Seriously, it doesn’t have to be this difficult

I heard something in passing a few days ago that I didn’t think much of at the time, but the more I thought about it, the more it festered. I heard someone say that women are not permitted to participate in actual combat in the United States military. I thought, ‘no…that’s ridiculous. Who would make a stupid rule like that?’

Turns out, stupid rules like that do exist.

It has only been since 1985 that women have been allowed to serve on submarines. NINETEEN EIGHTY FIVE. I mean, okay, the first time ANYONE served on a submarine was in the early teens of the twentieth century, but NINETEEN EIGHTY FIVE, people. Do you even know how ridiculous that is?

I don’t want to get too sidetracked here on the basic ridiculousness of sexism, because I could just go on mocking folks all day. You know, for a *change*.

Anyway, I’d heard the claims that women cannot match men when it comes to physical exertion and ability. I’d heard the goofy idea that men in the military would be ‘adversely affected’ in seeing a female comrade fall to enemy fire. I’d even heard that womens’ roles are as nurturers; that we need women in order to raise up the next generation (of soldiers, presumably). And that allowing women (and, for that matter, gay folks) would somehow cause military units to crumble with diversity.

In my naïveté, I thought these arguments were just simple smokescreens for basic sexism. And they may well be. But there are people who actually *believe* this crap. That always comes as a surprise to me.

I was sent this article which discusses a recent move in the US military to lift bans on women participating in combat. And something really struck me when I read:

Americans will not tolerate large numbers of women coming home in body bags.

And here it is.

Do you value your sons so little? Are your daughters more worthy than your sons? Because if this is the case, I think you’re doing it wrong. On one hand, the right-wing says that women are content in their subordinate roles as caregivers and mothers. That it’s okay to have special rules for women because they’re just not as capable as men. So on one hand, they *devalue* women. But then they turn around and say, “No no no, you cannot let women get killed in combat. We won’t stand for that.”

So you’re fine with indentured servitude (proscribed roles for women), but you’re not okay with freedom (womens’ right to choose how to serve their country). Gotcha. You know, that’s kind of backward to the way you’re portrayed in the media.

But I want to get back to something here. It’s okay to send dozens of young men home in bags, but you take a step back when there’s a possibility some of those body bags contain uteri? “Well, no”, you’ll say, “ideally we don’t want ANYONE to have to give their life for their country.”

But, in essence, when someone DOES give their life for their country, better it be a young man. I do not see the logic here.

Rick Santorum, who is a raging madman (in fact, I usually refer to him as Rick Sanatorium), claims that the reason it would be a mistake to ALLOW women full participation in the military is because it would be really difficult emotionally for male soldiers to see a female soldier’s life threatened, and that reaction would be distracting from their missions. Because, you know, watching an enemy of the state blow your buddy’s brains out in front of you is fine as long as your buddy is another dude.

More mind-boggling are the comments of one of the people who served on a task force that studied the role of women in the military in 1992. Elaine Donnelly said:

it’s a cultural issue and that Santorum’s concerns are legitimate. The commission voted against sending women in close combat because “that would like being an endorsement of violence against women,” she said.

*FACEPALM*

No, really. Go back and read that again.

You cannot allow women in the military because that means our country supports violence against women. We also support violence against men, but that doesn’t matter because men can take care of themselves. You know, it’s too bad there aren’t people who are opposed to violence. Then maybe we wouldn’t NEED a military.

I feel this is a good time to point out that Ms. Donnelly is the president of the Center for Military Readiness. While I’m sure this is a worthy organisation, I can’t help but imagine it as a bunch of super jumpy people in a high-tech room, all of whom have had WAAY too much coffee. And they all just cop these ninja poses every now and then and shout: “ARE YOU READY? **ARE YOU READY!!!???**”

She (Donnelly) goes on to say:

If a soldier is injured and his support soldier is a woman, “that man dies because she’s not going to be able to meet the physical requirements and it doesn’t matter how brave and courageous she is. … We respect women in the military but when you’re talking about direct ground combat, if you start making diversity the most important factor, then you put lives at risk.”

As my good friend Ferlak pointed out, the army has combat readiness tests, and if you don’t pass those, you don’t get to do frontline combat, period. Regardless, one would assume, of your gender. Trust me, if you were on the front lines with His Nibs and I, which of us would you want dragging your shellshocked arse back behind a tank and out of the line of fire? [Note: you want me.] [Also note: I’m a chick.]

I should just like to point out that I am of the extreme left-wing socialist bent who is opposed to the need for a military period. This doesn’t mean I think there are times when military action isn’t the fastest and most effective way of protecting people against despotic military regimes, genocide, and all sorts of evil acts performed by men and women on one another. I *despise* the taking of human lives, no matter in whose name it is done. But here’s the ticket….I despise the taking of male lives *just as much* as I despise the taking of female lives.

It is no more wrong to hurt a woman than it is to hurt a man.

And this archaic, backward policy that the Pentagon is trying to change (that of women not being permitted to serve in combat roles) needs to go. It needs to recognise the value of *all* lives, regardless of their gender.

Give some more credit to the people who *do* choose to serve in the military (I am certainly not one of them), and in their ability to do their jobs, and to do them well, regardless of their chromosomes.

Also, my American friends, PLEASE don’t elect a nutbar. PLEASE don’t elect Rick Sanatorium. Or Mitt Romney (HIS NAME IS MITT. MITT. HOW CAN YOU, WITH A STRAIGHT FACE, EVEN CONSIDER SAYING “President MITT”?). Or Newt Gingritch. HIS NAME IS NEWT. NEWT. All three of these men are dangerous to freedom, liberty, and, to be honest, common sense. Some of them are dangerous to sanity. In exchange, I will do my very best to try to get Stephen Harper out of office here at home.

cenobyte
cenobyte is a writer, editor, blogger, and super genius from Saskatchewan, Canada.

20 Comments

  1. Most of the women I know are not physically stronger than most of the men I know, but the hand-to-hand combat is a little ridiculous because it’s all guns and bombs mang.

    I think it should be illegal for everyone to kill in combat. Punishable by court-martial. Why do we have special rules, killing for peace is like eating for skinny, to not use the fucking for virginity analogy (oops). Armed combat is just the malevolent world dictators’ way of bullying each other with army men under dubious cause, usually resources these days under other pretexts if that wasn’t always the case, while keeping down the general world populace, by eliminating those stupid enough to sign up for the military (those who buy in are generally marginalized populations looking for any number of things from the military, including wage, food, and dignity).

    Benevolent world dictator solution: give them all tasers and protective armor and poorly-made feather pillows. Problem solved.

    Or what about if all countries could only conscript grammas? Who would want their gramma going to war?? And seriously, as if the grammas wouldn’t all just talk things out over tea and get the shit sorted. We need to return North America to a land run by grandmothers, as it was pre-contact.

    That is all.
    xo. <–kisses and hugs not punchs and thugs

    1. I don’t think I’ll go so far as to say that people who volunteer to serve in the military are idiots. Nor that the majority of them are marginalised populations. I mean, I don’t know enough of the actual demographics of military participants to say that with any actual conviction, but it doesn’t *sound* right.

      I have the utmost respect for people who choose to serve. I don’t want them to have to. But, for whatever reason (most likely economic), we have armed conflict all over the world. And it just seems a little tongue-in-cheek to say that if we just ignore the ‘bullying dictators’, they’ll go away.

      THAT BEING SAID. I, for one, would GLADLY send my grandmother into conflicted areas. She’d just confuse the shit out of everyone and they’d be spending so much time telling her they weren’t hungry for cucumber sandwiches that they’d forget that they were supposed to be killing people.

      1. you cant say the majority of our forces ar idiots not on my watch. shut up with your granparents they would be disgusted with you. (and yours)

  2. I just giggle every time Rick Santorum’s (giggle) name comes up due to what it means as a slang term. And you can find clips of news agencies riffin’ on the joke, using terms like ‘sliding into a mess’ and ‘frothing with righteous fury.’ All kinds of fun stuff. *giggle*

  3. IF, and I stress IF, everyone can meet the minimum standards, then I don’t care if women participate in “traditional” roles. I just want to know that when its my fat unconscious ass hanging out on the battlefield or atop a burning building, that the soldier or firefighter on duty, can haul me to safety.

    When I did serve in uniform back in the day, it was a two-tiered system. In order to pass basic training, the minimum standards were along the lines of “run 2.4km in under 11 minutes, do 30 pushups in 60 seconds and 25 situps in 60 seconds” and if you failed to meet these standards, you were sent home.

    Unless you were female of course. For female trainees it was “run 2.4km in 13 min, do 5 pushups/60 sec and 5 situps/60 sec”. AND if you still couldn’t meet the standards, you got a mercy pass and could stay to complete and graduate from basic training. For that matter, short of shooting your training sergeant and cadre, a female trainee was only sent home if she requested to drop out.

    Rationale was, the military had to be more female friendly and allow the ladies an equal opportunity to serve. I’m hoping that for actual combat readiness there were tighter restrictions as to my knowledge, we do have front line female combatants in the Canadian Forces. Back then though, most of us dreaded the idea of having a lot of females in our squad, especially if they couldn’t meet the basic physical requirements. 10 mile marches in full kit aren’t fun, especially when you have to carry Pvt. Jane Doe’s rifle and pack too, because she can’t keep up. And to be fair, its no fun carrying Pvt. John’ Doe’s rifle and pack either, but if he can’t keep up on the next march, he gets the boot. Ol’ Jane is still there until she decides to quit.

    For those ladies that could meet the minimum, and in some cases, outperform their male counterparts, no one ever seemed to have an issue…mostly because they could do their share of the work.

  4. Not sure for either USF or CF. The general theory is, whether you are an admin clerk, chaplain (yes, really…they get the same basic training), diesel mechanic or artillery gunner, everyone gets the same basic military training. In a battle situation, obviously the frontline troops will have received the most combat training, but if things get dire, then the reserve troops will be the “cooks ‘n clerks” because they should still know how to follow orders and fire a rifle.

    Even using the infantry as an example (whose job description is “to close with and destroy the enemy”) while you get your basic training, then your combat training, you won’t be able to go on deployment unless you take yet more training and pass more criteria.

    Think of football as a very simplified example. Maybe you got your Pop Warner education in the US, or RMF in Regina (basic training) and are good enough to get high school and collegiate ball (combat training). It doesn’t mean you are going to get to play pro-ball unless you make it through a teams training camp. At each stage, the rules tend to be “meet the minimum standard, earn a spot at the table”.

    At the higher “professional” levels, being fair and equitable doesn’t mean much. Best of the best is who should earn the spot. Fair and equitible means you were given an opportunity to participate and hopefully excel. It doesn’t mean Patrick Thibeault gets equal playing time with Matt Dominguez just because ol’ Pat “is Canadian, and gosh, does he ever try hard” :)

  5. Israeli women are in combat and kick ass.

    Also-too sadly it is not even the “enemy forces” that women in the American army need protecting from it is their own officers and the crazy “army-wife” rape culture that exists and is covered up.

    I think we really need to step up our “war with robot soldiers” technology. So that we can soon have war against the robots, and at least all be on the same side for once. If the easily defeated alien race with advanced technology won’t fight us to unite this planet we should get to work on doing it ourselves.

    On a related note, I think it is much more likely that an alien race would come and try and hire us to be soldiers than try and take over our world. I mean really anyone monitoring our radio transmissions must think we are the most badass race in the galaxy. (either that or send the advanced alien technology version of a cruise missile to kill us off before we spread…)

  6. Israel is the only country that has mandatory military service for women (iirc). And while women may serve in combat roles over there, its only been fairly recent that Israel allowed them full access to all branches of the military. I’ll have to do some research to back this, as I’m just going from memory. I do recall that there is still some debate over whether they should be allowed to participate in frontline combat or not though. If there are female IDF combatants, I would presume that it wasn’t specifically planned that way.

    Having said that, I have a lot of respect for the type of training the IDF gets. Politics aside, they are definitely doing something right over there to maintain their combat effectiveness given their size, potential threats, and access to “toys”. They tend to use the right combination of tactics and equipment to field an effective force. And any lady who completes that training is going to have quite the skillset.

  7. I think this partially serves as good reminder that the patriarchy is about the *patriachs* benefiting, not men in general. Women are valuable property to be safeguarded, but young men are disposable competition. There is a continuous thread throughout society expecting men to lay down their lives for women and generally valuing the lives of young men less than that of women (old men are different, of course, they’ve proven their worth!). Even a lot of people who think of themselves as feminists will pretty quickly dive into the “women and children first!” rhetoric (I don’t actually disagree with the children part of that, of course).

    We are a long way, as a society, from believing “It is no more wrong to hurt a woman than it is to hurt a man.” Watch the reactions of your friends and social circle next time you hear of a male friend being hit or otherwise physically assaulted, and compare it to when a female friend is physically assaulted, even if the female is bigger, stronger, or otherwise better able to handle herself. (And I assert there is a thin line between a protective reaction because of concern and a protective reaction because of territoriality)

    As I mentioned on twitter, I’m surprised you find this surprising though. Disappointing, sure, but surprise that the military is sexist seems out of place. Especially in the American military, which is well-known to be conservative and dominated by evangelical interests.

    It would be sensible to just have the same physical standards across the board, so long as the physical standards are actually applicable – sometimes there is a variance in standards between men and women because the test isn’t *really* “Can you run X distance in Y time?” but instead “Are you in reasonably good shape?” The first question can be different for men and women while still giving the same answer to the second question, and I think that is important to remember. Other things should probably be more absolute standards, of course. I don’t think it takes a genius to figure these kinds of things out but, then, it usually really isn’t about the standards, eh?

    1. Maybe ‘surprised’ isn’t the right word, but I was absolutely shocked when I found out that this amount of blatant sexism is not only still tolerated, but promoted.I mean, it just reinforces my already strongly-held belief…no…my hard KNOWLEDGE that feminism isn’t obsolete. That although yes, we’ve “come a long way, baby”, we still have SO far to go.

      I assumed there would be sexism in the military. I am shocked that it’s as blatant as “women are not PERMITTED to do this job.” It’s not like having a penis or a Y chromosome HELPS.

  8. Remember, though – patriarchy says laying down your life for your country makes you a hero, and that fighting and violence equals strength. Women can’t do these things because women can’t be heroes, and are not strong. It’s not that men’s lives are undervalued, far from it. It’s that dying in service equals glory, and only men are allowed to earn glory. Women are allowed to earn a diamond, and I think you know how.

    Additionally, just because someone honestly, genuinely believes that a thing is true doesn’t mean they’re not also being super crazy sexist. :)

    1. Patriarchy also says being an obedient housewife, daughter, etc, makes you a precious treasure beyond compare. I don’t think either that nor the label of “hero” are anything more than tools of manipulation used to get people to do things that are against their own self-interest. A woman who doesn’t let her sexuality be controlled by the PTB is a slut, a man who doesn’t let his own life and capacity for violence be controlled is a coward.

      But, then, I don’t think patriarchy is really at all possible to separate from hierarchy and class warfare, either. Intersectionality and all that.

  9. I’m finding it harder and harder to care much about how ‘backwater’ things are/are becoming/may become if X is elected in the US. Everyday it’s something else. I know I probably should care more, but I increasingly find myself shaking my head and thinking, “Not MY country”. Perhaps I’m more worried about what the ‘Harper Government’ will do next now that they have a majority?

    Having said that, I agree that feminism is completely relevant today, and in serious need of a booster shot south of the border.

  10. I’m starting to worry what kind of damage would be done with both a Republican president in the states and Harper up here. Is it too great a leap of the imagination that they’ll start yet another unwinnable war against an abstract concept to go with their wars on drugs and terror: the war on sin?

    1. Considering how much the War on Drugs has helped the spread of drug use, I could almost look forward to a War on Sin…

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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