"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Women In The Military–Feminist Objections

Strange as it may seem, American feminists are lining up to oppose the deployment of women in the front lines.  This position is strange for because for over 40 years since the beginning of the modern feminist movement, women have been arguing that they are the equals of men, and therefore should be denied no opportunity available to their male colleagues.  In the early days of feminism, women rejected biological determinism.  Yes, they said, we have babies, hot flashes, and we can’t seem to hold back our tears, but these are but inconsequential side effects of X chromosomes and have nothing to do with social, physical, intellectual, or economic abilities. 

One of the most ridiculously memorable events of that period was ‘The Battle Between The Sexes” when in 1973 Billie Jean King, a top-ranked tennis professional played Bobby Riggs, a 55 year-old former mid-level patzer.  It was Hollywood hype, grand entertainment, and pure American Idol grandiose marketing, but there was still a conviction that this showdown actually meant something.  Men wanted this uppity woman to get thrashed; and women wanted to blow the balled asshole off the court.

The conviction of men was such that they overlooked the fact that King was a big, strong woman in her prime; and Riggs was a paunchy, creaky version of what he might have been. He was a man, after all, and there was no way that a muscled, testosterone-rich, aggressive, competitive male, however diminished by age and disrepair, could possibly lose.  If he no longer had a devastating serve or powerful backhand down the line, he could certainly intimidate the girl, forcing her into errors, and hopefully reduce her to tears. I don’t remember who ‘won’ nor did I care -  the event was as staged as a bout of professional wrestling – but a lot of people tuned in.

The Seventies was a heady time for women who got their first whiff of liberation from male dominance, and we men knew they meant business:

In the Seventies we knew exactly what Feminism was – it was a militant movement of women demanding in society’s laws, traditions, customs, and attitudes.  There was no Right Wing, Left Wing, or Moderate Wing of this particular party – it was all militantly angry, hostile, and incessant in its attacks on patriarchy, male dominance, and maleness itself.  Men were the enemy, pure and simple.  They had enslaved women since the first monkey-man dragged a woman by her hair into the bushes, had his way with her, and then forced her to clean up the cave; and it was time for this to stop.  We knew that women meant business.  They even had an IRA-style military wing which – it was reported – would stop at nothing short of physical emasculation.  (Rebranding Feminism, Uncle Guido’s Facts 12.7.12)

Of course most women subscribed only to the fundamental feminist principle of social equality, who lived happily married lives, and left the take-no-prisoners fight to their more aggressive sisters.  These wives loved and needed men, but did their bit to demand more male participation at the kitchen sink.  Taking out the garbage was simply not enough, they insisted.  It was about time that men changed diapers, did the wash, and – mirabile dictu – clean the toilet.

I had a close friend who was dubbed The Phantom by her male colleagues because she combed the Washington Post and New York Times for the slightest sexist reference, and fired off letters to the editors.  One or two of her incensed letters were published, but most were tossed in the trash by male editors who, her female colleagues concluded, must have assumed that she was hysterical.

During the Seventies women chucked the trappings of traditional femininity – stopped shaving their legs and armpits, wore jackboots and flannel and sported butch hairstyles – and de-gendered the playroom. If there were dolls, strollers, and cribs in the playroom, they were for their sons.  They were continually surprised that the boys ripped the heads off the dolls, turned the cribs over and made forts out of them, and had stroller fights. Mothers were equally surprised that their daughters paid no attention whatsoever to the toy bulldozers, tractors, and dump trucks given to them for Christmas.  They made dolls out dish towels, put their ‘babies’ to bed in home-made crèches, and nursed and rocked these laundry clumps just as lovingly as if they had been real dolls.

Gradually women came to accept the facts – they weren’t as strong as men, couldn’t bench press 1000 lbs. but at least could be proud of the Soviet ‘women’ pumping big-time iron on the Olympic stage.  OK, few American women had so totally given up their feminine upbringing to want to look like these mustachioed Bulgarians; but still, you had to admire them:

Bulgarian Weightlifters Sweep European Silver, Bronze

Later women came to accept the fact equal opportunity was the real goal of feminism, and that women could relax and go back to frilly things as long as they had access to the boardroom.  A few years ago I sat in a meeting at my consulting firm, and the women were all dressed, as my mother would say, ‘provocatively’.  I couldn’t believe the bounty – low cleavage, short skirts, sexy hairdos, and heels.  Of course in our de-sexed workplace, you could look but not touch.  Even for an appreciative smile you could be hauled in front of the zaftig Soviet-style PC harassment monitor on the third floor.

It was a good time to be a women, or so it seemed to the male outsider.  Women could dress and behave however they wanted, assured that any unwanted advances would be severely punished.  They could pick and choose whomever they wanted to flirt and cavort with.  They were pushing up against the glass ceiling and finding that it was not so impermeable, and while there were still plenty of misogynists around, they were troglodytes, worms, and throwbacks. Title IX was the hallmark of equal opportunity for women who long ago had given up the idea of physical matchups.  Equivalence was the keyword, and women could compete at elite levels for equal pay and consideration.

The military was one of the last bastions of male dominance.  Although women could serve in the military, they were always second-class citizens, serving behind the lines while their male counterparts fought for glory.  When would women finally be shown the respect they deserved and the recognition the were owed for their patriotism and courage?  That is, when would they be eligible to take a bullet in the chest?

Finally, President Obama, paying political tribute to the women who helped elect him, removed this final barrier.  Women would now be able to serve on the front lines.

You would think that feminists would be rejoicing.  They are, however, protesting this liberal, conscientious decision by the President.  Why, you might reasonably ask, since feminists have been fighting on their own front lines for gender equality for so long. For one thing say the feminists, women provide the necessary antidote, balance, counterpoint to male aggression and depredation.  If it were not for women, these feminists argue, the world would be an even more violent, untamed, and brutal place.  The words of Virginia Woolf still resonate:  

Though many instincts are held more or less in common by both sexes, to fight has always been the man's habit, not the woman's. Law and practice have developed that difference, whether innate or accidental. Scarcely a human being in the course of history has fallen to a woman's rifle; the vast majority of birds and beasts have been killed by you, not by us; and it is difficult to judge what we do not share.

How then are we to understand your problem, and if we cannot, how can we answer your question, how to prevent war? The answer based upon our experience and our psychology—Why fight?—is not an answer of any value. Obviously there is for you some glory, some necessity, some satisfaction in fighting which we have never felt or enjoyed. Complete understanding could only be achieved by blood transfusion and memory transfusion—a miracle still beyond the reach of science (Three Guineas, quoted by Noah Berlatsky, The Atlantic)

Kathleen Parker, writing in the Washington Post (1.26.13) take another tack – women are simply not the aggressive type:

Unbeknown perhaps to many civilians, combat has a very specific meaning in the military. It has nothing to do with stepping on an IED or suffering the consequences of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It means aggressively engaging and attacking the enemy with deliberate offensive action, with a high probability of face-to-face contact.

If the enemy is all around you — and you need every available person — that is one set of circumstances. To ask women to engage vicious men and risk capture under any other is beyond understanding. This is not a movie or a game. Every objective study has argued against women in direct combat for reasons that haven’t changed.

This is what makes us men, often amused by but sympathetic to Feminism and the Women’s Movement, wince.  Either women are equal to men or they are not.  Since they have pushed, protested, demanded, complained, and whined for so long, it is time to put up or shut up:

Heather Mac Donald at National Review, who declares with hyperbolic outrage that "the only reason to pursue [the policy of women in combat] is to placate feminism's insatiable and narcissistic drive for absolute official equality between the sexes." (Noah Berlatsky)

As always, there is a middle ground.  What kind of woman, after all, will willingly accept and embrace mortal combat?  Not the weak sisters to whom Parker refers, above, but some tough motherfuckers.  These women who self-select themselves for combat duty in infantry units will more than likely be the first over the hill, the ones who toss grenades into the machine-gun nest, who lay down withering fire as they charge enemy positions.  These women were the girls who opted for the guns, trucks, and bulldozers that their gender-sensitive mothers laid out for them at Christmastime; who played video games, and stood up to bullies. 

The military is currently studying the operational implications of the President’s order, and it is obvious that women will not be routinely sent into combat as men are.  They will have the option to serve in forward units, a policy which will preserve the President’s intention for equal opportunity while assuring the most kill-hungry women to get a chance to take out the enemy. The women will be scary, and most of their male brothers-in-arms will be afraid of them.

But, oops, another little problem raised by Parker:

The threat to unit cohesion should require no elaboration. But let’s leave that obvious point to pedants and cross into enemy territory where somebody’s 18-year-old daughter has been captured. No one wants to imagine a son in these circumstances either, obviously, but women face special tortures. And, no, the rape of men has never held comparable appeal.

Yup, women need protection again.  Back to the drawing board.  Women have special needs – their femininity disqualifies them from service.  Please, spare me the anguish.  Rape is rape – as humiliatingly brutal, degrading, and dehumanizing for a man as a woman.  And while we’re at it, waterboarding, genital electroshock, psychological torture, getting prodded, reamed, sliced, and beaten are no fun for either men or women.

My conclusion? If women want to get chewed up by raking enemy fire, blown apart by IEDs, mutilated, maimed, traumatized, and debilitated; raped, abused, and tortured, go right ahead.  Not an option for every woman, certainly, but by all means let there be this golden opportunity for those tough women who can be called soldiers.

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