Thursday, January 24, 2013

feeling all combative about women in combat

Listening to people debate the pros and cons of allowing women in combat on KPCC this morning, the “con” arguments seemed to fall into two categories:

1) Women are weak.
2) Men are weak.

The anti-women-in-combat guy (I don’t know who he was—some conservative military dude, I guess) argued that women are physically weaker than men, and that no one will be content to have combat units that include only the .001 percent of women who can pass rigorous physical exams. Soon we’ll all turn into affirmative-action-lovin’ pansies and lower the standards. Presto, the terrorists will win.

He also concluded that men will freak the fuck out. Apparently they’ll be so protective of their female fellow soldiers that they’ll make irrational decisions when they see a woman bleed (not even period blood!). Or, they’ll get all rapey. At the very least, they’ll have affairs and the female soldiers will go home pregnant.

Also, WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN? He, or maybe a caller, envisioned a scenario in which a husband-and-wife combat soldier team both went off to war and both came home with PTSD. It was implied that they’d shoot their kids or abandon them while they went off on a drug binge together.

To all of this I say:

1) Women are strong.
2) Men are strong.

I’ve met people who claim that women could be as physically strong as men if we encouraged them to bulk up the way men do, but I for one don’t underestimate the reality of testosterone. Yeah, most women can’t bench press as much as most men can. But just as there are different kinds of emotional strength (I’m a fan of the crying-a-lot kind), there are different kinds of physical strength. Recently, I saw this cartoon:

Just because you use Comic Sans doesn't mean you don't have a good point to make.
I think it’s a little unfair, especially this particular flu season. But the point is, endurance counts for a lot. As much as I get tired of how our culture fetishizes childbirth…hello, childbirth!

Also, are we fighting with swords? Are we engaging gladiator-style wrestling matches? I don’t know a lot about guns, but it seems like women can pull a trigger as easily as men can.

While we’re generalizing about women, let’s generalize about men too. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that most of them aren’t rapists. I do have some qualms about the whole premise of military life, which is Be violent, but only when we say so. I don’t know how you can be programmed to dehumanize people, then go home and work in an office and love your wife and play with your kids. I think a lot of soldiers don’t know how they can do this either. But adding a couple of female combat soldiers to the mix isn’t going to change this. It’s not like your typical Army rapist is all, Well, I didn’t rape that woman who served my food or fixed my Humvee or sewed me up or policed the town. But this chick with the gun? Now it’s rapin’ time!

Use the buddy system, soldier.
Women are already in the military. Men adapted. Women adapted. It’s kind of what people do. There were and are affairs, but as far as I know, we haven’t lost any wars because of it. When you hear about our failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, “soldiers hooking up” is never on the list of causes.

I once heard someone say that the party line for all but the most rabid conservatives is: The last thing we did is okay, but this new thing we’re considering is crossing the line. Meaning domestic partnerships are fine, but gay marriage is craaaaazy. Or having women in the military is fine, but having women in combat is cr-five-A’s-zy. I guess having openly gay soldiers is fine now, because it already happened. I guess the possibility of them hooking up and fucking up “unit cohesion” is no longer an issue (because it never was).

Which brings me to THE CHILDREN. Sometimes when I’m freaking out about a possibility, I remind myself how many things would have to be true in order for that possibility to happen. Let’s say, just to pluck an example from the air totally at random, I was afraid of dying of breast cancer. I would have to get screened AND diagnosed AND it would have to spread AND there would have to be no treatment that could help me. Even when a couple of those things turn out to be true, they’re usually not all true. And even if they were all true for me, they wouldn’t be true for everyone on a mass scale, and America would go on, which is what the military is worried about.

In this scenario a woman signs up for combat duty AND her husband does too AND they have kids AND they both come home with PTSD AND neither of them gets treated. If this is such a rampant problem that we need to exclude women from combat, I guess we also need to exclude single dads. And gay military couples with children. Certainly that would be easier than providing good psychological services, just as it would be easier to exclude women than to teach men not to rape. I mean, I’m not being sarcastic here—it would be easier and cheaper to just exclude women. But it would also be wrong.

Excuse me for trotting out a tired argument here, but aren’t we fighting to protect, like, liberties and stuff? I.e. doing what’s not wrong? Just a crazy idea.


Tracy Lynn said...

"Or, they'll get all rapey." Most of the time, I am firm in my belief that I am the funniest person in the room, but this phrase made me laugh so hard that I dropped the iPad on the cat. I am totally stealing it.

Cheryl said...

My apologies to Kato. :-)

Claire said...

Women in combat means they get combat pay. It was cheaper when they could get injured or killed driving a truck that gets blown up but not technically be "in combat," and therefore receive none of those benefits for themselves or their families.

Rapists already exist in the military, but really, that's a man problem, not a female one.

Cheryl said...

Good point about the pay. I'm sure that in some smoky room, politicians are trying to figure out a way to outsource it all to China.