Sending the pregnant to fight Saddam
April 3, 2003 11:46 AM   Subscribe

Sending the pregnant to fight Saddam: The dramatic rescue of GI Jessica brings up the issue [preemptive post justification]. This article has a nice historical overview of women's role in the military, in the form of a time-travel dialogue between today's soldier and a Vietnam era grunt.
posted by hairyeyeball (22 comments total)
 
Regardless of my personal feelings on the matter of women getting pregnant while on active duty (bad idea for everybody involved- parents, child, the service) I find it extraordinarily hard to consider the pros and cons of the issue based on this article. My god, you mean women want to serve their country voluntarily? Hold me back, there are some men who don't want to sign up for service? My goodness, the military wants to provide contraceptives to prevent pregnancies among deployed soldiers? Lordy, somebody bring me the smelling salts, all these revelations are giving me the vapors!

It sounds to me like the author of this piece has a bigger problem with the idea that women are out of the kitchen, with shoes on their feet, and not pregnant, than with pregnant servicewomen.
posted by headspace at 11:57 AM on April 3, 2003


This is sort of off-topic, but it's something a lot of other blogs have been noting today as well... regarding the tone of the Daily News article you linked to, is there a chance we can stop referring to an active service member by her first name?

I didn't see any articles or news scrolls talking about how "Bob was missing." For that matter, I don't remember Fox News making custom graphics about captured Spc. Shoshana Johnson and discussing it with phrases like "Shoshana was being tortured, wasn't she?"

Without question I am thrilled to hear the attractive young white girl was rescued, but the forced paternalism the media's pouring onto this story inconsistent from all others is demeaning to her abilities as a soldier.

As far as the UPI article goes, it reeks of misogynist, pro-war, damn-those-condom-using-libruls Clinton-ruined-the-military rhetoric. And frankly, I don't really care whether or not you have a penis; I don't think anyone should be in Iraq right now. That sort of renders the idea of how many of those nobody should be female a moot point.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:59 AM on April 3, 2003


Yeah, and what XQUZYPHYR said, too. That's PFC Lynch, not GI Jessica.

(Now exiting the war thread before I get agitated.)
posted by headspace at 12:05 PM on April 3, 2003


That wasn't an "article," it was a poorly written misogynist rant. And, I agree 100% that the rescued POW is PFC Lynch, not Jessica. I served 7 years in the USAF and no one ever called me by my first name unless they were a very close friend. She has earned her rank, give her the same respect given to a man.

Jeez... some things just never change.
posted by Juicylicious at 12:36 PM on April 3, 2003


The military doesn't provide birth control? That's irresponsible in any era.

(What does the military provide? Medicine? Shampoo? What do enlisted personnel have to provide themselves?)
posted by small_ruminant at 1:06 PM on April 3, 2003


I should have warned you that it was biased, but the history is at least accurate and interesting, I thought. A volunteer force that makes it easy for presidents to do what they want, and needing to set the highest standards in gender and racial equity to attract recruits in a competitive labor market, put Jessica where she is.

I'm not condoning the underlying attitude, I was just hoping maybe folks would do some interesting link-farming on the subject. The Soviet experience, for instance.

Feminists: consider the original link in light of oppo research, please. Plus you have like that stunned pause when 1966 hears that Nixon became president ...
posted by hairyeyeball at 1:12 PM on April 3, 2003


Oh, and Jessica, point taken, I was just poking fun at the tabloid press there, and invoking GI Jane (1997 and 1951). No one gets me. PFC Lynch, it is.
posted by hairyeyeball at 1:16 PM on April 3, 2003


A volunteer force that makes it easy for presidents to do what they want, and needing to set the highest standards in gender and racial equity to attract recruits in a competitive labor market, put Jessica where she is.

No, PFC Lynch, being an adult and all, signed up for military service, and in the course of that service, came under fire, was captured, and then freed- which seems really rather more ideal than PFC Nobody who didn't want to be in the Army, didn't want to be in another country, and didn't want other people shooting at him being in the same situation.

Nobody made PFC Lynch sign on the dotted line, she chose to serve her country, just as I chose to serve my country, and as did Juicylicious above. If you want to make the argument that an all volunteer force is more pliable than a conscripted force, your links don't back it up. If you want to make the argument that women don't belong in the service... your links don't back it up. And if you want to back up and say you were just poking fun at the tabloid press with the original link presented, I'd suggest you re-examine what you just said:

and needing to set the highest standards in gender and racial equity to attract recruits in a competitive labor market, put Jessica where she is.

Either you're implying that womenfolk and coloreds are encouraged to apply because their weakness makes the military more pliable, or you're implying that PFC Lynch is a poor little victim with absolutely no control over her own fate now that the big bad Army has connived her into service. Either implication sucks, and I'm offended by both.
posted by headspace at 1:31 PM on April 3, 2003


Hairy, I usually like your links, but this one plain sucked. The guy didn't even make sense, and if you draw out his analysis any further than his writing, you run into logical fallacies and a number of assumptions that are offensively biased at best.
posted by SpecialK at 2:14 PM on April 3, 2003


There's a little bit more to the idea of pregnant servicemembers that hasn't really been brought to light. Firstly, what's the alternative? Forced abortions for those women who aren't married? What about women who are pregnant and married, but the kid isn't the husbands? What about men who father children? The article touches on a little bit of this, and then glosses over the hard questions.

But there are even more dangerous waters here...some women who serve afloat prostitute themselves to earn money (and because they're bored and horny, just like the sailors they service), and this leads to pregnancy just like a husband and wife enjoying a furlough together does.

Pregnancy is part of being a woman...it happens, let's deal with it....contraception seems like an obvious choice. We also have forced immunization...how about forced depo-provera shots every month to keep women infertile? In a society where people have to file paperwork weeks in advance just to get time off (and have it denied at the last minute sometimes), it doesn't seem too bad to force planning on potential parents.
posted by taumeson at 3:07 PM on April 3, 2003


Red-faced. I really just meant to introduce the question of women in combat in general. Yeah, that article was written by a troglodyte, but an an interesting troglodyte, I thought. And this is the first time I have ever heard of American women firing their M-16 at real bad guys until the ammo ran out, as PFC Lynch reportedly did.

As to "and needing to set the highest standards in gender and racial equity to attract recruits in a competitive labor market, put Jessica where she is": The armed forces are among the most progressive institutions in our society with regard to all sorts of issues. They've been a social laboratory of sorts in the last half-century: first to integrate, first to remove all sorts of social barriers (except for homosexuality, of course). They're an attractive alternative career-starter for the, ah, economically disadvantaged — a category that in our country still overlaps more than we'd like to admit with various minorities, despite the trickle-down theory.

That is, more minorities, statistically speaking, are poor, therefore more minorities go into the volunteer Army. Therefore, minorities are statistically more likely to get shot when we start shooting. That's one reason cited for the reason that African-Americans lag the rest of us in getting behind the Bush on this one, as I've read.
According to ABC News, 72 percent of people polled said they support the war and 68 percent gave President Bush a favorable job approval rating. However, only 35 percent of African Americans queried agreed with the war, and 30 percent gave Bush a good rating.
And PFC Lynch is a textbook case: not short-listed for a full ride to Yale, she signed up to earn college tuition: just the kind of thing the Army recruiters use to market the service these days. You can even earn credits as you serve via e-learning. Hell, I considered it out of high school myself, my folks were gung-ho for it.

The most interesting point that our troglodyte makes is that an all-volunteer armed forces allows the executive to fight undeclared wars without the kind of uproar we saw in Vietnam, when draftees were coming back in body bags as college boys attended keggers. This time around, Jessica Lynch is just paying off her education: that was the deal. A contract's a contract. She knew what she was getting into, et cetera.

I find the Lynch story interesting in so many ways. I guess I just went for the cheap-thrill headline and hoped the thread would roll in the right direction! I was hoping someone was tuned into the fairly historic implications of a story like this.
posted by hairyeyeball at 4:38 PM on April 3, 2003


how about forced depo-provera shots every month to keep women infertile?

How about, no. Depo-Provera isn't the answer to this, it's a drug that can and does cause severe bleeding in some women. Not to mention weight gain, etc.

Or the fact that I don't see you proposing any sort of forced infertility on male service members.
posted by SuzySmith at 7:01 PM on April 3, 2003


sorry, hairy...but i remember a few more historical moments, re: women in the armed forces. remember the uproar over a service woman having only her sports bra on, riding through the hot desert? remember the stink that the arabs rose?

or how about the uproar over centcom ordering women in saudi arabia to attend PT in full attire while the men were able to wear shorts and t-shirt? or ordering women not to drive off base and if they were off base, to ride in the back seat?

gimme a fucking break...boohoo, some woman is a POW. not the first, not the last, not the first to fire a weapon at an enemy...what kind of historical implications are you talking about? i mean, for crissakes, women fighting in war is as old as war itself....off the top of my head, i can think of native american women fighting invaders, and hell, joan of arc.

on preview:

Depo-Provera isn't the answer to this

says who? you? hmm..okay, that's your opinion, but that's about it.

it's a drug that can and does cause severe bleeding in some women. Not to mention weight gain, etc.

and forced immunizations NEVER have side effects. and it's not like some women have it voluntarily. and it's not like women are on other forms of birth control with the same effects.

Or the fact that I don't see you proposing any sort of forced infertility on male service members.

well, honestly......is there a shot that you can give a male soldier to keep him infertile for a month? trust me, if i knew about it, i'd have mentioned it....but then again, if the military had known about it, they'd probably already have had soldier's taking it.
posted by taumeson at 7:08 PM on April 3, 2003


Yeah, taumeson, it's called progesterone- amazingly effective drug when used on men, but funny, for some reason, guys have a problem with being chemically castrated, just like women do when their depo shots keep their period running for ninety days straight, and cause migraines, bloating, vomiting, and insomnia.

And since you bring up forced immunizations- guess what, the military allows you to opt out of some or all of your immunizations if you've reacted badly to similar treatments in the past. You might end up being a desk jockey, but they don't actually force you to have them. I skipped my MMR for exactly that reason- the whole idea is to have a healthy soldier, not a medically debilitated one.
posted by headspace at 9:39 PM on April 3, 2003


how about forced depo-provera shots every month to keep women infertile

How about we prevent the men from being able to inseminate women? The Stockroom sells a nice variety of male chastity devices...

Not acceptable? Then forcing women to have a shot that has the possibility of seriously fucking up their endocrine system isn't acceptable either, and I can't even articulate how offensive I find that notion to be.

Oh, I forgot. It's acceptable for men to fuck anything they want, but not for women to do the same.
posted by eilatan at 5:05 AM on April 4, 2003


Yeah, there was a lot of grousing about Saudi chauvinism in the last one, I recall. A place where women aren't even allowed to drive. I just can't get this story out of my mind: the old guard grousing about females in the war zone, and the New Army, the Army of One, hard at work making this slender, gutsy teen PFC the meme of the year.

The next question, I predict, is: Did they torture her because she was a woman who shot up so many of their guys? Will "democratic values" in the new Iraq include feminism, in the same way that we liberated Afghan women from the burqa'a? Isn't it weird to have a pro-life administration yapping about the state of women's rights in other peoples countries, by the way?

It's acceptable for men to fuck anything they want, but not for women to do the same.

Reminds me of Starship Troopers: in the New Federation, we'll do away with all those outworn prejudices to unite against the Bugs.

Finally, how to think about the Lysistrata Project [sex strike against war, from a comedy of Aristophanes] in this new era of the Centaur-Amazon alliance? "Women create, men destroy." Is it a good thing, in terms of the gender wars, to see women doing their share of the killing? Remember Girls say yes to boys who say no?
posted by hairyeyeball at 7:15 AM on April 4, 2003


Thank you, headspace and eilatan.

Taumeson, as soon as you grow a uterus, I'll listen to your thoughts on what women should do with their bodies.
Since you've never been a woman, I'm sure you don't know what it's like to be on hormonal medications.

I'll state again, as soon as they make males infertile, they can do the same to female soldiers, until then, fuck that.
posted by SuzySmith at 1:17 PM on April 4, 2003


The idea of forced birth control and/or forced abortions on females in the military is just plain stupid. Seems to me that the obvious solution would be for men to keep their dicks in their pants. Problem solved.

As for this belief that pregnancy runs rampant among military women is unfounded. As I stated above, I served 7 years in the USAF. I was stationed at 5 bases. During that entire time, I only knew 8 active duty women who became pregnant. And, that's out of the 100+ fellow female airmen that I met throughout my enlistment.

And taumeson? Where the fuck do you get off stating that women in the military are prostitutes? What real evidence do you have to support such a ludicrous and insulting statement?
posted by Juicylicious at 5:02 PM on April 4, 2003


What real evidence do you have to support such a ludicrous and insulting statement?

First hand knowledge. A carrier-based friend got pregnant and didn't know who the father was.

Seems to me that the obvious solution would be for men to keep their dicks in their pants

Man, I love feminist reactions. It's never the women's fault, now, is it?

Since you've never been a woman, I'm sure you don't know what it's like to be on hormonal medications.

Oh are you? Because there's NEVER a reason to give men hormones, is there? Not to control gynaecomastia. Not to replace thinning hair. And, of course, I must not have paid attention to my wife's reactions while on birth control, or my mother's reactions while taking hormones for menopause. Nope, no way I could know ANYTHING about hormonal medications.


I'll state again, as soon as they make males infertile, they can do the same to female soldiers, until then, fuck that.


Eh...males and females aren't the same, period. It's not that they're unequal in society, that's not what I'm getting at....it's just that at the fundamental level, things AREN'T THE SAME. It's useless to talk about having things be equal between men and women 100%, it's an impossibility. Starting with that knowledge, don't be afraid to be unequal sometimes.

in the New Federation, we'll do away with all those outworn prejudices to unite against the Bugs.

Honestly, I'd fucking love that. I can't wait until women are in the infantry...but we still haven't worked that pregnancy thing out yet.

guess what, the military allows you to opt out of some or all of your immunizations if you've reacted badly to similar treatments in the past

True. So what? Immunize against pregnancy until you have a bad reaction. And a civilian version of "bad reaction" is very different than the military version of "bad reaction". Try starting out Marine Corps bootcamp with a crazy high fever from mulitple immunizations and then get back to me.

taumeson, it's called progesterone- amazingly effective drug when used on men, but funny, for some reason, guys have a problem with being chemically castrated

Well, not exactly castration...men can still have sex, apparently..thanks for bringing it to my attention.

I'm all for the non-combat soldier having progesterone shots. But as far as the combat side goes, fuck that...I want them with all the testosterone they can handle. I want them sterioded up, fucking GH and everything. I want them to be able to kill with a fucking word...Muab'dib!

...

Seriously, though, this feministic rally against the idea because I'm a male really destroys the possibility of discourse. I find it amusing that only women are discussing with me. It's acceptable for men to fuck anything they want, but not for women to do the same. Says who? You want to think that I believe that so you can be angry with me and disagree with me on principle. Rock on.
posted by taumeson at 5:27 PM on April 4, 2003


taumeson ~ I didn't know which sex you were until this last post. So no, I'm not picking a fight with you because you're a man.

First hand knowledge. A carrier-based friend got pregnant and didn't know who the father was.

So your friend got knocked up and didn't know who the father was? That equals being a prostitute, who services her shipmates? What irritates me is that you use this one story and paint all military women with that same broad brush. It's insulting and truly unfair to those of us who have served our country honorably.

Man, I love feminist reactions. It's never the women's fault, now, is it?

I didn't see that the topic, Sending the pregnant to fight Saddam was about fault. I thought that it was more about responsibility. Certainly it takes two to tango.

Frankly, if I was in combat and another female airman/soldier/sailor/marine managed to get knocked up while deployed, I would be pissed. How irresponsible would that be? Both males and females in that situation should exercise some self-restraint.

It's acceptable for men to fuck anything they want, but not for women to do the same. Says who? You want to think that I believe that so you can be angry with me and disagree with me on principle.

Not really (see comments above). Once again, pregnancy does not run rampant among military women. To assert that it does, is not accurate. And, if this really isn't a common occurrence, then why suggest that females should be forced to use birth control? Forget the pregnancies, what about the diseases? What about safe sex in general? I, 100% support an unlimited supply of condoms and spermacide for everyone in the entire world to include all members of the military. How's that for meeting you halfway? You get to keep your testosterone-laden male warriors and females retain the choice of whether to use additional birth control and if so, what type is best for them.
posted by Juicylicious at 6:37 PM on April 4, 2003


So your friend got knocked up and didn't know who the father was? That equals being a prostitute, who services her shipmates? What irritates me is that you use this one story and paint all military women with that same broad brush.

Well, not exactly. I actually had a talk with her about it (pretty confrontationally, if you could imagine sweet talking me being confrontational) about why she didn't know, and she fessed up that she made extra money by servicing sailors. She defended herself saying that all her friends did it. While I'm POSITIVE that that was an exaggeration, the fact is, she knew others who did it to earn extra money.

and I said some women who serve afloat prostitute and so, no, i'm not paiting women with the same broad brush.

managed to get knocked up while deployed, I would be pissed. How irresponsible would that be? Both males and females in that situation should exercise some self-restraint.

Exactly! I'd NJP the mother AND father.

And, if this really isn't a common occurrence, then why suggest that females should be forced to use birth control?

Simply because it's a start...it's an option. If the side effects are statistically insignificant (STATISTICALLY, DAMNIT!, not actuality!!) then perhaps it's something that ought to be looked at....along with forcing men to use birth control.

I, 100% support an unlimited supply of condoms and spermacide for everyone in the entire world to include all members of the military. How's that for meeting you halfway?

NICE. Now we're getting somewhere! I've been going overboard here, but really, all I'm about is the same thing you're about...let's start getting contraception out there and in use.

It appears to be the same problem as giving high schoolers condoms, etc. People in charge think they're condoning it, not realizing that it's going to happen in the first place.

And honestly, I love kids (have one of my own) and I think that all members of the military should have the opportunity to procreate IF THEY SO WISH. How would I go about doing it? I think that rotating people out of their positions so they can have kids is a normal part of life, so why should it be any different with the military?

What I have a serious problem with is the idea of having to do so with combat troops. It's a logistical nightmare dealing with wounded and reinforcements...fuck having to factor in pregnancies. Besides, it's not like male soldiers get to leave because their wives give birth...and what do you do with a woman POW where it turns out she was only a few weeks pregnant when she shipped out, gets captured right away, and THEN finds out she's pregnant??

What the hell then?! THAT is the scenario I think needs to be addressed. I'm not really about fault or responsibility for the pregnancy...I'm of the opinion that that is something that the parents need to work out...I'm of the responsibility that pregnancy in a theater of combat needs to be avoided at all times.
posted by taumeson at 8:26 PM on April 4, 2003


I'm amazed at the reactions to women in the military. As has been pointed out, women serving militarily isn't exactly new. (Too lazy to scour the web for more links and examples at the moment, but they are out there.)

And yes, torture of POW women is bad...so is the torture of POW men.
posted by kayjay at 11:38 AM on April 5, 2003


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