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09 Sep 2008 16:51
By Jove, who would’ve thought it? That with our delicate constitutions and proneness to osteomyelitis, we’d still be allowed. Into the army, that is.
We? Girls, that is.
But just when we’re given the chance to prove our mettle, we go and stuff it up.
So perhaps let me start by nailing my colours to the mast — the army is no place for chicks. Because they’ll always want special treatment just because they are, in fact, chicks.
So I am not impressed by the icon status being accorded to apple-cheeked Private Jessica Lynch, who has been dubbed the ‘Joan of Arc” of the invasion of Iraq. Because she was, and let us not put too much polish on things, a soldier who — in the line of duty — slipped on the mustard and got caught by the bad guys.
Reams of column space were devoted to speculation: ‘Most feared the worst, only upon her recovery would the nation know the details of her imprisonment,” a columnist wrote. One assumes her being slapped around by the Iraqi forces as she lay injured on a hospital bed was not some standard treatment enemies mete out on captured foes, but truly horrendous because, let us not forget, Jess is a woman.
The brass-on-the-shoulderpads lot are good at utterances like how there need to be more women in ‘decision-making positions”. Yes, but can they skiet, skop en donner?
Can they run long distances carrying about 40kg of artillery shells. Or dig themselves into the ground in 10 minutes under heavy enemy fire? And can it ever be forgotten (for the love of God!) that when they are captured, that such-and-such number of soldiers have been captured, ‘including a woman”.
It seems not. Their child-bearing hips and soft hearts are interfering in their tasks, according to defence publications like The War Machine as Child Minder and The Cultural Subversion of the Armed Forces in Britain and America.
Yes, in the age of technology, we all know that combat doesn’t mean rushing forward with bayonets, it could just as well be about dropping bombs from a fighter jet. Meaning then, that a woman in the army need not even see any hand-to-hand combat in her career.
But recent studies suggest women soldiers still aren’t worth their salt. A British Defence Department study, called the Combat Effectiveness Gender Study, released last year, recommends that women should not be allowed to fight on the front line. It concludes that females lack the strength and stamina needed to serve the infantry armoured regiments, Royal Marines or the Royal Air Force regiment.
In one test the male failure rate was 20%, compared to the 70% failure rate of the females. In another, where the exercise involved target-practice simulating conditions under fire, the failure rate was 48% in women and only 17% in men.
According to one newspaper that reported on the study, the tests were reportedly ‘diluted and watered down” so much that they were ‘little more than aggressive camping”.
Anyone still hoping Margaret Thatcher would become a feminist in her dotage had better keep dreaming. Writing of the integration of women into the military in her latest book, Statecraft, she says that ‘liberal attitudes developed in civilian life”, such as equal rights for women and homosexual rights, are not only ‘irrelevant” to the functions of armies, but are actually dangerous.
Thatcher talks of ‘the feminist military militants” as ‘the most pernicious of these reformers”. The point, she says, is that integrating women into armies is not so much about toughening them up for combat, as it is about reconfiguring battleships to provide a space for female soldiers to hang their bloomers.
‘When it was recognised that women couldn’t throw the grenades far enough to avoid being caught in the explosion, the answer was not to make the men take over, but to make lighter and less lethal grenades. The United States navy, too, is reconfiguring its ships to provide for women’s facilities,” notes Thatcher.
But my view is a minority one in these times. Who wouldn’t be inclined to disagree with ‘chicks in fatigues” when looking at how ‘Our Jess” — aspirant kindergarten teacher — is being treated because she was a failed soldier. Once recovered, she can peruse through the offers pouring in for film rights, book rights and her deluge of scholarships.
Will she continue with the military? Will she get a medal? Or is it back to the suburbs for her? Pass the sick pail.
Women will always clamour for more representation in armies, and that’s fine. But if they’re going to bask in an exclusive spotlight because of being women, and treading where others of the Fraternity of the Stocking fear to, they are by the very act demanding special treatment.
And so, it’s back to the kitchen for them, and perhaps this is where these phony-baloney soldier dames should stay, instead of compromising national security by wanting to carry guns — only to shriek ‘I’m a woman, be gentle on me” when the kitchen gets too hot.
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