I’m taking a break from writing a novel to actually more or less blog, and write about what it means to be a woman-or a man-and a citizen today.
As a start, I’m linking to this piece about the Israeli Defense Forces targeting female draft dodgers. Israel, which has slowly begun to reopen the combat arms to women in 2000 after a long, religiously-inspired ban, has long drafted women. Women used to easily obtain exemption; one was simply for claiming to be religious. Now, the Israeli Defense Forces expect women who claim a religious exemption to abide by all the restrictions Orthodox Judaism imposes upon women.
Religion and the draft itself are separate issues: whether or not you are pious or orthodox are one thing. Whether or not a draft makes sense for a particular country is another issue. But what I have never understood is why women would tolerate being
- excluded from a draft in any country that has one
- excluded from the military or any other security forces in any nation
- excluded from the combat arms in any military or other security force (say, Interior Ministry troops)
As an illustration of why I am asking these questions, I’m also linking to the murder of Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, who was stoned to death in Kismayo when she and her father reported her gang-rape to the al-Shabab militia. None of the men she accused were detained, much less have been stoned. Not reported is that while gang rape is brutal enough, about 95% of Somali girls undergo female genital mutilation (FMG) between the ages of 4 and 11 and over 80% of those girls have been subjected to the most vicious and extreme form of mutilation, infibulation, which renders at least initial intercourse a prolonged act of torture and usually results in a lifetime of suffering. People often do not draw obvious, visible connections. And perhaps no one really wanted to mention the additional, and nearly universal horror of FMG, out of a desire to leave Duhulow some shreds of privacy. And then, after all that, she was stoned to death before a crowd, far from all of whom appeared to have approved of her savage death, but who, unarmed, were faced down by armed thugs.
No one who has not been in that situation may call such people cowards, but many, perhaps all of them, also knew themselves shamefully complicit, and who knew that even more shamefully, were their daughters to be so hideously hurt, it would be better to kill them privately and with such mercy as is possible. Sometimes the world is so brutal these really are the only choices, and the horrible thing is not what people do, it is what they become inured to.
But the larger point is that while such Islamic clan-based militias cannot take over the world, we are living in a century that is going to pit more and more of us who live in modernity with its rights and possibilities, especially for women, against those who cannot get in (such as those who were helpless to save Duhulow) and those who wish to destroy it (such as her rapists and murderers).
You would think that such events would galvanize the desire of women in such front-line states as Israel to participate in the defense of their community with arms. Men as well, but women particularly, since they do have more to lose. Women may or may not suffer more in war than men (certainly they do not if the enemy abides by the rules of civilized warfare) but they do often suffer worse in defeat, because the military-age males who were supposed to defend them are dead, crippled, or prisoner. This is true whether the occupying power behaves brutally and regards conquered women as the spoils of war, as many (not all) do or the occupation is so inept as to permit the defeated nation to collapse into anarchy.
That does not so far seem to be the case, so the question is why? Why do women in modern cultures, in which the value of female life is so much closer to that of men, tolerate being unarmed and alienated from both their own physical strength and the institutions created to protect them and their cultures?