Greetings all! It feels good to be writing this column again after a much needed winter break and an exciting start to the new year. I, for one, am beyond ready to leave 2011 behind and start fresh.
There have been a lot of changes for me over the past few months. One thing in particular has come into my life suddenly and has become a huge part of things, although I never expected it to.
That thing is the military, specifically the army.
Dating a soldier is a bit unlike anything else, and it is an experience that is difficult to describe, especially when that soldier was once your gentle and quirky best friend.
I thought it was a cliché that boys went into the army and came out men, but I am literally watching this very transformation happen before my eyes.
Society often uses the phrase “becoming a man” simply to refer to a young man becoming an older, more mature version of himself. The phrase, however, carries certain connotations, particularly for those in the armed forces.
Here, the emphasis on being strong (army strong, in fact) may be a driving force behind these young men growing up so quickly. They often turn into wholly different people, difficult to recognize to friends and family back home.
It is impossible for me to know exactly what it is like to be one of these soldiers because I am both a civilian and a woman who has had very different societal norms pushed down her throat throughout her entire life. There are, however, a group of those serving that I can very well identify with: the female soldiers, marines, sailors and air force personnel.
When I asked my boyfriend if he thought that women should be allowed in the military, he said yes and no. Truthfully, the more he discussed the topic, the more it seemed that as long as he did not have to personally deal with the female soldiers, he did not care if they were there.
This being said, my boyfriend an infantryman, a position currently unavailable to anyone with two X-chromosomes. He spends all day with his guy friends doing guy things, working in a job that tells him he is qualified to be there simply because he is not a woman.
He was reluctant to admit that men and women could work together in combat situations, citing women’s periods and sexual tensions as potentially dangerous distractions for soldiers of both genders.
I must admit that under this logic, he has a point. When soldiers lose focus, people die, and not even us feminists want to go causing death.
It seems to me, however, that women are kept out of combat not because they are incapable of fighting but because they continue to be perceived as burdens to the men around them.
A female soldier, although highly trained, is still someone that needs protection. She is inherently incapable of protecting herself and those around her. Furthermore, she is susceptible not only to attacks from the enemy but also to unkind acts from her male comrades.
Call me crazy, but I suggest that as a society we ought to hold men accountable for their actions. It makes me sick to think that nearly one in three female soldiers experience some form of sexual assault while deployed and that many of these cases are dismissed or never investigated at all.
Congresswoman Jane Harman recently said, “A female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than to be killed by enemy fire.”
The military’s solution, you ask? It is not to reinforce that acts of sexual violence are wrong to any human being, but instead to remove women from the equation, suggesting that men are slaves to their sexual impulses.
I am in no way trying to suggest that all male soldiers are rapists or that even the majority are. However, it would be a great injustice to all who fight for our country to keep silent about issues like this that matter so much. Fighting the idea that women are weaker than men is important because of what our country stands for.
Our inability to admit that women as free citizens of this country have every right to fight and die alongside their brothers for what they believe in is astounding.
Honor has no gender, and sacrifice knows no limits.
A lady can wear both diamonds and dog tags.