On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake and morally straight
--Boy Scout Oath
I knew I wouldn't be there to help ya along.
So I give ya that name and I said goodbye
I knew you'd have to get tough or die
And it's the name that helped to make you strong
--A Boy Named Sue, Johnny Cash
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman
--I Am Woman, Helen Reddy
It seems sensible and modern to allow women in the combat arms -- after all, we haven't exactly been Johnny-on-the-spot about according women their rights. It was less than 100 years ago U.S. women were given the vote, and grudgingly, at that. So Ranger seems positively Paleolithic when we oppose placing women on the Forward Line of Own Troops (FLOT), or whatever the equivalent is today. As a society, we look at Beyonce and Hillary (not at once) and figure, women can do anything, right?
Moreover, some argue that such a placement would simply be a repatriation (pardon the phrase) to a long-lost status, since women were once warrior princesses, right? But the reality of our lives today is far removed from those often incomplete and sometimes apocryphal tales. We will address this archetype later.
Our reality is that on the fields of athletic competition, men and women are separated in recognition of their different potentials. Title IX guaranteed girls could compete in sports to the degree that boys could, but their teams are gender-specific. When the feminists fronted the "Battle of the Sexes" in 1973 -- Billie Jean King against Bobby Riggs, 26 years her senior -- it was a put up, as the age gap could not possibly be overcome. Such showmanship should not be confused with the reality as played out in the Olympic games, where each sports competition is gender-specific.
One may argue for the politically-correct social-construction view of gender, but there is no confusing the proclivities of children at play. Even boys from the most pacifist families usually demand their toy guns, and girls are all about networking, communication and keeping their fictional houses in order. There is nothing inherently superior or inferior about either proclivity (see Tannen's, You Just Don't Understand
) -- it just is.
Girls join the Brownies and Girl Scouts; boys, the Boy Scouts. There are notions of honor and duty implicit in carrying on the sacred duty of these brotherhoods or sisterhoods. We will not argue about the effectiveness of such separation, but there is something in the sexes which enjoys the fraternity with its own, especially when conducting projects to which each group feels a certain affinity.
--even Samurai Girls are just girls, after all
The feminine warrior archetypes often include the martyr (Joan of Arc) or the helper, like Native Americans Pocahantas or Sacajawea. Their power is more at being faithful servants who facilitate communication. They may also be crusaders like Clara Barton or Carrie Nation - warriors for God and soul. The true strength vis-a-vis the male is held by the Siren-crone-witch archetype, but this is not a pretty face and it is often destructive, especially to the male. Hence, our glamorizing society doesn't have much use for them.
The female archetype we are most familiar with is the needy wench (Rapunzel, Snow White or Cinderella), or the religious "good woman" (unlike the "bad" ones who leads men astray, like our very own Eve.) In Christianity, Mary is revered for her long-suffering status and for abiding; she is not part of the Trinity (godhead), though she served as the vessel, midwifing Jesus into this world. The faithful sing hymns to her virginity, which implies she is good by virtue of not reveling in her true sex.
The feminine warriors we have access to in the media today are tarted-up Barbies
overlaid with deltoids, worthy of Hans'n Franz's designation,
"girly-men": Wonder Woman, Lara Croft -- Tomb Raider, Xena the Warrior
Princess, Japanese Manga, or Brave
(Pixar). They are either Eddie Bauer
Women on steroids, or they could be carrying Hello Kitty! purses across
their chest. Like "The Bride" in the film Kill Bill
they are striking a pose, and are fashion set pieces moreso than gritty warriors.
The BESM ("Big eyes, small mouth") fetish of Manga depicts the woman as
the baby doll of so many men's dreams: big baby eyes, and a small mouth
for ... whatever one would use a small mouth for.
It may smack of paternalism and Old Boy's club to suggest that women
ought not be on the FLOT, but we would not be
the only civilized nation to take this stance. We like being first, but being first is not always a good.
If the military institution is incapable of erasing the sexual subjugation of its service members while they not facing dire life-or-death scenarios, why would we imagine their burden would be any less so while facing challenges that already tax the frontiers of their brother's physical and psychological limits?
It seems cruel and inefficient, in the most pragmatic sense.
We are a free society, but we do not necessarily have liberal minds that are free from their apetitive animal desires and sense of entitlement and resentment and the whole lot of malignancies which plague our interpersonal relations.
Even the boxing ring has the Marquess of Queensbury rules to ensure a fair fight, yet have not demonstrated the attainment of any such set of intrinsic rules governing our congress between the sexes. We stumble through life haphazardly making decisions we hope will not be too detrimental, but it's mostly a crapshoot. At our best, respect is the watchword; all too often, we are sneaky animals looking for our best angle -- that goes for both men and women.
Recent scandals show putting women in the military is like putting Tweety bird in front of Sylvester the Cat with no cage door. The documentary "Invisible War"
confronts the culture of sexual assault in the military: "A female U.S. soldier in a combat zone is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire."
This is not some quaint relic of a Neanderthal past but your Army, today. Feminists say, don't cage us in or out, but it might just be an enlightened move of self interest to choose not to enter the boxing ring with the men when the gloves are off, and no holds barred.
Child psychologist Piaget argued for the necessity of the phase in which children would touch a hot stove and react to the pain, thereby learning an action not to repeat. Unfortunately, when it comes to the relations between men and women, we demonstrate no such ability to learn.
Putting the sexes into perhaps the most fraught situation a civilized society sanctions should not be a social experiment, and it is bound to not turn out well.
If placing women in the combat arms were a situational necessity (as in a young Israel, Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany) Ranger would support it. But we have a society of X-Box playing slobs just ripe for the picking (the draft) if we need to flesh out our military ranks.
We can barely face the returning caskets of our male soldier's bodies, and their presentation in the media is still fraught with indecision. Bad enough we accept our men may come on their shield -- will adding women into the fray reduce our anxiety and discomfort?
A woman, regardless of her designation on the masculinity index (she could be the most thoroughgoing XXY in the book), still holds the staff for her sex.
In her we see our mothers and every other woman who has nurtured us, as well as those for whom men hold (subliminal) destructive impulses. When she will be killed in action, we believe it will unleash a flurry of repressed responses.
Until such time as the sexes gain true parity, why would we add insult to injury, using women both as vessels for self-gratification and sending them off to be killed? Would we think it a good if women in Afghanistan went from being a handmaid to being fodder on the battlefield, before achieving full personhood?
Mind you, we are not nearly that bad, but we are not that evolved on this topic, either.
: A Room of Her Own, Finis.
Labels: female archetypes, gender equality, men and women, sex exploitation, sexual abuse in Army, women in combat arms, women in the military