Thu Jan 31, 2013, 09:54 PM
cer7711 (426 posts)
Female Militarism: Band of Sisters? by Zillah Eisenstein
Zillah Eisenstein has written feminist theory in North America for the past thirty years. She writes in order to engage in political struggles for social justice across the globe. She is an internationally renowned writer and activist and Distinguished Scholar of Anti-Racist Feminist Political Theory at Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York. Her most recent books with Zed Press, London include: The Audacity of Races and Genders (2009);Sexual Decoys, Gender, Race and War (2007); and Against Empire (2004).
Fighting on the front lines of a war zone doesn't exactly reflect feminist ideals or progress towards gender equality.
These women say they are already in harm's way and doing the "heavy lifting" but fail to get the recognition. Despite the official ban, 800 US women were wounded and 130 have died in these wars while being "excluded" from combat. And, multiple thousands of Afghan and Iraqi women have died with even less recognition. The new ruling simply recognises some of this reality legally, formally, and structurally for US women. They will now be able to claim their rightful pay grade and be in route for promotions that require combat experience.
All of the above, however, starts mid-stream. I wonder who really wants to serve in combat? Who wants to fight wars in the first place? Who wants to be on the front lines and kill other human beings - or better yet, get killed themselves? I know I do not want to, nor do I know many men and women who would readily "choose" this. Not all, but many who "choose" to enlist have few other alternatives. Many are in the US military today because of a lack of alternatives in a shrinking job market. Before enlisting, Jessica Lynch, the now famous blond female Iraq war POW, had first applied for a job at Wal-Mart, which she did not get. The pay is about equal between Wal-Mart and the military, although the latter job can get you killed. I do not think that many enlisted women are any more pro-war than I am. It is a job, albeit a dangerous one. The rest of us are just lucky enough to have other options.
Equality discourse though crucial to all human rights has long been problematic. No woman is ever equal in a misogyny that is also already classed as sexually and racially hierarchical. Exactly which person is one interested in being equal to in the first place? I am pretty sure that most Afghan and Iraqi women do not see it as a "win" that they or a loved one will now have the chance to be killed by a female American soldier. New forms of female militarism need careful evaluation so that "women's equality" does not become a sexual decoy of sorts.
Gender and its place in the militarism of empire is changing. Exclusion of women defies the flexibility of modular wars, a flexibility that the military needs. New recruitment needs defy the "exclusion" phrase. If you want to call this gender equality be my guest. But I think it may be an updated form of militarist misogyny that is not so equal after all.
If there are to be new possibilities for women's equality as a gender, there need to be new ways to think about it. The structural needs of misogyny are always in flux even though cultural practices of sexual violence remain. This contradictory and complex relation is at the heart of the matter. Women across this globe suffer this violence at the same time that they move and shake this world. It is time to martial energy to end sexual violence towards women everywhere and thereby challenge the militarism of the globe as well.
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