Mary Anne Case, "'You're Telling Me It's Wrong to Do to the Prisoners What the Army Does to Its Own Soldiers?'"

Among the disturbing reports from a variety of venues at which the U.S. military has conducted interrogations of Islamic male detainees are those detailing exploitation of sexual and gender stereotypes and taboos as a central part of efforts to humiliate and degrade detainees. Professor Case's analysis will be structured around three quotations, two from interrogators (including the lecture’s title) and one from a detainee. It will demonstrate that precedents for all of the sexualized abuses, and for most of the non-sexualized abuses, could be found in what soldiers themselves experienced in military hazing. Abuse is not simply about treating the prisoners as “the other,” but about doing to “them” what was done to “us.” And what was done? In the words of one detainee, “They wanted us to feel as though we were women, the way women feel and this is the worst insult, to feel like a woman.” The use of feminization as a means of degradation, whether in interrogation or basic training, is not only harmful to sex equality, but also to military effectiveness. For example, although gentler interrogation techniques have a proven track record and are favored by most experts, harsh techniques are now in favor, because, as one interrogator said, otherwise, “They’ll think we are … pussies.” Professor Case will consider ways in which these practices do gender-based harm, not only to the men who are their alleged targets, but to the military women involved, voluntarily or not, in carrying them out, as well as to women generally. Mary Anne Case is Arnold I. Shure Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School. This talk was recorded on April 13, 2011 as part of the "Chicago's Best Ideas" lecture series.

Participating faculty: 
Mary Anne Case
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