Bad Feminism

“I do not believe that women are inferior to men by nature, nor do I believe that they are their natural superiors either.”
Simone de Beauvoir, in 1976
According to Fox 2000 wins Ashly’s War to be adopted as a movie. In the following post, I have tried to review the book.
The first feminist movements began in 1872, in France and Netherlands. By definition, feminism is to describe any action that protects (or demands) women’s rights in a male dominated society. It has been a contentious issue since it originated. Feminism suffered from four groups through its account. From one side, it agonized by the mannish society that could not consent any changes to the ordinances that were protecting the male privileges. From the other side, extremism, opportunism, and misconceptions caused “Bad Feminism”; a 20th century’s perception, which has made the situation more complicated for ordinary low-class  women. The ones who carry, for the most part, the soreness of a society, and are only concerned about equality and respectful life without any controversy. There is no doubt that feminism after it began to remain, mostly, a debate for the higher-class fragment of most societies because lower ones were too busy to make everyone else rich and could not afford some fancy ideas like the twisted feminism, not the real one.
In the modern society, the media has played a significant role to define women as the disqualified gender of the humankind by objectifying them. Lamentably, some women joined the oppositions, by throwing a curve into the path of the real feminism, for their personal profits. Ashley’s War by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is an obvious example, which objectifies the women, based on their appearances, to attract the audience. The book is a nonfiction story about the first female group of the Cultural Support Teams. In 2010, the U.S. Army Special Ops created a squad of female volunteer soldiers. The purpose behind the shaping the group was “to engage the female populations in an objective area when such contact may be deemed culturally inappropriate if performed by a male service member” (CULTURAL SUPPORT TEAMS).  The book follows the team of female soldiers through their training and their duties in Afghanistan.
Using women as some sex objects, instead of portraying them, as the valuable human being members of the society, has become a prevailing culture in media, literature, and the U.S. society. According to the research by United Nations Women, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality, in popular films across 11 countries, including U.S.  “Women are often stereotyped and sexualized when they are depicted in popular content” (L. Smith 2). This picture has become traditional, almost forever, in the American literature and cinema. There are many examples, like Fifty Shades of Gray, Daniel Steele’s huge bestselling collections and, of course, Ashley’s War. Each one of them carries a cheap and outdated sentimentalism to target the wide number of unintellectual members of the society, mostly middle class, by touching their emotions and feeding them with nothing but touchy-sentimental pictures. Lemmon follows all the requirements of the old sentimentalism school of literature. She creates scenes of sorrow and soreness, and relays on too many preventable details, like details about every aspect of the characters’ personal lives and she writes plenty of pages about pushups. She chooses to advance emotions rather than actions in the plot. All readers can see is the female character’s emotion of being members of the CST, while men, mostly, remain rational. It is a classic stereotype of a divided society where the men are intelligent, even if they are wrong, they have a reason to, and women are sensitive and sentimental even when they are trying to copy some manly attitude.  The book is entirely the flood of many emotions, which contrasts rationalization, and questions the fundamental of the reasoning behind the writing. As the author says this book is “a review of primary research and documents,” (Lemmon Author’s note). It is not clear that how the overflow of emotions can lead the readers to the research and the documents, in the other word, it is impossible to comprehend the relationship between sentimentalism and a book that claims to be an academic/journalistic work.
Sentimentalism in the United States is the product of late 18th and early 19th centuries, which aimed to attract middle-class women who had more time to read. The writers were mostly females who their works, through the 19th century, caused the rise of Separate Spheres Ideology; “This ideology was always a middle-class and often a white phenomenon that encouraged the gendered identification of work with men and home with women” (Samuels). In another word, according to this ideology, women are just some objects to serve first-class citizens, privileged white males.
This is the exact style, which Lemmon uses in her book. She spends many pages on talking about the appearance of the female soldiers: “Tall with ice-blue eyes, walnut brown hair, and tattooed arms, she looked like a Harley-Davidson model” (Lemmon 19). Her characters are like Barbies on a battlefield, which obviously does not help those who have fought years and years to achieve gender equality in the army. Lemmon is successful to draw images of the American Dream Barbies, “tall, fit, and blond, she looked more like a television anchor than a soldier.” (Lemmon 39), but her achievement does not help the situation of women in the army. By contrast, her Barbie images make a good case for chauvinists of the society to say:
“We told you! Women like these are poison for a battle zone; they can’t do it.”
A reader does not need to go too far to understand that she/he is knocking a wrong door. Almost two pages (43-44) of explaining how Leda meets Ashley, and then they go to a gym together, while the story is supposed to be a nonfiction about Cultural Support Teams. Lemmon has used the word gym 25 times in the book (five times only in Page 43), While the word Afghan women, has been used only 15 times through the book. Also, the most important Afghan character in the book is Nadia, an Afghan girl who has grown up in the United States and has almost no attachment to her country of origin. This is why by the end of the book the readers are confused, lost and they have not gained anything valuable, even the sentiment of the Ashley’s funeral takes away the real pride that must have come from the work that she had done.
Women were engaged in battles, in the front line, since 1991 after “Congress authorizes women to fly combat missions” ( This is the real story behind Ashley’s War. The story that the writer forgot to focus on while she was busy to create her own American Dream.  The female team’s duty, as the Cultural Support Teams, was to engage the female population of Afghanistan. The duty that we do not hear much about that in the book. We do not receive much information about their cerebral skills, problem-solving, Afghan language proficiency, weapons skills, leadership and stress under fire abilities. These soldiers are supposed to learn these skills and develop them to be able to approach and support the army, and if it is necessary to provide humanitarian aids to Afghan women. Instead, we read pages about the fancy life of some of these soldiers or the feeling they have of living inside a Hollywoodish war movie.
At last, a male dominated judgmental culture produces a misbelief about feminism, which is the direct result of the traditional conservative perspective. It gets worse when comes to some radical individuals or groups who believe the relationship between male and female must sink to an animalistic common. The male has to be strong, powerful and demanding and female’s duty is to provide and to make the man feel good. In another word, women exist in this kind of society to be an object of joy for males. The bad feminism, which is the product to comfort the chauvinism, replaces real feminism. Unfortunately, some writers like, Daniel Steele, E. L. James, and Gayle Tzemach Lemmon fall into the first one. Maybe is appropriate to say the camel was going to seek horns lost his ears. The writers above and many others like them tried to kill two birds with one stone. They wanted, or they pretended, to be known as dedicated feminist while they were giving up of the quality of work to reach a broader number of an audience by emotionally manipulating them. The problem is real feminism never fits into this kind of suits, which resulted in the books that are not valid, from the intellectual perspective.
Work Cited
“Cultural Support Team (CST) in Afghanistan.”Afghan War News. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <;.
“CULTURAL SUPPORT TEAMS.” Army SpecOps Recruiting. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <;.
“Time Line: Women in the U.S. Military.” The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <;.
Beauvoir, Simone De. The Second Sex;. New York: Knopf, 1953. Print.
Heldman, Caroline. “The Sexy Lie.” Everyday Feminism. 8 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <;.
HAMILTON, KATHY. “Objectification of Women.”TodaysZaman. Feza Gazetecilik A.Ş., 3 Mar. 2015. Web. 27 Sept. 2015.
  1. Smith, Dr. Stacy, Marc Choueiti, and Dr. Katherine Pieper. “An Invest I G at I on of F E M a Le Ch a R Ac Ters I N P O P U L a R Fi Lms A C Ross 11 Countr I E S.” GENDER BIAS WITHOUT BORDERS (2015). Print.
McCullough, Sgt. Christopher McCullough. “ArmyFemale Engagement Teams: Who They Are and Why They Do It.” ARMY.MIL, The Official Homepage of theUnited States. 2 Oct. 2012. Web. 25 Sept. 2015. <;.
Samuels, Shirley. “Sentimentalism and Domestic Fiction – American Literature – – Obo.” Oxford Bibliographies. Oxford University Press, 29 Aug. 2012. Web. 26 Sept. 2015. <;.
Szymanski, D. M., L. B. Moffitt, and E. R. Carr. “Sexual Objectification of Women: Advances to Theory and Research 1 7.” The Counseling Psychologist (2010). Print.
Tanney, Alexa. “How Hollywood Is Misunderstanding And Misusing The Term Feminism.” Elite Daily. Elite Daily, 8 May 2015. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. <;.
Tzemach Lemmon, Gayle. Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield. 1st ed. Harper, 2015. Print.


Popular Posts