ISIS, Kayla Mueller, and the value of a human life


ISIS, Kayla Mueller, and the value of a human life

Where ISIS and Western media seem to shockingly agree, the MHRM must dissent

By Liber Namuh

In February it was confirmed that American aid worker Kayla Mueller died sometime during her 18 months of being held by ISIS. The following media quotes tell us a lot, but not about Kayla Mueller, whose life work was extremely honorable, helping others in need, including Doctors without Borders. They don’t tell us anything about the courageous young woman brutally killed, but they do hold up a mirror to our own society and culture, and from this mirror valuable lessons can be gained by those willing to look. They expose how both Islamic and Western cultures look at the value of a human life: male versus female.

One might argue that sadly, most of society is not willing to look, and those who do look (men’s human rights activists) don’t need the reminder. However, mainstream ideology tells us regularly that men have all the advantages and that men and boys have no disadvantages based on their gender – at least none that are important, or can’t be brushed under the rug or tagged as “Patriarchy.” The truth, that males can be and are suffering due to their gender around the world is the elephant in the room. The broad social acceptance of this fact is the sine qua non for deep, truly meaningful, and long-lasting progress for the MHRM. That is why these kind of instructive examples can and should be repeated as often as possible, particularly those coming from recent headlines.

Until ideology gives way to a more accurate and humane view of the world, there can never be too many examples we post and share, because people need to be repeatedly reminded of this, or be given opportunities to awaken to its truth. In a future piece, I will aim to frame this in the context of one of the most important question the MHRM needs to press society to answer. Here, if nothing else, I hope this relatively short media compilation adds to a growing library of such examples, which each of us can share, and politely but without apology use to challenge those outside of the MHRM.

Politicians wouldn’t have to repeat so often that we “won’t put our young men and women” (mostly men) in the armed forces in harms way “unless necessary for defense” if it were actually true. It has not been true in the past nor is it today. War has a huge toll that the media tells us often falls on the shoulders of “women and children.” What the media neglects to add is how much more often, and how much more heavily, it falls on the shoulders of boys and young men.

The focus here, however, is not on examples of harm to men, and even boys, though there are plenty. They are hit from all sides, kidnapped, beaten, tortured, raped and killed by ISIS, or Boko Haram, or killed by U.S. bombs and drones. The issue we are raising today is this: Until male lives are valued as much as female lives, there can be no peace. There can be no end to wars, with brutal barbaric extremists happy to murder and grind up men, and politicians happy to send off male cannon fodder to die in wars sold to the public with lies. Until we raise the value of the male lives this madness will continue.

A look at how the media has covered Kayla Mueller’s death exposes by contrast the prevalence of male expendability as a social attitude.

About ISIS, the media reports ask us: Would the mass murdering, beheading brutal ISIS that burns people alive, “go that far?” How far? What do they mean? The media said it pretty directly: Would ISIS actually be willing to not just kill a woman, but to admit the sin to the world, the same sin that when done to men is not something they worry about “admitting” but something they openly brag about?

Some quotes follow with portions highlighted in bold and comments in brackets:

Washington Post, Was Kayla Mueller’s situation different from other Islamic State hostages?

“The way ISIS justified the immolation of the pilot is the way it justifies many of its brutal acts,” Hassan Hassan, an analyst with the Abu Dhabi research center Delma Institute, explained using an acronym to refer to the Islamic State. “It relies on genuine but isolated incidents in Islamic history.” The group might have tried to do this again, but theological justification for killing a female prisoner is certainly not obvious [Translation: for male prisoners the “justification” is regularly accepted by many as “obvious,” a misandrist reality of our world the Post omits.] Will McCants, Director of the Brookings Institution’s Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, said he can’t think of any instances in the Koran that indicate the prophet Muhammad did anything similar.

Regardless of theological arguments, it’s possible that a greater motivation – a desire to shock and horrify – may have led the Islamic State to take more drastic action. “It is pretty clear that ISIS is working an escalating strategy on its media releases,” J.M. Berger, an analyst who follows jihadist movements online, says, pointing to the Kaseasbeh video. “I think ISIS would not balk at killing a woman hostage on camera as part of that process, but they would [as part of “escalating” to something worse] hold that card [of killing a woman] until they needed it.” Here it is said pretty openly: killing a woman is “escalating” to something worse than killing a man. (See here)

Fawaz Gerges, an expert in international relations at the London School of Economics, told MSNBC that for ISIS, killing a woman could be more problematic [than killing a man] from a religious and public-relations standpoint. Some have speculated that ISIS had already killed the aid worker and only latched onto the airstrikes claim for cover.

ISIS knows, or some of the leaders in ISIS know, they cannot display a video of Kayla in the same way they do when it comes to a man. Islam not only prohibits the killing of women, and children and the elderly, even though ISIS has violated all of the principles and values of Islamic doctrine,” Gerges said.. (See here)

Here the double standard in both public perception and in the societal moral value system is even more openly stated: male lives count for less, have less value, and their extinguishing is openly declared to be a smaller outrage for the human soul to hear about. This mistandric double standard must be repeatedly exposed and challenged for its inherent value, though it can also be a useful way to ask the establishment, “tell me again how men ‘rule’ this world and suffer no gender-based sexism or oppression directed against them? Let’s look at two last examples:

Daily Beast:

If confirmed, Mueller’s death would bring to an end months of speculation about what ISIS, whose brutality seems to know no bounds, had planned for its last American captive. ISIS has killed Muslim women, as well as children. And the group has held other female captives, notably Yazidi women for example. But Western women had, so far, not been touched. [Notice the hierarchy: non-Western men, then non-Western women at a higher level, then Western men, and at the top, hostage lives which have not been taken until now: Western women.]

That fact, terrorism analysts had said, may have helped to keep Mueller alive. Even for a group as brutal as ISIS, killing a woman aid worker could potentially be seen as a bridge too far, and risk igniting public opposition to the group, which aims to establish a new caliphate. (See here)

Finally, CNN:

ISIS claims Mueller alone was killed by a second round of airstrikes by Jordanian F-16s.

…Key questions, how would ISIS know it was a Jordanian bomb? Is this a way to avoid the backlash of killing a woman? Why would she be left alone in a building? (See here)

The male disposability question is central to the MHRM. It is society’s moral justification for infringing on men’s human rights. Without addressing it or at least acknowledging it, how can meaningful and permanent progress possibly be made on any men’s issues? This double standard around the lower value of male lives and male suffering must lead conversations, advocacy and pressure by the MHRM.

This will also require some at least partially political conversations. There are absolutely huge obstacles to admitting, let alone addressing, misandry. Few openings exist for ‘gender equalization’ under the present system of corporate political, economic, and military-industrial complex institutions. This system allows only partial “downward” motion for women’s lives, not “upwards harmonization” by increasing the value of men’s lives.

Systemic misandry will make these changes, while necessary, very difficult. Yet these observations open up possibilities for new alliances, new ways to challenge those who are blind to misandry but claim to care so much about women’s lives. The current system, build on male expendability, can only bring ruin to all of humanity if allowed to continue for too many more generations – or even mere years. It is in everyone’s interest to address this.

In a future post, I will explain the importance of pressing people to spell out very specifically and explicitly what “gender based oppression” is, as a precise definition. That could become a powerful tool for getting those who are not completely closed-minded to wake up to the reality of what I’ve called SAME: Sexism at Male Expense.

Liber Namuh
Facebooktwitterredditpinterestmailby feather

About the author

Liber Namuh

Liber Namuh, sometimes posting as "4malelib" or 4ML, is a progressive human rights advocate proud to proclaim membership in the broad Male Human Rights Movement, has been thinking about how double standards hurt men since the 1980s, and believes and intends to demonstrate how the MHRM can be made more strong, and its tactics not more powerful, through civil, polite but proudly unapologetic dialog with and challenges to the mainstream. Liber Namuh believes that there is plenty of room for entirely appropriate outrage, but that if we focus on what we're against to the point of too little inclusion of what we're for, and if we neglect putting love at the center of what we do, then we are not underestimating misandry or our opponents, but are instead underestimating the rightness, beauty, and righteousness of the cause of male human rights advocacy.

<span class="dsq-postid" data-dsqidentifier="151393">20 comments</span>

  • Years ago I wrote a poem about this. It was exactly how I was made to feel:

    Men Are Only Good
    When They Die
    From War

    Men have hands
    But cannot touch
    But cannot hold
    But cannot feel
    For this
    They are bad
    Men are only good
    When they die
    From War
    For this reason
    No boy will ever strive to be a passionate man
    Play war

    By: Roger Harkness

    • Thank you for sharing that beautiful poem, shepardofpeace (RK). I am also touched because the issues, and elephant in the room, that my article discusses while connecting to recent news, were things that reminded you of this earlier poem of yours.

      But I’m also touched because in the last few years I’ve started writing MHRM poetry, and even suggested by email a month ago, a MHRM Poetry book project to one venue, offering mine if enough others could be found to constitute a book when taken together. Haven’t heard back so far, and might eventually suggest to another venue or person. Yours would be a great addition and complement.

      I don’t want to get comments on this thread too far afield (end up derailing comment thread to my own post, lol) on MHRM Poetry and book project idea rather than ISIS and Western commonality of male disposability, but if you don’t mind dropping me a note (“4malelib” same as above but at gmail) no promises if this gets anywhere but would be good to at least touch base.

      Thanks again for your poem and your comment here!

  • Any society that begins to value male life as much as it does female has only two choices. Devalue female life or increase the value of male life.

    1. It must begin to risk the lives of women equally with men. women must become just as disposable.

    2. It must begin to protect its men from harm equally with women.

    The consequence of #1 is that women must be not only permitted, not only encouraged, but legally mandated and forced into combat roles in equal numbers to men. Social welfare programs and safety nets would have to be abolished. women would be forced to perform manual labor to survive. This is not likely to happen, especiallly in a democracy because women are not likely to allow it to happen. Even feminists don’t believe in this kind of equality. They only speak of equal rights, never equal responsibility. I can see this being supported only by non-religeous, nontraditional ultra conservatives.

    The consequence of #2 will likely result in the destruction of the society. Think of it like nuclear disarmament. If men were valued and not sent to die in wars, but instead were protected, society would become vulnerable to attack from other societies that continue to view their men as disposable. This is the liberal utopian ideal popularized in the 1960’s. Unfortunately it is not supported by human nature which is why any society that tries it would be destroyed from without. It is also no longer supported by the feminist left that holds a view of men as being so disposable that society can do without them.

    • I appreciate your comment Walter, and I find it really interesting that the second comment posted here, raises this, because an earlier version of my article had included an explicit reference to this very pair of choices, though I was persuaded (by very helpful editor whose work is much appreciated, and I take responsibility for this version).

      To make it explicit, I do call for 2 rather than 1: society must raise the value it puts on male lives (I say males because of MGM among other things) away instead of the “disposable” model.

      Leaving aside the issue of whether nuclear arms offer long term protection (a very senior Pentagon retiree has suggested otherwise) to stay on the main focus, I think the key difference is where you say:

      “If men were valued and not sent to die in wars, but instead were protected”

      However, this is a choice we don’t need to make. We can value men’s lives as much as women’s lives, but still “send them to wars” where they will die, if they are wars that the public feels are so necessary that the fact that some, and maybe many men will die, will be worth it for this necessity. Obviously, the survival of the society would count as necessary.

      In other words, there’s a HUGE chasm between the current cultural “disposable males” set of values, at one end, versus the other extreme that states that the value of losing just one single live of a man, is unacceptable, under any circumstances, even if it means the entire country is destroyed or enslaved.

      Among the many positions between such extremes, includes seeing the death of a male as a tragedy like that of a woman, and to be avoided unless there is damn good reason to put him in harm’s way.

      In fact even in today’s society where women’s lives are given a higher value, does the military have policies that guarantee not one single female will die? No, they have policies that give a higher level of “try to avoid deaths” than to males, but which accepts some level of death (we even let women, particularly poor women, die outside of the military…though their lives are not valued as “low” as are the lives of poor males)

      So certainly, having a higher value on men’s lives would not mean a policy of “zero deaths is the only acceptable level” it would just mean a higher bar rather than the very low bar we have today.

      One other issue I was considering touching upon but never did, is to follow up with another reason why we need to push for 2 rather than 1.

      The reason I’m about to give should appeal to anyone on the fence who isn’t yet a MHRM…this person doesn’t like today’s “Feminism, Inc” but is still on the fence. Maybe they naively think they can reform parts, I don’t know.

      But to clear: the argument I’m about to make is one I’m convinced is true, and even if it doesn’t convince any fence sitters to join MHRM, I’d still make it – because I think it holds, and to protect male lives, that reason is reason alone.

      What’s this other aspect? It’s the fact that modern day society, we can look at technological industrial corporate capitalism, or look at the military industrial complex, or look more spiritually at this society, but in a nutshell, the way it’s configured right now, it’s going to move towards 1 (“lower the value of some lives if you must, but don’t increase the value of other lives”) Even if that’s not the whole system, there are many parts, many forces, in that direction in my view.
      I’m not saying the system as presently configured would bring female lives all the way down, but either partly down, or even just to distract the MHRM with false downgrades (as if that’s what we want…it isn’t) either way, we will be distracted from the goal of moving the value of male lives up.

      Making an argument why society in its present form, the current institutions, is likely going to slowly but surely push 1, would take time and space I don’t have here. But I found it fascinating that someone on the AVFM forums, who considers themselves conservative or right leaning (I’m on the left) said something similar: some forces that are hard to put one’s fingers on are behind Feminism and even behind Progressivism (in my view, the “politically correct” abuse of what were progressive values of justice, equality etc, misappropriated) Either way, we both see these behind the scenes forces, I don’t see them as a smoke filled room of conspiracy but the gears of the faceless machine type tendencies of our technological, economic, political institutions.

      Even if you don’t agree, and think I’m wrong (I’d love to be wrong about the prognosis that the gears of the machines want human beings pushed down, not others allowed to rise) I think all members of MHRM can agree that increasing the value society puts on male lives away from the current “disposable” model, is a key, fundamental goal that we need to keep our eyes on (as well as try to raise awareness of how far we are, with examples from current events, as here)

      • “In fact even in today’s society where women’s lives are given a higher value, does the military have policies that guarantee not one single female will die? No, they have policies that give a higher level of “try to avoid deaths” than to males, but which accepts some level of death (we even let women, particularly poor women, die outside of the military…though their lives are not valued as “low” as are the lives of poor males)”
        Fear of a public backlash if women came home in body bags was a major reason military leaders gave for keeping women out of combat. Two things have broken down that resistance. One is that in all the conflicts since the Gulf War, back in 1991, there have been so truly safe or even relatively safe rear areas to park the women – either you expose the women to danger or you don’t let them come in country at all.
        The second was that when women inevitably started trickling back in body bags, the public did not go into spasms, and not because of any advance in gender equality but simply because of the divide between civilians and the military. The general public just expects soldiers, male or female, to be killed and maimed, and to be quiet about it and not disturb the shopping.

        • Your comments are as accurate as they are, mostly, depressing: so long as the numbers are not like in Vietnam but like in recent decades, the public just ‘accepts’ the deaths and keeps on shopping as you say.

          Your observations reinforce my inclination to believe that so long as the gears of our system remain the same, there is if anything a tendency to lower the life protection (at least somewhat) for those who might have gotten more protection in the past, as a much easier path forward for the system, than increasing the value and life protection for other groups (here especially: males).

          I make this observation not principally to appeal to fence sitters (that they should join and support MHRM even if male lives are not their ‘main’ concern) though it’s a nice added benefit if it happens..I make it as a sobering but I think critical reminder to ourselves that the configuration of the system, from politics to economics to the social, has to change and until then, progress to protect male lives will be uphill and slow at best.

          To make an imperfect analogy, if a system that fundamentally needs slaves for its very essence and survival, is more likely to add a few whites to the sea of slaves, than remove blacks. Our system depends on expendability in wars and for corporate based economic ‘progress’. Until that changes, it will keep the sea of fodder (males) and more likely to admit a few more females as fodder for wars, or domestic expendables, than to liberate the current fodder.

          The silver lining is that your observation also reinforces what I tried to emphasize to Walter: that it’s a false choice between “keep men as expendable as now, or else, allow other countries to destroy yours”. There’s lots of room between those two extremes, I suggested.
          Long hard struggle but we can at least work towards a sane middleground.

          Maybe I should have made another analogy, with spending money. At one extreme, you can spend money like it grows on trees, like there’s no tomorrow, as if it has little value.. that’s an only somewhat exaggerated version of the current ‘male expendability’ At the other extreme, something like “I refuse to spend a single penny beyond housing and just enough food to survive” (or even “I refuse to spend a single penny”) That’s the analog of what he suggested: valuing male lives so much that no one volunteers for a war even when another country is about to overthrow us (not realistic – when your very survival is at stake, people volunteer) In between is spending money, but not throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars around on things you don’t really want to need…analogy of unnecessary wars for empire or control, not self defense… A sane middle ground spends 100 but only if important enough, spends 1,000 but only if really important and necessary…and “spends” something that could cost health or even lives of males (or females) only if it’s really truly unavoidable and necessary.

        • The difference is pretty stark, however. Last I checked out of 6,844 confirmed American combat deaths in our various wars since 9/11 only 161 were female.

    • Thanks for the encouragement Graham! Been thinking about these things for decades, it’s good to have my first published. I have a few others in the works, in drafts, one of them is getting close to complete, but I’m quite slow so it may be a couple of months down the line…and that’s if, as I hope, HBB is equally interested.

      One piece in particular I want to focus on finishing up. But, what do you think, is there a better phrase than trying to coin a term, “misandropia” (in analogy to “myopia”), for the massive blindness both “Feminism, Inc” and society itself have, when it comes to ability to see and recognize misandry? Just some of my current musings, no need to give a definite answer..thanks again for the kind words πŸ™‚

      • I prefer using language that people are accustomed to. It’s moore effective.

        • I may just focus on fact that as bad as the misandrist hate machines are, that blindness to misandry in the wider culture is a huge obstacle..

          Speaking of “language that people are accustomed to”, I have to flag a comment..second time in two day a comment like “vsdvsdvds” (yesterday by “pospos_pospos” today one on money-maknig scheme by
          “Texas Sovereign
          @disqus_0SDaFxP2kc” has posted in reply to my “The term itself is offensive” comment on “manspreading in all the wrong places” I hadn’t seen this much spam in the recent past..

          And have you seen the spam posted by someone impersonating Hannah a couple of days ago with a disqus using her full name? that one looks more malicious (anti-MHRM not just moneymaking) who posted pretty much identical moneymaking post with link ” Easy with honeybadgerbrigade .. my classmate’s step-sister makes…” and link to their site, same as “Texas Sovereign” did replying, today, to my comment on manspreading post

          Doesn’t prove anything but a little research and I found the profile image of this Texas Sovereign disqus is same as twitter user @KittyGheen who retweet “we need feminism” and posts like this one: “My mom on my appearance: “You look nice and bright today. Not that black sex kitten look you normally do.” ” However, I’m sure it’s all the fault of “the patriarchy” that her mom said that to her πŸ˜‰

          • Thanks for the alert. These spammers are numerous and target many wordpress blogs using disqus accounts. We handle them as we catch them. As soon as we ban one, another crops up, but none of them stay very long.

By Liber Namuh

Listen to Honey Badger Radio!

Support Alison, Brian and Hannah creating HBR Content!

Recent Posts

Recent Comments





Follow Us

Facebooktwitterrssyoutubeby feather