Recently I had to dissect an article on the idea that sending women to war is wrong. That it is too hard psychologically on women to be separated from their family, more specifically their kids if they had any, and that it was a detriment to the unit if she was not psychologically present during battle because of the distraction of thinking of her kids and family. Now I understand this thinking – I really do. Try as I might to escape the thoughts and pressures of my family, if I go too long without seeing them I get edgy. I can’t imagine being deployed to hostile territory and being kept away from them for months at a time. I can understand the psychological damage this might inflict on the soldier as well as the family she leaves behind. What I don’t understand is why a woman’s role in the family is viewed as any more important than a man’s and. A male solider being deployed may also be in the unenviable position of leaving family behind. He too may have contributed to the growth and development of the children. He too should be considered an integral part of the family unit. Why is it any more his duty to protect our country and its freedoms than a woman ? Why should his role as a family man be subjugated to the comforts of society ? Why is societies discomfort at the thought of our mothers and daughters choosing to face danger greater than the ultimate sacrifice we ask the men in the military to face without hesitation?
Now- a-days men are expected to step up and be the father theirs might not have been or didn’t know how to be. We now see dads taking an active role in the raising of the children, the keeping of the house and the running of the family. No more is it just bring home the bacon and wait for it to be cooked for you. We ask this of them because we’ve seen that they deserve the chance to have that role and because some men began to demand it. For too long society dictated the roles that men and women must play and punished them when they didn’t fulfill those roles. Any man who took pleasure in his family and helped out with the children or housework, other than mowing the lawn, was ridiculed. That is women’s work ! Men don’t change diapers, wash dishes and run errands. What kind of ball breaker is he married to who made him be less of a man than society dictated he must be ? I am pleased to note that my husband is a very hands on family man and I pity the fool who would question his masculinity. He wears his devotion to his family like a badge of honor. Now he may in fact be married to a ball breaker but I can guarantee you that he has both hands on his jewels and keeps them well protected.
The most disturbing thing about this article was the implication that a woman’s life is more valuable than a man’s. The fact that we can bear children and require some special attention each month makes us a bigger asset to society and an even bigger liability to the military. Men appeared to be expendable in this article. It was our precious women who should be protected from the horrors of war. Our dainty females who must keep the home fires burning and tend to the children. Men are better equipped mentally to deal with separation from hearth and home. They are better able to deal with the sometimes irreparable damage done to the relationship with their wives and children. Maybe it is the lack of a uterus or the relative size of their jewels that predict this success. Somehow I doubt that either factor plays a role. It is society that has decided that men must seek valor and women must seek satisfaction in a well kept home. Male soldiers deaths are reported with an almost common resignation to the inevitable. When the loss of a female soldier is reported it is with a more emotional tone conveying a more significant loss to society. Both of these soldiers took on the same risk, suffered the same separation from their family and performed the same duties. Both will never be able to parent the child they left behind. Both will never be able to grow old with the spouse who also suffers with the sacrifice. Both will never be able to rebuild the life they left behind to do what society should ask of all of us: Protect those who need it. Fight for those who cannot defend themselves. Stand up to injustice and needless suffering. This is a sexless request. This is the request of every human being.
On the battle field both sexes should be allowed to do their duty and make the ultimate sacrifice if called to do so. One person’s effort is not any more valuable than the other based on whether they have the balls to do the job or the ability to break them when necessary. Men may put on a braver face during battle. They may be able to hide their fear and frustration and worry by burying it so deep they hope never to find it. This on the surface may make them appear to be a better soldier. But what about those poor men when they come back and can no longer run from the feelings they have buried so deep ? What happens when they spew to the surface and erupt into a full blow case of PTSD ? That’s where having your coffee klatch or hen party or wine night or whatever you want to call a gathering of females discussing their life comes in handy. Women may show their feelings on the battle field. They may voice their worry and concern and frustration over not being with their families. But does that affect their ability to soldier ? I think it makes coming home easier because they don’t have to dig so deep to purge, as best they can anyway, the myriad feelings they’ve had to deal with while staring the enemy in the face.
The different value placed on men and women’s lives was further illustrated to me when I was listening to the radio on the way into work. The DJ was recounting the story of a male passenger on the Titanic. Apparently this passenger pretended to be a woman in order to secure passage off of the sinking boat. He was successful and survived the fatal voyage. Unfortunately once the story broke of what he had done, he was vilified. What he had done was viewed as cowardly and unmanly. Society was not willing to allow any man to try and save themselves at the expense of a woman. The interesting twist was that during this time, women were not even viewed as their own person. They were not even deemed human under the law. They were chattel to be owned and passed around by parent or partner alike. Society was not ready to give women the vote, grant them protection from abusive husbands or allow them to make decisions over the number of children to have but yet they still viewed the life of a woman as more important than a man. A man could take everything a woman owned and leave her penniless and destitute but by cracky he’d best give up his seat on the bus, or in this case a lifeboat, in order to be at least seen as doing the right thing. It didn’t seem to matter that the rest of the time women were treated as brainless, frail, nothings. When it came down to life or death, the man must take the hit.
Now I will grant you that the underlying impetus of this philosophy was that society felt that women were unable to protect themselves and therefore men must step up and do that for them. Why does society, to this day, have such a double standard over the value and treatment of women ? Are we merely paying lip service to what the suffragettes worked so hard to achieve for women when we try to mandate that service in the military for women should be relegated to military office jobs and nursing in the safety of a stateside hospital ? It seems that society has not come so far as we had hoped when reasons like bathroom facilities and the monthly gift from mother nature are seen as plausible reasons to curtail the service that women are able and willing to provide on behalf of the family that they love. Shouldn’t a woman be able to make the decision over the value of her life ? Shouldn’t it be her life to use in serving her country or serving dinner ?
As a woman there is a small part of me that is thankful for this double standard. I am grateful that if conscription were to be enacted it is unlikely that the women would be chosen first. We’ll ignore the fact that I would at 40 probably be considered too old to serve and just focus on my life saving boobs. I would just hope that if the time came and a decision had to be made about who to save and who to sacrifice, that I would be given the choice to offer myself in place of my husband or son. That I would be viewed as an equal and my sacrifice no greater or more heroic than any man that stood up to offer the same thing. I would hope that if called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice, not only would I have the balls to do what needed to be done but that my husband would not be viewed as any less of a man for letting me go. I just hope that dinner is on the table when I get back.