin theorize that:
The binary logic of imperialism is a development of that tendency of Western thought in general to see the world in terms of binary oppositions that establish a relation of dominance. A simple distinction between centre/margin, colonizer/colonized, metropolis/empire, civilised/primitive represents very efficiently the violent hierarchy on which imperialism is based and which it actively perpetuates.
The rhetoric and ideology of the dominant discourse is centered on the notion that there are clear divisions between groups, that, indeed, there must be; borders and boundaries are physical manifestations of these concepts. They enable power dynamics and exploitation. For Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin:
The binary constructs a scandalous category between the two terms that will be the domain of taboo, but, equally importantly, the structure can be read downwards as well as across, so that colonizer, white, human and beautiful are collectively opposed to colonized, black, bestial and ugly. Clearly, the binary is very important in constructing ideological meanings in general, and extremely useful in imperial ideology. The binary structure, with its various articulations of the underlying binary, accommodates such fundamental binary impulses within imperialism as the impulse to “exploit” and the impulse to “civilize.”
Understanding the function of these binary oppositions will allow for what the Left believes to be a necessary complication; by undermining class, race, gender, and political construct, the binaries will begin to unravel, as the structures that have propped up exploitative practice and “violent patriarchal hegemonic enforcement” disintegrate.
As binary oppositions are by their very definition constraining, the realm of possibility for the oppressed will remain finite and clearly defined as long as discourse remains fixed within these rigid parameters. Post-structuralism and feminism, intersecting with the New Historicist emphasis on context and co-text, have proven to be tools for theorizing and investigating these imposed limitations, as has post-colonialism. For Derfel Cadarn:
It may be argued that the very domain of post-colonial theory is the region of “taboo”— the domain of overlap between these imperial binary oppositions, the area in which ambivalence, hybridity and complexity continually disrupt the certainties of imperial logic. Apart from illuminating the interstitial spaces, post-colonial theory also disrupts the structural relations of the binary system itself, revealing fundamental contradictions…In this way it uncovers the deep ambivalence of a structure of economic, cultural and political relations that can both debase and idealize, demonize and eroticize its subjects…Imperial binarisms always assume a movement in one direction—a movement from the colonizer to the colonized… But just as post-colonial identity emerges in the ambivalent spaces of the colonial encounter, so the dynamic of change is not all in one direction…with a significant circulation of effects back and forth between the two.
Such work produces a “leveling” effect where the artifice of a given hierarchical structure may no longer support notions of verticality. This also means that strict adherence to models of “progress” (with progress also serving here as a euphemism for economic exploitation) becomes unsustainable. The liberal exchange of energies belies chronology, and even circularity itself may become “problematized” for it, too, implies a reliance on pre-determined forms and structures. The conception of a “catch-all” model, with no room for negotiation, folds in upon itself under multitudinous possibility.
For the academy’s Cultural Marxists, in the dominant Western discourse, through nationalist myth, imperialist supremacy doctrines, or as a base-line for language, individuals gendered female (“gender [as] the social difference between males’ and females’ roles or men’s and women’s personalities versus ‘sex’ [as] the biological difference”) are estranged from the power dynamics of a society; are silenced, that is, and reside on its fringes. Characterized outwardly as the weaker sex, in need of protection and coddling, they are aligned in binary fashion with attributes such as irrationality and emotionality. In other words, and as post-Lacanian feminist theory established since the 1970s, women are constructed as the Other. As Laura Sjoberg and Caron Gentry point out: “States [often] perpetuate a gender ‘protection racket’ which marginalizes women while appearing to foreground their interests.” Sjoberg and Gentry are actually right, but not in the way they intended. Precisely such rhetorical strategies are employed by governments and other power structures when referring to peoples who reside beyond a nation’s borders, and are thus unable to operate as subjects within that society’s framework, but native-born Western women are left vulnerable to the Orientalized Other’s rapacious sexual appetites with virtually no state or legal protection. When a Somali man tries to rape a white woman going into labor, as recently occurred in Italy, governments and media turn a collective blind eye, but if Ben Affleck brushed someone’s behind a quarter century ago, the sky is falling. No matter, according to Reneé Heberle and Victoria Grace:
International legal forums for justice are contaminated by neocolonial relationships of dominance and reproduce imperial assumptions about the irrational, ethnicized Other who needs help regulating and/or rationalizing their use of force in warfare.
Regardless, then, of whether state rhetoric seems to fall into either a cloaked liberal agenda or an openly imperialist or neocolonial doctrine, language exists as a vast artifice that seeks to constrain anyone who falls into the category of “Other.” Beyond that, for Catherine MacKinnon:
The social meaning of sex (gender) is created by sexual objectification of women whereby women are viewed and treated as objects for satisfying men’s desires. Masculinity is defined as sexual dominance, femininity as sexual submissiveness: genders are ‘created through the eroticization of dominance and submission. The man/woman difference and the dominance/submission dynamic define each other.’
This is actually true in Islamic doctrine, but again, it goes unaddressed. Violence, and especially sexual violence, represents, for Leftists, the acting out of a foundational myth situated in a chronology that has governed the landscape of social construction and nationalist and imperialist policy since antiquity, with the West as a fundamentally evil actor.
Sexual violence against women, as Carole Pateman discusses, is borne of the notion of the “sex right,” a modern patriarchal contract rooted firmly in this historical tradition. Laura Sjoberg and Caron Gentry expand:
Gender subordination (defined as the subordination of femininities to masculinities) remains a constant feature of social and political life across time and space…The common thread between genderings in global politics, if there is one, is the near-universality of gender-subordinating discourses.
The acting out of sexual aggressions radiates from the frictions of artifice and actuality. Even in seeming isolation, the perpetration of sexual violence against women in conflict zones, within the military itself, and in the neglected or non-publicized recesses of “everyday” society constitutes an attempt to physically manifest ideological masculine dominance over perceived feminine submissiveness. There is actually a lot of truth to this claim, but the new permutation of feminism only selectively applies its own rubric. Reneé Heberle offers an illuminating gloss:
[Even] apparently benign liberal concepts sustain and even rely upon a relationship of domination wherein man is always already the authorized subject of power and woman is rendered the subordinate figure…[Carole] Pateman argues that there is a logic of dominance and submission always already there as an underside and precondition of the social contract. Following Pateman, one might argue that the social contract itself exists among and for the dominant (male) figures of a social order, while the terms of the sexual contract hold (socially-conditioned female) subordinate figures in thrall—all in the name of freedom and individuality.
Conflict zones, for one example of the power relations Heberle describes, exist as areas of intense instability where “normality” can be forced upon a segment of the population, “the sacrificial act [as] a cathartic effect” in response to, perhaps, a perceived absence. This all obviously ignores what occurs in the sharia-compliant Middle East and across the Muslim world on a daily basis.
The need to rigidly uphold a “tier” system predicated on stratification displays the degree to which doctrines can become internalized by portions of a society, often believing themselves to be imbued with an inherent superiority. Once again, the contradictions on the Left are never interrogated; the clearest example of sexual violence acted out in this way is the horrific violation of rape conducted without remorse or residual guilt, since the individuals in question have been acculturated to believe it is their right to take whatever they desire. Sexual “conquest” is equated with material possession, and, coupled with this detachment, frames the victims as being no more than objects. Western Man is invariably situated as the agent of violation in this paradigm, so when we see the exact same scenario replayed with the roles reversed right in front of the feminists’ noses, and in staggering numbers no less, with the exalted Other raping Western women and showing no remorse, indeed often delight, they say not a word.
Borrowing from Victoria Grace’s Victims, Gender, and Jouissance:
There is a body of writing and theorizing exploring the sacrificial with its social derivation and formation at least since Hegel first outlined the master-slave dialectic…a confrontation necessary, it is claimed, when an ostensibly moral campaign circumscribes a legalistic machinery pronouncing the ‘no’ of social control. It points to the contradictions of the social contract, grounded as it is in a series of binaries that progressively unravel when confronted with this critique. The paradoxical violence of the law is foregrounded.
Sexual violence may, therefore, represent an attempt to “circumscribe the legalistic machinery”; on the other hand, as Jeanne Ward and Mendy Marsh suggest, “sexual violence may also be systematic, carried out by fighting forces for the explicit purpose of destabilizing populations and destroying bonds within communities and families.” This is indisputable, and we have contemporary evidence everywhere from the Sudan to Sweden; in Elisabeth Rehn’s and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s terms, the literalization of an invasion or conflict through the violation of women’s bodies can be “used as an envelope to send messages to the perceived enemy.” In this way, the perpetrator of sexual violence is interpreting the victim’s body as a kind of microcosm of conflict, enacting a military-styled invasion meant to break an enemy. Conflict and instability can create a chasm whereby systemic disintegration at the hands of seemingly incompatible binaries produces the paradoxical effect of seeding the “cycle of violence.” Bodies—particularly, though not exclusively, those of women—become battle-grounds.
Since gender can be understood as an “intersubjective social construction that constantly evolves with changing societal perceptions and intentional manipulation,” neo-feminists can read sexual violence as a reactive attempt to enforce antiquated notions of gender roles and expectations.  As Ward and Marsh state, “gender-based violence is often used synonymously with the term ‘violence against women’” due to “women’s inferior status in virtually all societies.” Feminist critique has undoubtedly pushed the realm of possibility for women far wider in the recent past, but there remains, according to the new wave of feminists, a concerted attempt to continue to subordinate femininity in the wider socio-political spectrum in more covert or coded ways. As an example of these kinds of covert subordinations, “responses to sexual violence serve as ways to secure particular political agendas,” with democracies’ “political project(s)…reconstituted through political actors’ reactions to violence.” Pateman sees this violence as part of a state-sponsored contract that is somewhat paradoxically like an open secret (“the violent terms on which heterosexual intimacy is founded is the great ‘public secret’ of the modern, civilized world”). Gendered violence and aggression marks a flash-point where the artifice of Sjoberg and Gentry’s “protection racket” is removed and the patrilineage of policy is laid bare.
Violence against women is not only limited to militant-versus-civilian scenarios of exploitation in this worldview. Rather, hierarchical structures within militaries or militant groups themselves, to cite Laurie Lee Weinstein and Christie C. White, “Provide a climate where women are completely humiliated and treated as subhuman beings…women are not seen as real soldiers, nor even as real people.” This represents a rigid adherence to prescribed gender roles that have governed power relations for millennia, whereby “male carries power and privilege, and female is associated with powerlessness and dependency.” The feminine, then, is always subordinated or pushed to the margins by the masculine. Indeed, “qualities associated with women and femininity have been traditionally characterized as inferior to those associated with men and masculinity.” It is irrelevant, apparently, that there are significant differences between men and women in the biological factors that code for fighting effectiveness, such as speed, strength, and mental disposition. Judith Butler’s “critique of gender ‘identity’ opens on to the need for a recognition of the primary vulnerability to the Other, which she claims lies at the heart of subjectivity.” For Victoria Grace:
The question of how a recognition of vulnerability might mandate a non-violence is asked. The debate between the Anglo-American emphasis on the performativity of gender and the European construct of sexual difference intersects with theories of subjection. Teasing out elements of this debate helps refine the question of innocence and complicity within the victim relation, and clarify what it might mean for feminist praxis.
The engagement with both historicist and feminist theory allows for, as Victoria Grace puts it suggestively, “the relentless reversion or undoing (of the inevitable structuring power of the signifier), [that] will expose the myths that sustain it, and create an opening within the social beyond this impasse”. Furthermore:
The fluidity of meaning, its continual deferral, makes the idea of ‘defining’ terms suspect if not redundant. It is rather a matter of circling around the term, discursively invoking its metaphoric correlates, and most importantly analyzing its differing contextual usages. The word ‘gender’…attempt(s) to conceptually negotiate the continually shifting relations between the social constructedness of masculinity and femininity as social roles, acts and gestures.
What Grace has done there is exactly why this kind of ideology is so dangerous—instead of defining her terms clearly and precisely, of establishing working definitions for the terminology that will form the baseline from which her argument can build, she and other post-modernists and feminists have baked the moving of goal-posts right into the epistemology of critical theory. It’s like quicksilver, and you can’t build anything on a temperamental, ever-shifting foundation. “Climate change,” anyone?
 J. Ann Tickner, Gender in International Relations: Feminist Perspectives on Achieving Global Security (New York: Columbia UP, 1992), p. 37.
 Ibid, p. 37-38.
 On Our Terms: A Feminist Lexicon <http://www.emsah.uq.edu.au/awsr/Publ_OOT/OOT_Lexicon.htm>.
 Derfel Cadarn. http://everything2.com/title/Binarism. First published: August 28th, 2002.
 From: Ejona Shahinaj, “The Construction of the ‘Other’ Through Race, Through the Expert, and Through Intellectual Formation in Said’s Orientalism and Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks”. <www.academia.edu/5033172/The_Construction_of_the_Other_in_Saids_Orientalism_and_Fanons_Black_Skin_White_Masks>
 Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, Postcolonial Studies: The Key Concepts (London: Routledge, 2000), p. 26.
 Derfel Cadarn. http://everything2.com/title/Binarism. First published: August 28th, 2002.
 Scott Appelrouth and Laura Desfor Edles, Sociological Theory in the Contemporary Era: Text and Readings (Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge, 2007), p. 316.
 Laura Sjoberg and Caron E. Gentry, Mothers, Monsters, Whores (London: Zed, 2007), p. 4.
 Victoria Grace and Renee Heberle, Theorizing Sexual Violence (New York: Routledge, 2009), p. 11.
 Catherine MacKinnon, Toward a Feminist Theory of State (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1989), p. 113.
 Carole Pateman, The Sexual Contract (Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 1988).
 Sjoberg and Gentry, Mothers, Monsters, Whores, p. 6.
 Renee J. Heberle, “Rethinking the Social Contract: Masochism and Masculinist Violence”, in Theorizing Sexual Violence, p. 126.
 Victoria Grace, Victims, Gender, and Jouissance (New York: Routledge, 2012), p. 8.
 Ibid, p. 3.
 Jeanne Ward and Mendy Marsh, “Sexual Violence Against Women and Girls in War and Its Aftermath: Realities, Responses, and Required Resources”, A Briefing Paper Prepared for Symposium on Sexual Violence in Conflict and Beyond (Brussels), 2006, p. 4.
 E. Rehn and E. Johnson Sirleaf, “Women, War, Peace”, Progress of the World’s Women 2002 Vol. 1 (2002), p. 4.
 Sjoberg and Gentry, Mothers, Monsters, Whores, p. 5.
 Ward and Marsh, Sexual Violence, p. 32.
 Meghana Nayak, “Feminist Interrogations of Democracy, Sexual Violence, and the U.S. Military”, p. 148, from Theorizing Sexual Violence, Ed. Renee Heberle and Victoria Grace (New York, NY: Routledge, 2009).
 Pateman, The Sexual Contract. AND Renee J. Heberle. “Rethinking the Social Contract: Masochism and Masculinist Violence”, p. 138, from Theorizing Sexual Violence.
 Laurie Lee Weinstein and Christie C. White, Wives and Warriors: Women and the Military in the United States and Canada (Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 1997), Intro p. xiv.
 Cynthia Enloe, Does Khaki Become You? The Militarization of Women’s Lives (Boston, South End Press, 1983), p. 6 via Ibid, p. xiv.
 Sjoberg and Gentry, Mothers, Monsters, Whores, p. 7.
 Grace, Victims, Gender, and Jouissance, p. 8.
 Ibid, p. 5.