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.

About FearBlandness

I'm a wannabe science rockstar. I'm of the mistaken and narcissitic Gen Y head-space that people want to hear about my opinions. These opinions include: religion,psychology, skepticism, feminism, literature, science, media, culture,biology and neuroscience.

Posted on October 21, 2012, in Society and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. scienceiscomingtotown

    My jaw has been dropped all along your post! Although shocking, sadly we can’t say this is surprising.


    P.S. I love your blog.

  2. You would have extensive experience in the ADF to be able to understand and criticise it’s culture with such authority, right?

    Your statement “the concern is what kid of men are being accepted?” is unfortunately quite telling.

    I’ll give you a hint: men who are able to live in shitty conditions, patrolling in desert or tropical heat or below freezing cold for weeks at a time with no fresh food or water, only tinned rations and purified local sources, working physically hard all day and night, often on 3-5 hrs sleep and 12 hrs’ physical work a day, far from family, under pressure of not knowing if theyre about to be shot at by that civilian over there, who, after a week of this activity can keep their weapon/truck/body functioning, and at a drop of a hat, engage another man and kill them, often face to face; he may need to kill several of them, and then keep working long physical days until finally getting to sleep back at base. Then repeat for weeks/months.

    That’s the sort of men who the military Is accepting. Men who are spending their careers trying to suppress the truly misogynist Taliban in this way.

    Yet you so fail to understand how such an environment may generate a male-oriented culture (with certain coping mechanisms and groupthink) which is, to your shock, “sexist”? THAT is your gravest concern?

    It’s almost tragically amusing how you rush to the moral high ground to demand that OTHER women get the right to be killed and maimed for their country, for the sake of an academic ideal of exact equality, comfortable in knowing that you’ll never have to serve.

    On an aside, interesting how ADF sexual harassment stats are lower than the general population per capita.

  3. PS your “popular reasons” are ones I never heard in 6 years in the army, including as female training with infantry guys. Who made them up?

  4. It would have been remiss of the report if it had not included the first point you take issue with. While I agree that the other two are ridiculous excuses and seem on par with the other ‘popular’ reasons you mention, you seem to assume those that wrote the report believe that “an increase in sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour” would be the fault of the victims.

    However – unless you left out related information to indicate otherwise (I haven’t actually read the report) – the report seems to be merely stating that there would be an increase in these occurrences, which in turn would have a negative impact on unit cohesion and morale.

    Of course, whether this should be dealt with through excluding women from the frontline or undertaking some initiatives to try and change the current military culture is another matter. But they are right to publicly voice their concern about it if they feel it would be an issue, irrespective of whether they want to find a solution or throw it into the ‘too hard’ basket.

  5. Some female service members in the U.S. military have just filed suit on this issue (I’m not an expert, but it seems that the U.S. and Australian policies are quite similar)
    Their primary argument is that de facto women are already in combat (because you never know where the next IED will go off or where the next insurgent attack will occur) but aren’t getting the career opportunities that go along with the danger.

  6. Wow Sarah, you must have served in a different ADF to me, I heard these reasons all the time and more. I guess that was because I was in a front line combat unit, you know, the ones doing all that bad-ass stuff you were so keen to glorify. Unfortunately, by your banal and flawed reasoning, unless you have direct experience, you aren’t allowed to have an opinion on something. So Sarah, how about you keep you opinions about Academics to yourself, since you clearly haven’t been one before. Crikey, while we’re at it, you should probably keep your mouth shut about a lot of things as an ADF career hardly prepares you for life in any meaningful way in the real world. Sheltered workshop much?

    Now, as we established, I was a solider and here’s my opinion – women should not serve in the military. Neither should men. What century are we in again?!? Where is the discussion about what it means to have a standing force of armed thugs who we send off to kill people who we don’t agree with. Hired killers are hired killers, whether you wrap them in a flag or in lies about fighting misogyny in Afghanistan. There is nothing to be proud of, they are not fighting for our freedom and allowing women to become hired killers is not equality.

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