Masculinity, Militarism and the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) Print
Tough, decisive, uncompromising, and ready to fight are among the masculine gender norms that are enforced on men though images in the media and film industry, sports, peer pressure and the "boys don't cry" socialization. Violence is part of being a "real" man, and it is seen as a legitimate way to resolve conflicts.

The basic idea behind military training is to cultivate the prime example of masculinity in its most extreme form of violence. At the School of the Americas (renamed Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation), soldiers learn how to use their force to dominate over others. It requires conformity to masculine norms by all those participating, whether male or female. Nonviolent conflict resolution and mutual empowerment are seen as weakness and have no place at the SOA/ WHINSEC.

With its single focus on brute force as the only viable response to conflict, the SOA/ WHINSEC philosophy is in line with US foreign policy in its use of violence and domination. The U.S. government strengthens Latin America militaries rather than civil society because the military is their instrument to protect the interests of the rich while waging war on the poor. Opposition to unjust economic policies is not dealt with politically through dialogue, but militarily.

The reason behind all of this violence and suffering is to protect the status quo by any means necessary. For women this means doing 60% of the world's work, yet only getting 10% of the world's income and owning 1% of the world's property. This clearly puts women in a vulnerable position economically. When they resist and demand change, more often than not they end up on the receiving end of SOA/WHINSEC violence. We know from reading the SOA torture manuals that those who promote social change get singled out as enemy targets.

There is no way to overstate how deeply Latin American women are affected by the SOA/ WHINSEC promotion of violence as the masculine standard. When violence and repression are the answer to problems, the result is going to be families torn apart and devastated societies. In what devastated society are women (and children) not the primary recipients of the negative impacts? Hungry, poverty-stricken, homeless, traumatized and widowed women suffer the consequences of the actions that were planned and executed mostly by men.

The culture in the Americas is overwhelmingly patriarchal and puts women in a position of inferiority to men. This occurs through the genderization of men and women. According to the "What is Gender?" picture story (in the booklet), men and women are taught from birth to fulfill certain roles in the family and throughout society that put women in a place of what some people refer to as "the weaker sex" because it is seen as abnormal for women to stand up for their rights, have their own opinions, be leaders in the community, or do anything but take care of children and follow men.

Setting up this kind of relationship between women and the rest of society is physically dangerous for them, especially when you have institutions like the SOA/ WHINSEC promoting a doctrine of control and conquer that gives as its contribution to society the most aggressive and destructive form of masculinity that could possibly exist- the glorification of violence and the use of weapons for the purpose of destruction and domination.

Where there is no gender equity and where power, control and violence are seen as the answer to everything, women will always end up on the bottom. Those who give in to the gender norms will carry out their role as caregivers and followers. The opportunity to utilize all the energy in society to promote human development and progress based on different values is lost.

We are working to close the SOA/ WHINSEC and demand an alternative to the power/ domination/ control model, to come closer to achieving a world without violence. If we seek to achieve gender equity, we come closer to that goal.