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Meat treatment sullies Diggers in lraq

By Melinda Tankard Reist - posted Monday, 25 September 2006

Australian soldiers in Iraq are in trouble for mucking about with guns and playing dress-ups with Arab head gear.

Military officials are embarrassed by the trophy-style videos which came to light recently. Defence heads have promised strong action against the unnamed soldiers, saying their actions bring all Australian Defence Force personnel into disrepute.

But, so far, no one has had anything to say about the offence done to women around the world by these same men.


The backdrop to one of the video blogs is a wall plastered with pornographic images of women.

If “our boys” are in deep shit for fooling around with dangerous weapons and pointing them at the head of a comrade doing a fair impression of an Iraqi, they should also be in deep shit for treating women like pieces of meat.

Portraying women as nothing but sexual fodder for male lust and pleasure is a form of oppression of women everywhere. It puts women at risk of unwanted sexual advances and abuse.

The women in Iraq and the women back home are all threatened by a state of mind which sees women as decorative sexual wallpaper.

These images distort men’s expectations of women. They suggest women are always sexually available, never sexually satisfied.

Many female members of our defence forces have reported sexual assault and harassment. This fleshly montage hardly contributes to their sense of safety, or belief that they will be treated with respect.


And what message are these images sending to the Islamic world about how Australian men think about women - including Muslim women? Should we be surprised if Iraqi men think their women are in danger from the demeaning attitude of our male defence personnel?

Where are the military officials condemning the dehumanisation of women by the Australian Defence Forces?

There are strong connections between pornography, trafficking in women and sexual violence against women. Often, the worst manifestations of these attitudes are seen on war’s battlefields.

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First published in The Courier-Mail on September 21, 2006.

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About the Author

Melinda Tankard Reist is a Canberra author, speaker, commentator and advocate with a special interest in issues affecting women and girls. Melinda is author of Giving Sorrow Words: Women's Stories of Grief after Abortion (Duffy & Snellgrove, 2000), Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics (Spinifex Press, 2006) and editor of Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls (Spinifex Press, 2009). Melinda is a founder of Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation ( Melinda blogs at

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