Societal roles for females have greatly changed over time. Long gone is the vision of a woman daintily placing her arm on a male and needing the likes of smelling salts or a fainting couch. The same can be said about her stereotypical role of being the homemaker, ensuring that her husband’s meal is ready on the table when he arrives home from work and that the children and the house were hers to take care of. What is interesting is the not so new dilemma that has again been brought to the forefront of tradition and reality, women on the front lines.
I realize that some things haven’t changed. Men still want to protect the woman, they want to show that chivalry is not dead, they feel that it is their evolutionary role. But, to allow a woman to fight for her country doesn’t take away from or impedes a man’s ability to so and to still remain chivalrous in the eyes of a woman. I’m a little concerned about these issues. Just like the debate about gays in the military (or even their place in societal institutions), there’s just as much opposition to females being on the front lines given the concern for protection or other seemingly arcane reasons.
Yes, it is true that women aren’t “built like a man” and that they can’t do some of the other things that are strictly genetically gender-based. But it doesn’t take away from a woman’s ability to get a job done. Roles have changed. Life has changed. And to deny a woman of such a right is no different from calling an African-American less of a person. Do I like the mental picture of seeing a woman slaughtered on the front lines? Well, it’s no different from the mental picture of a man dying there as well. It may be a bit more disturbing at first given what we’re used to, but like many other things that have changed and progressed in life, it’s something I’d have to get used to.
Who am I or anyone to say that I, a woman, can’t serve my country on the front lines? Yes, it’s scary, it goes against everything that so many people grew up believing, but does it make it wrong? Women have long been on the front lines, just not in front line infantry positions. Can you imagine telling a woman who single-handedly takes care of her family, who sacrifices so much of herself and her life that she’s somehow too weak or too gentle or too whatever to be allowed placement in harm’s way? It’s ridiculous. Are we saying that the military is less capable of keeping a woman safe than a man?
Do I want to serve on the front lines? No. But do I want to take away someone else’s ability to do so? Certainly not. You may not like the mental pictures or the societal change this may bring about but that’s just it, we continue to evolve, we continue to change. When women were given the right to vote did the world end? I understand that while no one wants to imagine their mother or their sister dying on the front lines, it’s no different from a woman dying in the military in any other job. Dead is dead. It is always tragic and it’s always final. What if African-Americans were to have remained slaves? Would we still benefit from the conveniences and inventions that were derived from their blood, sweat and tears? What would we do without the gas mask, the blood bank, the potato chip, the refrigerator, the clothes dryer, the lawn mower, etc.? Oppression is a rather stifling don’t you think? If a woman wants to fight for her country who are we to deny her that?
A woman serving in the military is a life choice. Much like her reproductive rights, it should be up to her. Are we to say that we, as women, are unable to make decisions of great consequences on our own? It’s true that the government is there for the people but sometimes, as we all know, the government meddles in things that they should remain out of. A woman’s choice, her desire to serve on the front lines is her choice, not anyone else’s. Despite all the reasons many come up with about women not having a place on the front lines I’d have to say, the two sexes are complementary not only in the battlefield of life but also on the battlefield of war.
This article appeared on page 5A in the 2/6/13 issue of The Union-Recorder and appeared as Sexes Complimentary in Battlefields of Life and War.