Opinion

Say It Ain’t So: A Woman Who Tortures

Many believe that certain behavior is inappropriate for women but fine for men. But a woman with power acts exactly like a man with power; those seeking equal rights must remember egalitarianism

Gina Haspel, then Deputy Director of the CIA, speaking at the 2017 William J. Donovan Award Dinner in Washington, DC. October 2017.
AFP PHOTO

The turmoil over Gina Haspel’s appointment as CIA chief, which many see as improper or unworthy due to her participation in interrogation and torture of detainees in secret facilities, stems solely from the obviously non-feminist idea that women are less involved than men in violent acts, less inclined to act aggressively and in general behave better than men.

Many people are still fixated on the idea that certain behavior isn’t appropriate for women, although they’re willing to accept it in men. Those things may have been right in the past – it used to be said that a classroom with a majority of girls is a better class, with less violence, a higher scholastic level and calmer, friendlier mood. But a lot of water has flowed even in the Jordan River since then, and anyone who wants equal rights for women should remember that equality is egalitarian, not selective.

So along with the power women have acquired and the recognition that they have equal intelligence and a host of other traits just like men, it appears that some women can also be aggressive, inclined to violence and some even took part in torturing prisoners to extract information from them, or, as sometimes happens, just for fun.

Those astonished at Haspel’s involvement in such acts aren’t real feminists, because it would never occur to them to be astonished at similar acts carried out by men.

This astonishment is quite surprising, because women who had power in days gone by proved they can be just as cruel as men. It’s enough to recall Mary I, Queen of England, known as “Bloody Mary,” who during her four years in power washed Britain with blood in her failed pursuit to restore Catholicism. Her heir and half-sister, Queen Elizabeth I, may have a better reputation, but it derives mainly from her becoming the winning side in this story: The Anglican religion she believed in became England’s official faith, and history, as we know, is written by the winners.

Wake up feminists and stop tut-tutting because a woman with power acts exactly like a man with power. The difference between them derives only from historic and sociologic developments that left most of the power in the men’s hands, until recently. Pleasant, smiling and submissive women are nicer creatures than men, because this is a reality they’ve been raised to, not a preference they chose. The way the situation is evolving today, albeit with baby steps, reflects a reality with various aspects, but it’s more real than the situation in which women were good, docile, soft and feminine.

And that’s not all. Let’s remember that Haspel, despite having reached a high position, was still part of a masculine organization, adopted its conventional behavior and apparently didn’t challenge it. The question that should preoccupy the appointing officials isn’t whether a woman who was involved in illegal torture (as if there’s such a thing as legal torture) should head the CIA, but whether a person who tortured others should be part of the administration.

But that’s a naïve question, based on the assumption of a well-intentioned administration and an attitude that may be fit Scandinavian states, but not the United States or Israel. Meanwhile, we should remember the anecdote about Ben-Gurion, who was once queried about the low moral standard of the secret service people. Ben-Gurion replied that he had indeed asked Bialik and Agnon to join the service, but they – what can you do? – declined.

Apparently the intellectuals in the United States are also leaving the torture to others. Every regime is prone to villainous acts, especially regimes with imperialistic pretensions like the United States and Israel. As such, they must enlist the suitable villains from among their citizens to implement that policy, both men and women.