Women, Feminism and Fear Part 6

Dear Nancy:

I believe what has happened to the military today (and for the past several years) is part of the sad legacy of the Vietnam-era polarization of the military and of military issues, which meant the Republicans have come to feel more-or-less free to use and invoke the military, while the Democrats don’t want to be called soft on defense. And the result is what we see being played out in Iraq.

I think most Americans understand this, but we have nowhere else to go, no organized third party.

I also believe you’re right. At the base of the feminist movement’s refusal to engage defense/military/foreign policy issues, which grew out of the Vietnam-era polarization of politics, was fear. And I’ve run into it when I talk about women in the military or in combat. I had a woman start by telling me that women are different from men because they menstruated and end by telling me that to want women to be strong and have stamina and participate in combat was to want them to be men. I finally lost it and said that the feminine tradition was for women to be killed in war, but to have no chance to bring harm to those who would kill them or their loved ones; that the historical tradition was for women to do heavy work, often while pregnant or nursing and underfed, so if wanting women to be able to kill their killers and be well-fed strong was masculine, maybe we should give masculinity a try.

The radio host was like, ummm…

It is very frustrating that so many women do not believe it is better to work and have money and a skill or trade or career of our own, than not; that it is better to be armed and willing to use those arms, than disarmed. That it is better to be brave and strong, rather than weak and timid. And that it is better to deal with men from a position of equality, trading good for good with the peaceable, and together being able to deter, even eliminate, the bad, than trying to browbeat and manipulate them into doing what we should be able to do for ourselves. (I’ve read Hirshman and she is enormously right.)

I suspect you may encounter this a great deal in your martial arts work. (Clearly, you did so when planning your cross-country drive, although I don’t think you were so much brave as to do it, as lucky to have had the chance to do it—I hope it was a wonderful road trip!) I know that I see it when I work out.

I watch women all the time pretending to work out, and they are literally preferring heart attacks and dowagers’ humps to serious weight training. And while I doubt I weigh much less than they do, and have far more muscle mass, I am not as bulky. (You’re right, weight charts are based on sedentary women, not active women, and still less women who muscle up under the demands of strenuous work. I also think that just as there’s a huge variance in muscle mass in men, so there is also in women.)

I think feminism has gone as far as it can without confronting this fear women
have.

Erin

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