US Soldiers Vandalized Ur

The Observer is reporting that US soldiers stationed at a new base close to the ancient Sumerian city of Ur have been vandalizing the city’s walls by spray-painting SEMPER FE and by stealing bricks that are thousands of years old.

That’s right–our brave men and women are liberating Iraqis by destroying their national treasures. And of this we are supposed to be proud?

Incidentally, the military is refusing to comment.


Blogging Myself, Part II

The promised video of the Artemas Ward House, complete with some of my commentary, is now up on Harvard’s homepage. The permanent link is here. This is my first experience in a documentary-like setting. I never knew I could sound so knowledgeable about barns.

Blogging Myself

I never thought I would have occasion to blog myself, but here goes! The Harvard Gazette has published an article about a seminar I took two years ago with my advisor Laurel Ulrich about the Artemas Ward Homestead, which is owned by Harvard. My paper will be published as a scholarly article in the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society next January–very exciting! Eventually there will be video on the web featuring Judy and me commenting on the house as well.

I guess this blows my anonymity. So much for “a university in the northeast to remain unnamed.”

Reproductive Rights for Women in the Military

In recent weeks we’ve heard much about the bravery of our women in uniform. Remember though, that these women stationed abroad cannot obtain abortions in military hospitals, even in cases of rape or incest. As Planned Parenthood says, Under the current ban, a U.S. servicewoman or female military dependent stationed overseas who needs an abortion may be forced to seek services in the host country, where abortion services may not be safe or legal. Alternatively, she may have to notify her superiors about her need for an abortion and wait until there is space available on a military flight back to the United States, sacrificing her privacy and increasing her health risk with potentially dangerous delays.

This state of affairs is hardly surprising. After all, the US military that idolized Private Lynch for her “spunk” (!) also gave us Tailhook and systematic rape condoned by supervisors at the Air Force Academy. Three women Senators are now seeking to overturn that ban, however. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Olympia Snowe

(R-ME) and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) are sponsoring legislation to repeal the ban on abortions in military hospitals. Abortions would still have to be privately funded of course (the Hyde Amendment seems to be unkillable), but at least would not have to risk their privacy or even their lives to terminate a pregnancy overseas.

The US military remains one of the most misogynistic organizations I can think of. Ending its paternalistic approach to women’s reproductive health care will go a long way towards both changing its image and granting true equality to the women it wants to call heroes.

Update: my excellent mother has pointed out that “heroized” is not a word. I have edited accordingly!

African Women and Bush, Again

Nicholas Kristof has an excellent column about the prevalence of obstetric fistulae among young teenage women in Africa. I won’t describe the condition here; it is pretty graphic and Kristof does a good job of getting the misery of these women across.

Kristof makes two interesting points, one dealing with the Bush administration, and the other with “feminists.”

It turns out that that $34 million in family planning aid that Bush refused to send because radical right wingers claimed the money paid for abortions was one main source of funding for fistula hospitals in Africa. This just gives me another reason to intensely dislike Bush. By bowing to pressures from the right end of his party (and the right clearly had the story wrong in this case) Bush is contributing directly to the lack of postpartem medical care for women in Africa.

The second point Kristof makes deals with “feminists,” and how he is shocked that women’s rights activists have not been more vocal on this issue. He writes that “Perhaps it’s because Westerners can’t conceive of the horror of obstetric fistulas (Americans haven’t commonly suffered fistulas since the 19th century, when a fistula hospital stood on the site of today’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan). Or perhaps the issue doesn’t galvanize women’s groups because fistulas relate to a traditional child-bearing role.” I think this is unfair. I have been aware of the problem of fistulae for some time, although not the connection of American family planning funding to it. Plenty of activists have shown interest in the problem. To accuse women’s rights activists of not being interested in the issue because it deals with “traditional child bearing” is misleading and misinformed.