Modern Warfare Includes WomenIn movies and in books women are often portrayed as strong characters, both mentally and physically strong, making them capable fighters. They face their male opponents defiantly with a fierce determination and they usually win. With the new feminist attitude in society, the “damsel in distress” concept has fallen out of favor. Women do not need men to rescue them.
Oscar Wilde once said, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.” So, if life imitates art as Ol’ Oscar says, then why does our society still believe women are inferior as soldiers? An article by the Associated Press says, “The Defense Department bars women from serving in assignments where the primary mission is to engage in direct ground combat.” Most nations refuse to allow women to partake in any military position that may result in a close encounter and/or require the killing of the enemy.
So women aren’t allowed on the front lines. Yeah, I know. I’ve heard it before.
And this is where everyone rears up with the “equality” debate. The argument being that women want equality when it’s convenient for them but not when it involves things like fighting on the front lines.
Women in movies and books fight on the front lines. Is this done for purely entertainment reasons? Just to suit the plots? Or is art imitating life in this aspect? Are any of these examples based off historical fact? Is there a long history of women serving in the military – in positions that dealt with actual engagement of the enemy?
There certainly are.
But do you know of any? Just off the top of your head, can you think up the name of any historical figure that happened to be female who went into war? I bet you’re struggling. The fact of the matter is that war is a man’s chore, it’s seen from a man’s perspective, and the history has always been written by men. You aren’t likely to hear about the women.
Now, you might think of Joan of Arc. While she was a great leader, most accounts say she never actually fought – that she simply carried her standard into battle, urging her soldiers onward. But there were many great female generals.
There was Artemisia I of Caria, who participated in a naval battle with the Greeks in the 5th century. When her ship was under threat of capture, she turned and rammed one of her ally ships, sinking it. The enemy assumed she was on his side and left her alone. It’s said that Xerxes heard of her actions and declared, “My men have turned into women and my women into men!”
There was Boudica in 61 AD, who led her tribe in an uprising against the expanding Roman Empire, trying to drive them out to reclaim their lands. Their first target was a Roman city, which they totally destroyed. The commander that tried to save the city had his infantry wiped out, only he and a few cavalrymen survived. It was said that she was “possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women.”
We also have “The Great Countess” Matilda of Tuscaney, who faced off against Henry the IV repeatedly. She is known for personally leading her men into battle, riding at the head of her army and clad in a full suit of armor.
But that’s not all…
Have you ever heard of Deborah Samson, Marie Tepe, or Lorinda Anna Blair – just to name a few?
Ms. Samson disguised herself as a man and joined the American army to fight the English in the Revolutionary war. (Read about her experience under the United States heading here, which includes cutting a musket ball out of her own thigh so no doctor would discover her.)
Marie was a French immigrant who fought for the Union in the Civil War. She wore a .44 Caliber pistol and wore a uniform she made for herself. And “she served under fire in 13 battles, including Gettysburg.”
Lorinda Anna Blair, also known as Anna Etheridge after marriage, was awarded the Kearny Cross for bravery under fire during the Civil War. She was known to carry two pistols tucked in her belt as she pulled wounded men off the battlefield.
Women were later restricted to serve only in positions that were removed from the battlefield. Women are not incompetent soldiers and they have a desire to protect their home and family as much as the next man does. In 2001, New Zealand removed any restriction on female soldiers, allowing them to serve in any branch of its defense forces from Special Forces to Infantry.
So, “Why mention all this?” you may ask…
I’ve recently read about the issues our American female soldiers deal with when they return from Afghanistan or Iraq and it really makes me sad. Our men are welcomed with open arms, free beers at all the bars, respect from those around them, etc. but the women aren’t acknowledged in quite the same way, though they’ve been performing the same duties.
As the article stated, the front lines are blurred in places like Iraq, where IEDs may be hidden virtually anywhere. Women serve as gunners, drivers in convoys, etc. They face the same threat as the men, serving in the same physical capacity. I watched a documentary on the military channel the other night about the war in Iraq. They interviewed a young woman who had been a driver in a convoy. She explained that she drove with a gun in her lap, searching the streets for explosives or other threats, while prepared to fire if necessary. An IED exploded near a hummer and she talked about seeing the men inside, practically melted into their seats.
So, when I read this article today about women returning from combat and read how they struggled, I felt ashamed for our country. Is it so uncommon for women to serve in the U.S. Military that our society automatically labels them as a soldier’s wife, rather than considering the possibility that she might be the soldier herself? They aren’t recognized as veterans even though they served their country dutifully. They don’t receive proper medical treatment from the VA because they’re women -”Check if she’s pregnant. It might just be hormones.”
One of the things that bothered me the most was reading about how these women are less likely to speak out against this poor treatment. And why? “Nobody wants to hear the girl whine.” They’re taught not to complain in the military, the men see it as a weakness. But these women don’t deserve the sexual harassment and they don’t deserve to lose the friends they fought with because their wives aren’t comfortable with their husbands going to the bar with their comrades (who just happen to be female.)
I won’t rant much more on the subject. I’ll simply share an email I received not long ago. One I don’t find particularly funny…
The Real Miss America
This 19 year old ex-cheerleader (now an Air Force Security Forces Sniper) was watching a road that led to a NATO military base when she observed a man digging by the road. She engaged the target (i.e., she shot him). It turned out he was a bomb maker for the Taliban, and he was burying an IED that was to be detonated when a US patrol walked by 30 minutes later. It would have certainly killed and wounded several soldiers.
The interesting fact of this story is the shot was measured at 725 yards. She shot him as he was bent over burying the bomb. The shot went through his butt and into the bomb which detonated; he was blown to pieces. The Air Force made a motivational poster of her:
Let me just say, I don’t know if this is intended to be supportive or if it is just a joke. However, I don’t feel that it’s very positive regardless. I think it’s making light of the fact that these women defend their friends, their families, and our nation. When was the last time you did something as selfless as volunteering to risk your life to defend your nation’s freedom? I know I haven’t done anything of the sort. These women have more courage than I could ever imagine having. I can only write about women with such courage.
So, go ahead throw the equality argument back in my face if you want, but don’t stand there and tell me these women don’t deserve respect for what they’re trying to do.