Female Soldiers, Passive Women, and “Barbarians”

Growing up in a family highly influenced by the Christian Patriarchy movement, I was taught that having women in the military was an absolute tragedy. I learned that women should never, ever serve in the military. Why? Because men and women have different roles to play.

It is the man’s role to protect and provide. It is the woman’s role to nurture and care for the home. Men are to protect their women, children, and homes. For women to go on the battlefield, then, was a disruption of the natural gender order. Men are to protect, women are to be protected.

The other day I ran across an article called America the Barbarous: New Pentagon Policy Sanctions Women in Combat. It was, not surprisingly, on a blog affiliated with leading Christian Patriarchy group Vision Forum. This article not only articulates what I said above about natural gender roles but also reveals the way this ideology can easily involve viewing women as objects. I’m going to quote from the article and then follow with analysis.

For more than a decade, women representing the U.S. armed forces have been dying in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. America has become a nation of barbarians.

We have reported on this fact numerous times at Vision Forum, previously highlighting a 2004 front page New York Times article which featured a gruesome cover image of a wounded female soldier, blood running down her leg, with three men surrounding her, screaming. Rather callously, the Times titled the article, “A Routine Burst of Chaos Leaves a G.I. Wounded.” In writing the piece, journalist Dexter Filkins in no way keyed in on the fact that the wounded G.I. was a woman — he reported the story as if she had been any other male soldier hit by enemy fire.

Last week the Department of Defense announced a formal change in policy to “allow Military Department Secretaries to assign women in open occupational specialties to select units and positions at the battalion level . . . whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground.”

This will open nearly 14,000 “combat-related positions to female troops, including tank mechanics and intelligence officers on the front lines,” as the Washington Post summarized.

While American servicewomen have been in harm’s way for more than a decade — with nearly 200 coming home from Afghanistan and Iraq in body bags since 2001 — the Pentagon’s new policy now authorizes women to be officially attached to combat units on the ground, the very goal of which is to engage the enemy in battle.

This is a first for the United States of America, and it is a cause to mourn as our nation’s leaders — in the name of “empowering” women — are now self-consciously placing women in combat units to be shot at and killed as men.

What are we to think of a culture that openly welcomes our mothers and daughters being assigned to the heat of battle to have their limbs severed, their faces scarred, and their consciences seared as they lie beneath a flag-covered casket? Does this “enlightened policy” represent the fullest expression of Woman, as feminists would have us believe?

Women are to be cherished as the weaker sex, not exploited to fill the roster of an army. Combat is the province of men, and God calls on men to protect women and children. Men fight when their homes and communities are threatened by wicked regimes and lawless rogues who would despoil their loved ones. When necessary, men carry weapons into battle and give their lives to preserve the liberty and sanctity of those they hold dear. Not hardly. It represents an abolition of womanhood and the perversion of God’s design. It represents a deeply-rooted rebellion against the natural roles and functions by which God has distinguished manhood from womanhood.

It is barbarians who place their women in the midst of war’s brutalities to fight as men. This is what pagan tribes in Scotland did before they were Christianized and embraced the “Law of the Innocents,” written by the evangelist Adomnan, which forbade sending women into battle.

It is high time that we as a people repent of our barbarism — that we cherish our women as women, and call on our men to act as men. Though America possesses advanced weaponry and great military might, we have become a nation of barbarians.

As I said before, opposition to women in the military comes from the importance of adhering to distinct gender roles. It is men’s role to protect and provide and women’s role to nurture and care for the home. Men are the ones who are supposed to protect women, keep their children safe, and fight when their homes are threatened. Putting women into combat is men failing their duty and women stepping into an arena for which they are not designed. It is “an abolition of womanhood” and a “perversion of God’s design.” It is a “rebellion” against the “natural roles and functions by which God has distinguished manhood from womanhood.”

Men are active, women are passive

But there is something else to be noticed here. In this article women are treated as objects. It refers to women as “our mothers and daughters” and says that barbarians “place their women” in combat. It contrasts women being “cherished” with women being “exploited.” What about women’s wills and desires and choices? Oh right. Those don’t matter.  Those are irrelevant.

Men are active. Women are passive. Men are in charge. Women are protected. Men can “place” women in combat, or “let” their mothers and daughters serve while women can be “placed” in combat. The one is active, the other is passive. Let me highlight this by repeating a phrase and adding italics:

It is high time that we as a people repent of our barbarism — that we cherish our women as women, and call on our men to act as men.

Women are supposed to be cherished. Men are supposed to act. Women are passive. Men are active. I think this gets to the bottom of the whole double standard Christian Patriarchy seeks to promote. It claims that men and women have roles that are equal but different. Women’s role as nurturers and homemakers is just as important as men’s role as protectors and providers. But when you read an article like this, you realize the problem with this reasoning. Men’s role involves being in charge; women’s role involves being under someone’s charge. That’s not equal.

Female choice? What female choice? 

Articles like this simply cannot grasp the idea of female choice. Feminism isn’t about forcing women to do things they don’t want to do, but rather about giving them options and choices. It’s about letting women be active agents rather than passive recipients. But then, if you believe women’s role is to be passive recipients, the idea of women being active agents is downright subversive in and of itself.

Even more than this, though, is the assumption that women simply can’t be active agents. When I first started thinking for myself my dad was sure that I was being “led astray” by someone else, that I had “transferred my allegiance” from him to another. The idea that I could actually be making my own decisions and thinking for myself seemed foreign to him. He could not see me as an active agent.

There’s a perfect tie in here with the article’s claim that women are the “weaker sex,” which is, quite simply, the argument behind why women need protecting. This whole “weaker sex” language doesn’t just apply to physical strength. It’s about being emotionally weaker and intellectually weaker, as well as more easily led astray, manipulated, and used.

This is the very basis of Christian Patriarchy. Women are weak. They are easily manipulated. They are vulnerable. Women must therefore be protected. Men are strong. Men are not easily manipulated. Men are independent. Men must therefore protect women. Letting women have choices throws them to the winds, opens them to abuse and deprives them of the godly male protection they need. Removing women from male authority and letting them wander about on their own places them in harm’s way.

When I realized that Christian Patriarchy meant me giving up my own thoughts and desires so that I could be “protected” by my father, I snapped. I couldn’t do it. You see, I am not weak. I am not easily confused. I am not passive. This is what the feminist movement has been saying for generations. Women don’t need male protection. Rather, they need the ability to protect themselves. That is what feminism is about.

Similar ideas in the news

Now of course, Vision Forum’s article highlighted here was not the only reaction against the recent Pentagon rule change. Plenty of conservative politicians spoke out against it as well. Rick Santorum spoke of women not being emotionally prepared for the battlefield. Fox News’ Liz Trotta spoke of rape being a natural consequence of women being in the military.

Sometimes I think that Christian Patriarchy is a bit like dominionism. There are very few people who are completely hard core believers in Christian Patriarchy just as there are very few hard core dominionists, but what is interesting is the greater influence the ideas that undergird Christian Patriarchy have on the rest of society.

Santorum and Trotta’s statements stem directly from the idea that the battlefield is not the place for women because women are the “weaker sex,” whether that involves emotional weakness or physical weakness and susceptibility to sexual exploitation. I suspect both would also have spoken of the importance of remaining in your natural gender role had that not been politically unwise.

The problem with this thinking, of course, is that women in the military are not passive. They are not weaklings. I know a female soldier who has served several tours in Iraq, and let me tell you, she could kick the ass of every man I know. The assumption that women are automatically weak, or automatically emotional, neglects the reality that there is variation within each sex. I mean, I know a lot of guys I don’t think are qualified for serving in the military, whether that’s physically or psychologically.

People like those at Vision Forum get too caught up in the idea of gender roles to recognize the variation within each sex or to see people first and foremost as individuals with their own specific skills, talents, and interests. They would rather look at someone’s sex than at their individual skills, desires, and abilities. And, when it comes to people like Santorum and Trotta, it seems that they are not alone in that.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Anders

    Not entirely on topic, but awesome: http://www.myguidon.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14483&Itemid=39

    51-year old Mom holds her own in Basic Combat Training.

    You might wonder why it’s relevant that she’s a Mom and the answer is… damned if I know.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/ Ophelia Benson

    the whole double standard Christian Patriarchy seeks to promote. It claims that men and women have roles that are equal but different. Women’s role as nurturers and homemakers is just as important as men’s role as protectors and providers. But when you read an article like this, you realize the problem with this reasoning. Men’s role involves being in charge; women’s role involves being under someone’s charge. That’s not equal.

    Pre-cisely. I made exactly the same argument about the Vatican’s official much-reiterated view of women in Does God Hate Women? (Excuse advertisement-like statement; ad not intended; it’s just that there’s no other clear way to say it.) Over and over they say it’s complementary but that’s just wording; it means nothing; it’s superiority v inferiority.

    • Anders

      It reminds me of Plato’s “the greatest principle of all is that everyone should have a leader.” Christ commands the men, the men command the women, and the women command the children. That way no one has to do any thinking and valuable time is freed for important tasks like managing your 27 kids.

      • http://janeyqdoe.com/ Janey Q Doe

        And cooking for them using packet soup and powdered food because your scurvy-ridden family can’t afford the craziness of fresh vegetables.

  • N. Perlt

    I realise that my opinions and experiences will never matter to any conservative American – me being European and thus obviously a communist barbarian…

    Denmark (You know, the silly, tiny country with mermaids and engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan?) has had women in combat for.. I dunno, years? Decades?

    Oh, did I mention: Alongside MALE soldiers? Who ARE NOT excused for ANY absurd behaviour – definitely not rape…?

    Here’s what the Danish army writes about being a woman in the army, air force or navy:
    Our experience is that women in the military improve the motivation, morale and behaviour.

    Improve. As in: It’s better when they’re there.

    And last time I checked, Denmark hadn’t become some kind of uncivilized, barbarian hell…

    But then again: A few days ago I read some American bloke’s rant about how ungainly and undate-able Danish women are – because they have their own opinions and don’t “know how to make a man happy” and be properly feminine and whatnot.

    • Steve

      There are a several other countries that don’t have any restrictions on women in the military. Meaning that they can also serve in infantry or armor units. Canada, Israel, Germany, Australia (not implemented yet), New Zealand, Norway and Sweden.

      Russia had female snipers and several all-female air force fighter squadrons in WWII. They were very feared.

      • Steve

        Also Italy and France, though the latter bars women from serving on submarines

      • Yukimi

        In Spain, women are present in all units, afaik, since 1999 (before they could enlist but some destinations weren’t allowed).

    • seditiosus

      I’m Danish on my dad’s side. I was brought up regard self-assured women with opinions as real women, and the only kind of women a real man should consider dating.

    • Uly

      “I read some American bloke’s rant about how ungainly and undate-able Danish women are – because they have their own opinions and don’t “know how to make a man happy” and be properly feminine and whatnot.”

      Translation: Nobody wants to date him, and he’s sad. Poor thing.

  • MLR

    My favorite part of the article you quoted was this:

    In writing the piece, journalist Dexter Filkins in no way keyed in on the fact that the wounded G.I. was a woman — he reported the story as if she had been any other male soldier hit by enemy fire.

    How dare that journalist do so! Without explicit mention that she was a woman, readers might actually mistake her for a person. Gasp!

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    What disturbs me just as much as the patronizing attitude towards women and the total denial of female agency is the normalization of combat death for men. The image of a wounded soldier SHOULD be disturbing to us, but the fact that that soldier needs to be a woman for the Vision Forum crowd to notice that war is horrible disgusts me. I mean, this:

    “What are we to think of a culture that openly welcomes our mothers and daughters being assigned to the heat of battle to have their limbs severed, their faces scarred, and their consciences seared as they lie beneath a flag-covered casket?”

    just blows my mind. Swap out “mothers and daughters” with “citizens” and I’ve been asking this question since the wars started!* Because newsflash, folks: Men have gotten their limbs severed too. They’ve gotten their faces scarred too. And yeah, a lot of them have come home in flag-covered caskets, although our media hasn’t liked showing that to us. It’s such a downer, you see. This is what war is.

    But apparently, the patriarchal s–theads aren’t moved by this. Because when men fight wars, it’s just a big giant orgy of Valor and Honor and Glory, apparently, but when women fight wars, it’s “barbaric.” No wonder these people tend to be the same ones that never met a war they didn’t like, when what they’ve got in mind is this romanticized, sanitized fantasy where manly men get to manfully prove how manly they are. And what of the men who return for whom this didn’t exactly turn out to be the case, who suffer from PTSD and suffer enormously trying to readjust? (I’ve seen this first-hand with some of my friends.) Their pain is largely invisible because the patriarchal culture’s message to them is basically “Man up, you pussy, and embrace your role is a Manly Protector.” Disgusting. To me, this is Patriarchy Hurts Men Too 101.

    Okay, now I’m so exercised my heart rate is up. Time for a cup of tea!

    *I’m not a strict pacifist; I think that, unfortunately, in a rare circumstances, war is the lesser of two evils. But I do think that maybe we wouldn’t be sending our military off to war willy-nilly, as we have been doing in recent years, if we actually took war seriously, and not just when women are involved.

    • Libby Anne

      I had the same reaction! When they mentioned 200 women coming home in body bags, I was like, what about the 4000 men who have come home in body bags? They don’t matter?

      You’re also right about the glorification of war. See, for example, Vision Forum’s product “Providential Battles IV: Victorious Christian Armies Commanded by Courageous Men of God.” But you really should wait for your heart rate to go down before clicking the link. :-P

      • http://potatoesarenotvegetables.blogspot.com Ashton

        A silver lining on all of this is that maybe these people will rethink going to war in the future if women will be involved. Somehow, though, I doubt it. They’ll be as war-hungry as ever and just lament women being involved and complain that there’s nothing that they can do about it (aside from voting and running for office and having lots of babies).

      • anon

        It was the “consciences seared” part that got me. It’s ok if men’s consciences are seared, but not women’s? (As an aside, the sentence in which the conscience reference is found doesn’t make much sense–how is it that their limbs are being severed and what not while they’re already in their caskets?)

        Gah, this crap gets on my everloving nerves.

      • Yoritomo

        Ouch. I had laughed at part IV of that series before (especially the Huguenots – funny how the author ignores their eventual defeat, but maybe Cardinal Richelieu just isn’t enough of a “Man of God” for him), but the other three parts sound even worse. I enjoy military history as an intellectual exercise, and I’ve read my share of outright war glorification, but this is just bad history.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Silly rabbit, men don’t GET their “consciences seared” because, for them, war is just a big honor-and-glory fest! Women get their consciences seared because they’re women and aren’t innately suited for it. And “conscience” implies ooey-gooey feelings, and we all know teh wimminz have more of those than men do. Men are big and tough and logical, they’re not emotionally damaged by war.

        This is, of course, ridiculous. One of my close friends is a combat veteran who has suffered from severe PTSD since he got back. I’d say his conscience, and his entire emotional wellbeing, is pretty seared. But, again, that experience, his and many others’, is largely invisible because it’s not “manly.” (This is one of many reasons I get so worked up about this issue.) Of course, from my point of view, I don’t think anybody who has seen what my friend has seen could come away unscathed, not anyone with any degree of empathy or sensitivity to the value of life.

        But men aren’t supposed to have those things, apparently. According to patriarchy (and not just religious patriarchy), men are basically supposed to be sociopaths.

        Can anyone be surprised that the world is at it is today?

    • Ace of Sevens

      That’s what I was thinking. Shades of “the unfair sex,” as TV Tropes calls it. They didn’t even attempt to shift the sexism around by talking about how men will be unable to deal with having women in their unit in danger and will endanger everyone to protect them. That would have been marginally less patronizing, at least to women.

    • Lyra

      ^This!

      When I read

      “What are we to think of a culture that openly welcomes our mothers and daughters being assigned to the heat of battle to have their limbs severed, their faces scarred, and their consciences seared as they lie beneath a flag-covered casket?”

      all I could do was wonder why it would be different to them if the statement read as follows:

      “What are we to think of a culture that openly welcomes our fathers and sons being assigned to the heat of battle to have their limbs severed, their faces scarred, and their consciences seared as they lie beneath a flag-covered casket?”

      Why is it more okay for our fathers and sons to die like this than our mothers and daughters? Why would we openly welcome the disfigurement and slaughter of our men but not our women? It makes no sense. Men and women are both people. For any of them to be maimed and killed is a most terrible thing.

      • victoria

        My guess is that it ties into the Christian nationalism thing. War is a necessary evil in order to protect our “way of life,” so while it’s unfortunate that men come home from war maimed (or don’t come home at all), it’s understood that that’s just how things are. Just a guess.

    • Alison

      And of course, it’s fine if men are raped in the military.

  • Benjamin Allen

    Women have been serving on the front line for thousands of years. Some of the scariest commanders and warriors of history were women, and lead their armies fully armed and armored on the front lines. Boudica, Matilda of Canossa, Eleanor of Aquitaine (who accompanied her husband on crusade at the head of an all-female heavy cavalry formation, and was a better tactical and strategic thinker than the man raised in the saddle from the age of 7), Urraca Queen of Aragon, Joan of Arc, Isabella I of Castile (who fought while pregnant), Margaret of Anjou, and Caterina Sforza (who also fought while pregnant, personally trained her soldiers… and “had the instrument to make more”. I hope someone gets this reference. It is from history proper) to name a few. I could name more, but my primary area of interest historically is the middle ages and renaissance. In fact, I am listening to a 16th century spanish dance piece…

    In the middle ages, everyone knew how to kill. Anyone who could afford arms and armor owned them, even the women. Why? Because when a city got sacked or a village raided, no one was immune. Women who could not defend themselves WOULD be raped, murdered, or both. Noble women were not ignorant of the art of war. They ran the household (in a lot of ways, they had more political power than their husband in that respect), and were expected to take up arms against invaders when their husband was away. In fact, sometimes they would engage in wars of aggression of their own, raise armies to overthrow their own husbands, or would rule in their own right (like Caterina Sforza, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and a good number of other women on that list) and behave Exactly as men would. No one batted an eye. Joan of Arc was the only exception, and her trial violated english law, french law, and for that matter Canon Law.

    The idea that women are delicate, need to be protected,and should not be fighting in wars is straight out of 19th century Romanticism. It has no place in most of history. Not the 17th century, not the 14th century, not the 10th, or 4th century CE or for that matter, the 10th century BCE. In fact, it is not even true in the Old Testament where some of the most honored women murdered men in their sleep or commanded them on the battlefield (Jael and Deborah respectively).

    • http://twitter.com/#!/VeritasKnight VeritasKnight

      I was just about to write something very similar, but I refreshed and saw this fantastic post. Well done.

    • seditiosus

      I’ve always liked that quote from Caterina Sforza.

    • Yukimi

      I’ve always loved the lettter Napoleon’s brother sent to him complaining about how difficult it was to get Spain to submit because even old grandmothers had knives (and use them XP).

    • Pierce R. Butler

      Oops: I mistook the structure of this thread, and made a reply to Benjamin Allen @ # 24.

  • http://twitter.com/#!/VeritasKnight VeritasKnight

    I’m honestly surprised they didn’t mention people like Lyudmila Pavlichenko. Of course, I doubt they’d tell her to her face that she shouldn’t be fighting.

  • http://janeyqdoe.com/ Janey Q Doe

    The lack of agency they attributed to women disturbed the s**t out of me. To talk about feminism as though if thrust women into something over which they have no control. It makes me wonder if they’d prefer a world in which women couldn’t sign contracts or own land.

    • Benjamin Allen

      Ummm…

      Actually… Yeah. They would prefer that.

      • http://janeyqdoe.com/ Janey Q Doe

        Yeah, that’s one of those fears that keeps you awake at night.

  • Anat

    Libby Anne, how do members of the Christian Patriarchy react when out in the broader world they find themselves in a situation where they must interact with a woman who is on the job – eg a medical practitioner or a civil servant? Would they trust her to do her job? Would they accept her service?

    • Makoto

      Just sharing some experiences out in one of the lands of Christian Patriarchy, aka Oklahoma. Well, vicariously sharing, based on talking with my mom.

      In general, it seems that men of that group distrust women in controlling roles, and will request men instead when possible. If it’s a woman doctor? Ask for her supervisor, or get a second opinion, and stick with the male doctor, no matter what was said by either. Female civil servant? Again, go for the supervisor until you hit a male who you can “talk at the same level with”.

      For that matter, when they get telemarketing calls, push employees at stores, and so on, if my mom answers, they’ll “humor” her for a minute or three, then ask to speak with her husband when they realize she’s not falling for their spiel. It’s so very common out in their area.

      Little do they realize how awesome my mom is, and I kind of feel sorry for them for not realizing that she’s equal to any man. Or how my parents discuss all purchases and such, and so trying to maneuver around her just annoys them both.

      • anat

        What about women in traditionally feminine occupations? Like, say, a midwife? (Can’t be more traditionally feminine than that, I think). Especially for the Quiverful and related groups.

    • Ace of Sevens

      I used to work in customer service for a utility company. For those of you who haven’t worked in the field, it’s heavily female-dominated. On several occasion, people called in with questions about their bill and wanted to speak to a man because they didn’t trust a woman to understand the necessary math. Both men and women did this. I ended up talking to them and biting my tongue a lot of the time.

  • Ysanne

    I would also like to point to this absurdity:

    embraced the “Law of the Innocents,” written by the evangelist Adomnan, which forbade sending women into battle.

    So women are “innocent”. Just like little newborn babies. Just like Adam and Eve before that stupid piece of fruit that enabled them to think. They have spotless ignorant minds full of naivete and love and gentleness.
    Isn’t that a refreshing change from the usual “women are evil and clever and manipulative” rhetoric?

  • Tom Robbins

    Calling any of the women i date “passive” or “the weaker sex” is a good way to get your clavicle shattered… If she isn’t crazy, whip-smart, and capable of killing a man with her bare hands, i’m not really interested, in most cases. If i say she’s a “10″ it probably means she has a krav maga tattoo on one arm and a straight razor strapped to the other. which is as it should be.

  • Rilian

    Women are the ones who can be lead astray, yet eve lead adam astray and because of that christians and jews hate all women forever. Contradiction much?

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Look, we have our faults, but leave Jews out of this. lol “The Fall” is not part of Judaism, it’s a feature of post-Constantinian Christianity. The Adam and Eve story holds a different type of significance in even the most traditional Jewish theology. Is there misogyny in Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Judaism? Absolutely. Just like there is in basically every other traditional, conservative culture out there and the Adam and Eve story is not the source in this case.

      Please do not do what so many people do and think of Judaism as Christianity-minus-the-New-Testament. It’s its own thing with its own set of issues and much of what you know as the Old Testament plays a different role in Judaism than it does in Christianity. (Not saying better or worse, just different.)

      • Rilian

        OK.

  • Lyra

    One of the things that pisses me off about this statement by the Vision Forum is that it assumes that if women are not allowed to serve in the military, women won’t die in war. That is not the case. When a bomb falls, it doesn’t discriminate between men and women. When bullets fly, they aren’t turned away by a feminine form. When a town is under siege and there is no food or clean water, mana doesn’t rain down from the heavens and into the mouths of women. Women die in war, burned, shredded, and starved, even if they aren’t in the military.

    The idea that men protect women is a farce. It is a false bill of sale. Women are assured that if they give up their rights, they will be granted safety. But when push comes to shove, the promise of safety falls apart and women are left with neither rights nor safety. They die, having been denied the opportunity to make a stand on their own behalf.

    • Ace of Sevens

      He’s talking about America. We only have wars in other countries, so only the people we send are in danger.

      • http://giliellthinkingaloud.blogspot.com/ Giliell, not to be confused with The Borg

        Ehm, and there are no women in those countries?
        Oh, sorry, I forgot, they aren’t christian so they can die

      • Lyra

        What Giliell said. Yes, women in the USA can remain safe so long as the war remains off our soil (as it did not do on 9/11), but the women of Afghanistan and Iraq are hardly safe. For some reason, the Vision Forum does not seem concerned with the safety of the women who die over there.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      An excellent point. If these people are so concerned about the unique effects of war on women, why aren’t they out there raising a fuss about, say, the genocidal rape campaigns going on in the Congo? War affects so many people, not just the military, but civilians–those are the people, male and female, who are truly without protection. But the erasing of civilian casualties and atrocities is, of course, part of the War is Glorious narrative that these guys seem to love.

    • Anders

      “The women of this country learned long ago, those without swords can still die upon them. I fear neither death nor pain.”

      Now that is a woman. I tell you, Aragorn made the wrong choice.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Oh, I don’t know, I think she and Faramir were a good match in the end. Actually, Faramir was supposedly the character that Tolkien modeled most closely after himself, so I guess we know who HE preferred. :-)

      • Anders

        My problem with Arwen is that she is so… bland. She’s supposed to be all etherical and stuff but she’s just boring. Eowyn is by far the most interesting character of the two.

        But we may be off-topic.

      • Benjamin Allen

        WHich is such a very very Norse attitude. Oh yeah. It was not just the men who went A Viking.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Well, she’s really barely a character at all in the books. She has, like, two appearances, one in the beginning and one in the end and barely says a word. She says more in the appendices than she does in the entire trilogy. So for all we know, she’s fascinating, it’s just that we never got to hear much about her. lol. So I don’t think she and Eowyn are really comparable. Eowyn is actually supposed to be a developed character.

  • catgirlthecrazy

    The other thing that bothers me is that this worldview is pretty insulting to men too. These types of Christians bemoan the deaths of female soldiers as unacceptable, but seem okay with the fact that a lot of male soldiers are dying too. If you think women dying in combat is a greater tragedy then men dying, that’s the equivalent of saying you think men’s lives are less valuable.

    • Anders

      But men who die in battle go straight to heaven, if they’re fighting for a righteous cause. Likewise with women who die in childbirth because trusting medicine is to not trust God. So they all end up playing hopscotch at the feet of the Allmighty.

    • Steve

      Ever seen the movie “GI Jane”? It’s about a women being allowed into special forces training. Made in 1997 and unrealistic even by today’s standards.

      But there is a scene where the titular character is confronted by a (female) senator who tells her that her training is a political stunt, that she won’t ever be assigned to a unit for real and that the public isn’t prepared to see women in danger that no politician could afford to allow women come home in body bags. The hero asks back if a woman’s life really is worth more than a man’s.

      In many ways that scene is a reflection of its time. A time when that question really was open. A couple of years earlier women were allowed in combat aviation, but they hadn’t yet deployed to wars in combat roles yet. Since then more women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan than in all previous American wars combined. And their roles have great expanded just by necessity and nature of the wars (except for the battalion level assignments, those news rules are just about aligning policy with existing reality in which rules were frequently bent).
      That scene would not be written that way today.

      • Steve

        Btw, with the “open question” line, I don’t mean the relative worth of one’s life, but whether the public would accept significant numbers of women dying in wars. The answer is yes and they aren’t really treated differently than men.

        Another phrase along those lines you can sometimes see is that it’s bad for children to lose their mother. Again, as if losing their father is any less hurtful…

  • lesliegriffiths

    Ha! A lot of women I know are so ferocious I’d run a mile before coming up against one of them holding a gun.

    Religion is a load of old bollocks isn’t it?

  • calicocat

    I really enjoy your blog, it’s one of my favourites!

    As for the topic of the post. Hah! Men already wage their own war on girls and women all over the world every day. ‘On the front lines’, women and girls are dehumanised, vilified, objectified, harassed, silenced, denied agency, abused physically and mentally, raped, endure physical and emotional pain, suffer from PTSD, starve, survive, endure the propaganda of our media and society, sacrifice everything and receive little to nothing (or worse) in return. Their homes, places of work, churches, schools, everywhere is a battleground.

    So for them to say women are unfit for combat, and especially emotionally unfit, is ridiculous. Women are already in bootcamp from day one, when the patriarchy wraps us in a pink swaddling blanket and proclaims “it’s a girl”

  • http://giliellthinkingaloud.blogspot.com/ Giliell, not to be confused with The Borg

    What are we to think of a culture that openly welcomes our mothers and daughters being assigned to the heat of battle to have their limbs severed, their faces scarred, and their consciences seared as they lie beneath a flag-covered casket?

    They’re totally OK with men being maimed and killed but we’re called misandrists because we ask the guys not to rape their fellow soldiers.
    I’d rather have men and women safe back at home, wherever their home be.

  • Tinker Bell

    Woman ahould not serve the military machine.

    Neither should men. They aren’t protecting women on the battlefield…they are are just serving their corporate masters.

    Soldiers…men or women…are slaves.

  • http://skjaere.livejournal.com/ Skjaere

    Your posts almost always make me smack myself on the forehead and say, “Why did I never think about it like this before?” You make it all seem so clear and obvious, and clearly I’ve had my blinkers on for way too long to take them off easily.

    When I was still in high school and had not yet gotten around to thinking deeply about politics or questioning my parents’ political beliefs, my mother made the argument that the reason women shouldn’t be allowed in combat is because women are physically weaker than men, and in a combat situation, a woman would not be able to help a wounded comrade to safety. And because I am female and I was never very athletically inclined, I just assumed she was right. But once I actually stopped to think about it (years later), I realised what a pile of bollocks that is. The only way that argument works is if the strongest woman is still weaker than the weakest man. I used to think I was pretty clever, but every time I realise all the ways I’ve been taken in over the years, I doubt it a little bit more.

    When I first started thinking for myself my dad was sure that I was being “led astray” by someone else, that I had “transferred my allegiance” from him to another. The idea that I could actually be making my own decisions and thinking for myself seemed foreign to him. He could not see me as an active agent.

    Good lord! My dad pretty much did this to me over Christmas, and he doesn’t even go to church! Last fall I came out to my parents as bisexual, and while I was home for the holidays, Dad decided to sit me down and have a very serious talk about…how much influence my roommate is having on me. Seriously. Because the changes to my politics and self-expression over the past couple of years could not be anything to do with, say, me. OK, so my roommate is a woman, but apparently my parents need to blame someone else who is not their darling daughter for leading me astray. In the past, they’ve always laid it at the doorstep of whoever I was dating at the time, assuming I was a good girl being manipulated by men of questionable character, but since I’m single now, there’s no one to blame but my roommate.

    • Anders

      Remember, if you became a bisexual on your own that means they are failures as parents.

  • Tony

    Libby:

    There’s a perfect tie in here with the article’s claim that women are the “weaker sex,” which is, quite simply, the argument behind why women need protecting. This whole “weaker sex” language doesn’t just apply to physical strength. It’s about being emotionally weaker and intellectually weaker, as well as more easily led astray, manipulated, and used.

    I suspect that this notion of women being the ‘weaker sex’ in need of protection while men are the providers/defenders plays a role in one of my pet peeves. I’ve lived in the southeast US for…a while. I’ve been a bartender for the last 12 years, so I encounter all kinds of people on a daily basis. For the longest time, I couldn’t understand one group of people: those couples where the man speaks for the woman. I’ve seen it more times than I wish and it irks me to this day. To watch a man and a woman sit down at my bar and greet them only for the woman to defer to the guy rubs me the wrong way. If I’m standing right in front of them, why doesn’t she just tell *me* what she wants?
    Another irritation I have is with the car door being opened for women, but not for guys. I see the ‘chivalry’ on display, but for me, it seems like another example of ‘men must protect women because they are fragile’. Seriously, what’s so blasted ‘gentlemanly’ about opening a door for a woman?

    • Ysanne

      It took me until my twenties to notice that women aren’t supposed to get in car like normal people would, i.e. one fluid movement of opening the door yourself, putting one leg in while sitting down, pulling the other leg in and then closing the door. That’s so unladylike, particularly when wearing a skirt. You’re supposed to have the door open first, then sit down sideways with legs closes, turn in your seat and swivel both of your legs into the car (extra points for gracefully pointed feet), and then be decorative while the door is closed. Reverse the procedure for getting out.
      Since there is no way of getting the door open/closed without some leaning/pulling, i.e. a deviation from a decorative posture, you’re not supposed to do these things yourself.

      As for opening normal doors: I always thought it’s an “I make a point of letting you go first, and in turn I can discreetly look at your ass from behind” kind of deal.
      Personally, I don’t mind, as I’m in a hurry most of the time and appreciate going first.

  • ischemgeek

    Thanks for articulating why I always come out of conversations with my dad on this topic feeling uneasy. Dad’s not religious at all, but he buys into the patriarchy thing hook, line and sinker. It took moving away and living on my own for a few years to start realising how warped his worldview is.

    Funny thing with my dad is he holds the most amazing self-contradictory beliefs: his daughter is strong and capable and intelligent and able to take care of herself and should feel free to do whatever she likes for a living… buuuuut women are weak and in need of protection and shouldn’t be doing physical/dangerous/etc work.

    Then again, this might be explained by the fact that everyone in the family includes me when they refer to the “guys” – I think they simply don’t see me as a daughter. I’m more like a son-substitute (as there were no boys in the family and I’ve always been a tomboy).

  • Origuy

    This is what pagan tribes in Scotland did before they were Christianized and embraced the “Law of the Innocents,” written by the evangelist Adomnan, which forbade sending women into battle.

    The Cáin Adomnáin or “Law of Adomnan”, also called the “Law of Innocents”, forbade the killing of a wide variety of non-combatants, including women, children, priests, clerical students, and peasants on clerical lands. If women were fighting alongside men, why would Adomnan include them?
    It’s likely that the story of Celtic women warriors is exaggerated, Boudicca being a notable exception. Tacitus never mentioned any.

  • Origuy

    I should say any outside the story of Boudicca, that is.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    Benjamin Allen @ # 6: … Eleanor of Aquitaine (who accompanied her husband on crusade at the head of an all-female heavy cavalry formation, and was a better tactical and strategic thinker than the man raised in the saddle from the age of 7)…

    Being a better strategist than Louis VII counts for about as much as being a better cook than me (millions achieve that status without trying).

    As for the “all-female heavy cavalry formation” – citation needed. The closest such account I could find says -

    Eleanor was followed by some of her royal ladies in waiting as well as 300 non-noble vassals. She insisted on acting not as a mere wife, but as the feudal leader of the soldiers from her own duchy. Her testimonial launch of the Second Crusade from Vézelay, the supposed location of Mary Magdalene´s burial, dramatically emphasized the role of women in the campaign, and she inspired more vassals to join the Crusade than her husband did.

    Many women went on Crusade seeking martyrdom to receive instant redemption so as to join the saints in Heaven while others went seeking penance for their sins, or to emigrate to new lands.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    America has become a nation of barbarians.

    Here I’m afraid they’re (almost) right. Consider the hundreds of thousands of civilians we’ve killed in the last decade, in Iraq alone. Add in other nations, and the previous decade, and the US civilian bodycount reaches 7 digits easily.

    My (almost) has to do not with the accusation of barbarism, but with the “become”. Read up on Vietnam, Christian Patriots; study our wars in the Philippines; learn what we did to the Native Americans; figure out which other sets of blood-soaked US atrocities I could easily and lengthily extend this list with, not even including the butcheries-by-mercenary for which you laud Reagan & so many others.

  • anna

    “Men’s role involves being in charge; women’s role involves being under someone’s charge. That’s not equal.”

    It’s also not equal to say men can be whatever their talents suit them for and women can only be homemakers.

  • leftwingfox
    • leftwingfox

      My apologies. Please ignore the muppet. This should have been posted in reply to a Thomas Crown reference in another window.

  • Pingback: On cultural scripts, and reframing ‘vulnerability’ in sex « Valprehension


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