A View From A Broad: Don’t Mess With The Kid

5 10 2004

Maybe my taste runs to the outrageous, to people who say what they mean the way they want to say it and let the chips fall where they may. A View From A Broad is exactly what the title implies, the views of a self-styled ‘broad’ who takes no shit–and no prisoners.

‘Ginmar’, a soldier serving in Iraq, is profane, witty, and profound by turns, sometimes all at once. She’s an unrepentant, uncompromising, unapologetic feminist, and proud of it. She rants, raves, sputters, snarls, snipes, and shivs many of her posts; she does not suffer fools gladly. Or at all. Instead, she makes them suffer, and is it ever fun to watch her do it.

(The following excerpts are all taken from the most recent page of AVFAB. Unfortunately, she’s at LiveJournal which doesn’t link separate posts. You’ll have to scroll down the page to find the rest of each entry, but that’s OK: on the way down you’ll find a lot of great stuff I can’t reprint.)

On the day her Top Sargeant had something to show her (a relatively mild one to begin with):

Sunday, October 3, 2004Top came and got me this morning and dragged me out into the courtyard. “Ginmar, cmere,” he said urgently.


“This is important. I gotta show you something.”

The something turned out to be a frog living near the pool. “Uh, yeah.” I looked at the frog. He looked at the frog. Then he looked at me significantly.

“It’s a frog,” he pointed out.

“I noticed that.”

“I’m afriad of frogs.”

So, to recap for those of you in the cheap seats, my 1st. Sgt., the cop from New Orleans, the guy who regularly does stupid and crazy shit and gets me to take his back while doing it, the guy who thrives in this environment, he’s afraid of an animal that weighs approximately two ounces and which makes politicians look attractive.

“It’s a frog.”

“I warned the commander, if that thing gets in my hooch, there’ll be shooting.”

“Oh, come on, you can’t go—-committing, what? Amphibious assault on the poor thing. It’s a frog! It’s like invading France with nuclear weapons. Or inferior foie gras. Whatever.”

“I hate frogs.”

“Well, I’m sure they’re not too fond of you. I like frogs.”

The guy looked at me like I’d sprouted a fully-formed ugly twin out of one side of my head. Political differences, evidently, are not as frightening as having an affection for certain types of animals. “That’s disgusting.”

“I said I liked them, did I say I wantd to date them or something? Don’t shoot the frog.It’s not like anybody will believe you if you say it’s self-defense.”

Well, to make a long story short, I now have aggreed to perform operation Amphibian Extradition and I’m on Frog Patrol till the bugger decides to show his little green head again.

The typos are part of the charm. Ginmar writes fast and furious and doesn’t seem to proof-read–either that or she does and misses a lot–because her head is stuffed with images and word-play and descriptions of what she’s seen and done, and it’s all coming out, not quite stream-of-consciousness but not exactly not. She makes no secret of the fact that she’s using her blog to vent, so buyer-beware: this is not a blog for the faint of heart.

One of her recent gripes involves something called Websense, which I gather is a filter program the military uses to ban ‘objectionable material’ on the internet.

Thursday, Sept 30, 2004

Dipshits at the whorehouse doorAh, yes. Now the Army wants to protect me from….The Army. Yeah, that makes sense.

Who the fuck is fine-tuning this damned thing? It makes about as much sense as my SPAM. If you went by my damned spam(heh) I’m an insecure, overweight, hermaphrodite with a small penis and problems dating. I have bad credit that for some reason only Jesus’ love can heal, and a variety of ailments that require lots of medications, ranging from viagra to valium. The only thing I haven’t seen is Hair Club for Men, which has always sounded to me like it’s for people who collect hair, rather than lose it. Maybe they pick it up by the side of the road, I don’t know.And Websense makes just about as much sense. Swimsuits and lingerie are verboten, coffee clatches have become deadly (Put down the butter knife, Aunt Mildred! You can win this rubber!) literary salons are deadly, and some feminist websites are tasteless. So is expressing yourself, evidently. You can’t buy phone cards home because I guess talking to your relatives will corrupt you. Beats me, but I know talking to some of my relatives will make you back away very, very slowly.My SPAM is run by the sort of hucksters who make up the shit the SBV for Karl Rove’s Truth believe in desperately; the only thing is they haven’t figured out to turn a profit at being liars. Oh, wait, yes they have—-look at Halliburton, fiddling while Iraq burns. For some reason, there’s lots of Christian spammers out there, trying to sell me a mortage and true Christian lurve, which almost makes me think of Donny Osmond or something.

But right after this very funny takedown, she shifts gears.

Websense is…like some kind of Puritan standing guard at the whorehouse door, charging admission and clucking disapprovingly, except here they don’t ever let you in, and you’ve already paid the price because you’re in Iraq already. Once again, I’m reminded of the unique status of the citizen soldier: we represent our country, and defend it, and it’s moments like this that make me wonder what exactly we’re getting in return. We have to have our websites screened because we’re so easily influenced we might be led in some way that others might disapprove of—yet they trust us to shape a nation.Half the soldiers here are Reservists, which means they’re used to non-military environments and other perspectives. We represent America more realistically than our very own Congress does: there are more women in the military—hell, in the Marines—-than there are Congress—-and yet we must be clucked and nannies as if we were children.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

You cannot trust us in part when you ask us for everything in return. We are not just a means to an end here, but an end in and of ourselves. At the most intimate basic level, all this handholding means that somewhere, somehow….we are not trusted by the very people who ask us to lay down our lives for their principles.

I have to wonder what else is going to happen.

Dammit, I hate it when I start bitching and turn serious.

I’m going to bed.

Some of my favorite rants involve her work. I’m not too clear on what she does except it has something to do with computers and reports, and may be connected to logistics and/or supplies. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to know what she does to appreciate this:

Friday, Sept 24, 2004–4.43am

Paper and computersWhat a day.

Get off work in morning after dealing with incredible passive aggressive snippiness from Higher. “FIX COMMENTS.” I stared at this, befuddled, having gone through eighteen reports that had evidently been written by squirrels suffering from Attention Deficit Disoorder after their caffeine and Red Bull IV drip went empty. These reports had been typed on a Swahili keyboard by someone who spoke only Mandariin Chinese, and only as a third language, too. And they’d flunked whatever mandarin Chinese exam they’re giving squirrels these days.

After hours of this, I was squinty-eyed and hostile, in no moood for passive aggrressive REMFs in Baghdad who take time out from picking at the one or two reports they do a night to surf the Internet and get all snippy.

So of course, here was passive aggressive in spades.

In order to type that FIX COMMENTS my anonymous little buddy had to scroll past the section in question and then type in his little note. In order to fix the damned thing, he had only to click and backspace. Twit.

Then there’s her roommate.

My roomie, for example: she complains that I just ‘sleep too light.’ This explains why, when I’m trying to get a few hours’ sleep, her turning the light on and rustling around wakes me up. So I left my light on when I went on shift.She turned it off.

I finally gave up being polite and asked her to turn the light off. “I’m reading a book.” And your point is? You work—maybe—eight hours a day. You get up when you feel like it. You get off when you feel like it. You have a day off. I, however, work twelve hours a day, seven days a week. I don’t get days off. My sleeping is a priority over your entertainment. Fucking A.

I love to analyze language and how people use it, and saying anything other than, “Just a second, I’ll turn it off,” is unacceptable. She likes to come into the room, turn on the light, and then leave. But she doesn’t turn the light off. Because you know, she might need it on some time in the near future.

That attitude just fascinates me because it’s just not any different from the guys who say that women should wear veils so they don’t provoke men. I’m supposed to exist around her, to her standards, and by her rules. Same thing, just different subject. It’s fangirl logic.

And Capt. Grumpy.

Eveyr day I go to work I tiptoe in the office and listen quietly for noises in the office. If the coast is clear, I sneak down the hallway, ready to jump out at CPT. Grumpy, who I’ve been threatening with a whoopie cushion. It doesn’t happen a lot but every now and then I get him. Today wasn’t one of those days. “Ginmar, who cut your hair?”Guys, seriously? I mean, men, here? Ask a question like this, and nothing will protect you. I’m serious. This is just not a good way to begin a person’s work day, especially when they’ve spent the last twelve hours trying to get five hours sleep. “Sir….” I said warningly.

“Hey, are you giving me attitude?” He was doing the CPT. Grumpy smirk, which means he’s going to tease you. “Did you pay for that?”

“Sir, do not diss my hair.”

“Are you—?”

“Hair knows no rank, sir.” I said firmly, and the undeniable truth of this statment shut him up. Hey, I may be five foot three on a good day, and he’s about six foot six, but dammit, nobody talks about my hair. Especially somebody who doesn’t have any.

And these are all from the same post. Which still isn’t over. (Background: Ginmar had developed a relationship of sorts with some of the local Iraqi men trying to scratch a living from the Army by selling stuff in the market outside her offices. Her community of readers, to help out, have been sending her money to purchase these goods. One of the men she wrote most about was killed in a bombing. Others have been as well. This is her reaction.)

And in the midst of all this, I get an email that tells me that yet another guy at the market had died, the cheeky guy who dropped his hand too low when we had our picture taken together. The Big Guy came stepping up to him to wallop him good-naturedly across the head, and now that impudent, cheerful guy is dead. I have to wonder, does it matter that we hope to do the right thing here? Does it matter to his family? When the number of soldiers who’ve died here matches the number of people dead on September 11th, then what happens? Are these ‘good’ deaths somehow? All that matters to their family is that they’re dead.And then you go back to the office, having emptied your pockets of everything for the burned man, the skinny man, the man who sells tea sets, and you face a computer screen. Somewhere on the other end of the wire are people who bitch at you for misplaced commas and parenthasees rather than click on them themselves and fix them. They read the reports you write about the deaths, and they don’t know that you knew the dead people, they don’t the dead at all. Adn then they forward those reports higher and higer and higher, till the people who look at them see only numbers, at an impossible distance.

People say war is hell. At this level, it is. At the heights, though, all it is paper and computers.

That post is emblematic of Ginmar’s genius as a writer. She turns an ordinary day, beginning with a grouse about the twits on the upper end of the food chain, into a profound comment on how different the war looks from ground-level to the way it must look from above the mud. She has a rare ability to meld a diametrical opposition into an integrated picture with universal meaning–something we can see, feel, and understand as separate pieces of the same whole.

A View From A Broad is a combat diary but of a different kind of combat, the kind where you’re fighting attitudes instead of enemy soldiers with guns. Ginmar is a warrior alright, but her war is on stupidity, selfishness, and unnecessary chaos. Her weapons are sarcasm, clear eyes, and an almost complete lack of patience with or tolerance for cruelty and blindness no matter which side they come from. She sees and she tells, without fear or favor, and what more can you ask of a blogger?


1. I realize I slighted her feminism in choosing excerpts. That wasn’t because I was ducking it (it’s some of her best stuff) but because these are what’s on her top page at present and, since there are no post-links, I didn’t want you to have to scroll the archives searching for the originals. Besides, I thought I should leave some of her brilliance for you to discover for yourselves.

2. The AVFAB commenters are something of a family, which may or may not be your thing. I don’t do ‘communities’, especially not tight ones–as hers is–who have been together so long they’ve developed history and a raft of inside jokes. You may feel right at home or you may want to just skip them.

3. Prowl the archives. Prepare to spend some time at it. There’s so much good reading there that it’s hard to quit once you start. There’s a flow, like a looooong story with new chapters added every night over the campfire, each one bleeding naturally and almost seamlessly into the next. I intended to spend a half-hour or an hour surfing them and emerged 6 hours later, having to tear myself away because I had to go to work. AVFAB’s archives ought to be labeled: ‘WARNING! Contains material that may be addictive. There is no known cure.’

I will leave you with what very well may be the shortest Ginmar post on record–her assessment of Ann Coulter.

Sunday, Sept 26, 2004Gah. I just talked to someon who thought Ann Coulter was cool. To which I could only respond: “Has she had her distemper shot yet? Because the frothing thing? So not cool.”

(Many thanks to Cyclopatra for turning me on to Ginmar.)




4 responses

5 10 2004

Thanks Mick … gotta love the “Broad”!

6 10 2004

Yeah, she’s somethin, ain’t she? Check out today’s new one: ‘The Good War and the Prodigal Son’. My lord, but that woman can write.

6 10 2004

Great Mick. All I needed was one more distraction from my work day…..

12 10 2004
Ron Brynaert

Many thanks for turning me on to A View From A Broad as well as Cyclopatra. I linked to them both! Peace.

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