Catchy title, eh? Only that no, Halliburton is not the only reason why I have little interest in a feminism that only seeks to advance women in corporate life. As journalist Laurie Penny tweeted yesterday, when news that Christine Lagarde was appointed head of the IMF:
Some people still think feminism is about getting a few businesswomen through the glass ceiling when the basement is flooding.
Today, I’ve been catching up with the trial of Jamie Lee Jones, which started last week. Jones is suing Halliburton because she claims she was drugged and gang-raped while working for military contractor KBR in Iraq (at the time, a division of Halliburton). Jones was on her fourth day in post in Baghdad in 2005 when she says she was assaulted by seven contractors and held captive, under armed guard by two KBR police, in a shipping container. In case you are not familiar with the case, Laura Flanders provides a succinct summary:
When the criminal courts failed to act, her lawyers filed a civil suit, only to be met with Halliburton’s response that all her claims were to be decided in arbitration – because she’d signed away her rights to bring the company to court when she signed her employment contract. As Leigh testified before Congress, in October 2009, “I had signed away my right to a jury trial at the age of 20 and without the advice of counsel.” It was a matter of sign or resign. “I had no idea that the clause was part of the contract, what the clause actually meant,” testified Jones.
More details of the horrific case are emerging and they paint a picture where it seems that rape was part of these men’s daily reality:
The last thing she recalls was being handed a drink, and another firefighter saying, “Don’t worry. I saved all my roofies for Dubai.”
Lawyers for the defendants hinted in their opening statements that they would attack Jones’ credibility, pointing to e-mails she sent after the alleged rape that they say contain no trace of trauma.
Anticipating these arguments, Jones testified that she delayed reporting the alleged assault while she searched through her mental fog for an alternative explanation.
“I wanted to be sure before I called this man a rapist,” she said. “It took hours before I was cognizant enough to make that decision.”
Corporate sponsored victim blaming, attacking her credibility, sending their multi million dollar infrastructure and condoning the kind of rape apologist culture that allows an employee to state that he “saved all the roofies for Dubai”. (I used to work in Dubai and across the UAE, the idea of meeting predatory men like these sends chills through my spine, especially because of how normal it is to socialize with other foreigners and expats in the area).
Those of us who live in the West need to evaluate what exactly we are supporting when we talk about the “glass ceiling” and advancing gender issues through corporate structures. A feminism that actively engages in intra gender violence and oppression is the kind of feminism we need to be very skeptical of. I am fully aware of the fact that we need to participate in corporate life in order to make a living, but when our activism is not critical of the ways in which these same corporations actively oppress women, minorities, the poor and disenfranchised worldwide, how they work towards enforcing inequalities and advance a culture of resource depletion (both human and natural), we need to take a step back and truly ask ourselves if these are the issues we stand for and why. And if this is the kind of feminism that represents us.