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Comfort Women or Prostitutes?
Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist
Tenafly, NJ
Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dr. Patricia A. Farrell
 World War II ended some 68 years ago, but the psychological wounds of at least one group of women are still raw and painful and it has ignited both academic debate and, possibly, a bit of ethnocentrism. The women, all Korean or Chinese, were used as sexual "comfort women" for Japanese military personnel. The debate centers around how these women came to this situation.

The issue flared up most notably when two towns adjoining each other in New Jersey both decided that they wanted monuments to the women, but the choice of design and the wording on the works ignited a somewhat unexpected reaction.  Who were the groups and what were their objections and where did this originate?

First, let's just say that war isn't just hell, as someone said, it's a lasting hell for those who are involved in it and, especially so, for those who are forced into sexual slavery. A bit of history is needed here and you can also do some researching on your own to learn more about this and you will quickly see that there are many, many issues outside of sexual slavery here.

During WWII, the Japanese Imperial Army felt their war efforts could only benefit from the accommodation of their troops' sexual needs and the initial approach was to advertise in newspapers for women to work as sex workers for the military. This, according to assorted sources, worked fairly well for a short period of time. When the supply of women dried up, the military began to reach out to their occupied territories (China, Korea, the islands of the South Pacific and even European women in the area--most of the latter were prisoners).  Insufficient resources were quickly noted, so the next step was to either coerce, lie or kidnap women to work as "comfort women" in brothels run by the military.

The women were told they would make money for their families and would be employed as medical workers or in other jobs. They were, in fact, quickly forced into the brothels where they were systematically beaten and raped throughout the day and night.  All of this came out almost 25 years after the war had ended and the sources were from varied institutions, individuals and books (one of which was later found to be a work of fiction).

My blog today isn't about the memorial, which depicted a woman in Korean garb against a background of a Japanese flag with wording regarding the sexual slavery. You can imagine that it was the juxtaposition of the flag, the woman and the wording that inflamed community members. Some felt it opened old wounds, others that it demeaned instead of honoring the women and others felt it was a shame they wished to neither acknowledge, nor publicize.

The word ethnocentrism has to be used here because I believe that what was done in Korea, China and the territories and in the  prison camps showed a decided lack of seeing the women as human being. They were objects, inferior in two ways; gender and country of origin.  Nothing new, but we're talking about up to 200K women here who still carry the stigma of this assault on their bodies in the name of war victories. 

Wartime, according to sociology textbooks, requires that you develop a different mindset about your enemy. They are called WOGS (Worthy Oriental Gentlemen), GOOKS (from Korean word for "people"), Charlie (from Victor Charlie), or any nickname that dehumanizes and separates them into a lesser group than your's.  The idea seems to be that you can then kill, maim or destroy them and their homes with impunity.  When the war ends, however, what happens? You retain some of the stereotypes and the animus. You must because your actions are intolerable in a sane society. That may have become apparent in one of the towns with the monument exchanges.

The local newspapers provide a good piece of sociological or psychological research material regarding discrimination and I'm sure people will begin framing dissertations around this debate. Can you hate one day sufficient to kill or rape and then turn around and work cooperatively with this group?  Some comments in the papers were filled with remarks that refused to deal with the sexual slavery issue and, instead, insisted on blaming them as willing prostitutes. The letters I saw were not from anyone with an Asian name, so I don't believe they were entering comments here.

The letters are an example of cognitive dissonance where you change your beliefs to justify your actions to yourself. So, willing prostitutes of ongoing beatings and rape 24 hours a day even by the physician who examined them for VD? When they became pregnant, they were forced to have abortions.

And they were paid for these services how? No one addressed that. If they were prostitutes, don't they do it for pay rather than love for the enemy army that's occupying their country?

The issue pulled back the societal curtain that is meant to hide unsavory attitudes. I wonder if those who wrote these "Letters to the Editor" have given any thought to doing a re-evaluation of what they wrote.
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Name: Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D.
Title: Licensed Psychologist
Group: Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D., LLC
Dateline: Tenafly, NJ United States
Cell Phone: 201-417-1827
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