Kill Like a Boy

Female Engagement TeamLast 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.

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11 comments
  1. smash said:

    Great post, Lishra! That photo really illustrates what you are talking about. This is not the feminist vision I signed up for.

    And thank you for bringing up Kathleen Barry’s words at the reboot. I need to remind myself more often to envision what is possible, so that we can find the path ahead to do it.

  2. lishra said:

    Thank you, Smash! There’s other photos at the link in their Flickr stream that are similarly cringeworthy.

    I remember years ago when I was a commenter on Jezebel (the horror!) and they had a story about a teenage girl killing some sort of large animal for sport. It was celebratory, in the spirit of “we can too!” of course. I said something along the lines of “This isn’t my kind of feminism” and people freaked out pretty seriously. Oh, if only I had stuck around to see ole Hugo Schwyzer’s feminism be represented on that excellent site….

  3. trust your perceptions said:

    Thank you for this Lishra! And thank you for coming back!!!

    No feminist tear from my eye either. More like an anti-feminist tear.

    Women! You too can join the forces of necrophilia!
    Doesn’t make sense to you? How about we pay for your education and give you health care?

    Women survive better by going along. The necrophiliacs make it so completely normal, and it is so completely not.

  4. lishra said:

    Thanks, trustyourperceptions!

    Uncle Sam wants *YOU* for necro-adventures on the front lines, laydeeez! Full benefits! College! Death!

  5. When I heard about this so called ‘feminist triumph’ I knew there was something about it that I found deeply disturbing. Thank you for putting into words, and clarifying so beautifully, exactly what that disturbing feeling was all about.

  6. Lishra, I *love* this:

    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’.

    Very poignant and compelling. It really stuck in my mind. Thank you so much. Vision is everything. If we have no vision, we have no movement.

  7. dyksfunctional said:

    I’m not about to convince anyone here or ANYWHERE that women in the service is a good thing. The majority of minds are pretty made up on the subject for all their own reasons and experience. To be perfectly honest… that really is just fine w/me. Women who do NOT ever want to serve… don’t have too. It’s actually ONE of the FEW “choices” here in the U.S. that our Federal Govt and citizens willingly “PROTECTS” women from. Infact… they go out of their WAY to make SURE women don’t have to ever serve OR up till now… RECOGNIZED and visible in field positions which they have been serving FOR YEARS.

    Here in the US there is no Inscription for females. No one actually ever really even mentions it let ALONE questions WHY? Many countries have required inscription for both females and males. Again… I’m not trying to convince anyone who uses terms like… “War Machine” that inscription or the armed services are FOR THEM. I don’t believe it’s for everyone, let alone think you owe your COUNTRY rhetoric that anyone should enlist/commission into the service.

    But it is a good question. Why if there is this “facade” of equality are women not required to register? Why did the Pentagon spend MILLIONS on research, studies and training for YEARS to prepare service members that “Homo is okayo!” And then just **POOF** women are now eligible for combat positions.

    **Because they have a lawsuit that they will LOOSE on their hands.
    **Because there are RECORDS of women who have served “attached” to combat battalions.
    **Because combat now is NOT like WW freaking II.
    That’s why.

    Females in the services are already and have been doing combat positions for a VERY long time already. What HASN’T been happening is that they are visible, recognized and promoted. ESPECIALLY w/in the “Brass Ceiling” ranks. Officers, ward rooms, where strategy REGARDING tactical decisions are made.

    If people are really concerned about “protecting” women’s lives in combat positions… I truly suggest they consider who they want making these decisions about women? The trusted male? Or perhaps women who don’t throw away someones daughter who ONLY represents 15% of their troops?

    Simple things for a start.. flack jackets that have been AVAILABLE FOR DECADES specifically designed for the female body shape … just last year is NOW being tested out in the field. It’s not that these flack jackets have not been available… they were not approved because it wasn’t cost EFFICIENT for such a small number of troops.

  8. “simply to be equal to men is truncating our imagination […] Equality means settling. Equality isn’t enough.”

    Exactly.

  9. I served in my country’s military–albeit briefly and in peace time–and I can’t say it was the proudest time in my life. The notion of women serving as cannon fodder for the military-industrial complex fuels patriarchal dominance agendas and, even worse, vindicates many a men’s rights clown who whines how “oppressed” men have been by conscription and selective service. (As an aside, militarism has oppressed men, but this has been driven not by women, but other men.) Thank you for a vindicating piece that expresses beautifully what I have been thinking since the news broke.

  10. Yes, this is exactly how i feel when men try to apply liberalism to women and call it equality and progress. As if women i the military won’t get raped , discriminated against, and abused by men because they aren’t in the kitchen.

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