Saturday, May 19, 2012

Women in Combat...

So, lately there is talk of women joining the ranks of men in combat. I staunchly (to borrow a word from a fellow writer) oppose this notion. I believe it is absolutely ludicrous! To quote from the article I read on this, Major (Ret.) Jeff Struecker states:

"I believe it is fine for women to serve in the US Military. However, I don't think they should be asked to, nor permitted to serve in combat roles in front lines units. There is a fundamental difference between being caught in direct combat and planning for women to go into direct combat situations. Only a moron would think that women cannot excel in combat- they have since Mary Ludwig "Molly Pitcher" Hays. I am suggesting that to intentionally place women in these positions changes their role in our society from the protected to the protector and it similarly changes a man's role in society. Since this is the type of training they will be exposed to in Ranger School (not to mention the harsh physical treatment) I think it is a huge mistake to consider women for this course."

I agree with him. This is a huge mistake. And for the reasons he states, too (and more than I won't go into right now, but as an Army wife, I have plenty of other reasons). Women and children are the protected in our society and frankly, I like it that way. One of the proudest moments I have is the memory of a male student defending my honor in a classroom one time when another student attempted to step out of line. Their ability and desire to protect is ingrained in them and we should NOT tamper with this concept. 

Yes, women are wonderful protectors, that is NOT what I am saying. I assure you, the most dangerous place to be is in-between a mother and her child; however, I can also assure you that my husband has the ability and the know how to inflict significantly more harm and fear in the attacker than I do. I will resort to "metal" help. Follow that.

I wrote an essay two years ago about The Authenticity of Being a Woman and I'd like to include a few excerpts from this to drive home my point about gender differences and WHY they matter:

“You want to grow up to be a lady, don’t you?” asks Uncle Jack Finch of the protagonist Scout in Harper Lee’s acclaimed novel To Kill a Mockingbird.  Scout replies with a terse, “Not particularly.”  While the literature brings a smile to the reader who understands the nature of Scout’s persona, even Scout recognizes before the end of the novel, she too, must “…enter [the woman’s] world, where on its surface fragrant ladies rocked slowly, fanned gently, and drank cool water.”  And thus begs the question, what does it mean to be a woman?   A loaded question most of society fails to discuss with the same veracity as Lydia Chapin Taft’s vote in 1756.  This demonstration of equality amongst the sexes centuries ago forever changed the expectation of being a woman, now a touchy subject; now a loaded pistol and the word “dance”. 
As an educator, I witness near atrocities of gender amid young adults. During our annual reading of To Kill a Mockingbird, I pose the question to high school students, “What does it mean to act like a girl?”  The novel of focus shuns the stereotypical sugar and spice and everything nice opting more for a snakes and snails and puppy dog tails approach to little girls and much to my chagrin, the girls in my class agree with the idea, not having full knowledge of being a woman at the adolescent age of fifteen.  What I find interesting each year, when the question is asked, is the boys are the group supporting the notion that “girls should act like girls” and the girls sit, amused, offended, and ready to rumble over the slightest inclination of what is deemed “women’s work”.  I’ve yet to acquiesce to the impression of today’s youth that being a woman is somehow a chore, a negative contemplation fought from birth.  A debate between the young men and women discussing the societal expectations of both genders and how the double standards for women's actions still exist even in our modern times ensues with vehement passion.  Inevitably, eyes shift to me from an astute student with a simple question, “What do you think?”  And I reply, “I think girls should act like girls” much to my softball players dismay.  I am not a martyr for the cause of men and women’s roles, and I do encourage women’s sports that are traditionally women’s.  I support equality of the sexes in the workplace, equal pay for equal work in professions appropriate to the skill of request and level of education, but I also understand the existence of proverbial double-standards dictating women's behavior outside of the office, and with this charge, I accept.  I don't want to be "just like a man".
The differences exist to preserve the authenticity of being a woman.   To continue to celebrate us as the fairer sex, not the weaker sex.  To recognize the strength in the substance of what only women can do, specifically, bear children in the way God intended us to, giving us power, presence, permanence.  To love a child with a fire unparallel to any other connection on earth.  Agatha Christie wrote in The Last Séance, “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world.  It knows no law, no pity, it dates all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path,” a feat accomplished only in the bonds of motherhood.   Women have the ability to exhibit a range of emotion not available to men and stew for as long as necessary.  Proverbs 31: 10-31 develops the many graces of a woman from her character as a wife to her devotion as a homemaker, her generosity as a neighbor and her influence as a teacher, her effectiveness as a mother and, as a person.  I, as a woman, appreciate the accepted wisdom of an age-old book where we draw our strength.  Women are complicated and simple, introverted and extroverted, the calm before the storm and a force to be reckoned with. 
Why, oh why, would any woman want to be viewed otherwise?  Feminists who fought for equality are perhaps rolling over in their graves right now, but I firmly believe Lydia Chapin Taft cast her vote in Colonial America to demonstrate equality in business and politics, the notable intelligence of a woman’s mind, and the ability to exercise thoughts excepting the hearth, not to cast aside her apron and dustpan.  I do not mean to suggest women are solely for cooking and cleaning, but I hail from a very traditional family in which my mother did the majority of the cooking and cleaning, as did my grandmothers.  This custom of maintaining dietary affairs and cobweb corralling is time-honored, approached with pride.   In Olive Ann Burn's novel Cold Sassy Tree she writes, "When a woman gets sick, the house gets sick;" this, my friends, is true. 
However, do not mistake my desire for tradition with a disregard for progress.  I applaud women who achieved great heights and were recognized for their ability.  Groundbreaking women such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and her writings to expose the mayhem of slavery, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an abolitionist working her way to office as the first president of the National Women’s Suffrage Association to include her persistent desire to have the word obey dropped from marriage vows, and Clara Barton who showed an unwavering compassion to help her fellow man and woman, eventually founding The Red Cross.  Amelia Earhart gave us women in flight, Isadora Duncan, women in dance, and Clara Schillace, Ana Harnett, Edie Perlick, and Shirley Jameson, women in baseball. 
What power we wield without a spoken societal balance.  Women take charge in a quiet way and are master manipulators, not in malice, but in benevolence helping people, spouse, friends, and certainly children, become not an obstacle to themselves, but advantages.  Women have the uncanny aptitude to be in command of the show and disappear with grace as the moment arrives giving the credit to those she loves.  Ideas inherent to women, qualities to embrace.

             Be a beautiful woman.  Be a woman with pride.  Spend time focusing on the enchanting influence women have rather than wallow in the inequities of gender bias.  As a woman, dominance resides in the depths of your soul; you will find a way to what you want and what you deserve because you are a lovely, authentic woman.
Women are beautiful, all women.  Women celebrate their smile, their curves, their height, their build, even when it doesn't look error free as desired.  Women walk into a room; confidence turning heads as nothing is more attractive than a self-assured woman.  Women dress to impress knowing when to be sexy and beautiful and when to cover it up, when to be playful and when to be professional.  Women know the journey from Scout Finch to Elizabeth Taylor is one with abrasions along the way, but nonetheless, a quest well worth it for the satisfied and happy traveler. 

I love being woman and I love the traditional role I play. I want to continue this and I believe that allowing women to join programs like the Rangers is a mistake we will pay dearly for in multiple ways. I'm sure there are some that disagree with me, and that's okay. 
Marilyn Monroe said the following, "Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition." Really take in what I said about being a woman above, and you'll see this is absolutely true. I don't need to remind us all about the woman that failed out of the Citadel or bring up G.I. Jane who had to ring the bell. Those examples are already rearing their heads loud and clear in the minds of those that remember the last time women attempted to enter this difficult world. In short, ladies, let it be.


  1. Cresta,

    This is heart-felt and I appreciate what you have to say about women in combat. I struggle with holding an absolute position on this, because I know many women who are great protectors who are not great nurturers. Specifically, I'm reminded of this doctor I had who was a woman, but in no way except how she marked the box [F] when filling out forms.

    While I absolutely agree that women gain nothing from replacing men and taking over their roles in society while abandoning their own, I wish there was a policy that was flexible for the few exceptions.

    Great post :)

  2. Thanks Carrie. I was surprised I didn't get more feedback on this one. My opinions are very firm (married the Army for 12 years now), but I really thought there would be more to disagree with me. Not that I'm seeking debate, but open discussion about controversial topics is always fantastic. You make an excellent point - thank you for your comment!

  3. HI, I just came across this post by accident (that's such a pretty picture of Marilyn!) and found myself reading through the entire page. I really had no intention of commenting until I saw your own comment about how you expected more debate...

    The one thing that struck me when I read this was how much it reminded me of my old high school teachers' advice about public speaking. Typically it amounted to something like, "just don't think about it!" or, "imagine your classmates in their underwear!" or some other equally unhelpful bit of non-advice that betrayed a complete lack of understanding on the teacher's part about why some of us struggle to give presentations.

    I think it's hard sometimes for women from, as you said, "traditional" backgrounds to imagine a woman's life without male support and child-rearing. It must seem as though it's simply an innate desire (and possibility) for all women to assume such a role. But to me, that seems a little bit like wondering why all African Americans aren't amazing basket ball players and why they don't all make it their mission in life to turn pro.

    It's curious why there is such importance placed on the distinction between gender roles in our society. You mention mothers taking on a protective role in regards to their children: Is there no appropriate protective role for the childless? Is it our adherence to distinct gender identity which makes us good members of society, or is it our humanity?

    I would not be so quick to assume that adherence to gender roles in society is what makes a society good. To me, it is what we do, in whatever God-given role we've been assigned, that determines our worth. I hope one day, particularly for the sake of your students, you're able to recognize a less narrow view of womanhood and develop a more loving idea of a woman of God.

    All I really wanted to point out is that for some women, the "traditional" role is the perfect fit, but not all of us were intended for it. It might be a bit out of your comfort zone, but I'd urge you to go out and get to know some of us!

    Emily :)