Last week, when the U.S. Secretary of Defense lifted the nominal ban on women serving in military combat roles, many were quick to applaud the breaking of the “brass ceiling”. Since women have been serving in combat already for some time, this is essentially just recognizing that fact, which is fine. But this is only a victory when ‘equality’ is the end game. Call me crazy, but opening up more ways in which women can join the noble cause of Western imperialism isn’t a feel-good-fuck-yeah-gurrrl moment.
In the photo here, graciously supplied by the U.S. Marine Corp. under a Creative Commons license (yes, really), two female marines are taking part in a training exercise on how to handle detainees. One woman is restraining another woman in order to practice searches as part of the Female Engagement Team that tags along with the dudes as they trample around the various nations we’re still terrorizing. This doesn’t bring a tiny tear of feminist progress to my eye.
President Obama’s statement on the new rule didn’t get me all verklempt either, saying, “Today, every American can be proud that our military will grow even stronger.” No, thanks, actually. This is not a project I am glad women will now have full participation in. I am not proud that massacre perpetration will have more of a gender-neutral face. I’m not proud that women, too, can have their empathy sucked from their souls and deny themselves remorse for the atrocities our country routinely commits.
As radical feminists, we know that simply to be equal to men is truncating our imagination. We don’t want your system, we don’t want your male values. As Kathleen Barry said at the RadFem Reboot conference last summer, “Please be utopian.” She encouraged us to push our creativity to what’s possible, what we want… then figure out how to get there. But first you have to envision it. If I close my eyes and try this exercise, nowhere do I see women with rifles. I don’t see women, or men, learning how best to murder the ‘enemy’. Similarly absent from this picture is an equal number of male and female pimps. Women and men wouldn’t have parity of porn consumption. There just aren’t more female dom/male sub relationships. There’s no “50 Shades of Ms. Gray” in my utopia. I don’t want men and women to be equally fucked up.
Equality means settling. Equality isn’t enough.
We can’t keep asking to join the toxic boy’s club of destruction.