The media is aglow with the latest step in gender equality: women in the armed forces are now eligible for combat roles. This means that women will not only be trained in the art of killing right along with men, but that they've risen to the equal dignity of being able to blow someone's head off or having their own heads blown off.
This has serious implications when you consider current combat training, which has evolved to accommodate new data on the willingness to kill. According to this data, humans have an inbred aversion to killing members of their own species. It was discovered that in many combat situations, including WW II, soldiers deliberately fired over the heads of the enemy so as not to kill them. To overcome this aversion, the soldier had to become inured to killing other humans – i.e., his natural instincts had to be suppressed so he could be transformed into a conscienceless killer. This was accomplished by creating a detailed model of an actual human being (instead of a straw-stuffed dummy) as the object of violence in combat training – the one the trainee shot in the head or impaled with a bayonet.
Despite all these efforts at transformation, they don't quite work: there is an inordinately high incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among combat veterans, resulting not only from being constant targets of violence, but from being its perpetrator. Now women can share equally in this harrowing life-plaguing disorder!
Interestingly, history indicates that women, under certain circumstances, don't need this official elevation to combatant. Under real threats to survival, untrained women didn't hesitate to pick up a gun and "woman" the barricades – as in the memorable defenses against the Nazi onslaught at Leningrad and Stalingrad during WW II. With no remotely comparable threats in the U.S. today, turning women into combatants has no other objective than arbitrarily turning them into killers – yet another expression of dehumanization in a culture that shrugs off deadly things such as pervasive poverty and lack of health care.
Is it, therefore, sexist of me to recoil at the sight of women pummeling each other in a boxing ring – especially when I think that boxing between men should be outlawed or transformed, by rules and equipment change, into a harmless sport – as should be done with football? This civilized transformation – embraced by many – is being countered by increasing violence at the opposite end of the pole. In freestyle fighting so popular on TV, bare-fisted men knock each other to the canvas, one bestriding the other and bashing his head, face, and any other body part until a knockout or capitulation. The Marquis of Queensbury would be horrified! We correctly object to – and outlaw – such fighting between pit bulls, yet condone between humans what is only a small step away from ancient gladiatorial shows. And even then, there were no women participants. How sexist of the Romans not to allow women the equal privilege of being torn apart by lions! And how much more civilized of us to let them be torn apart by bullets!
This latest "advance" in equal gender rights that turns women into killers contains a stark contradiction: we become more civil by being less civilized. In terms of civilized advance – such as equal pay, reproductive rights, etc. – we can avoid meeting women's human needs simply by dehumanizing women.
In "Lysistrata," the ancient (411 B.C.) Greek play by Aristophanes, women band together to deny their mates sexual pleasure until they end a war. Twenty-five hundred years later, we "reward" women by letting them engage as combatants in pointless wars. Now that's real progress in the roles of women!
Andrew Torre lives in Landgrove.