Monthly Archives: October 2012

Don’t let women on the front line! They might bleed and stuff!

Before I start my rage induced spillage of opinions, injustices and general hatred of everything ever, I’d like to remind everyone that it’s 2012. Let’s proceed.

The Australian Defence Department released an extensive list of reasons why they’re concerned about letting women on the front line. I thought this would be a good read, and I was open to some serious concerns they may have. However, I was met with ideas and ‘risks’ reminiscent of a relic from the 1950’s. I’d like to go through a few of these seriously stated reasons why women should not be able to join the defence forces and serve on the front line. As aforementioned, please be aware that it’s 2012.

  • ‘May be an increase in sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour within combat units’ – Can anyone say ‘Victim blaming’? My jaw dropped when I saw this was included in a serious list of why women shouldn’t be on the front line. Basically, women should be banned from serving their country, because the men who are already in the defence forces may sexually harass them. I think the concerns here shouldn’t be with whether women should join the forces, but rather what kind of men are being accepted. Does the defence force admit men with sexual harassment tendencies? Why isn’t this major breaking news? Of course this isn’t a rare case of women being blamed for some men’s bad behaviour and ideas. Victim blaming is rife in rape and sexual harassment cases. The woman was wearing a short skirt, the woman was flirting, etc, all seem to be good enough excuses for some men to get away with inappropriate behaviour. It’s worrying to know that the defence force is employing this reasoning as a deterrent for perfectly capable women to join.
  • ‘Physical testing will increase incidents of injury among females’ – Well we are fragile little creatures with brittle bones and no tolerance for pain. Also, women who are applying for the defence forces are in a fantasy world where they think they’ll be serving alongside rabbits and kittens with nothing potentially dangerous. Seriously, that’s like saying ‘going swimming might increase incidents of drowning’. Of course physical testing may result in an injury, but why does that increase if the participant has a vagina? If a woman believes she is fit enough to participate and pass physical testing, who is to tell her no? I felt like they were clutching at straws with this flimsy excuse.
  • ‘Allowing women to join would lead to the perception that the army is lowering its standards’ – Yes because as soon as women are involved in an establishment, it turns to ruins and means only blubbering idiots are allowed to join. This is just a blatant sexist remark. You can’t even make excuses about women’s strength or looks like you could regarding the previous excuses. This is explicitly saying that involving women makes something worse. Imagine if someone dared to makes these claims against potential defence force applicants of different skin colours? There would be an UPROAR. Hey defence force, keep your standards and physical testing and only let women in who meet these standards. We’re not asking for you to treat us differently, we’re asking for you to treat us the same.

I’d like to briefly discuss some other popular reasons why women shouldn’t be on the front line that were (thankfully) not mentioned in this release:

‘What if they get their periods?!’ – Yes, because being on the front line, none of the soldiers will have ever learnt how to deal with blood before. Furthermore, when has having her period ever stopped a woman from any job? Do policewomen take the day off when they menstruate? Does Hilary Clinton cease her duties and have a lie down once a month? I don’t think so.

‘Men will get too distracted’ – Once again, another case of victim blaming. Also, I’m assuming that women will not be parading around in bikinis on the front line.

‘Women are too emotional’ – Firstly, that’s a giant stereotype. Secondly, I highly doubt that those women intent on serving on the front line are necessarily the type of women who cry over a broken nail. Soldiers undergo extensive psychological testing before being put in the field, if she is ‘too emotional’ it will be picked up before she can even pick up a weapon.

So please big bad defence force, don’t give us shit about how there are ‘concerns about letting women on the front line’. They’re sexist, sensationalist, stereotypical and largely inaccurate.

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I should have been aborted

Abortion is a difficult issue that ruffles feathers. When disability is an extra variable, it incites all sorts of opinions, ranging from the extreme to the ambivalent. Recently here in Australia, a television program called ‘Insight’ held a forum on ‘Designer Babies’ (the link is available at the end of the post) where prenatal genetic testing was discussed. At first, the idea of choosing a baby’s gender was discussed, with the answers mainly involving sexism, political correctness, and gender ratios. The conversation then progressed to talking about prenatal genetic testing for major disabilities such as Down Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, etc. My ears pricked up, as I’d previously discussed this issue with my mother, and I was interested to see what the speakers on the programme had to say.

The show had experts in genetics, philosophy and ethics, along with community members who had their stories to tell and opinions to share. The philosophers sat on the fence (no surprises there). The main ethicist Professor Julian Savulescu argued that parents have a ‘moral obligation to create the best humans possible’ and would like to see genetically inherited diseases bred out. The opposing argument came from disability advocate Stella Young, who has Osteogenesis Imperfecta and feels that screening foetuses for genetic disabilities sends the message that the lives of those living with disabilities aren’t worth a lot and are of lesser value.

Both sides presented well structured arguments and good points, but from my personal experience, I couldn’t help but side with Professor Savulescu. It may seem strange that someone with a genetic disability (Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy) would side with the position that essentially thinks I should have been aborted and my condition ‘bred out’, but it’s because I was born with it that I agree.

What I have to preface this argument with is that this is solely my opinion, and in no way do I endorse compulsory termination of foetuses with genetic disorders. I’m 100% pro choice and believe that women have to right to do whatever they choose with their bodies and fertility. I’m simply approaching this with the knowledge of what life is like with a debilitating genetic disorder and the conversations I’ve had with my mother regarding her feelings towards my birth and conception.

With a sound mind and acknowledgement of how depressing and shocking it sounds, I believe I should have been aborted. I was my parent’s first born, and they had no idea that they both carried the Muscular Dystrophy recessive gene (making it so that every child they had would have a 25% chance of having the disorder). They then went on to have 3 more children, unaware of the MD genes or even of my diagnosis. In no way do they regret having me, they love me unconditionally regardless of my disability. However, had they’ve known about prenatal testing, and that they were both MD carriers, I wouldn’t have been born. This may upset or anger people, but I completely agree and support this hypothetical decision.

I believe a lot of people have difficulty separating the person who I am now, with the foetus that I was. Obviously, I was born, am alive and am generally a delight to everyone who’s ever met me* (*citation needed). But a foetus is a collection of cells. Sure, that foetus has the potential to form and grow into an amazing human being, but it’s similar to someone feeling upset over eating seeds because the seeds could have been planted and grown into a beautiful tree. Of course human life is very different and more sacred, but the logic still applies. I don’t believe aborting foetuses with genetic disorders is ‘killing’ a person.

As for my reasoning behind this opinion, it’s quite simple; I would never want a child of mine to go through what I have in my life. Without sugar coating it, my MD is quite terrible. It’s the breaking down of my muscles over time, rendering me gradually incapable of day to day activities and actions. I’m actually wasting away. I’m only 21 and I need help with nearly everything. I have no idea what life will be like in 6 months or 10 years. It’s a painful and depressing waiting game. I live life to the best of my capabilities and I’ve been provided with every opportunity under the sun, but it’s a life that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, let alone a child of mine. Of course having MD has taught me many valuable lessons about life, relationships, self esteem, and ambition, but I don’t feel like these have outweighed the negative aspects that come from MD. You can be as philosophically content as you want, but I find not being able to care for your little sister when she scrapes her knee much more important and heartbreaking.

I’m being honest about this because I feel like disability is often misrepresented as something that’s okay as long as you plaster on a smile. I would rather a potential child of mine not be born, than have to live with the pain, frustration, depression and uncertainty that comes with MD. The foetus has no knowledge of its existence, just as every one of us did before we were born. I do have knowledge of my existence, and while I enjoy my life and am surrounded by joy, family, friends, and opportunity, I wouldn’t put myself through it, if I’d had the choice.