Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Which way is it to be?

In Australia, some women are claiming the right to be front-line soldiers on the same basis as men. The claim is that they should be allowed to go into battle as combatants on precisely the same terms as male soldiers, as part of equal rights. There could be a problem here that some people have not considered.
If the world wants to prevent violence against women, women should not be put in situations where they could experience unavoidable violence, such as a combat zone. And nor should they behave violently towards men, if the man is not to retaliate. To put it simply, if a woman attacks a man she cannot blame him for defending himself; and in combat, she could find herself attacking a man, forcing him to fight back. This could give the female soldier an unfair advantage. If a man has been taught not to offer violence to a woman, or has a natural aversion to doing so, then he can't fight back against a female soldier the way he could do against a male one. It is sometimes possible in combat to clearly see and identify your adversary. A man realizing that the soldier in his line of fire is female may be less able to fight back against her. This gives the female soldier an illegitimate advantage. Of course, we can say violence should be avoided altogether, but so far no-one has found a way of preventing war. It only takes one side to insist on getting their way by armed or physical force, and their intended victim has to defend themselves. At least if we can't stop war we might limit the evil of it by restricting the way it is conducted. That is the basis of the Geneva Convention, with rules such as no killing of prisoners.
Some commentators say that women are less suited to combatant duty than men. That probably varies with the individual. Some men loath violence utterly. Some women resort to it very easily. The point here is that if violence against women is a thing we want to abolish, then women should not be in a situation where they would either inflict it or suffer it. For that matter, if it is worse for a man to attack a woman than to attack another man, the same applies in reverse. It is bad for a woman to attack another woman, worse to attack a man. Cross gender violence violates the special relationship that should exist between the two genders.
Equality in principle is not the same thing as being identical in practice. It may be that in some ways the two sexes are different and that should be reflected in the duties they undertake. Any thoughts?


Jenny B. said...

Joan of Arc fought in battles.

I think the one thing that would bother me about women fighting is not the advantage that you mention, but what would happen if they got captured. Perhaps that's a shallow reason, but it's all I can come up with.

Andrew Clarke said...

Actually, I can see what you mean, Jenny. Women are more at risk of certain forms of maltreatment when helpless. But that come back to the arguement about abolishing violence against women, and women therefore not being put in a situation where they are at risk - so far as it's possible, at least. As to Joan of Arc, admirable though she may have been, if a male soldier confronted by her in battle held back out of reluctance to strike a woman, and she still struck him, do you see how that gave her an a disadvantage?

Jenny B. said...

you have a very good point there.

Marshall Art said...

I don't think I'd hesitate to shoot a woman in battle any more than I'd hesitate to shoot a man. If someone's trying to shoot me, my choice is clear.

My issue regards what is done to allow women to fight, or for that matter, be employed in any job originally within the realm of man's work. If they drop standards so as to allow women to join, it's a very bad idea. In the sense of the military or police force, it immediately weakens both. If they keep the requirements as they were, and a woman was able to meet those requirements, so be it.

As to what happens if a woman soldier is captured, it is simply a matter of what the enemy would do to oppress a prisoner. The enemy would do certain things to male prisoners and other things to female prisoners. What those things are are irrelevant. Preventing capture is still the name of the game. When one decides to sacrifice in order to be a soldier, then one accepts all possibilities in doing so. Yeah, I'd hate to think that my daughter was captured by an enemy that considers women to be second class, or simply possessions. But she takes that chance by signing enlistment papers.