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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Spitting At Vets: Here's Why It Never Happened?

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Here's how one professor (and miltary vet) explains why our culture is awash in mythical spitting tales. The author is cited by many -- including some bloggers in Cincinnati -- as the chief debunker:

"The element of spit in the coming-home stories of veterans who feel betrayed reveals a binary, man-nature dichotomy that lies at the heart of our understandings of human existence. When and how did mankind separate from nature? The answers are provided by creation myths that entail stories about the emergence of mankind from the sea. The prominence of water in creation stories correlates with the scientific understanding that human life emerged from aquatic life, but its psychological origin may have derived from the experience of biological birthing in which life emerges out of the amniotic fluid of the mother. Subconsciously, the individual feels a primal connection with the warmth and dampness of that in utero existence, and perhaps even desires to return to it, while consciously recognizing that life itself depends upon successful separation from the safety and comfort of that watery world.

"Whatever its origin, the belief that human existence begins with its separation from water is accompanied by fears of an involuntary return to it. We find these fears reflected in stories of a great deluge that sometimes appear in conjunction with creation stories. The idiom of wetness in myth is also gendered in ways that help us understand why the stories of spat-upon veterans frequently tell of women or girls doing the spitting. From the age of Enlightenment, Western culture has emphasized a link between women and nature. Rationality, the sine qua non of humanity, was understood by Enlightenment philosophers to be an attribute of the male, emotionality, of the female. The control of women became representative of the control of nature, and with their equation to nature, women became the object of oppression. The "naturizing" of women was followed by their sexualizing. Seventeenth-century writers valued women for their erotic physiognomy, especially their breasts and vaginas. But the ambiguity inherent in humankind's post-aquatic existence was paralleled by the male's ambivalence toward women: revered for her life-giving powers, the female simultaneously beckoned the male to return to its folds and threatened to reengulf the life that had emerged from it. As Barbara Ehrenreich wrote in the introduction to Theweleit's Male Fantasies:

"'The dread arises in the pre-Oedipal struggle of the fledgling self, before there is even an ego to sort out the objects of desire and the odds of getting them: It is a dread, ultimately of dissolution—of being swallowed, engulfed, annihilated. Women's bodies are the holes, swamps, pits of muck that can engulf.'

"It is this misogynous equation of women—nature, sexuality, wetness, engulfment, deeply etched in our culture, that is the basis for the myth of women spitting on defeated soldiers."

The entire paper that challenges spitting stories is
HERE. It is well worth reading.

1 comment:

  1. An earlier book by a Chicago columnist addressed this topic:

    While his methods can hardly be considered scientific, I think there is plenty of evidence that this did take place. Certainly the term "baby killer" was used. My current boss was called a "Yankee Air Pirate" during a law admissions interview at an Ivy League School. Is it a stretch to believe the stories of spitting if we know those to be true?

    Unfortunately but not surprisingly, both sides frame the argument in a zero-sum fashion. Either it was widespread or it didn't happen at home. The point is moot, either way-our Vietnam Veterans often came home to a chilly reception and this continues to a lesser extent today.