Killer Women?


Frankly, I am not happy with the idea of women in the U.S. armed forces going into combat. Yes, I know The New York Times and The Washington Post tell us that they are in combat already. And we know from the tabloids that women can murder as often as men. But society for good reasons has been reluctant to develop the female killer instinct. One female military police sergeant in Afghanistan, who already has a taste of combat, said. "It’s something I would enjoy.”


In an America article from 1968 a chaplain in Vietnam reports troops laughing riotously about their killings and wonders what we are doing to them. In fact I winced at a front-page New York Times story some years ago during one of our police actions about a women soldier who got herself up front, broke into a house where enemy were hiding and killed some of them.

This was reported as if it were a great event. A breakthrough. Now women could do even more of the things that men can do. It used to be that women could only drive trucks, administer offices, collect the wounded, nurse and heal them, etc. Now they can kill too.

But I have always thought of killing as the bottom thing that soldiers have to do. When I was in the artillery in Germany in 1956 I was ready to fight if Russia suddenly attacked — we were told by our commander to expect them any week now — but I was not revved up, panting to go. It was just something evil that I had to do to protect myself, my comrades and my country. When we were on the Czech border on maneuvers the Russians invaded Hungary. This looked like war, and a couple of my fellow officers couldn’t wait to get in there and fight. After all, that’s what we were there for! And that’s how captains become majors and colonels. The Russians, God bless them, backed off.

In another Washington Post article (1/27/13), Marine Capt. Timothy Kudo reports that he is still dealing with the times he killed people in Afghanistan. One was an innocent 16-year-old civilian boy on a motorcycle who still haunts him. He did not return from Afghanistan as the “good” person he had been; the only people “who could forgive him are the dead.” Meanwhile, the army lost more men last year from suicide than from enemy fire; and one in five Americans who commit suicide is a veteran, although veterans make up only 13 percent of the population.

Interviews with military women in The New York Times (1/ 24,25,27/13) all expressed enthusiasm for the change. The main point seemed to be that, in order to climb the military ladder, one needed combat experience. But is that reasonable? What if the United States enjoys a long period of peace? Will there be no one to promote? Shall we start a few more wars and kill more people to give future leaders job training?

I know this may be a heretical statement, but I see women as morally superior to and often more intelligent than men. I know that in “My Fair Lady,” when Henry Higgins sings, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” it is meant to portray him as a comic jerk. The glory of women is in their differences, things that only they can do — like give birth to and nurse children, and mother families — and things they often do better, like listen, read character, teach, run universities, fill cabinet posts, observe and write about what they see.

Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker (1/27/13) says, “Women do not belong in combat,” because:

1. Women, “because of their inferior physical capacities...have a diminished opportunity for survival.” They “tend to excel as sharpshooters and pilots,” but in ground combat are “not equal to men.” Eighteen-year-old males have the advantage of testosterone that fuels both sex and aggression. Yes, “men and women are equal under the law” and in the front lines they can return fire; but women “have only half the upper-body strength as males,” which puts them at a big disadvantage in hand-to-hand combat.

2. If the enemy surrounds you, and you need everyone to fight — “that is one set of circumstances”; but to have women “engage vicious men and risk capture” is something else. “This is not a movie or a game.” To put women in these circumstances is also a “threat to unit cohesion.”

We’ve all seen those romantic 1930s Westerns and British Empire flicks where the enemy captures the commander’s son and tortures him, so his screams can be heard all the way back at the fort. And the commander barks, “There is no room for sentimentality in the army.”

“Women face special tortures,” says Parker, and we can expect them.

The New York Times editorial answers that, today, women are more in danger from sexual attacks from our own troops than from the enemy. Full combat integration will remedy this, the Times says. But feminist Noah Berlatsky in the Atlantic (1/29/13) calls this a mixed win and quotes pacifist feminist Virginia Wolfe’s point that women’s experience of not having killed makes them valuable in answering the question: How to prevent war? That half of humanity has been excluded from making war demonstrates “that fighting is an aberration rather than a necessity.”

I support the full and equal right to advancement for women in every profession I can think of, including the military and the church; and I can imagine a hypothetical situation — an invasion from Mars — where we are in a war so vast and terrible that the lives and security of all are in immediate danger, and we can survive only if every able man and woman takes a weapon and fights. Then men and women, old and young, teachers, priests and nuns, as well as the sick, halt and lame must fight and kill, or die. Let me know when that time comes.

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Stanley Kopacz
5 years 11 months ago
I agree. To me, it's like when the cigarette companies sold the concept that women aren't liberated unless they smoke.
Molly Roach
5 years 11 months ago
It isn’t a heretical statement (I see women as morally superior to men and often more intelligent), but it has such twists in it to suggest that we “ladies” soak up this kind of praise while continuing to be paid less than men and having less opportunity for advancement in our professions. And a further dilemma with such statements is that some commentators who profess them go so far as to suggest that women are somehow responsible to get men to live in a more moral way. All the time, men are getting the bigger salaries and more opportunities for advancement. Thanks for the compliment but no thanks.
Abe Rosenzweig
5 years 11 months ago
Some articles achieve sexism through overt misogyny; some do it through supposed philogyny.
Marie Rehbein
5 years 11 months ago
I would prefer that no one goes into battle.
Crystal Watson
5 years 11 months ago
I don't think it does women any favors to put them on a moral pedestal. Some men may like to think about women in a certain way (JP2 for instance) but women are capable of defining themselves without help. I wish no one wanted to go to war, but they do and women already do a lot of combat stuff. The worry about women lowering the ability standards for certain positions is unwarranted - Panetta has said that only women who can pass existing tests will get the positions and there won't be a double standard. I wonder if these same concerns were brought up when women became cops? Meanwhile, think Joan of Arc :)
Mike Evans
5 years 11 months ago
Mom, what did you do in the war? Oh, I slaughtered several thousand by dropping bombs from 40,000 feet. Or, I drove a tank through several houses and ran over a lot of women and children. Or, I was a special forces operative, using my feminine beauty to get close and then assassinate opposition leaders. Isn't there something completely wrong with this picture? Even for men?


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