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australian women in war: what is it good for?

Equality and fairness between the sexes is a touchy subject to bring up amongst friends. Since the recent change allowing women to serve in front line combat roles, almost every male friend of mine expressed the opinion that women are somehow far too fragile to handle a gun and that the majority of women would end up working as sex slaves after being captured by the enemy because they’re physically incapable of defending themselves.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion but I think, in this instance, sexism is getting in the way of what we fight for in the first place – freedom. When did the role of women become so pathetic to men? Is it just a fiction in film plots like Resident Evil or Aliens that women are able to kick ass? Or perhaps feminism is going too far, perhaps women are supposed to live in their gender specific roles and be happy about it.

The higher-ups in the military aren’t stupid. They’re not going to allow a woman to fight on the front line unless she’s physically capable (much like the minimum physical requirements likewise imposed on men). But I don’t understand when fighting for what you believe in became so gender specific.

My guess is that it’s the idea of the physical fighting, shooting and killing that is seen as such a predominantly male characteristic. Just have a look at the jungle kingdom for a moment, or that wonderful movie The Lion King (thank you Disney). The males fought over political decisions while the females went out to hunt for their pride. This depiction shows that it’s just as much a woman’s nature as it is a man’s to be protective of and fight for what she loves.

Here’s another example: Kipling’s The Jungle Book. When Sher Khan was going to rip those wolf pups to shreds, their mother bravely stepped in and protected them. And where was their father? Cowering in a corner, petrified. It’s a strange example but there’s a point to it. Women can fight, everyone can, yet they haven’t been allowed to until now. This isn’t extreme feminism; it’s just common decency and a refreshing change to archaic gender roles we should have long since done away with.

This military decision is a good thing and we shouldn’t be scared of what’s different. Femininity isn’t dead, it’s just that now women finally have a choice in this male-dominated domain. Professor Clive Hamilton from Charles Sturt University wrote that this decision “obliterates gender differences” and that “women’s morality differs from men’s”. Apparently, men are definitely from Mars and women are definitely from Venus, and “most of us shudder at the thought of women going into battle”. Thanks for the generalisation Professor Hamilton. I can only imagine Hamilton’s “us” means “us men”.

Yes, people are terrified of being sexist but this is about the individual and the individual’s capability, not about sweeping generalisations regarding women and men. No one can generalise about this idea because every woman is allowed to decide for herself, for goodness sake. Again, this isn’t about feminism going bonkers, it’s about our right as human beings to fight for what we believe in.

Common sense is constantly being clouded by fear, especially when it comes to gender specific roles. Let people decide for themselves and get over it, I say. Every woman is different, just like every man. Let her fight if she wants to. Sure, I wouldn’t choose to fight on the front line of a war, especially in a war I didn’t agree with, and that’s just who I am. But it doesn’t mean everyone has to think what I think, because there’s such a thing as freedom of choice. So, let’s be free.

- Catherine Fowell

(Image credit: 1.)

3 thoughts on “australian women in war: what is it good for?

  1. Great piece Catherine! I think this is a really interesting case because the idea of women on the front line has been one hanging around for a while. With the recent changes, we again see resistance which is hinged on an unspoken assumption that women just don’t *do* things like act violently towards others. The way that media outlets have framed the issue displays this: female defence force members were last week being asked why they want to shoot others. This is a question that doesn’t get asked much of males in the field. It’s as though journalists see fighting and femininity as completely incongruous. In the end, though, the changes don’t force women into combat or anything; they merely let capable women have greater diversification of career choice in the forces.

  2. Thanks Emma. It’s a touchy subject that needs to be dealt with carefully. Change is a good thing and choice is so important. Everyone is so fearful of extremes in feminism but this really isn’t that extreme if you think about it. By the by, there are extremes in almost everything (eg. religion, politics), but being a part of that belief doesn’t make you an extremist. That really bugs me when people think that way. Anyway, that was a bit off topic! Glad you liked the article. :)

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