Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Women Not in Combat

“‘Good-morning; good-morning!’ the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.

. . .
But he did for them both by his plan of attack."
 - Siegfried Sassoon, The General

O good grief. If I weren’t past the age where estrogen makes me all “erratic” and shit, I’d be weeping at Fred’s post about Women in the Military.

Partly, because Fred is 100% right that women are often in pain. To this day, I am acquainted with increasing pain, and I hit menopause in the previous century. Apparently, men can function and perform whatever isn’t “light duty” better than women, because their external genitalia make them stronger. Never mind that real life – like real war – is somewhat more complicated.

Mostly though, I’d be weeping because Fred is clearly not alone in his – dare I call it misogynistic? – opinions and racist rants. I understand. Many people preoccupied with their masculinity and power can become a bit irrational when their spot atop the steep precipice of the social hierarchy is undermined from below.

My personal pre-menopause experience involved being a professional in a large bureaucracy. I was an attorney at a large research institution. Apart from the fact that all the attempts to do mortal harm to others in my workplace were metaphoric, we also didn’t have to carry wounded people around. While I lifted my share of heavy loose-leaf binders filled with bureaucratic rules over the years, I never had to apply a tourniquet. But my story bears an uncanny resemblance to that of The Menstruator. I’ll call myself The Post-Menstruator.

I spent my 30-year career being managed by both men and women, and managing both men and women. Unlike the guy with The Dismal Facts in Fred’s post (who retired in 1967) I’d say my anecdotal experience, having retired in 2003, was that the ratio of competence to incompetence was much more inversely proportional to pay grade than to gender. My work environment was relatively tolerant of gay people. Racism was so pervasive that you’d literally have to be blind not to notice it. But believe it or not: there was rampant sexism even before political correctness (almost certainly spread by menstruating women) put a curb on the worst abuses - before PC itself became a travesty of a mockery of a sham. I could, at least, use the ladies room without a buddy.

In my white collar world, where bravery, strength, aerobic capacity and upper body strength, were not factors, women were still not promoted based on intelligence, skill or leadership qualities; women were expected to work harder for less pay, and to make the coffee at meetings they attended.

Fred says women are more susceptible to fatigue? Are you fucking kidding me? Visit any group senior home – or survey your cohort – women live longer than men. Men succumb to the ills that flesh is heir to at greater rates and at younger ages than women. But why limit ourselves to facts?

If I may be permitted a few of my own unsupported claims like those in Fred's article above the section on The Dismal Facts: men complain louder, whine longer, become more needy as they age and expect their wives to do the heavy lifting of housekeeping long after all they do is manage to figure out how to pay their bills on line. In general, women are more stoic, more resilient, more capable than men as we age. I’ll even go so far as to suggest we possess these same advantages in our youth, but that might go against Fred’s inherently internal narrative.

Assuming Fred’s unsupported statement (quoted in previous post below) that sex erodes command authority is a fact, and his snarky rhetorical question about whether women would use sex to get what they want, is Fred implying that men don’t do precisely that? Seriously? And exactly whose fault is it that sex erodes authority? I’m guessing that’s not exclusively down to the girls either. Certainly in my non-military career I saw both sexes behaving badly. What eroded authority more than sex was incompetence in authority and the lack of respect that incompetence engendered among the rank and file.

With all due respect, I suggest we all drop the pretense that this whole women in combat argument is based on differences in physical strength or mood swings. It’s about men in power not wanting to let the girls into the game.

Which is exactly like it was in my professional workplace a generation ago, and like it is today in corporate offices, retail malls, and many marriages. This argument may take a while to become obsolete. After all, I’m not pretending we live in a “post-racial society”. Still, it’s hard for me to share Fred’s worry that the last bastions of military and corporate rule by white men are being overrun with people who aren’t their equals. But as the tide turns, posts like Fred’s seem to become more shrill and desperate. It’s almost unmanly.

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