Monday, March 19, 2007

women in the military: a double whammy

The Women's War - Sara Corbett - Iraq - Soldiers - Women - Abuse - New York Times

one of the goals of feminism, especially feminist historiography, is to shed light on women's untold stories and now that our country has embarked on a path of endless war, the stories of women in our military are slowly beginning to leak out. women, in some capacity, have always been part of our military machine - either as support staff, medical staff and now combat staff. but knowledge of their actual lives within the walls of the military is largely unknown - except for the stuff that's so bad it finally breaks the news.

this times magazine piece is fascinating: one, it becomes connected to the earlier article about boozed up men in the military and violence and, two, it prompts me to ask whether women belong in the military at all.

it's clear the military, despite some good lip service to the contrary after every sexual assault scandal in their training camps, academies and ranks, has no capacity to deal with the needs of military women who've been assaulted or harrassed within the military. their reporting structure is broken, their punishment structure is failed and their treatment/prevention capabilities seem to be non-existent. and all this failure and inaction, as well as the sexual assault itself, seems to be built into the very fabric of the military.

from the article:
''So you have young women joining the military who have the profile of being victimized, who don't have boundaries sometimes,'' [V.A. Palo Alto Health Care
System psychiatrist, Dr. Tina] Lee went on to say. ''And then you have a male
population that fits a perpetrator profile. They are mostly under 25, often
developmentally adolescent, and you put them together. What do you think will
happen? The men do the damage, and the women get damaged.''

i'm actually surprised to be asking myself this question of women in the military. i've always thought 'anything a man can do, a woman should be allowed to do' and service in the military certainly shouldn't be withheld from women because of cultural stereotypes of 'weakness' or 'girliness.' but what if the military is too unsafe for women? oh, not because of combat. they're trained to deal with combat situations, just like their male counterparts.

but what if it's too unsafe for women because of the danger posed by their male counterparts?
and if this is so, should women want to join the military?

(notice the particular frame for that question and the implied agency - it's not about 'belonging' in the military at all, but whether women should even choose it, given what that culture is actually like?)

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