Why you should care

Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.

Women can be deadly. From the mountains of Kurdistan to the border of Ukraine, female soldiers around the world prove every day that having a uterus does not make them less able to protect and serve. They can jump out of airplanes, drop bombs and chase down Osama bin Laden as effectively as any man.

But why would they want to?

War has always been a man’s world, and maybe there’s a case that it should stay that way — though not for the reasons you might think. Of course, wanting to protect one’s country is a noble intention, and women should be given the choice to do so. And there’s no denying that women have fought hard for the right. Yet is waging war really what women — who have fought across the globe for professional freedom — should want? Given our planet’s obvious need for peace and prosperity, maybe we need women serving more in government and at companies than shooting down snipers in Iraq.

Not that many women will be able to satisfy even watered-down standards, and not that many women want to do it anyway.

Kingsley Browne, professor at Wayne State University Law School and author

In other words, instead of going to war, avoiding one. As the feminist writer Christine de Pizan argued six centuries ago, women are well-placed to stop the escalation of violence because “men by nature are more foolhardy and headstrong, and their overwhelming desire to avenge themselves prevents them from foreseeing the resulting dangers and terrors of war.” Sometimes gender essentialism can be for the good. Countless women around the world have embraced their role as peacekeeper, from Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who in 2011 won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work as a member of the Women Waging Peace network, to female activists in South Sudan who suggested maintaining a sex strike until the men in the war-torn country decide to put down their weapons.

In some respects, women’s campaign to join the military has been a losing battle anyway. Despite their best efforts, the battlefield will never be fully coed, and men will hold most of the key leadership slots. In the U.S., only 7.1 percent of general and flag officers are women; the percentage is only slightly higher in the U.K. “Women will always be a small minority of ground combat troops even if the standards are watered down,” says Kingsley Browne, professor at Wayne State University Law School and author of Co-ed Combat: The New Evidence That Women Shouldn’t Fight the Nation’s Wars. “Not that many women will be able to satisfy even watered-down standards, and not that many women want to do it anyway.”

And it’s not only foreign enemies that female soldiers have to fear. Women in the military are often the victims of violence and sexual abuse at the hands of their supposed comrades. In the U.S. armed forces, 1 in 3 women have been sexually assaulted — that is twice the civilian rate — and despite all the recent media exposure, much remains to be done to lower that number.

So, with that in mind, the question has to be asked: Why would women want to join the military? It’s time they fill the classrooms, rock the boardrooms and take over the airwaves, and if men really want to keep the battlefield to themselves — maybe let them have it. You can let us have it in the comments below.

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