Returning from Mass yesterday morning I turned on Radio 4 in the car. It was Women’s Hour and there was the presenter, Dame Jenni Murray, calmly discussing with other women the question of whether women should be allowed to serve in the front line in the forces or not. The question is topical because General Sir Peter Wall, head of the British army, stated earlier this week that the army should look “more normal to society”. He explained: “This isn’t just about getting more females into the 30% of roles that are combat trades but getting more of them into the army per se.” It seems he wants “every woman in the country to know the service is open to them and we need to make sure we get that message across.”
Is he crazy or am I crazy? Until now British women have been excluded from close-combat roles, which are, as Haroon Siddique describes it in the Guardian article referred to above, “officially designed as “roles that are primarily intended and designed with the purpose of requiring individuals on the ground to close with and kill the enemy.” In other words, hand to hand fighting in which you are trying to butcher your enemy face to face. Is this what the public at large, let alone women themselves, really want? Has Sir Peter Wall been so brainwashed by political correctness that he cannot see that hand to hand killing strikes at the very heart of what women are supposed to represent?
You don’t have to be a Christian – or indeed a Catholic, with a devotion to Our Lady and what she signifies in terms of maternal gentleness and graciousness – to know that men and women are different; that men have traditionally played a protective role towards women and, if the situation demands it, engaged in the ghastly business of warfare in order to protect their country, their hearth and their home. Killing people face to face doesn’t come naturally to men; they have to be trained to do it because occasionally, given our fallen state, war is a grim necessity. But it has always been accepted – until now – that although women can play excellent supportive roles as technicians, engineers, drivers, doctors, nurses or whatever (which demonstrate their courage and intelligence in other ways and which are in no way demeaning), it is inappropriate for them to actually fight alongside men. Apart from anything else it has been argued that seeing a wounded woman or a woman being brutally bested by an armed assailant, a man would naturally rush to her defence in a way that he wouldn’t instinctively do for a male comrade.
Yet Sir Peter Wall has no problem with this, even though an MOD review as late as 2010 stated that although “women were physically and psychologically capable of the job”, the effects of “gender-mixing” on team cohesion were unknown and could have “far-reaching and grave consequences.” I’ll say. Indeed, if it hasn’t happened before, how can it be known that women are “psychologically capable of the job”, let alone physically capable?
Significantly, the Woman’s Hour item focused on the possible physical problems that would arise: women, being built differently and with less muscle-power (I suppose one is still allowed to say this) might not be up to the arduous physical demands of long marches in appalling conditions while carrying heavy packs, let alone the extreme physical challenge of actual close combat. No-one asked, “Is it right that women should be licensed to kill alongside men?” It is often said that women are psychologically the stronger sex and this may well be true. But this is not stated in the context of the raw aggression needed to bayonet another human being; it is made in the context of the enormous demands over a long period of raising young children.
After his eagerness to follow the modern requirement of “equality” in everything, Sir Peter seemed to hedge his bets a bit when he added, “There will always be people who say the close battle is no place for female soldiers.” But he is not among them, apparently.
Laura Perrins, a mother of two young children and a barrister, has written a rightly sarcastic riposte to Wall: “Congratulations sisters. Soon you may get the right to kill another human being just the same as a man…If you are a woman, why waste your time being an army doctor or –God forbid – a nurse when you can be in there where the action is, bayoneting and throat slitting with the rest of them. This is what the suffragettes would have wanted! It should be noted that women soldiers already “serve on the front line with the artillery as medics, engineers, intelligence officers and fighter pilots…” But this is not good enough – they need to be in combat units also.”
Equality between the sexes in every aspect of life? It just doesn’t work. Get over it.
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