The past is the future though
An exciting action adventure book I have recently read is "Shoot the Women First" by Eileen MacDonald
It is an older book, published in 1991, but with gems that gleam so brightly, they lit up vacant,t empty spaces of my mind that were devoid of information about female "terrorists"
For eradicating this emptiness, I am grateful to this book
As to its' actual veracity, and the validity of its' premise, that is still undecided, but I don't think it really matters
This is a history book
The premise of the book is that women freedom fighters ( which is what I will refer to "terrorists" from now on in this article ) tend to be more deadly than males.
This had been often enough reiterated by male law enforcement officials to the author that she decided to explore it
I wanted to believe the thesis that women are more cold-blooded and bloodthirsty than your average freedom-fighting male. The culture we live in values these traits, and being this way makes it seem like women give zero fucks and are above it all, so men better watch out, but what I got from the interviews the author did were glowing portraits of really complex and interesting women who simply did and some continue to do, what needs to be done ( and they were only really glowing because they were so new to me, and such a relief!)
And some who did it against their will, and were simply the pawns of men
I had never even heard of these ladies before ( well, with the exception of Astrid Proll of the Red Army Faction ), and now I had new ladies to add to my ever growing list of REALLY GREAT-TRULY GREAT-ladies-to-admire ( not phonies like Hillary Clinton and Madelaine Albright) and hearing about them seemed to fill in a missing puzzle piece in my own psyche: OF COURSE there have been passionate, death-defying ladies like this, and in very recent history to boot!
I don't even remember how i stumbled upon it, but when I first got it from the library, I devoured the section on the Red Army Faction
( because i am obsessed with left wing female activists and philosophers, and the Baader Meinhof group in particular)
They were some serious folks, and a huge portion of their membership was surprisingly female
As i can recall from the movie that was made about their lives, and the books and internet pages I have read about them, the leadership was mostly women ( Gudrun Ensslin and Ulrike Meinhoff ( kind of), and then Andreas Baader, and that's who was referred to when people talked about "Baader-Meinhof")
At any rate, each chapter of the book focuses on a different group of these freedom-fighting women ( this is kind of a misnomer too, because are they fighting freedom?) and I couldn't believe how it captivated me ( well, I guess it would make sense, given I am interested in this kind of thing and was very close to becoming one of these underground political dwellers myself...in my dreams)
some things that really stuck out for me
The public criticizes women who write to sadistic murderers in prison and desire to marry them, but Leila Khaled hijacked a plane ( didn't kill anybody, granted) and got marriage proposals. From men. But she dutifully sent her postcards, to her prison guards in England after she was released. Terrifying...
The idea that women who engage in freedom-fighting ( I will refer to "terrorism" by this description now) , or anyone who engages in violent political activism is somehow "abnormal", and are motivated by purely ABNORMAL reasons
This is totally ludicrous, and totally mainstream media brainwashing; accusing individuals of something outside of a context
Freedom fighters are normal, ordinary people driven by extraordinary circumstances; this is the incredible irony. They could be you or me given different societal conditions. They ARE actually you or me when the government or the State tells us to go fight somewhere and it's not such a great idea; THEY ARE you or me when governments oppress us and try to take away our homes and our rights
They are average people who couldn't stand the repercussions of the system they live under, in some cases maybe only intellectually ( like the majority of white activists in the US), but in others, like, this is life or death
Irish people facing the grave oppression of the British ( all of these examples continuing into recent times), Palestinians being run out of their homeland by Jews, Basque separatists duking it out in Spain, and young white people in the United States and Europe being inspired by these types of movements and becoming "Antifa" and/or becoming anti-racist/anti-capitalist activists; it's never going to end...
Because "normal people" would just sit in their beds twiddling their thumbs while an occupier force bulldozed their house and not react AT ALL
The relatively lax prison environments and airport security that allowed these women to actually hijack a plane and party in their prison cells
I wouldn't really say they were "lax", and maybe I am totally brainwashed by movies and TV, but "they" make it seem like it would be really hard to maintain defiant shenanigans in prison or to sneak on a plane with a bomb and a bunch of hand grenades, like Leila Khaled did in 1969 or Kim Hyon Hui in 1987
With all the airport security, especially in the United States ( they don't make you take your shoes off in other countries) you'd have to have like a dress made out of an explosive material and then set yourself on fire in order to enact a terrorist plot ( or it could be an inside job, like one very famous one that happened 17 years ago)
It could also be my extreme anxiety and sense of hopelessness, or a heady trifecta brew of these three things I have mentioned but I do get a definite sense that times were a little looser back then
According to this book, IRA (Irish Republican Army) prisoners in British prisons were actually allowed seven to a cell to drink booze and have little parties. They were considered "political prisoners" and got what seem to be amazing privileges: they didn't have to work like non-political prisoners. They were even allowed "OC's" ( officers in command) that operated like union reps for the rest of the poltical prisoners, and prison staff and inmates communicated through them
The seemingly easy relationship Leila Khaled had with her prison guards in England ( Jesus, England must be a great place to be in jail) seems like out of a weird novel about a kinder, gentler time, and does not compute to my mind that's been blasted over so many times with images and stories of brutal crimes, brutal criminals, and brutal punishments and prisons on TV and in recent movies. It's like the Colombo version of terrorism
Those were kinder, gentler times...less technology too
This one is the weirdest:
Kim Hyon Hui is a North Korean woman who placed a bomb on a plane headed to South Korea in 1987 and it exploded, klling 115 people.
The author's rendition of Hui's story and the situation in North Korea is right out of the American propaganda handbook: no freedoms, austerity, a constant pledge of allegiance to the "Great Leader"; it's right out of 1984. Today Kim is consulted on the current topic of relations with North Korea as a sort of permanent resident of South Korea, from where she is from time to time asked to comment on current-day Korean affairs.
No matter what the actual situation, being a person of conscience and having committed such a beyond heinous crime would shatter my personality and sense of self; being allowed to live the rest of my life with the knowledge of what I had once done would probably not be too fun
If it is true, she was taken as a child into espionage training and not allowed to see her own beloved family for years. At the time the book was published, neither she nor the author even knew the fate of Hui's parents.
She was isolated and taught Japanese by a Japanese woman kidnapped with the sole purpose of teaching a spy to speak Japanese, in order for her to pass as a Japanese person
She was also taught Chinese and taught how to pass as a Chinese person, but this didn't really get her very far, because when she was ultimately captured, she tried to maintain she wasn't Korean while a few minor slips in cultural knowledge gave her away
She was going to be executed for her crime, but was pardoned because the South Korean president believed she was just a brainwashed pawn. I think staying alive and having to live with the knowledge that you literally slaughtered over a hundred people would be punishment enough, and that it was for such a worthless reason too, would be too much to bear
I feel sorry for her because she was and is an ultimately dehumanized and destroyed human being who was taught to gleefully commit mass murder for the sake of some cause ( i can't even remember why they claimed that bombing a South Korean plane would reunite the two Koreas because I guess the reason was nonsensical)
but the fact she is still alive is eerie...
I proceeded to get her memoir out from the library, and it's pretty freaking exciting, the things she had to do in her long and extensive training to become a North Korean spy. It was refreshing to read about a woman who had to undertake serious physical and mental tests to determine if she could be a spy. The fact that they even considered her for spydom is a relief, and obliterates the monopoly held by James Bond, and the idea that only men can be important spies.
I'm not advocating for women to be murderous automatons in the service of nefarious governments, but her story validated another recess in my psyche that JUST KNEW that women had played a greater role in international politics and "freedom-fighting"; popping a bubble of frustration hidden in my subconscious that even I didn't really understand what it was or that it was there.
Leila Khaled is described as almost sociopathic by the author, but I think she is biased and doesn't understand. I got the impression that Leila is pretty laid back for a freedom-fighter, and maintained a good enough attitude in order to execute the actions she had to perform and to endure the pressure and the stress of her lifestyle. It's constantly reconciling the oppression your own people are facing and the innocence of bystanders to your actions. It's a tough game of reconciling family obligations and obligations to the cause of your people, who are ultimately your family
There are instances of right wing women featured in this book ( one where the woman really only did it because she was crazy bonkers in love with the guy who led the particular group) and it was like one of the only examples of a woman doing it for love, which was also a stereotype amongst male law enforcement, which the author has debunked, because most of the women showcased here did it out of love for their people and to alleviate the unbearable conditions they live under, not for a man.
I think the "Shoot the Women First" idea is just misogyny. It's anger at why a woman would forsake her "natural role" and kill people (although this is obtuse when you review the situation in the light of protecting her people; this idea of "forsaking her natural role" never even occurred to me before by the way because I don't think of child-bearing as a woman's natural role. Maybe I am crazy, but I believe that woman's natural role is just to be.)
"Danger and play" is a "men's rights" website crested by current right-wing anti-woman political pundit Mike Cernovich, who took from Nietzche the idea that "woman is the most dangerous plaything" for men. This is not a new idea, the idea of the evil, dangerous woman hellbent on destroying men.
I don't even think it's an acknowledgement that women need to overcompensate to compete with men. The impression I get from the women interviewed in these books is that they give zero fucks what men think of them in the political arena ( as to their personal lives, can't help you there). There are obviously instances of misogyny amongst freedom fighters and leftist activist groups, and they are mentioned here, but I really don't feel that sexism has a huge bearing on their activities and I don't feel it distorts their enthusiasm; it's just one more thing they have to contend with on occasion.
Renata Hedgeway is the External Affairs Editor at Devilish Turn