Kathleen Parker has an article up in the Washington Post arguing against the end of the combat ban. I’m not going to go through the whole thing, but I wanted to address a couple of points.
The first is the notion that some sort of cabal of political correctness has forced the hand of the military. I really don’t think this is the case. I think, as with Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, they realized they weren’t helping themselves. And in my previous post, I noted that we should be thinking about the ways that women contribute to military missions, because wars are fought among civilian populations, and those populations include women.
I would also like to reiterate that feminists are hardly united about women in combat. Some see it as a step forward, but others are committed pacifists, or vehement critics of militarization. They think we should be asking ourselves why killing people is considered the standard for full citizenship, not accepting it as the status quo. My perspective is informed by my International Relations background; I am not a fan of militarization, I believe diplomacy is always preferable, but I also recognize the need to maintain a fighting force. I think most of us wish events after 9/11 had been handled differently. I wish our troops hadn’t been sent to Iraq, although I want to be clear that I don’t hold military personnel accountable for that decision. I hope the U.S. can successfully exit Afghanistan in the near future. Remember folks: we’re still at war.
I do hope that the U.S. military can be involved in humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, although that comes with its own set of political difficulties. I also think that the United States isn’t always the most welcome presence, but that’s another involved topic. And I very strongly believe that women are essential to the success of those missions, and the world is starting to wake up to the necessity of military and police forces that reflect the composition of the populations they aim to serve.
Anyway, back to Parker:
The threat to unit cohesion should require no elaboration. But let’s leave that obvious point to pedants and cross into enemy territory where somebody’s 18-year-old daughter has been captured. No one wants to imagine a son in these circumstances either, obviously, but women face special tortures. And, no, the rape of men has never held comparable appeal.
Appeal? Really? Appeal? Really. OK then.
Look, men also face sexual abuse as prisoners of war. Sexual violence is used to humiliate people. (Seriously, does anyone remember Abu Ghraib? Anyone? Crickets?) Maybe the rape of men doesn’t hold as much emotional appeal for the U.S. public as the rape of someone’s (white) fresh-faced daughter, but that doesn’t make it less devastating or tortuous. For an institution built on violence, dominance, bodily discipline, and hyper-masculinity, rape is a particularly effective tool of humiliation.
And while you’re exercising yourself about women getting raped by enemy combatants, you might try exercising yourself about the appalling record of sexual assault within the military itself. (And does this have anything to do with the above traits of dominance, violence, and sexual humiliation?) But no, the prospect of foreign men getting their hands on American women is just too scary:
We can train our men to ignore the screams of their female comrades, but is this the society we want to create? And though some female veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have endured remarkable suffering, their ability to withstand or survive violent circumstances is no rational argument for putting American girls and women in the hands of enemy men.
It will kill us in the end.
I don’t know, do we want to live in a society that engages in perpetual war? Also, aren’t soldiers supposed to, you know, help each other? Don’t they make a pretty big effort to help the wounded? Or do you think women are going to be screaming when they break a nail?
So…the prospect of American girls in the hands of foreign men will kill us, but the existing rape of women in the military and civilian society won’t?