Monday, October 13, 2008

Combat Zones and Women

"Women are already serving in combat [in Iraq and Afghanistan] and the current policy should be updated to reflect realities on the ground."
-Wendy Morigi, Senator Obama's national security spokeswoman.

Obama is also for women registering for the draft, even though he (and McCain) do not agree with the draft being used to mandate military service. I'm for that; I have no problem with women registering for something men have to register for. And I'm all for women being acknowledged as being in combat zones and in danger and paid accordingly, both in respect and money.

I admit to liking the idea of women registering for the draft for a couple of reasons, and they are all based in my feminism. While I would rather work to eliminate the Selective Service system, I do believe that as long as caveats and special conditions are granted to women on the basis of gender, we will never truly gain equality - in society or in the hearts and minds of its people. Barring women from serving in the armed forces is partially rooted in gender roles; I can't even begin to count the number of times I have seen editorials and letters to the editor decrying some child's mother being sent off to a war zone, to be placed in danger, with nary a letter about the fathers of those very same children. Mothers are both ignored and deified in that way. I don't want husbands or fathers being sent off to die; but as long as they are, I think wives and mothers should also be allowed to serve without recrimination and without cries about the children. I do believe women who look to serve in the military should be subject to the same combat ready requirements as men; this shouldn't be gym class, where my running the mile in 13 minutes counted the same as a boy my same age running the mile in 11 minutes. In a war zone, the enemy isn't going to care that I should have a two minute buffer. At the same time, the belief that women are wholly incapable of reaching those heights has to be eliminated as well. Not every woman would be able to; I certainly couldn't. But not every man can perform at those levels either.

The military needs to be reformed in certain respects, and in one of those respects is not only changing its Old Boys' Club feel but also understanding the changing nature of troops and the changing role of women in society. Our job is no longer to be ready with the hot toddy and a Times Square kiss after the boys come home from war. We've moved beyond that, and women who excel in the armed forces should not only be acknowledged but allowed to openly excel in the first place.


John said...

I think that one of the most effective ways to prevent another draft is to require women to register for it as well as men. Maybe it's a generalization, but I'm willing to bet there are fewer female jingoes than male ones, and the rest would be inclined to push for other alternatives to war when they know they might be forced to fight for a war they don't agree with.

As for how it would work, Rick Veitch put out an interesting comic called Army@Love which imagines a coed armed forces that has embraced the web2.0 generation and marketed to the 18-24 crowd the way consumer products and services are marketed. Read about it here.

petpluto said...

I think you're partially right; but I think the overall push for war comes not from the poor (both, at times, in luck and in monetary considerations) people who get conscripted to fight but from the people higher up the chain.

I do think having women register for the draft will, even if only in the short term, make it that much more unlikely that the draft is ever reinstated because people who run the military would be loathe to send women in combat zones. But I think women have always protested wars, and been ignored at the same rate men who protest wars have been. Plenty of women flooded the streets in protest of Vietnam.

What we need are less jingoistic (and perhaps they are women, but regardless we need more of them too!) people in the high places who initially decide on a trajectory. Because those who aren't Fortunate Sons (and now Fortunate Daughters) never really get the opportunity to truly make a decision about the matters their lives are laid down for.