Cruelty culture spreads fear in sublime city; CHARLESTON DAYS

Why is it that unspeakable things tend to happen in the most sublime settings? Charleston, I can assert with authority after almost six years of living in America, is the most beautiful city in the land.

And on the northern edge of its historic district lies a group of austere, white-painted buildings, crenellated like a Moorish castle, clustered around a vast green parade ground lined with palms and oaks. These are the barracks of the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. By the standards of such institutions, it too is an architectural ornament. What goes on there, however, is not so much beautiful as bestial.

For two years the once all-male Citadel has been attempting to comply with a Supreme Court order that it must admit women. In 1995 Shannon Faulkner, who sued to force open its doors, became its first female cadet. She lasted a week, broken not by the traditionally brutal treatment of new entrants but by isolation.

In August 1996, four more women enrolled. This week two resigned, unable to put up with "hazing", or persecution, that included physical assault, being drenched in nail varnish remover which was then set alight and being forced to drink tea till they threw up. And straightforward sexual harassment.

Now, "hazing" is illegal. But in truth it is just an outgrowth of the Citadel's strange, savage culture since it was founded in in 1842 to "graduate young men who have been taught the high ideals of honour, integrity, loyalty and patriotism". Duty, says the sign in the barracks courtyard, "is the most sublime word in the English language", to be instilled in what a visitors' guide calls "a unique holistic and adversarial environment".

As euphemisms go, that takes some beating. The freshman enters this military academy knowing his life for a year will be, by deliberate design, not so much adversarial as hellish. He will be bullied, intimidated and humiliated, all in the aim of moulding the perfect soldier - disciplined, unselfish, and utterly obedient. Small wonder one in five drops out during year one.

Now, one may well ask, why should any woman in her right mind want to submit to this perverted warrior culture? Her right to do so is beyond constitutional dispute. But boys will be boys. And after spending two years and millions of dollars to keep them out, the Citadel would not make it easy.

True, it has gone through the motions. Panic buttons have been installed in the quarters of female cadets. Two male cadets have been suspended, and 11 may be disciplined after the latest incidents. "The Citadel's future is co-educational," its interim president Clifton Poole assured us this week. But, he added even more revealingly, it did not need "outsiders telling us what to do".

Charleston may seem dreamy and sensuous, suspended amid marshes. But only with conformity and discipline can the beauty of old streets be maintained. Every half-hidden garden, every portico and patio must be perfect, preserving the order of a vanished world. Be it a woman at the military college, or graffiti on the walls of an East Battery mansion gazing out towards the Atlantic Ocean - the sacrilege is the same.

South Carolina was the first state to withdraw from the Union in 1860, and hothead Southern soldiers fired the first shots of the American Civil War. And in a way, you feel, it has never really ended. Back to Charleston, decides Rhett Butler at the end of Gone With The Wind, "where there's still a little bit of grace and charm left". Indeed there is. Alas, however, not at the Citadel.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?