Pfc. Lynndie England–she who gained fame for having herself photographed leading a naked Iraqi prisoner around on a leash–faces a military hearing this Tuesday over that incident and some other Abu Ghraib hijinx. As Fox News reporter Kelley Beaucar Vlahos notes, England’s hearing is likely to focus long-needed attention on what exactly the women in our nation’s military are supposed to be doing.
England, for example, is pregnant–by another soldier, who happens to be married. He, for his part, is now facing adultery charges (the military, unlike most other institutions these days, takes marital fidelity seriously). And that pregancy may be the nub of one of the biggest problems with the way women serve in the service these days: the highly gender-integrated units where our utopian betters who don’t believe in sex differences have placed male and female soldiers. Eating, sleeping, and fighting in close quarters with healthy young men invevitably breed, well, even closer contact. And when they don’t, they breeds inevitable sexual tension that leads to charges of rape and harassment. Vlahos’s Fox News story cites a report from the Miles Foundation, a national sexual assault referral center that more than 150 military women have said they were sexually assaulted by fellow soldiers since October 2002. A report this past February to the Department of Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Military (DACOWITS) stated that 89 women requested evacuations out of combat theater overseas because of pregnancy from September 2002 through October 2003, Vlahos’s story says.
As I’ve stated before in this blog, I’ve got no particular objection to women serving in our nation’s military services. I’m mindful of the 100,000 women who distinguished themselves in the service in World War II, sometimes displaying more endurance than their male counterparts (the nurses who survived the Bataan Death March are an example). There are two things that are non-negotiable, however. One is the high combat-readiness standards of physical strength, agility, and spacial manipulation that, frankly, favor men–but I don’t care. The other is a cleanup of the current sexual mess that regularly disqualifies fighting personnel and demoralizes not only the military but the rest of the country. It’s just plain embarrassing that a key component of the Abu Ghraib scandal consisted of public, photographed sexual activity between male and female U.S. soldiers. There are currently no rules barring service sex (except for the bans on fraternization between officers and enlisted personnel), but there ought to be. And if it takes reimposing the gender-segregation that existed until the feminist ideologues got their way a few years ago, so be it.
As might be expected, though, the ideologues seemed to have learned nothing from this unsavory aspect of Abu Ghraib. Ret. Navy Capt. Laurie Manning of the Women’s and Education Institute told Fox News’s Vlahos that there was no real difference between a woman’s being shipped out of the service for pregnancy and a man’s getting injured in a unit softball game–although the consequences of a pregancy last a wee bit longer than the consequences of a sprained ankle.
And gender-studies Prof. Melissa Sheridan Embser-Herbert, author of Camouflage Isn’t Only for Combat: Gender, Sexuality and Women in the Military–with whom The Other Charlotte and I have sparred over Abu Ghraib in this blog (see TOC’s A Time to Speak Out, May 16, my Feminist Illusions Revamped, May 17, and Mailbag: Those Abu Ghraib Women, May 20) –insists that the problem is merely one of “unprotected” sex. Don’t separate men and women, she says; just hand out more pills ‘n’ condoms. “They need to work together no matter the context,” Embser-Herbert told Fox News’s Vlahos.
Uh-huh, that’ll do it.