A recent piece on this page discussed the character of Maya (in the movie Zero Dark Thirty) and dithered about combat changing women into something they should not be. That view prevails among ponderous thinkers who would fix all problems by cutting taxes and turning back the clock to keep women in subordinate roles. There is a tendency for some men to fall behind in the march of civilization. All women don’t want or need male shelter from their own personal, grown-up choices.
Bob Dylan sang about “the times, they are a changin’.” Times have changed. Our all-volunteer military forces are the best in the world. That does not mean that every man (or woman) is an outstanding human being. Warriors, like civilians, are imperfect but still capable of doing heroic things. Trying to keep women away from all of the ugliness isn’t rational and it won’t fix the human thirst for war. The problem isn’t what war may do to women; the problem is what war does to everyone. There is no pretty answer. We don’t know how to chain up our instinct for war and redirect it to peaceful pursuits (or, perhaps we don’t want to).
There is no compelling reason to exclude women from the dirty work of war if they want to do it. Many women are already facing the same dangers as men. Decades ago, I struggled to win my paratrooper wings at Fort Benning. Back then, I couldn’t imagine women striving for those same honors. There were many things men thought women couldn’t or shouldn’t do, such as voting, running companies and getting advanced degrees. We hear of soldiers backing each other up, never leaving a man behind and respecting and trusting their buddies. It’s the same for women.
Today, we know the problem isn’t female frailty but, for some men, bruised male vanity. The Russians used hundreds of deadly female snipers in World War II. Women are now pilots and company commanders and field grade offices. Women can be more skilled at killing than are those men who don the uniform in the name of aggression and then apply for easy duty away from danger.
Change does not come without new problems, however. The Department of Defense estimates that there are 19,000 sexual assaults yearly in the military, many of which are never reported. Some assaults are by predators who abuse men as well as women. No American should be proud of that number, but it is a problem that is getting fixed. Trying to hold women to the idealized role of the 1950s won’t fix what needs fixing and is not the right model for today. Women may still cook and sweep and have babies, if they choose. But women are also skilled pilots, forest rangers, boxers, parachutists, welders, divers—the list goes on. They are not always quickly accepted in their new roles. But it is happening. More women than men are getting college degrees. Women are doing new jobs well, sometimes better than they were done by men. It just may take a while for some males to accept what is happening, gracefully and openly. Refusing change will only leave men (and our country) way, way behind.
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This column represents alternative thoughts to other published columns in the Crossville Chronicle. “We the People” is published each Wednesday. Opinions expressed in “We the People” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact John Wund, editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.