“Shocked, shocked,” by sight of female POWs
Collin Levey at the Wall Street Journal
: “Who among us was not pulled up short by the shocking and jarring image of a young woman suddenly taken prisoner by the Iraqis?
Answer: Those who were pulled up short for the last 20 years by the image of young women soldiers training next to men and marching in formation next to men; those who were pulled up short by the image of young women sailors serving on batttle ships and aircraft carriers; those who were pulled up short by the sight of female fighter pilots and female “generals”; those who were pulled up short by politicians’ routine references to “sending our sons and daughters in harm’s way”; and those who were pulled up short by the sight of young women kissing their husbands and children goodbye as they (the women, that is) went off to fight in foreign wars.
We who have known all along that women do not belong in the regular armed forces, period, are not surprised by the image of women POWs. But liberals and mainstream conservatives, who have all along regarded sex differences as being of no importance in the organization of human society, are suddenly “shocked, shocked” by one of the inevitable practical consequences of that belief.
Indeed, Americans are so deeply invested in the sex-equality imperative that even an intelligent social conservative such as Maggie Gallagher finds herself painfully confused by the issue of women in the military. In today’s New York Post, Gallagher, normally a decisively opinionated writer and intellectual, confesses her inability to resolve the conflict that she feels between women as soldiers and women as mothers:
But the majority of women in uniform are either single mothers like [Shoshana Johnson, the captured soldier in Iraq] or married to a fellow soldier. When they go to war, they make a sacrifice of a kind most men in uniform do not: They leave their babies and small children behind, with no parent to care for them. Their children are orphans for the duration; some will be orphans for the rest of their small lives. What do we make of this special female sacrifice?
… We are all in these women’s debt, because they have chosen to serve their country … As an American and a citizen, I honor their service.
As a mother and a woman I inwardly recoil. Don’t leave your babies, something within me cries, but to whom? Of course these mothers have no choice. They cannot desert their country.
Yet if manly honor has always depended on a willingness to die for one’s country, a woman’s honor has consisted in living for her children. Where in the logic of war is there room for that reality, the deepest truth I know?
I do not know how to reconcile these two levels. A man is more manly because he does a soldier’s work, but is a woman more womanly? Do I want a society in which other women admire mothers marching to war?
The battle resumes. Get back in your box, warring unseemly emotions.
[Maggie Gallagher, “When Mom’s an MIA,” New York Post, March 26, 2003.]
But of course there is no conflict here, except for social conservatives who recognize the fundamental social role of sex differences while still holding on to modern liberal notions of individualism and choice.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 26, 2003 12:37 PM | Send
I like Mark Helprin’s comment on this issue: “A country that sends its mothers, daughters and sisters to war is a sick country.”
“I like Mark Helprin’s comment on this issue: ‘A country that sends its mothers, daughters and sisters to war is a sick country.’ ” — Paul J. Cella III
Amen, and Amen, and Amen.
Would this be a good place to say that I can’t get enough of this blog?
I wish the two gentlemen writing it would post more items, and I thoroughly enjoy the commentary, but there is no blogroll listed. Could anyone suggest other blogs or sites with a similar outlook?
Thank you very much, Gracian. Unfortunately, the postings at VFR may actually be slowing up for the next couple of months, but after that there are thoughts of creating an expanded version of this website.
I don’t know what her conscious intentions are, but Miss Gallagher is saying as much as she can just now. It’s wartime and she has to “support our men and women in Iraq,” especially our men and women in Iraq who happen to be POWs. People would be outraged by any shadow of a hint that Shoshana Johnson is where she is because she did something that shouldn’t be done.
Post-1960s feminists diligently avoid making distinctions that are necessary if sensible judgments are to be made of their demands.
First, there are demands based on changes in technology that have made differences in strength irrelevant. These changes have increased the number of jobs, and their proportion to the total jobs in the whole society, that women can do as well as men. By ignoring the reason for this change, feminists can demand that, along with entrance into traditionally men’s occupations (which nobody objects to, except on grounds mentioned in point #3 below), women should also be able to become firefighters. As though anyone who values his life would welcome the sight of a female firefighter coming up the ladder to the fourth-floor window of a burning building to carry him to safety.
Second there are demands based solely on justice.
Disregarding the many arguments against women’s military service, feminists have demanded unisex military service on the ground that, unless women are allowed to enter all military occupations, they won’t be allowed to rise to general ranks. To which the sensible response is: “So?”
Third are demands aimed at destroying traditional family structures and roles. When encountering such demands, the targets of the propaganda are often confused, because they want certain advances in women’s freedom and status but don’t want to destroy the family, and they don’t know how to weigh costs and benefits. And when they mention that difficulty, the feminists accuse them of wanting to turn back the clock. The victims often don’t know how to respond to this deliberate conflation of discrete issues.
The refusal to make these distinctions is worth pointing out here because, when we’re confronted by feminists’ comments on the current situation in Iraq, we should be prepared to encounter this deliberate confusion of separate issues. We should know how to say we support demand A but that that doesn’t mean we also have to support demand B. And we should know how to add that support women’s right to become computer programmers doesn’t ipso facto entail support for their becoming fighter pilots.
Welcome to the brave new world of co-ed military units where double standards and lack of cohesion are the order of the day.
Just a quick point. In the last Gulf War, quite a few female military members prostituted themselves to any dogface that had the money. Also prostitution rackets sprang up in the rear areas to service the sexual needs of quatermasters and what not. All in the American spirit of free enterprise and military comradery, of course.
Not that ernstwhile cultural demolition experts care or anything.
From The Sun (UK): “A PRETTY 19-year-old country girl who joined the US Army to escape unemployment was feared to be the first woman soldier to die yesterday. Blonde Jessica Lynch was among 12 soldiers in a US supply convoy ambushed by Iraqi troops.”
Here’s the story with photo: http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2-2003132548,00.html
The “pretty” in the Sun article is code for “shouldn’t have been there.” That’s why the feminists are sure to attack the language used in the report and why it doesn’t bother me (a very old lady) one bit.
I consider myself fairly liberal, but I’ve long had problems with the expanding role of women in the military. Men and women are not equally endowed in all areas, especially physical strength. I grew up with a lot of brothers and found out the hard way that when they got to be about 12, the fights were no longer competitive. Technology has equalized a lot of things, but in areas requiring physical strength and stamina there’s no equalization.
For the most part, we’ve not had long difficult wars since the gender integration of the armed forces. This war may be an eye-opener for a lot of people; this may be the point where the theory hits the fan.
Pray for all our young people in the armed forces.
It’s not that I disagree with your post, which you express very well, but I think it needs to be taken further.
Even if weaponry could be designed to be comfortably handled by women, there would still be grounds to oppose women in the military.
Ultimately, I think the question is whether you can accept the idea that women should be trained to kill and to be killed on the battlefield; and whether men should be put in a position where they must kill female soldiers.
If the answer is yes, then I think we have lost something in our understanding of the nature of men and women. Think of the qualities you admire most in your mother: would you really want these qualities to be associated with killing? Don’t young heterosexual men, in their heart of hearts, really love young women (in part) for special, idealised feminine qualities of gentleness, sympathy, grace and emotion, rather than the hardness of a trained soldier? Is there not a kind of taboo in healthy minded young men against violence toward women; do we not as a society want to keep the protective instinct of young men toward women intact?
Mr. Richardson continues as an asset to the Website. I trash-canned a relatively lame comment I was preparing after reading Mark’s posting.
Yes indeed, Mr. Murgos — Mr. Richardson hits the nail on the head.