“So women, it seems, are tough enough for service on any battlefront but not tough enough to be peeked at in the shower. For the latter they need compassionate leave, counselling in depth, back pay and five parliamentary enquiries.”
That’s a piece of claptrap (or very clever trolling) from political commentator and author Bob Ellis which is the perfect example of injured thinking about the role of women in the defence forces.
Plans to put women on the frontline of our defence forces, in direct combat roles, are being fast-tracked and the Prime Minister echoed the sentiments of former Major-General Peter Cosgrove by saying ‘men and women have an equal right to die for their country’.
They changed the voting age in Australia because young men were being sent away at 18 to fight, and die, for the country. “If they’re old enough to die for Australia, they’re old enough to vote.” But that’s not true for women who were granted the vote in Australia in 1902, more than a century ago. Since then they’ve been good enough to vote but the thought of allowing them to serve on a combat frontline has created fierce debate, most of it supremely absurd. “But who’ll make our doilies while the men are away!”
Admittedly, women played a pivotal role in Australia during the big world wars, putting together care packages, working in ‘man’ jobs while the boys were away and so on. But times have changed. And we’re still making arguments about females getting their periods as a way to ignore the debate.
1. Women aren’t as strong as men!
I don’t know if those who make this argument have ever been to a roller derby. If I ever needed to hire personal security or frontline troops to defend the sovereign nation I will eventually set-up on an abandoned oil rig, I will be hiring roller derby ladies. And besides, nobody is arguing that the extreme roles on the frontline should be just populated with token girls. That’s absurd. We’re not going to put one of the Veronicas in there, even if their music could make the Taliban run screaming in the opposite direction. These positions would be chosen, as they currently are, on merit and the full range of physical tests and exams. But if there are men out there who think women can’t meet those standards, they haven’t been to my hometown.
2. Women are more likely to get raped.
I’ve never quite understood this argument. Well, of course they are. But a simple scan through, oh I don’t know, thousands of years of human warfare will also show that men who go to war are more likely to die. Anybody who goes to war potentially subjects themselves to capture, torture, beatings, death. Death by land mines, death by improvised explosives, death by gunfire. So yes, rape may well be in there as a likelihood for women. But we’re not talking about forcing them. Women are perfectly capable of assessing these risks for themselves.
3. But they’ll get their period!
Yes! They will! Lana informs me that science has proven this and, more than likely, would make female combat troops one hell of a fighting machine. I really don’t quite know what this argument is trying to establish? Nobody has ever made the argument that male soldiers get a morning glory. Probably because it’s phenomenally ridiculous.