The very premise of feminism rests on the tenet that all human beings are created inherently equal. And this principle extends not just to women, but to all human beings — regardless of not only gender, race and nationality.
How, then, can the Trump administration tout that appointing an admitted torturer as Director of the CIA is a profound act of feminism? It's as if the Trump administration firmly believes anyone with lady bits must be a feminist. Nothing could be further from the truth — otherwise, there'd be no women like Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds, who just signed into law the most restrictive abortion ban in the nation, banning abortions at a time well before most women even know they are pregnant.
No, merely being a woman does not qualify one as a feminist. To be a feminist, you don’t even have to be female. What it does mean, though, when someone calls themselves a feminist is that they've made a firm commitment to advocating for equal treatment among all, regardless of gender, color or nationality. Feminism respects and elevates the conditions of all human beings — and that includes political prisoners.
Therefore, despite assertions by the Trump administration, the appointment of Gina Haspel as acting Director of the CIA may be indicative of many things, but it is not at all indicative of their embracing feminism. In fact, their insistence on appointing Haspel as CIA director indicates nothing more than their profound xenophobia and hatred of those who don't fit their category of cis and white.
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Gina Haspel dispatched to a private prison in Thailand that went by the code name "Cat's Eye." This began Haspel's involvement with an elite group of counterterrorism agents. Her interrogation ability in this type of detention program skyrocketed her career — until stories about the torturous techniques used at such prisons came to light.
Some of the techniques Haspel used have been widely condemned as torture by the international community. Haspel approved of methods such as waterboarding, where an individual is strapped to a board with their feet raised, head down, bound so that they cannot move, and then has their face covered and repeatedly doused with water. This simulates the experience of drowning, causing individuals to gag and panic while being held down helplessly and leaving them with severe psychological scars.
Other torture techniques included sleep deprivation, binding prisoners for hours with no way to move or use the restroom and complete social isolation comparable to solitary confinement — but for months on end.
If any single act speaks volumes about Haspel's lack of feminism, it is in her treatment of Fatima Boudchar. Boudchar was a pregnant Libyan woman who was kidnapped while fleeing the Gadhafi regime and sent to the private “black spot” prison Haspel oversaw. Boudchar was bound to a table and unable to move for up to 14 hours per day, which put immense pressure on the superior vena cava, one of the central veins responsible for providing the fetus with blood. At birth — which Boudchar was forced to go through alone while in custody — her baby weighed only four pounds.
It’s arguable that few things are more inherently female than the act of bringing new life into this world. That Haspel would allow any woman to give birth alone in a sere prison cell, with no comforts nor medical assistance, shows the anti-humanitarian and anti-feminist streak in Haspel's nature. It boggles the mind to imagine any woman forcing another woman to go through labor and childbirth alone — not to mention torturing her during the pregnancy.
So, Sarah Huckabee Sanders' Tweet that, “Any Democrat who claims to support woman's empowerment and our national security but who opposes her nomination is a total hypocrite,” only illustrates Sanders' own hypocrisy. Likewise, Trump's assertion that Haspel is the most qualified candidate, with the surprised addendum of "and she's a woman," oozes hypocrisy.
We should not be opposing this woman because she is female, but because she espouses ideas that are anything but feminist.
Indeed, it is the prerogative of all true feminists to oppose such a nomination. Feminism isn't a matter of having lady parts — it’s a broader philosophy based upon true gender equality, humanism and equal rights for all. Stripping rights from people based on the fact that they were unlucky enough to become political prisoners is the antithesis of what a real feminist would do. A vote for Haspel is not a vote for feminism.