Chances are, whether or not you identify as feminist, if you’ve read much about women’s issues you’ll have heard of the Male Privilege Checklist. You also may have heard of at least one of the various Female Privilege Checklists that were made in response. I’m not here to rebut either of those lists word for word (I think they say more about the flaws of the checklist-style posts more than anything else), but I did want to take the opportunity to talk in-depth about the concept of “female privilege” that the checklists are using.
This is the first in what intends to be a series focusing on the common arguments that crop up when people are trying to illustrate instances of “female privilege”, starting with addressing the various claims regarding women and the military. Be forewarned: this post is US-centric.
Women in the military: an introduction
Arguments that in matters related to war women have “female privilege” are made most often by citizens of countries, like America, where women are still barred from full participation in the military. The basic line is that women are recipients of “female privilege” because they are/were exempted from the draft and don’t serve on the front lines.
While, on one hand, there are definitely advantages to such policies, there are several problems with claiming that it’s part of “female privilege”:
- Women were not the ones who created the policies
- Women have fought, and continue to fight, against policies that bar them from equal participation in the military
- The basis for the policies are rooted in benevolent sexism (ie. the idea that women are too precious/fragile to participate)
- Women, both civilian and military, are specifically targeted by brutal tactics such as rape
Far from enjoying a special status that they specifically asked for and wanted, women were simply expected to desire this system because they are seen as “nurturers” who need/want protection from men. Even though this position is, at first glance, advantageous to women, it in fact limits their ability to choose their own career path, reinforces the idea of women as weak, and doesn’t actually protect them from harm.
On the draft
There are two major problems with holding up the draft in America as evidence of “female privilege”. The first and foremost is that the draft was discontinued in 1973 in favor of the All Volunteer Force. To put that in some historical perspective, the draft “hasn’t been activated in the U.S. since women weren’t allowed into the Ivy Leagues or to sit on juries in Texas” (Marcotte). In that way, rather than being a privilege, being exempted from the draft is better seen as an example of how women were not seen as full citizens of the United States during the time when it was still in practice.
The second problem with using the draft as evidence is that the most recent attempt to get the military draft reinstated in the US, the Universal National Service Act, provides that “young men and women ages 18-26 could be called to service” [emphasis mine]. So, in fact, if the US ever reinstates a military draft it will reflect the current attitudes towards women’s ability to participate in the military.
Policies on and participation of women in the military
According to the Facts About Women in the Military, 1980-1990 factsheet, when the draft ended and the All Volunteer Force began, the military saw a substantial increase in women who joined its ranks; it went from 1.6 percent in 1973 to 10.8 percent in 1989. The numbers seem to say that there are a fair amount of women out there who don’t see being kept out of the military as a “privilege” and would rather have the opportunity to serve their country in the same way that men can.
Currently, women in the US military are confined to positions that will, for the most part, keep them out of active combat. While it can be argued that it is less dangerous to be barred from active combat situations and restricted to a support role, it can’t be called a “privilege” when it contributes to women being passed over for promotions and other situations necessary for advancement and recognition in their careers:
Whether statutory, or a matter of service policy, these prohibitions bar women in many career fields from being assigned to positions necessary or advantageous to advancement and promotion. In the U.S. armed services overall, 50 percent of military jobs are open to women, but the percentages vary greatly by service.[Women’s Research and Education Institute (Feminism and Women’s Studies) Facts About Women in the Military, 1980-1990.]
The truth is, when looked at more carefully the idea of women being restricted in their participation in the military is not an advantage, but rather a disadvantage. It hinders women’s ability to protect their country and their families, as well as hurts their chances of advancing because they have fewer venues than men to show off their skills.
It’s also worth noting that these policies are not absolutes; they have undergone revision and will most likely undergo more revisions in the future. An example of this is that, in 1991, a previous law barring the assignment of women to airfare combat positions was repealed and a commission was set up to examine the issues concerning women’s participation in combat (Walch, 1993). Also, just because America has these kinds of policies doesn’t mean that all countries bar women from active combat. Canada’s military, for instance, began integrating women into active combat units and naval vessels in 1987 (CBC News).
The reasoning is rooted in benevolent sexism, not privilege
While it might, at first, seem to be an advantage, or a privileging of women over men, for people to make arguments like “female life is more precious so we need to keep them out of harm’s way” or “men make war to protect women”, it is in fact an expression of benevolent sexism which is used to reinforce the ideas that women are weaker than men (and therefore need to be protected).
I’m going to discuss a few of the points that The Happy Feminist addresses in her post on women in combat:
1) Women are not as brave as men, or as psychologically tough as men.
This one is a fairly obvious use of the “women are weak” argument, which is pretty clearly sexist and therefore not advantageous to women.
2) It’s worse when women die or suffer hardship than when men die or suffer hardship.
This argument (that women’s lives are more valuable than men’s) does, on the surface, appear to privilege women. But in fact it’s putting women in a gilded cage (much like chivalry). If it wasn’t used, as in situations like these, to deny women rights and privileges that men have and women want then perhaps there would be a case for it being a privilege for women to be considered “more valuable”. As it stands, it’s just a more flowery way of saying women are weak and need to be protected.
4) Male soldiers will put themselves at risk to protect female soldiers.
This is more of the same above: it is patronizing to set up women as weak creatures in need of protecting. It is sexist, not advantageous, when we are told by men that our desire to defend ourselves and our countries would be a distraction because they are unable to trust that we can take care of ourselves (like adult human beings with military training should be able to).
5) If women are in combat, men will no longer feel the need to protect women in other areas of life.
Again, this is an example of benevolent sexism as it utilizes the “good girl”/”bad girl” dichotomy. It’s pretty much explicitly stating that if women transgress the gender roles that were laid out for them then they will lose the “privilege” of being protected by men. Which goes back to what I said above about how it’s patronizing and restricting to be told that you’re not allowed to defend yourself (and your country) because of your sex/gender.
Being kept from combat doesn’t protect women from war’s brutality
War is to gender like fire is to everything in its sight—different materials may burn up differently, but in the end they’re all just burned up.
While it is ostensibly a privilege for women to be kept from war (and/or the front lines) in order to be protected from its brutality, the reality (especially with the way that modern warfare is waged) it is not, in fact, soldiers who bear the highest costs of war, but rather civilians.
Of course, the bigger point to be made here is that war exerts a profound and particular violence on women. Civilian females raped by maruading troops, female soldiers raped by their own comrades, military wives at home killed by their returning husbands — war and militarism hit women hard. This runs contrary to conventional wisdom, which holds that war is the special burden of men, the great sacrifice that males give for their country.[Dr. Violet Socks (Reclusive Leftist) The Global War on Women.]
Dr. Socks has a point and a later statement (not quoted) about civilian casualties far outweighing that of military deaths is also supported by the data:
Collateral damage, the number of civilians dying in war, is increasing each time, until 99.15% of the causalities are civilians, not military.[David M. Boje (Peace Aware) Sanctions: U.S. Violations of the Geneva Convention.]
Also see the casualty tolls for World War II, Vietnam war, and the Iraq war. For a more global-based discussion, please refer to Milton Leitenberg’s Deaths in Wars and Conflicts in the 20th Century [pdf].
What that comes down to is this: in modern warfare, soldiers do not bear the heavier burden, but it is rather civilians who bear the brunt of the casualties and other fallouts of war. This is said not to downplay the hardships that soldiers face, but rather to point out that arguing that women are “privileged” because “men defend women in times of war. More men die than women to defend the peace. Far far more men.” (as commenter MansVoice did) is not supported by the casualty reports of recent wars.
It should also be noted that women are handed a disadvantage that their male counterparts don’t have to deal with: systematic rape. It’s no secret that rape has been one of the weapons of war throughout history. This is, needless to say, not advantageous for women.
The system that enables rape to be used in this way is exactly the same one that argues for keeping women out of war: benevolent sexism. While this, on the surface, seems to not make a lot of sense (nothing about rape is “benevolent”) consider this:
Rape is often used in ethnic conflicts as a way for attackers to perpetuate their social control and redraw ethnic boundaries, she said.
“Women are seen as the reproducers and carers of the community,” she said.
“Therefore if one group wants to control another they often do it by impregnating women of the other community because they see it as a way of destroying the opposing community.”[Laura Smith-Spark (BBC News) How did rape become a weapon of war?.]
It is because women are seen as the “reproducers and carers of the community” — a role assigned to them as part of benevolent sexism — that they are targeted.
A lot of what people put forth as “female privilege” are really a collection of traditions and assumptions that on the surface may appear to be advantageous, but when examined in detail turn out to reinforce sexist stereotypes about women. Furthermore, these “advantages” more often than not are used to justify discrimination and sexism against women.
The example of women’s participation in the military is a prime example of this. The narrative of “female privilege” represents the hurdles that are placed in the way of women’s ability to fully participate in the military and spins it as if it is a double standard that places women above men. However, if you take into account the actual effect that this way of thinking has on women, far from being an advantage, it is in fact something that limits women’s choices for a career and makes it harder for them to succeed if they do choose to enter the military.
Facts About Women in the Military Around the World:
- (CBC News): Women in the Canadian military.
- (CBC News): Women in the military — international.
- Women’s Research and Education Institute (Feminism and Women’s Studies) Facts About Women in the Military, 1980-1990.
- Amanda Marcotte (Pandagon) Casting unfair guilt by association on meals ready to eat and magnetic resonance imaging
- John Weston Walch, Kate O’Halloran (Case and Controversies in U.S. History, 1993): “Unit 49: Women in Combat” (pp. 115-117).
- (Answers.com): women in the military.
Two more points against the “male soldiers bear the heavier burden”:
1. Even if you buy the claim that women are in fact (as opposed to in rhetoric) excluded from combat roles, in the two major wars that the USA is currently in, the non-combat roles appear to be at least as dangerous as combat roles. If the news media are to be believed, most of the military casualties are from things like IEDs or insurgent attacks or terrorism, rather than being associated with US attacks on anybody. Also, female soldiers accompany male soldiers when they go out into dangerous situations — house to house searches, for instance, or supporting attacks on insurgents.
2. Female soldiers are subject to sexual assault by their own comrades, a danger that male soldiers don’t face. I don’t have any idea of how frequent it is (e.g., how it compares with civilian life), but I gather they are much more than isolated incidents, and that cover-ups are also frequent.
About the draft part, I can’t get my mind around one tiny detail, it really confuses me and I hope to be able to express it clearly, if it’s not clear, I’m really sorry, let’s say I’m venting rather than arguing…. Since it seems girls and women today are still conditioned to be unusually sensitive beings, and I would presume it to be the case in the U.S. too 😉 , and since it seems to me it won’t change much for the next few generations to come, doesn’t it seem then to be particularly cruel to plan to include women in a military draft, in the present time? I mean, teach us today to be very caring, and sensitive, and kinda soft, and what not, but then, pretend it doesn’t have any real implications once we’re all grown up, and whooo hooo let’s all go to war? Sure, women volunteering is one thing, I’m sure women choosing the army as a career path have somehow managed to get past their conditioning, and my anti-military sentiments aside, I’m glad the choice is ours to make, but I can think of quite a few women who are not yet there in their journey, who have been successfully conditioned, and I promise I couldn’t help but let them hide in my basement (or elsewhere) if a draft was to be implemented one day, be it at the risk of being jailed or executed (I’m not clear about what the laws are on that matter, though), because the alternative seems awful and…well just cruel … I’m not sure I make sense… but..well…
Benevolent sexism is part of the reason, but there is also an intensely pragmatic political reason for excluding young women from the draft, especially in light of arguments that women “refused” to accept the draft back when women were first given the vote. Women weren’t offered the responsibility of the draft for current wars because they already had the responsibility for birthing the soldiers that would fight in future wars.
The draft covers ages 18-26, which are prime childbearing years, especially in the social groups from which most of our career soldiers originate. (You just know that young men and women of the middle-class and above, who start their families later in life, are going to get draft exemptions all over the place anyway.) If young women in that cohort go to war instead of having babies, and a substantial fraction of them die in war and never go on to have babies, where is the nation going to get its stock of future soldiers for future conflicts?
I somehow don’t imagine that those who assert claims of female privilege are all that likely to be fans of a putative majority-immigrant military in the future.
okay… right…. That sort of logic might begin to explain why, as a little girl, I was told so many times about human parthenogenesis in time of war (and some adults telling me those stories were really serious)….
I agree with your breakdown of the women in the military, in that the root cause is a sexist division of men into soldiers and women in to breeders. This division causes harm to both genders.
is just as correct when you switch the genders around.
When talking about political immediacies, I wonder whether there might be another reason why some politicians (particularly on the socially conservative side of the fence) might avoid the female draft issue. As tigtog said, many middle and upper class people have ways of acquiring draft exceptions. The obvious way for a woman without those resources to be excused would be to get pregnant.
I doubt that “I got knocked up to avoid the draft!” would be a headline that governments want visited up them.
In your response to tekanji, you write:
“A lot of what people put forth as “female privilege” are really a collection of traditions and assumptions that on the surface may appear to be advantageous, but when examined in detail turn out to reinforce sexist stereotypes about women.”
is just as correct when you switch the genders around.’
Not necessarily. It depends on many factors. One major factor relates to which gender is controlling the traditions and assumptions – in particular, the making and maintaining of myths. To give a parallel example … in a society dominated by whites, the white race controls the traditions and assumptions about both white and non-white races. In a patriarchy, where the instruments of power have been traditionally controlled by and for men, male-centric values dominate the traditions and assumptions about both males and females.
Yours is a typical gender-switch argument often used on blogsites – i.e for every negative/positive that affects women’s lives, there is a corresponding negative/positive that affects men’s lives). It is not genuine debate – it is meant merely to dilute and distract.
My February 3rd, 9.07am, post should have been directed to ‘Desipis’
I don’t think either gender has majority control over traditions and assumptions. Mother’s are certainly the most dominate force over young children, and it is in these formative years in which the concepts of “men” and “women” and the associated values become so ingrained.
Notions of sexism are about assigning males to ‘manly’ roles and females to ‘womanly’ roles. Those who would naturally follow those roles anyway are generally advantaged (males who want to be soldiers, females who don’t want to be soldiers), while those who chose to not follow those roles are generally disadvantaged (males who don’t want to be soldiers, females who do want to be soldiers). Determining whether a certain sexism is an advantage or a disadvantage to a particular gender is a subjective notion based on subscribing a set of values to that entire gender (which in itself is a sexist notion). As far as I understood it feminism ranks the values of freedom and equality above most others and, as sexisms generally restrict the freedom of males as well as restricting the freedom of females, they can be considered harmful to males as well.
Neither is simply claiming there exists a “male privilege” but not a “female privilege”. It’s a purely subjective argument and has little merit when attempting objective rational discussion of other gender issues.
I agree that it is in those formative years that concepts of gender become ingrained, but that doesn’t mean that I agree with your implication that it is the mothers doing the ingraining.
What young children see in their formative years is that their mother works in front of them all day and most of the evening before they go to bed, while Daddy comes homes home from work and doesn’t do any work in front of them, except perhaps for some kudos-gaining lawn or gutter duties on the weekend. Mummy rarely gets kudos for doing the laundry and cooking day after day after day.
Mothers might be the ones who most often tell children “no”, but who is the one in the family who says “yes”? The one who controls the wallet, which is still mostly the father. So what children learn, simply by watching the dynamics of their own family, is that Daddy has more power than Mummy, because he has finished working for the day when Mummy is still working on looking after them: they’re not stupid, they can see who has the upper hand. When not only your family but every other family you know has this pattern, that is what perpetuates sexist gender expectations.
Thank you for posting this, I had a friend in high school who always whined that women’s right to vote should be taken away if they didn’t have to register for selective service. Wish I had been able to have these points on hand back then.
Wait, Desipis. Are you claiming that all the sexism is something relative, and ‘sexism’ towards males is exactly like sexism towards women, so men and women have exactly the same power and the same influence in our culture?
Because maybe I didn’t understood you. If you said that, whoa. What a wait of dismiss all the history and structures of hierarchy of our culture.
There is a reason why mothers were/are the ones who spend more time with the children and not the fathers, you know.
tigtog, nice 1950’s family cliché there. In today’s world there are significantly higher levels of diversity in the family structure. If you claim that women are equals of men (and I certainly agree) then they take half of the responsibility for the relationship and family dynamics that the child observes.
Noir, I’m saying that whether a sexism is beneficial (i,e, is a privilege) is dependent on the values you ascribe to the gender. Much of what is named “male privilege” is in fact harmful if a man choses to take on the traditional role of a woman. I’m not arguing that there wasn’t a significant gender gap in the past, I’m saying that in today’s world there is no clear case for saying women are worse off ‘overall’ or that sexism doesn’t cause harm to males. To make such an argument you have to assign a narrow set of different values to each gender which is in itself a sexist notion.
Are you saying that men have a better innate ability to be self critical and change their ingrained sexisms than women? Because if men and women have the same ability to identify and address their internalized sexisms, then they are both equally responsible for playing them out and passing them on.
Desipis, I wish it were just a 1950s cliche, but time and motion studies have always shown and continue to show that working women put in a double shift, still doing the bulk of the household/childcare tasks. Children see this.
You keep attempting to move the discussion away from culture-wide expectations, powers and influences on to individual choices/relationships. Not to say that individual choices, self-criticism and changing ingrained habits aren’t important, of course they are, but concentrating on those to the exclusion of the culture as a whole is fallacious. (edited to add: especially in a discussion of privilege, which a cultural phenomenon of societies ascribing value to certain social groups over others, not something that an individual creates for themselves)
Human societies value conformity, and all of us have our choices constrained by the weight of socialisation and our status within the society. People with higher status have fewer constraints on their choices, always. Sometimes “choosing” the status quo is literally a matter of survival. To point to individuals whose circumstances you don’t know as having made a “free choice” to behave in a conventional way, when the unconventional is generally at best unrewarded and at worst brutally punished, is woefully simplistic.
These hierarchies always bear down on the people at the bottom, and no feminist has ever said that there aren’t plenty of men at the bottom of the social pyramid. What I don’t understand is why men who observe the oppression of males by the patriarchal status quo are more interested in blaming women for it rather than blaming the patriarchal elites.
I agree (mostly) with what you’ve written in your last post, however you make no argument there as to the unidirectional nature of privilege. Nor do you make any argument supporting that one “gender is controlling the traditions and assumptions – in particular, the making and maintaining of myths”
What I don’t understand is why women are so interested in blaming the one gender for the impacts of our collective culture. Who are these “patriarchal elites” that have the mystical power of being able to manipulate culture like a string puppet? Everyone who participates in a culture (men & women) are responsible for perpetuating it and everyone is socially pressured into doing so.
People with higher status often have greater responsibility and the obligations of this responsibility can constrain ones choices. For example politicians are constrained to being close to ‘normal’ other wise the voters and media will force them out of office. The media are constrained to publishing material that the public want to buy, otherwise their sales will fall.
A lot of your questions in the comment above are answered in the FAQs on Privilege and Patriarchy, and you asking such questions strongly suggests that you haven’t read those or followed the links within them.
Asserting that current social attitudes disproportionately disadvantage women is not the same as blaming all men for the existence of these attitudes. The attitude that men are superior is wrong, not men themselves in toto, and pointing the finger at actual misogynists is not the same as blaming on all men, unless you are asserting that all men are misogynists?
We all have to deal with a legacy of many many generations of unquestioned and legally mandated male superiority. To imagine that most of us are consciously choosing to pass on cultural tropes most of the time is simply fatuous: we both absorb and propagate cultural tropes every minute as “the way things are”.
No-one can constantly self-examine their every single action in terms of how it reveals deeply entrenched attitudes, even if they wanted to. There would be no time to achieve anything else at all.
No it’s not. I don’t think I said it was. I made my point about disproportionately disadvantage in my Feb 4th comment.
I’m asserting that propagators of misogyny culture(s) are not mostly men. Read the bit I quoted from marian that I put in Italics; that’s the notion I was objecting to.
Okay, Desipis. Firstly, with ‘today world’ you are talking about western, first-word societies, right?
In what world are you living I want to know. I recommend you to see the concept of ‘institutionalized sexism’ first. You know that men had/have privilege that give them more power than women in every society, don’t you?
What happened with the ‘it’s not about you’ section in the FAQ? Goodness, nobody is blaming men as a whole, we are blaming a system that give them privileges that women don’t have. Due to those privileges they were and are the ones usually in positions of power, thus dominating in a world that benefices them. Can you see how advantageous is that and why we aren’t focusing on blaming the women?
Of course patriarchy Hurts Men Too, but not by privileging/giving power to women – you can see that going to war/fighting was always seen as political power. Whatever privileges women have individually (not as a group) because of that is accidental.
I think all about Patriarchy Hurts Men, and we aren’t blaming males is covered in the FAQ.
I also think people have to learn to deal with their own privilege.
Damn it. I couldn’t quote Desipis.
This was his, if someone could edit it:
Because if men and women have the same ability to identify and address their internalized sexisms, then they are both equally responsible for playing them out and passing them on.
[Moderator note: Done.]
Some more thoughts …
As well as controlling virtually every other sphere of public existence worldwide, the male gender overwhelmingly dominates the control of and access to the world’s weaponry (particularly through the armed forces and Ministries of Defence). This is one hell of a privilege (which Desipis would quibble into irrelevancy – but I digress).
Also, the male gender well and truly controls the traditional ‘hero cult’, especially the way in which cultures view and remember wars – or, as Mary Daly describes it, cultural necrophilia. All the war memorials in most countries commemorate soldiers killed, almost entirely male. However, memorials to civilians killed in war, at least half of which are female and which are many times more in number, are virtually non-existent. (About the only exception to this would be the Holocaust.)
Just on a final note … Here is a little known anecdote from history. Before Christianity came to Ireland and Scotland, Celtic women had been quite active as warriors. However, in AD597, a law was passed by the Christian Church exempting women from the military. A hundred years later, the law was changed to ban women warriors outright. It seems an exemption was not enough to quench the desire of many women to fight alongside men. Oh, yes … in addition to the ban, a ‘protection tax’ was then enforced on all women, representing a quarter of their yearly earnings – what a bloody insult!
I guess I overlooked that as a true point of contention for you, because for you to get hung up on that seems like you simply have not thought things through.
In most of the world, legal systems still explicitly grant less agency and fewer rights to women, through social hierarchies that are dominated by male elites. In the West, we are only a few generations away from fewer rights for women ourselves, and the myths of those previous generations still linger. Our majority religions, the gatekeepers of our social myths, are still overwhelmingly led by male hierarchies who explicitly use Scripture to deny women the right to teach religiously. The hierarchy of mass media corporations which serve up warmed-over gender-stereotypes as “news”, entertainment and marketing is notorious as a “boys’ club”.
Does the dominance of the patriarchal elite over cultural institutions mean that every member of the male gender has control over those institutions? No. You’re arguing against an assertion which has not been made.
[Moderator note: this was way too long, so I have edited it. The two paragraphs below contain the two key concepts Desipis has been repeating]
I live in a liberal democracy (not USA) where one person gets one vote means that women get 50% of the vote and therefore hold 50% of the power. This power is evident in the types of laws that have been passed and government bodies created; it is overly simplistic to merely assess the gender of those elected to represent.
My point is that power within a society is cyclical and at different points within the cycle a particular gender may have the majority of power. You can’t justify ignoring the points where women have the institutionalized power within a frame work of equality.
Apologies if that was kinda long, I’ve written it over the course of quite a few hours in between doing work and other things.
Your original comment was way too long. If you want a copy of the original text you submitted I can email it to you.
To argue that numerical equity translates to institutionalised power is to totally misunderstand the concept.
Institutionalised power is about who has authority
Numbers alone do not give individuals who share a collective attribute authority. Authority comes from sanctioned power, which derives from the hierarchies of social institutions. A disorganised numerical majority has no method of wielding institutional power.
P.S. Edited to add: Where males as a class derive privilege from the institutionalised power of hierarchical male elites is that in normal life they are deferred to because they look more like the hierarchical elite than they look like Others, and thus are deferred to, even if only marginally if they have few other intersecting markers of social privilege, just in case.
“Mother’s are certainly the most dominate force over young children, and it is in these formative years in which the concepts of “men” and “women” and the associated values become so ingrained.”—Disipis
I hear this argument thrown around quite a bit, yet there is much evidence to the contrary. Now, Judith Rich Harris in her book “The Nurture Assumption” argues that the primary influences on children are genes their peers. She brilliantly makes this argument in various areas ranging from language development, school achievement and smoking (for teens).
This is not to say that parents don’t have an affect on their kids, of course they do. But the point is that people underestimate the role of the environment (e.g., peers, already established cultural expectations) in shaping childrens’ cultural values and expectations. Also, many early influences tend to even out anyway as children get older.
This relates to the patriarchy and feminism because I often see this assertion (that mothers hold more influence on the kids) being used to imply a mechanism by which women uphold the patriarchy.
Desipis, you are being very short-sighted. Power includes not only political power, but social power.
Sadly, this thread is going off track. It’s a discussion on female privilege and the military but so far ‘the female privilege’ part is taking up most of the space – in particular, addressing Desipis’s counterproductively circular arguments.
While the ‘female privilege’ aspect is important, ‘the military’ theme is the more specific issue relating to this discussion and, I believe, deserves a lot more attention than it’s getting here. Women and/in the military is a very important feminist topic, especially in these war-on-everything times.
Also, as an Australian, I have always been painfully aware of how much of our cultural identity is invested in the Anzac myth, which by its very nature excludes women. Even though many Australian women are consciously unaware of this exclusion, they must feel it on some level.
While I am as committed as the next person to allowing women equal access to the military as a career, my interest as a feminist is much more directed towards the cult of the war hero as a patriarchal institution – one that dominates most cultures in today’s world.
The military aspect is being overshadowed, I agree. Arguments about female privilege vs male privilege in the abstract should now go on the Male Privilege FAQ thread.
In Norway we have a 12-18 month draft for men. A few of years ago women were also allowed to serve these 12-18 months if they wanted. A military career has been open for women many years. Last year the defence ministry (led by a female defence secretary) put on the table a suggestion to also make the draft compulsory for women. Interestingly women and feminists in the age group 40+ supported this suggestion on an equality principle. The most avid opponents was women (including prominent feminists) in their twenties early thirties. I thought that was quite telling. One argument was that there already was more than enough men to fill the military’s need for draftees.
I have to disagree with you when you rebut MansVoice statement that “More men die than women to defend the peace.”. It is correct that the civilian casualties far outnumber the military casualties in recent wars. It however seems like male civilians have conveniently been forgotten. Digging a bit in the link you gave to the Iraq war I found “Iraq Body Count project” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_Body_Count_project ) which states that “Men accounted for over 80% of all civilian deaths.”
Of course it’s not advantageous for women to be victim of systematic rape, however the males are likely to be killed by the perpetrators. I will not make a judgement on what is worse; being raped or being killed, but naturally being killed is not advantageous for men.
The killing of men in wars and conflicts is nomalized and thus garner far less media attention than ie. systematic rape of women in conflict/war areas.
Re the Iraq civilian death toll being 80 per cent men … this can be confusing because many of these men would have been non-uniformed combatants. Iraq’s former military machine has been either decimated or absorbed into the Coalition occupying forces. Since the invasion, most of the fighting has been between Iraqi civilian insurgents and occupying Coalition forces, or between civilian rival Iraqi factions. If a gender breakdown were ever done on non-combative civilian deaths, I suspect the gender ratio would be a lot less imbalanced.
Also, re your comments on the Norway draft … I find it interesting that the issue of women and compulsory military service seemed to centre around older women versus younger women, or whether there were enough men being conscripted already – not on whether Norway even needs compulsory military service at all (for either gender).
Marian: 1. Iraqi death toll. I was trying to refute the OP (tekanji) assertion that the statement “More men die than women to defend the peace” wasn’t true.
It is not confusing at all. If you had bothered to read the link to “Iraq Body Count project ” I supplied in my previous comment you would’ve seen that they’ve used a methodology to discount “non-uniform combatants” from the civilian death toll.
Quoth:”IBC is purely a civilian count. IBC defines civilian to exclude Iraqi soldiers, insurgents, suicide bombers or any others directly engaged in war-related violence. A “min” and “max” figure are used where reports differ on the numbers killed, or where the civilian status of the dead is uncertain.”
If you have a methodology better than IBC I’d rather hear the details of it and I imagine IBC would really appreciate to hear about it too.
If almost all soldier who died in Iraq is men (I think about 0.1-0.2 % of US dead are women) and 80% of the counted civilian dead are men it is obvious that more men than women died. And redefining (without showing any basement in facts or studies) registered dead male civilians to non-uniformed combatants does not change the ratio between the sexes when you look at the total bodycount. Or are you arguing that certain types of men shouldn’t be included in the bodycount – that their deaths are nothing? I don’t see how this is confusing at all. More men than women has died in Iraq and I find it distasteful to state otherwise in total disregard of the facts.
2) Norwegian draft. The issue of women and compulsory service didn’t centre around older women versus younger women. I just found the difference in opinion between younger and older (self declared) feminists interesting. Many newspaper found so too. I read that difference to mean that most women don’t want to be drafted. Not a big surprise really as most men won’t either. As to the question wether Norway even needs compulsory military service – that was raised by several – also among the young women. However, we had two paths to equality between the sexes in the army: either that both men and women were drafted or that we just doesn’t have an army at all (or a purely professional one). The first alternative would take a year to put into effect the other would be a near political impossibility and would take many many year if at all. My opinion is to begin drafting both men and women and then discuss/fight for dissolving the Norwegian army.
I think Norway drafts about 2000 young men (mostly around 19 years old) every year. It’s not a very large army and has grown smaller the last few years. So only a percentage of norwegian men are required to serve. The rest are lucky and don’t have to. If you are picked to serve you may plead to be an pacifist. After a short simple test to affirm that (asked questions like: If someone attacked your mother would you shoot them if you had a gun?) you can be reassigned to do civic duty – ie. work at a nursing home for a year (at the handsome pay of about 20-25USD a day – remember in Norway a McDonalds meal costs about 8USD). The Norwegian army is now so small that I don’t see what use it’ll have in defending Norway, but it serves at least two other (political) functions. One is districts politics – there are several rural districts which are total dependent on the activities the military presence of a ie a camp lead to. The other is as a recruiting ground for enlisted/volunteered/professional soldiers for the various UN and NATO operations Norway contribute to: Lebanon, Kosovo, Afghanistan etc. One could argue that a professional army (like US has) would be better, although personally I’d rather have a reluctant soldier than a overly eager soldier.
As a Reserve Maritime Surface Officer in the Canadian Navy employed full-time with the navy on a warship I enjoy a working environment in which feminine privilege is virtually non-existent. I expect and am accorded the same opportunities for training, deployments and career advancement.
In fact in the Canadian military as long as you can pass the academic and fitness standards you are eligible for whatever employment you desire. This is in both the combat arms (ie front-line infantry, fighter pilot, submariner, Capitan of a Warship, special forces, etc) and support trades (ie clerk, health care etc) I also personally know women who within the next few years will command warships. The most difficult part of my career choice will in fact be trying to balance what I want with respect to my family and home life with my aspirations for career advancement.
Throughout my training I was held to the same standards as my male counterparts with one notable exception. We have a double standard for physical fitness which is a constant source of irritation for myself and others.
Additionally as I was under training approximately 30% of my fellow course -ates were women. In this respect the Navy has been fully integrated the longest among all of the services since the mid-eighties on reserve ships and early nineties on regular force ships.
While not saying that the Canadian system is perfect and in no way attempting to distract from the very real problems associated with feminine privilege and problems, such as the rapes that have occurred on military establishments and abuses of authority due to sexism, I feel that more serving members need to describe their experiences and explain the choices available to them in our very male dominated profession.
I’m also including the recruiting link for my profession as a better explanation for what I do
You are making a weir dichotomy here. Most of the women there are raped AND killed.
You will agree with me that women are the principal victims of rape, while men aren’t the principal victims of… killing.
As a United States Army female officer, I have a couple of comments regarding Tamen’s Iraq war civilian deaths study: I would not be surprised to see that more civilian men in Iraq have died that women. When I was in Iraq (two 18-month-long tours since April of 2003), out on the streets, I would suggest/guess based on my observations that around 15% of the Iraqi civilians on the street were women. Women in Iraq remain sequestered in their homes for the most part. Iraqi men assumed somewhat traditionally female roles such as going to the markets to get food and take back home because of the fact that it was dangerous (benevolent sexism) and because there are a fair number of male American soldiers patrolling and men would prefer to be searched at checkpoints than allow their wives or daughters to go out to get food and be searched by a Western male.
Case in point: I believe that there may be more male civilian deaths in Iraq. However, this is but one conflict. Look at conflicts in Africa: female civilians are not sequestered; they are extraordinarily protected. While the Iraq case may be an anomaly or Middle-Eastern specific where women are traditionally sequestered, elsewhere, the assertion that female civilian deaths are less than male is patently false.
edit previous comment, last paragraph: “Look at conflicts in Africa: female civilians are not sequestered; they are NOT extraordinarily protected.”
While I hesitate to make cultural assumptions and generalizations, I would suggest that men who grow up in a country which has a relatively higher regard for women’s rights would have a relatively lower likelihood of committing rape. Therefore, while there have been some notable and highly publicized exceptions, the incidence of rape of Iraqi civilian women by American military men is much lower than other conflicts involving other players. My point is that looking at the numbers statistically without looking at the “why” behind them and then further trying to separate the cultures from the numbers is useless. Comparing the Iraq vs US war to the Sudanese government vs Darfurian civilians (for example) is apples and oranges.
I’m not making that dichotomy. Far more men than women are killed in war – also among the civilian casualties the majority killed are men. 80% in Iraq.
As to the principal argument you stated:
I hope you’re not stating that men can’t be raped? Or that any male rape victim has less value, importance as any female rape victim?
Given the facts I can’t agree with your statement.
In war one could say that men are the principal victims of killings. In Iraq 99.8% of the dead American soldiers are men and 80% of the dead Iraqi civilians are men.
“Human Rights Watch estimates that 250.000 to 600.000 men are raped in prisons every year.”
“Only 16% of rapes and sexual assaults are reported to the police (Rape in America: A Report to the Nation. 1992). In 1995 there were 97,460 rapes reported to law enforcement officials. At a 16% reporting rate, this means that there were actually closer to 649,733 rapes in the United States.”
If you consider HRW upper estimate there’s just a small difference in number of rape victims between the sexes and if you take their lower estimate it’s about the same difference as it is between the sexes in murders in the US. Almost 3 times as many men as women were murdered in the US in 2002 ( http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius_02/html/web/offreported/02-nmurder03.html#t204 ) thus making men the principal victims of killing.
So if you’re saying that women are the principal victims of rape, you’d also have to agree that men are the principal victims of killing (whether in war or peacetime).
Sorry tigtog, this was a bit long, but citing facts with references takes some space.
Soph: It was harder to find numbers for other conflicts than Iraq. But here’s what I found: “In the central African country of Rwanda, in 1994, nearly 1 million people were killed in ethnic conflict during a three month period, the most rapid genocide in history. An estimated 40 to 45 percent of those killed were women”. 40-45% is not a majority. And the assertion that more male than female civilians are killed in war still isn’t proven as false. [In Pakistan-Afghanistan] “Women and girls constitute almost 35 percent of mine victims, injured while fetching fodder for animals, crossing agricultural fields, and carrying out their daily activities.”. That leaves 65% of the mine victims are men. The majority.
Source of quotes: http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=3229
I at last found some number on West Darfur: About the killings of 5% of the population in 111 villages in West Darfur: “The killers primarily targeted men, who accounted for three out of every four deaths.”.
“The men who survived the initial killing spree cannot leave without risking death, while women who dare venture out (…) have been exposed to beatings and rapes.”.
Source of quotes: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/publications/reports/2004/darfur_06-2004.pdf
You stated that elsewhere (than Iraq?) “the assertion that female civilian deaths are less than male is patently false.”.
I still have to state that there are more male than female civilian war/conflict casualties since I’ve only seen data supporting that and none contradicting that.
tigtog: This is the last of my daily quota of 3 posts, I hope I’m forgiven for the length.
“So if you’re saying that women are the principal victims of rape, you’d also have to agree that men are the principal victims of killing (whether in war or peacetime).”
While these statements are true, they do not address the social inequalites that humans exploit in modern warfare (or peacetime) to make these statements true.
It seems you are making an argument that in war rape and murder are at opposition, when they are in fact a result of the same ideology.
Stated more plainly: the fact that warfare sometimes kills and rapes with some apparent gender discrimination is simply an effect of the patriarchical structure of societies, which assigns different value to human life based on gender.
Can you find me one society that recognizes being left behind, unarmed and raped as a privilege of war? Yet if you are a fallen soldier, you get monuments, a holiday, or an eternity in paradise. Even history books remind us to remember murdered civilians.
As far prison rapes, gang warfare and murders (of which males are disporportionate victims and perpetrators), these are also symptoms of the same system, which distorts the idea of manhood and encourages males to be hyperviolent.
Spike the Cat
‘Can you find me one society that recognizes being left behind, unarmed and raped as a privilege of war? Yet if you are a fallen soldier, you get monuments, a holiday, or an eternity in paradise.’
Very well said. Wish I’d written that.
Soph, Spike, Noir or others
On the subject of war rape, do you know of any memorials or other acknowledgements anywhere in the world that are designed specifically to remember war rape victims? (Other than the UN Elimination of Violence Against Women Day – which is much broader in context.)
Thanks for an interesting post and link. I don’t think I’ll be signing up today, though!
‘Quoth:… “IBC defines civilian to exclude Iraqi soldiers, insurgents, suicide bombers or any others directly engaged in war-related violence.” ’
Fair enough. My apologies for not reading the IBC link more closely. However, bear in mind that the IBC study has been widely criticised on many grounds, including: the unrealistically low body count, its stringent reliance on media accounts only, and the difficulty in distinguishing civilians from civilian combatants.
I still believe the imbalanced male/female civilian death ratio requires at least some sceptical analysis. As I said previously, many Iraqi male civilians killed are not being identified as combatants because of the secrecy that surrounds their actions and the dangers to interviewers of trying to extract this sort of information. Another Iraq death toll study, the Lancet report of 2006, particularly indicated this problem.
And to reiterate Soph’s point: The mobility of Iraqi women post-occupation has been drastically reduced, due to the increased dangers of women going out in public and the increasing control of the population by religious clerics, as often happens when populations come under severe distress.
Where did I say that?
That’s pretty simple: most of the soldiers are men. But men aren’t killed due to their gender, women are raped due to their gender. Of course there are men raped, but women are the principal victims of rape because men are the principal perpetrators of rape, and women are the ‘sex-class’. Men make most of the killer-soldiers too, but they don’t kill other men-soldiers because they want to kill men in particular, as a gender.
That’s why it’s ridiculous to say that killing for men it’s the same that rape is for women. It’s not like your chances of being killed will reduce because you are a woman, your chances will be less in times of war because you aren’t in the battlefield. And before you say that men are in the battlefield in a bigger number because they are men, well, yes. But that’s because of their power, not because they are ‘handicapped,’ as is the case of women as a rape target.
Damn, I screwed with my html in that one. Sorry.
It looks OK to me, but I can change it for you if you want to emphasise your text differently.
Well, maybe you could remove the italics from the first paragraph? It would make easier the reading, I guess.
Thank you, sorry for that. ;;
I just reread this article, and I think it’s pretty good.
However, I think there is a misconception out there that should be directly addressed: that excluding women from “combat roles” means they aren’t facing what you and I might see as combat or the dangers inherent in military action. Some of the defenders of the ban on “women in combat roles” present it as way to protect women from the dangers of war.
Given what women soldiers are facing in Iraq and Afghanistan, this argument seems pretty ridiculous. (Female soldiers are getting blown up by IEDs and killed by snipers and in ambushes as much as men are. And I believe they are being sent into combat areas, too, just not as “combatants.”)
I would say that the real reason for keeping women out of the military or out of combat isn’t to protect them, but because the idea of women becoming “Warriors” is too threatening to the Patriarchy. The restrictions on female soldiers are a way of letting the men in charge (Senators, etc.) convince themselves that the women are still in their traditional role of “helping” the men, who are doing the “real soldiering.”
Noir: I was wondering because of the meaning of the work
prin·ci·pal /ˈprɪnsəpəl/ –adjective
1. first or highest in rank, importance, value, etc.; chief; foremost.
which makes your statement sound like it implies that female rape victims are of higher rank, higher importance, higher value than male rape victims.
Yes, most of the soldiers are men. However, men make up appr. 50% of he civilian population and still civilian men account for 80% of the civilian dead. Just bad luck? Or just privilege? Or are they targeted because they’re men? Or do they just get what they deserve since they obviously sequestered the women? (Perhaps some?many? women stay in by their on free will because it’s bloody dangerous on the Iraqi streets? We don’t know.)
An Iraqi woman are 4 times less likely to be killed than a civilian Iraqi man. I think we can safely say that the chance for an Iraqi citizen to be killed is much less of the citizen is a woman. But that is in wartime you protested. How about peacetime then – in the US: Almost 3 times as many men as women were murdered in the US in 2002. Just because you were born women you are less likely to be murdered in peacetime or killed in war.
Why do you think men are raped? Is there a difference in the rape and the effect of the rape based on the sex of the victim?
Spike: I didn’t put rape and murder in opposition. Noir did that when she said that women are the principal victims of rape, while men aren’t the principal victims of… killing. Which is simply not true (the last part) for any definition of principal I am aware of. Unless she considers the value of male life less than female life.
What I did try to do was to rebut the claim that more woman than men die in wars/conflicts. I did that by citing several studies. You said “Stated more plainly: the fact that warfare sometimes kills and rapes with some apparent gender discrimination is simply an effect of the patriarchical structure of societies, which assigns different value to human life based on gender.”. Doesn’t that imply that male lives are assigned a lower value than female life? If not, could you explain me why you don’t think so?
I am sure the 58,209 male soldiers killed in Vietnam are so happy for the shiny monument they got in Washington DC, the holiday and for the eternity in paradise. Well I guess we’ll never know about that last one until we die ourselves. It’s not a promise I would die for though.
You asked: “Can you find me one society that recognizes being left behind, unarmed and raped as a privilege of war?”. No, and I don’t think I’ve ever argued that either. But it seems to me that many participants here argue that for men to die in war and conflict is a privilege (they get monuments! They die as soldiers because of their power. And a general tendency to downplay and minimize the number of dead males to make it seem like more women than men die in wars/conflicts without any facts backing this up. And contrary evidence is just being brushed aside as patently false…).
Marian: In Norway we had a campaign I think by Amnesty which acknowledged war rape victims and which got a lot of press.
I noticed you didn’t comment on the other two studies/reports/sources I cited for Asia an Africa (West Darfur). Are those (including the one from zmag) not to be trusted either?
Tamen, the ‘principal’ part I think it was lost in translation, what I meant so say was something among the lines of ‘most representative.’ I’m sorry for that.
The rest is just… wow.
Can’t we talk about male privilege without men coming here trying to say that we are ‘lowering the importance’ of male life?
Yes, I made a mistake. But for God sake, I don’t think Spike or Marian were trying to say that men are ‘happy’ for the monuments, or deaths, or whatever. They are talking about how much importance is given to ‘the soldier’ in war, and how victims of rapes aren’t even counted. Check your privilege, really, it’s not like men need you to play their Champion.
Yes, you did. You said you didn’t know “which was worse, to be killed, or to be raped.” Maybe it wasn’t your intention, but you were putting those two in opposition.
I can’t answer you about Irak and US, because I have no idea (I will admit that my knowledge of anything about those cultures is limited). Somehow, I doubt those men are killed because of their gender. I could speculate about why that difference happens (because they pass more time out of their houses than women, they pass more time in the street than women -women aren’t supposed to stay out too late-, etc). I highly doubt they are killed for their gender. But it would just be me speculating.
I don’t understand your question about the raping of men. They are raped because they a) are a easy victim for the rapist, who may or not may have a sexual attraction towards men (of course that’s not the principal reason for the raping, but…) b) They are the person of lesser status in a all male hierarchy (as in prison).
Of course it has a awful impact on their lives. We just weren’t discussing that.
” But it seems to me that many participants here argue that for men to die in war and conflict is a privilege (they get monuments! They die as soldiers because of their power.”
Please re-read my posting. I make it very clear that I am arguing against the gender inequalities of a system that decides that only men should be warriors; that decides what causes are worth fighting and what history is worth remembering.
The topic of the post is to address claims of FEMALE privilege. Following the logic of “exclusion as a privilege” let’s look at other examples. African Americans in the U.S. have been excluded either outright or from certain combat roles in past U.S. conflicts. Could a reasonable argument be made that this exclusion was based on privilege? How about Americans of Japanese heritage interned during WW2? These individuals didn’t “have to” enlist, was this exclusion based on privilege?
And you seem to ignore the basic logic of warfare which dictates that the primary killing targets are the strongest, most valued members of the opposing side. If a society has assigned this status to one group (at the expense of another) then it logically follows that these individuals will be targeted disportionately. But this does not mean that the less frequently targeted individuals enjoy a privilige in that society. And I never meant to say that being killed in of itself is a privilege— only that societies often assign high value to the gesture of fighting and killing (hence the memorials and remembrances).
The question you don’t seem to want to address is, what is the ideology that decides who are the strongest, most valued members of a society? Is this an ideology that you uphold? If it’s not then what is your point, exactly?
My point was to point out a factual error in the original post which said that it’s not true that more men than women are killed in war. I supported that with numbers from several sources. But it was still being dismissed as “patently wrong”.
And now you’re saying that the primary killing targets of warfare are the strongest most valued members of the opposing side while the original posts claim that the primary targets of warfare are women (by claiming that more women than men are killed in war (including civilians). I can’t make head or toes of that unless you agree with me that the original post got that fact wrong.
I don’t think women are privileged when they’re not drafted – and your examples support that. And personally I am a proponent for female draft in Norway where I come from.
I guess the main difference between us is that you believe that soldiers are men because they’re the strongest, most valued members of society, while I believe it’s because men are the most expendable members of society – as shown by the much higher rate men die in wars, in peace (higher murder rate – lower life expectancy). And I don’t consider expendability as a privilege.
I am really curious as I’ve seen this said a lot. Are there some research of why men and women are raped? What exactly does feminists mean when they say that women are raped because of their gender? Is it when the gender of the rapist is different than the victim? What about when a man is raped by a woman – does that mean that the man was raped because of his sex? And is there research which backs up this claim? Perhaps there is a post about it on this blog I can read, I’ll look for it.
Men are the more expendable sex? I don’t think so.
Who is valued more in this world? Baby girls or baby boys?
Yes, there is a lot about rape in this blog. You should hunt for that.
I think the cases in which men are raped by women are extremely rare because there a few cases in which a woman can say she has a ‘superior’ hierarchy in the sex-scale than a male.
Since a rapist looks to feel powerful over his/her victim by forcing her/him to sex, and you know that in our society a woman ‘offering’ sex to a man it’s seen as if he would have the ‘best part,’ because sex is always a prerogative for men, while women are the sexual objects. Even if the man didn’t want it, it would be seen as if she was the one who ‘lost’/gave something.
So, it could even be painful and traumatic for the man, but from the point of view of the rapist, it wouldn’t give any power to the woman in question, since women don’t have that ‘power.’
Maybe in some complex or intimate situations it would work as a way of make the woman feel ’empowered,’ and make her act as a rapist for that.
I sure as hell haven’t heard of any case. But sure, I suppose they have to exist. Maybe you could look for research about that or something.
Tamen said: “My point was to point out a factual error in the original post which said that it’s not true that more men than women are killed in war. I supported that with numbers from several sources. But it was still being dismissed as “patently wrong”.
Fair enough. But I must say that you seem to be arguing a different point here on this blog. The discussion here is whether being excluded from military service is a privilege.
The points made where to address claims of female privilege. The points made were not to claim that men are privileged with regard to military service.
“I guess the main difference between us is that you believe that soldiers are men because they’re the strongest, most valued members of society”
Actually I didn’t say that. I said: the basic logic of warfare dictates that the primary killing targets are the strongest, most valued members of the opposing side.
This is simply to address why males are disportionately murdered by other males. In a patriarchy, each male considers other males a formidable opponent, thus a threat. Similarly, value is assigned based on this principle as well.
“And now you’re saying that the primary killing targets of warfare are the strongest most valued members of the opposing side while the original posts claim that the primary targets of warfare are women”
I don’t think anyone said the primary targets of warfare are women. Most civilian deaths (males and females) are attributed to “collateral damages”, or ethnic cleansing and things of that nature.
“I guess the main difference between us is that you believe that soldiers are men because they’re the strongest, most valued members of society, while I believe it’s because men are the most expendable members of society ”
OK just so that we are clear. I don’t personally believe that men are more valuable, stronger human beings. But those who decide who get to be in the military do indeed.
And males are considered expendable only in that they cannot birth babies; women have been considered expendable in every other aspect of life, which is why historically women were excluded from so many activites.
[repeated argument deleted – moderator]
To get back on track. There is one point against women in the military (or parts of it) that the original post didn’t address. Although it almost touches upon it in. Namely the physical requirements that some military functions requires. I thought it read like a bit of cop-out that a statement like “women are not as (physical) strong as men” was not included in the first of the points borrowed from The Happy Feminist. I mean it’s pretty obvious to me that a women are no less brave or psychological than a man in a war situation (I believe the army will train that ability equally well regardless of sex), but when it comes to physical strength it’s not that clear anymore. Can the statement that “women are physically weaker than men” be just as easily dismissed? Is the “women are weak” argument when used regarding women’s physical strength compared to men’s strength clearly sexist? Can a biological fact be sexist? I don’t think so, what do you guys think? (is there a gender neutral way to say “you guys” when one wants to emphasize that one is using the plural you, not the singular you? English isn’t my first language.)
Should those requirements be lowered for women? In Norway there isn’t a physical requirement for the normal service, but if you’re looking for a specific function/career in the military there are different physical standards, with some exceptions (i.e. rescue worker on a helicopter). Although the Norwegian military has more than enough men to chose from the state they want/need more women, especially for deployments abroad. For instance to be more cultural sensitive and have female soldiers who can ransack women at a roadblock in Afghanistan (spoken by a female spokesperson of the Norwegian military). And to get those women it lowers the physical requirements for women. The police academy in Norway has done the same thing. It works – more women. But both female and male recruits/students tend to resent it (i.e. KG in one of her comments) . The men perhaps because it feels unfair and perhaps to the women because they feel it undermines their position/right to be there (KG; is that why you resented it?). Perhaps the women who are able to also reach the male physical requirements are more resentful than the women who couldn’t meet the male physical requirements. Personally I think that one should be able to to try to qualify regardless of sex, but that in some cases the standards can’t be lowered especially for women and that we then have to accept a lower percentage of women in those particular areas. Views?
‘My point was to point out a factual error in the original post which said that it’s not true that more men than women are killed in war. I supported that with numbers from several sources. But it was still being dismissed as “patently wrong” ’
Where in the original post did the author say that ‘it’s not true that more men than women are killed in war’? Or any of the commenters here? It would be plain ridiculous to claim that more women than men die in wars. The only time the author addressed any comparative death tolls was to dispute one FF commenter’s exaggerated claims that ‘FAR, FAR’ more men than women die in war. (ManVoice)
Besides, the original essay was not concerned with point scoring over male/female death tolls, but in disputing the myth that ‘female privilege’ protects women from war. Once all the factors are combined – not only combat fatalities and injuries, but also landmine and explosive casualties, genocides, air bombings, war-related diseases and famines, war rape, refugee dislocations etc – men, women and children share a roughly similar burden of war, but in different ways.
If you are being dismissed as ‘patently wrong’, it might be because you are quoting one nitpicky source after another to disprove an argument that the author didn’t make in the first place.
Marian: To say that “More men die than women to defend the peace. Far far more men.” is not supported by the casualty reports of recent wars surely implies that the author thinks that it’s not true that more men than women die at war? Am I being totally unreasonable reading it this way? The Author doesn’t say that the claim of “far far more” is exaggerated. In Iraq you’re 5 times more like to be killed if you’re a male civilian than if you’re a female civilian. Can 80:20 be said to be “far far more”? If the author just meant to say that the “far far more” was an exaggeration it would’ve been better to make that point in a less ambiguous way.
Also; the original essay was indirectly concerned with the male/female death tolls because it tried to refute the claim
‘that women are “privileged” because “men defend women in times of war. More men die than women to defend the peace. Far far more men.”’ by refuting the fact that (far far) more men than women dies in war. If the original author just wanted to adjust that ratio from the “far far more” to “more” then the original argument she tried to counter still hasn’t been refuted. So as I see it this is related to the original post main concern – the author mistakenly dismisses an argument supporting “female privilege protects women from war” by refuting that more men than women die at war. For what it’s worth I am not sure I would make that argument myself – it’s a “privilege” with an upside and many downsides. Like many of those “male privileges”.
Soph said in her comment: “While the Iraq case may be an anomaly or Middle-Eastern specific where women are traditionally sequestered, elsewhere, the assertion that female civilian deaths are less than male is patently false.”
Does that count as a commenter arguing for the plain ridiculous claim that more women than men die in wars?
I hope you’re accusing _me_ of being nitpicky – not the sources (IBC, Doctors without borders) as I think they do an important job which shouldn’t be dismisses as nitpick. On the other hand I think I’ve now further demonstrated myself as nitpicky by making this point on what I’m sure was an grammatical error by you.
I just want to correct an error I made in previous post: It should be “4 times more likely”, not “5 times more like”.
‘To say that “More men die than women to defend the peace. Far far more men.” is not supported by the casualty reports of recent wars surely implies that the author thinks that it’s not true that more men than women die at war? Am I being totally unreasonable reading it this way?’
Yes. And unnecessarily provocative as well.
I’m totally with Marian here, Tamen. You are being both unreasonable and provocative.
You are also becoming quite tedious.
Here is an interesting link on the worst countries for women. Many of these countries are under conflict (either outright war or other clashes). I think the article does hit on some interesting points; hopefully it can provide a more clearer picture of the reality that women face during times of conflict…check it out.
There are a number of glaring inaccuracies in this. To say that because the Draft has not been activated, it is not discriminatory is quite frankly, ridiculous. There are massive penalties for failing to register for the draft including being unable to get numerous forms of federal assistance, federal jobs, drivers licenses in many states, et cetera. not to mention jail and fines if the person is prosecuted for it. But even without prosecution the penalties are steep.
Wwhile one could reasonably expect a future draft to include women, it is not safe to assume that once a draft is activated there will be equal representation in it. Since the registration of women has not been there beforehand like it has been for men.
The risk in registering for the draft in peacetime, is significantly less, then when registering during war. To not start registering women for selective service until there is a draft will guarantee few of them will actually do so.
As far as the horrors of war, to claim that women suffer equally as casualties is misdirection. The discussion is of the draft of American Citizens and Residents who will almost assuredly fight in some other country while the noncombatants of the US are safe at home. The potential draftee is not at risk to become one of the casualties of war in any capacity other then as a participant to hostilities.
The suffering of innocents in the third world, is not justification why a woman in the first world should not be expected to fight. It may be a justification either way for both genders to fight or not to fight, but it does not apply to women particularly.
To claim nations which torture women are not equally brutal to the men is absurd. A number of nations have used rape to torture both men and women, and the sadism of mankind doesn’t stop at rape. The fact that there is the capacity for tremendous evil in the world strikes me as reason to fight with increased determination and ferocity. Not a reason to exclude women from combat.
As a side note it should be noted that conflicts in general and especially those which involve “NATO Quality Troops” are significantly deadly as a whole, even if soldiers make up fewer casualties as a percentage. The new age of modern warfare has as an active goal by at least one side the reduction of those casualties. This is no longer the era of industrial warfare, fights do not occur as one populace against another, wars are being conducted to win over the populaces.
If you wish to compare Iraq to the fighting in WWII the best nation would be to compare it to Yugoslavia, a nation which had a large-scale and brutal insurgency complete with internecine violence as communists and monarchists fought not just Germany but each other. The loss of 6-7%of the population tops even the highest estimates of the death toll in Iraq.
The Human Security Report is a good in depth analysis of what the trends in conflict have become.
Insofar as feminists fighting for women to participate in combat roles there is difference between selective service/the draft, and choosing ones mission assignment. The two are completely unrelated, fighting for women to be able to fight in combat roles does not necessarily imply the person would also be for involuntarily drafting women.
And even with all the issues of the draft aside. There is one irrefutable piece of privilege, that women need fewer requirements of physical training then men. This is not, like the other issues, potentially chalked up to chivalry. The men and women who simply think women should not be in combat would likely jump at the possibility to exclude women on the basis of a lack of physical strength and endurance.
The differences in physical requirements has actually been pushed in equal parts by feminists, and military establishment out of fear of being attacked for sexism.
Fact is it would be incredible privilege when a woman is serving in an infantry squad to allow her to shift some of her equipment onto other members of the squad simply because she is a woman.
Certain requirements should be met stateside, before combat is ever seen. It might not seem fair to the person who has to work extra hard in basic to meet those requirements, however it also isn’t fair to a soldier who met the requirements but is slowed down by carrying others equipment. Particularly if it gets them shot or makes it easier for a sniper to draw a bead on gaps in their armor due to the lack of mobility.
TD: “The suffering of innocents in the third world, is not justification why a woman in the first world should not be expected to fight. It may be a justification either way for both genders to fight or not to fight, but it does not apply to women particularly.”
True. But I don’t think this point was intended to be a justification for why women shouldn’t fight. This point was brought up to specifically address whether or not exclusion from the military is a female privilege–which I presume included all females, in general.
TD “And even with all the issues of the draft aside. There is one irrefutable piece of privilege, that women need fewer requirements of physical training then men. This is not, like the other issues, potentially chalked up to chivalry. The men and women who simply think women should not be in combat would likely jump at the possibility to exclude women on the basis of a lack of physical strength and endurance.”
I’m sure that there are some men who cannot meet the physical training standards of the military. For these men, what is their military capacity? I presume they also would not be deemed fit for combat, i.e., given a supporting role. Would you considered these men to be privileged?
For the current war in Iraq the US Army has already lowered requirements to recruit more soldiers, i.e., lower scores for aptitude tests and accepting more people without high school diplomas.
With some foresight, the military could have been working toward solutions for the lower physical strength issues for females. Then, having a potentially larger pool of qualified recruits, maybe they would not have needed to lower the aptitude and education standards.
Nice going, patriarchy.
PS For the record I’m glad that fewer men and women are signing up. Slate had an article about this; maybe this will force the US to change its foreign policy…one can only hope.
I find it hilarious that in this day in age there are so many people that do not have a full grasp of what feminism/sexism is really about. The second comment on this blog by v01beta is typical of the common response. He/she points out that since some women are still brought up to be nurturers that they should therefore not be drafted. Well there ya go, why are women still being brought up as nurturers? I get sick to my stomach when I see mothers putting pink dresses on little girls and bows in their hair. I’m sorry but it’s no longer the world of Leave it to Beaver. This is the real world now hunnies and you gotta toughen up. In 100 years your protection will cease from any other source such as men, as the world begins to have to work together to survive the abuse of humanity. The United States will no longer be suburbs and housewives. You need to learn that when it comes to protection you better do it yourself. Trying to continually teach little girls that they are sugar and spice is detrimental to their minds and their health. Teaching them that men will be there to take care of them is a joke and has already begun to cease being true. Women SHOULD BE DRAFTED. All able bodied PEOPLE should be defending their country. A woman with a gun is just as powerful as a man with a gun. And a woman given combat training who builds her muscles correctly can give quite a fight to any opponent. Do not fool yourselves, there will be a time when the lines between men and women will be gone. It is best we start preparing our young females now rather than leading them into a life surrounded by false hope of male protection. Pick up arms ladies and be ready to shoot because when it comes down to it if a man breaks into your home and kills your husband or boyfriend you best be ready to fight. Teaching women to be shy and coy and baby machines is the BEST WAY to get them killed!
(yup I’m a woman, and yup I’m a feminist and nope I’m not a berka wearing lesbian – not that there would be anything wrong with that – but I love how when I speak about these things men automatically say I don’t like sex and I am a lesbian, so just wanted to clear that up. I’m a 5 foot petite blonde woman who wanted nothing more than to join the military but they refused me for health problems. That has always sucked for me because it has always been my dream to serve. Because I see the reality and I see the future and there is no reason to delay the future any longer. Women should be equal to men in every single way.)
” I get sick to my stomach when I see mothers putting pink dresses on little girls and bows in their hair. I’m sorry but it’s no longer the world of Leave it to Beaver. This is the real world now hunnies and you gotta toughen up. ”
Wow. Just wow. This may come as a shock, but there are people who actually have a choice, and what I quoted from your comment up there is exactly what they choose. That doesn’t make them any more or less of a woman (or a feminist, for that matter) than one who joins the army. Same with a man who stays at home and raises the kids. Actions, beliefs and behavior, not social “caste”, determine where you stand regarding these issues.
And here I was thinking that the #1 social preoccupation we have in the Western world is the right to choose freely without any outside intervention or influence. Which would mean, no obligatory drafting, and no caste systems.
Defending one’s country should not be mandatory for either men or women; we have a greater obligation to Humanity as a whole than to artificial frontiers. As Martin Luther said, “War is the greatest plague that can affect humanity; it destroys religion, it destroys states, it destroys families. Any scourge is preferable to it.” I understand that this is a typical right-wing United Statian point of view, but feminists should have greater concerns than being drafted regardless of health issues, height or weight.
(I refuse to call them Americans, since I am a Canadian living on the continent of America. I do not accept being verbally assimilated into a country and belief system that is the antithesis of my own).
For everybody’s information, Surgey has never commented here before. Her opinions are hers, not necessarily everybody else’s here.
I’m not much for frilly femininity myself, and I think the analyses describing the pink and frilly stuff being like women putting on femininity as “drag” have some validity, but I too find Surgey’s phrase to which Fetternity objects way over the top.
It’s real simple, if you truley believe being exempt from the draft is not a privilege, then you must be very angry to not be apart of it.
So why then have we NEVER seen a movement by women to get themselves on the draft list??
My son is 17, and with all the trouble in the middle east, he is scared to death!! You will never know that terror, you can never claim to understand how he feels.
I find is curious how often I hear of ‘hidden’ male privilege, the ones that feminist talk about, but can never describe. They even try to tell men that they are being sexist, and don’t even know it. Amazing!
Yeah,, it’s bad that people who don’t want to fight have to. But it was already discussed why it wasn’t a female privilege. I’m sorry about your son, but I don’t see much the relevance of your comment. I think I will never understand the pain of a first-world teenage boy who doesn’t want to get into the military. I won’t. But I won’t understand a lot of others things that privileged people suffer. That doesn’t necessarily means I have a privilege over them.
“But it was already discussed why it wasn’t a female privilege”
…so now the discussion is over?