According to Melissa in the Doonesbury strip of two days ago, 20% of women soldiers have been assaulted. Since the U.S. Army currently has approximately 85,000 women soldiers (15.5% of the total active-duty enlistment, not counting reserves) we are talking about (among the current enlisted) 16,800 incidents of – what? Forcible rape? Improper touching? Lewd remarks? Making a pass? Being talked to harshly? We need some definitions here. (I’ve done some Google research regarding a description of “Sexual Assault.” Definitions differ widely. Some advocacy organizations by their definition sets the sexual assault bar, in my opinion, fairly low – an unwelcomed request for a date could qualify.)`Gifted storyteller he is, it’s not always obvious just where Garry Trudeau aims to take his characters, but I’m wondering if the character Melissa “Mel” Wheeler is turning out as he originally intended. Maybe Melissa is supposed to be an example of a self-reliant woman soldier overcoming adversity in a hostile environment. Instead, I see the character as basically a self-pitying martyr with personal issues that undoubtedly predated her sexual assault. Let us not forget that Melissa is in her current position voluntarily – Trudeau did have his character reenlist after the post-assault counseling. If Melissa were a real-life person, we should all be grateful that in Afghanistan she was in a rear support team and not in a position to hold an automatic assault rifle.
May 3, 2017