Sunday, December 18, 2011

A female soldier's story

Why do women sign up for the military? How do they experience military life? One woman's answer to these questions is given in a recent Salon article.

Bethany Saros signed up as a very young woman:

I’d joined the Army right out of high school. The life had seemed so glamorous, and my recruiter swore up and down that I would be a world traveler.

Glamorous? Part of becoming a soldier is learning to kill. And part of it is agreeing to subordinate yourself to the commands of your superiors. Unsurprisingly, Bethany Saros did not enjoy her military training:

But as an innocent, home-schooled girl from the suburbs of the Midwest, I was unprepared for military life. I sobbed my way through basic training. As a child, my tears had been a way to pacify an overly strict father, so whenever my 4-foot-11 [?] male drill sergeant got in my face, I dissolved into waterworks.

She found it difficult to compete as a soldier even against other women:

One day, we were learning to use pugil sticks (which were basically giant Q-Tips we used to beat each other to a pulp) and I was going up against a tall, frail-looking girl everybody thought I could take. But she came at me so mercilessly I never even had the chance to raise my stick before I was on the ground wondering what in the hell just happened. “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” the female drill sergeant screeched at me. “YOU DIDN’T EVEN FIGHT BACK!” (Cue crying.) This scenario seemed to be a metaphor for the rest of my military career.

After five years in the army her life was a mess. But she was pleased to be posted to Iraq because she thought she might find spiritual peace in the desert (what about the mission?):

By the time my boots hit the sand in Iraq, I was tired. I had spent the last five years getting pummeled by life in the Army — an abusive marriage, a nasty divorce, an unsuccessful relationship, getting raped by a co-worker, and an alcohol problem that had only added fuel to an already roaring fire. Though I was on the road to recovery with six months of sobriety under my belt, I was mentally and spiritually exhausted. Truth be told, I was looking forward to a year in the desert. As a child in Sunday school, I’d heard stories about saints who went to the desert looking for spiritual peace — the very desert where I now found myself.

Instead of spiritual peace she found a fellow soldier to have an affair with. The likelihood is that she embarked on this affair in order to get pregnant and be shipped back home. But she doesn't present the narrative this way. Her rationalisation hamster runs very fast to present an alternative grand narrative.

a) She denies embarking on the hookup to get pregnant:

When I met J., I wasn’t looking for a relationship. But Iraq had turned out to be more alienating that I’d originally thought. I was disconnected from everything familiar, surrounded by people who did not understand my sobriety or my sudden need for spirituality, and I felt more alone than I ever had in my life. J. was fresh out of a relationship where he’d been cheated on and was feeling rejected and hurt. After a month of friendship, we sought solace in each other’s arms. We thought we were in love...

b) She denies knowing that she could get pregnant from having sex for a period of six weeks:

That couldn’t happen to me. I had been married for two years without getting pregnant. I’d been in a year-long relationship without getting pregnant. It was impossible that I’d get pregnant in a relationship that had barely been alive for six weeks.

c) She portrays herself as the victim of the male soldier who deceived her as to his real intentions, despite the likelihood that she also deceived him about her real intentions:
That night, I finally was able to get in touch with J. “Are you really pregnant?” he asked in disbelief.

“Yes. I went to the doctor this morning,” I said.

“Listen,” he said. “I cannot think of a worse time to tell you this but …”

I knew what was coming. “You’re getting back together with K., aren’t you.” It was more of a statement than a question.

The conversation that followed consisted of the usual phrases that go through breakup dialogue — you lied to me, how could you, etc. Except I couldn’t slam down the phone and write him off as a jerk for the rest of my life. We had created a child together. We had decisions to make. Decisions that I was in no condition to make but had to be made anyway, fast.

“Are you going to keep it?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “I can’t do an abortion. I just can’t.”

“OK,” he said. “I am going to be there for you and the baby. We will work this out. No matter what, I will be there for you.”

Strong words spoken in the heat of the moment, just like everything else about our relationship.

She continues on with the same rationalisations:

I thought of J. and how he was in Iraq, consequence-free, at least for the time being. I had no way of knowing that his promise to be there for me and the baby would be meaningless, that I would eventually have to go after him for child support...

She had no way of knowing that a tour of duty fling wasn't likely to lead to a commitment? Again, it's likely that the guy got played, but she doesn't want to present it that way.

In the end it's clear that Bethany Saros was made to be a mother not a warrior:

But I wasn’t going to let the little person snuggled up in my belly down. One day, my son would be old enough to ask me questions, and I wanted to be able to tell him that I gave him the best life I possibly could. At the end of the day, my son was the only person I would have to explain myself to.

But what a wasteful and circuitous route to motherhood. If what was really important to her was the maternal instinct to protect her future children, then what was she doing in the army in the first place? She needed training not in the military, but in selecting a suitable father for her future children.

22 comments:

  1. That chick should NOT have become a soldier.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Women have plenty of roles in which they can serve with distinction: some of us even run countries. But generally we are better at wielding the handbag than the bayonet." Margaret Thatcher

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Glamorous? Part of becoming a soldier is learning to kill."

    Yeah, but they de-emphasize that, especially for female recruits. I knew a guy in the USA who was talking to an Army recruiter and he said the recruiter emphasized travel and benefits. I said, they're lying to you and they will definitely send you to Iraq. My acquaintance did not believe me. Next I heard, the guy's dad said the Army sent him to Iraq. Oh well!

    "she was pleased to be posted to Iraq because she thought she might find spiritual peace in the desert"

    Great, we spent a bazillion dollars to send immature women to Iraq to find spiritual peace.

    The Iraq vets know told me about mortar fire and IEDs, not spiritual peace...

    "One day, my son would be old enough to ask me questions, and I wanted to be able to tell him that I gave him the best life I possibly could."

    I bet she won't tell him that she was a liar, a slut, and a failure to her country.

    ReplyDelete
  4. As a child, my tears had been a way to pacify an overly strict father,

    Dad failed her. By allowing her to use emotional manipulation he set her up to fail at real life. In the past, that might have been a viable survival strategy to use men for her benefit. However with artificial equality in full force that old tactic goes out the window.
    Daddys, don't let yer babies grow up to be feminists...

    ReplyDelete
  5. A failure to her country- that women are told that they as soldiers in a battlefield are any good in combat is the failure to all our respective countries. It's not sexism but a fact those of us who are women cannot match men.

    It's like allowing a man who can't cop his basic training to go into the battlefield. This girl should never have become a soldier and as women like her continue to get allowed in despite the disproportionate physical abilities is reprehensible. Yes, women like her are easily fooled because of feminists and in this instance recruiters who tell them they can match men and at least she has the guts to admit she was wrong for the part. Not to excuse the fact she seems clueless and naive- was the recruiter so desperate to make his quota that month that he let her in?

    But the government and recruiters responsible for letting women like her through the door are worse. A woman can be loyal, training every day to be at her peak and not fraternizing with her male colleagues outside of work, dedicated to her country- but she will die quicker than her male counterpart. In a skirmish in a street, her weakness can be the difference between whether her and her fellow soldiers are killed.

    It fails countries when their female population through bizarre equality based suicide or a backwards conscription system can be struck at like this.

    This woman screwed up, but it's better that she sees that, no matter what pretty words she consoles herself with- than stays in the Army, giving her child no parent and with her track record, dies because she can't handle being a solider or gets her fellow soldiers killed. She, at least can be an example to her son as to why he can’t think that gender is a social construct and I’m relieved to read there will be grandparents in the picture to mitigate her mistakes- and a man in her son’s life through her father.

    Two wrongs don't make a right and women in this situation who get pregnant shouldn't even have the option of staying in the Army. That it's acceptable for married women who are mothers to be in is disgusting as well.
    Raise the standards for female soldiers to match their male counterparts and see how few women actually make it into the Army or military branches.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for posting this. I haven't read the Salon article yet, but I will in a moment. What's great about this post is we have both 'plausible deniability' and 'backwards rationalization'. She can plausibly deny that she was under duress, (and in America one can find a lawyer to make this persuasive) and she can also backwards rationalize her choice to convince even herself she is an angel, a special snowflake.

    I wish women knew what what a soul-suck women like this are. This guy who fathered the baby is probably a low-level enlisted man, which means a salary that is just above the poverty line. If he doesn't pay child support he will be put in prison, so it looks like he'll have to serve out the full twenty years. So this is 'manning up'? Unbelievable.

    ReplyDelete
  7. One of the things I'm afraid of is that one day, the U.S. will start conscripting women. That day might not be far off.
    I am sick to death of feminism. It makes me so angry when I read about a girl who was homeschooled (as I was) going into the military thinking it would be glamorous. Excuse me? She is basically admitting that she thought it would be romantic to join the army. Can't you find romance and glamour elsewhere?
    Sometimes I wonder why those early feminists thought their life was so awful. I also wonder why modern people seem so bent on driving society to destruction, and driving as quickly as they can.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm sorry things did not work out for THIS woman. However, my daughter is in the U.S. Army and absolutely loves it. So far she has been to Korea, is Airborne qualified and has the highest PT (physical fitness) score in her unit (that's of the guys and gals on that one). Women are more than capable of joining and succeeding in the Army and just because ONE woman did not have a good experience, does not mean ALL women are not capable of doing it.

    By the way, my brother joined the Marines and couldn't last one year. My daughter is on her second enlistment. Just goes to show, it aint what's between your legs that matters.

    ReplyDelete
  9. it aint what's between your legs that matters.

    Being a man and a woman involves a lot more than "what's between your legs".

    It involves a core aspect of our being. So to fulfil our being we need to cultivate the higher aspects of who we are as men and women.

    That's difficult for women when modern society assumes that the traditionally masculine roles are the superior, privileged ones that women need to compete in to prove themselves.

    That's when you get women like Bethany Saros who set out on the wrong mission in life before really settling into the one she can truly identify with.

    I doubt that there are many army jobs that are going to be very useful for women to express the higher aspects of themselves as women - but then again I don't know exactly what your daughter's job involves.

    But I certainly hope that you and your daughter haven't bought into the modernist idea that competing with men in the masculine sphere is what proves a woman's worth. That's a terrible, self-punishing pathway for women to take, one that isn't likely to end well in the long run.

    ReplyDelete
  10. "my daughter is in the U.S. Army and absolutely loves it. So far she has been to Korea, is Airborne qualified and has the highest PT (physical fitness) score in her unit (that's of the guys and gals on that one)."

    Women's PT standards aren't the same as men's standards. For example, a full score on the 2 mile run requires 13:30 for men but 15:36 for women. Besides, the army PT test is a disaster - just pushups, situps, and the 2 mile run. This doesn't accurately measure physical readiness for the kind of tasks required in combat.

    "my brother joined the Marines and couldn't last one year"

    The Marines' physical standards are on a completely different level, and their training is much more demanding (although that's been softened somewhat by bringing in women).

    ReplyDelete
  11. Pechorian said,

    "the army PT test is a disaster - just pushups, situps, and the 2 mile run. This doesn't accurately measure physical readiness for the kind of tasks required in combat."

    True that, when real tasks start coming up guys go down in large numbers with injuries real or imagined. Good thing the Army doesn't go to war ... oh wait!

    It's no coincidence that commanders keep wanting to employ special forces over the regular units and those forces are employed ceaselessly.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I think using the word 'rationalization hamster' is below you.

    It's not below me, but I make a conscious effort to be vulgar and crude :)

    You however, are Mark, and therefore should be above that.

    (The term is too tied up in PUA snottiness) It is an attempt to lower women in relation to men by referring to their brains as animalistic. Certainly this is true, but 99.999999% of all the people on the planet fall under this as well.

    But more importantly it's insulting to refer to your own women in such a manner.

    I really miss Christianity.
    -------------------------------

    A guy from Iraq told me that there are only three types of women who go into the military:

    - Lesbians
    - Whores
    - Women running from some type of abuse


    Females have no business in the military. The End.

    ReplyDelete
  13. By the way, my brother joined the Marines and couldn't last one year. My daughter is on her second enlistment. Just goes to show, it aint what's between your legs that matters.

    Anonymous do you have any idea how standards have been lowered for women? Of the mandatory "sensitivity classes"? Do you even have the notion of the type of women that are awarded in the military?
    Yep, what is between one's legs sure doesn't matter.

    A cautionary tale about men joining the Marines

    ReplyDelete
  14. I think using the word 'rationalization hamster' is below you.

    Maybe. Sometimes the PUAs and the MRAs do touch on truths about male and female behaviour but then apply it too sociobiologically.

    I do think the "rationalisation hamster" is a valid concept and useful in a number of ways. Maybe if the term offends it could be replaced by "pretty lies".

    It's useful to be aware of the phenomenon. It helps men not to take everything that women say at face value - men can be more effective leaders in society that way.

    But let me state for the record: I do believe that women are capable of honestly recognising poor decisions they have made and admitting fault.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Some of hypocritical men are forcing feminine women to give up their own femininity. There are female transsexuals as well, they like to follow a masculine way of life. Most of women like female soldiers are female transsexuals who are exactly corresponding to male transsexuals. Their fathers are the people who are rising them up in their way from younger ages. They do not give any chance for their wives to rise their daughters up in a feminine way. This gender hypocrisy is a main fact which is decreasing the lifetime of human civilization.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Women are more than capable of joining and succeeding in the Army and just because ONE woman did not have a good experience, does not mean ALL women are not capable of doing it.

    Leaving aside the issue of lowered standards for women, the fact that SOME women are physically capable of meeting Army standards does not mean that it is a good idea to permit them to do so.

    ReplyDelete
  17. can you people read?

    what the first anon said about her daughter:
    "the highest PT (physical fitness) score in her unit (that's of the guys and gals on that one)."
    what that MEANS is that she, for instance, ran the 3 miles FASTER than ANYONE - male OR female. did more pushups, or did them faster, than anyone male OR female.


    as for the rest of this... i'm a woman. and until recently, when i became disabled, i was a bouncer [as a second job] and DAMNED good at my job - because i didn't rely on "my feminine wiles" or any BS like that, but because i've earned more than one blackbelt - REAL blackbelts, not just for show - and i've never been in a fight that i didn't win. decisively.

    SOME women aren't capable of military life. neither are some men.

    and, FFS, STOP TREATING WOMEN AS A MONOLITH! we are NOT all the same! if you'd read that story, except by a man, would then have said "see? this is why MEN SHOULDN'T BE IN THE MILITARY!"
    of course not. because one man is not a representative of ALL men.

    and the SAME goes for women.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Anon wrote:

    and i've never been in a fight that i didn't win. decisively.

    I find that very hard to believe. A determined, physically powerful male is likely to do damage to a woman even if she has some kind of training.

    Second, even if there do exist women with the fighting skills you claim, they are outliers. The way you talk about things, anon, you'd think that men and women were just randomly suited or ill-suited to physical combat.

    That's not true. Just look at the male and female body. The average woman is not designed for combat.

    Third, even if there are individual women who are capable of physical combat, how is that going to help fulfil their being as women? What part of the feminine essence is cultivated through combat training?

    Fourth, I get the sense reading your comment that you are another Western woman who has bought into the idea that the masculine is superior to the feminine and that women therefore have to prove themselves in some masculine field.

    That just pushes the average woman into being a second rate male instead of a first rate female. It's a losing strategy for women overall.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I am young, 16, so don't have a go at me for the following as I'm not attempting to be disrespectful (it could come accross like this) its just I'm not always very good at wording things and can sound as though I'm having a go at my elders. I have several questions. First of all I want to know why war is a man's world. Obviously in the past this was just accepted to be fact but that was when it was also accepted that women were born inferior and had no hope of bettering themselves. I'd like to believe that when society moved on from this belief other ideas such as women being in the military were accepted but your comments show me I am wrong. I notice that a lot of the posters are male, so how do they know that all women are being unnatural in joining the military, did you know that in either Britain or America, not sure which there is a female 4 star general. How can you as men know what is natural for a modern day woman because this has changed over the years. I am trying to be objective here, I accept not all women join the military for the right reasons but so many do and unlike men they face prejudice. A good example was provided by another poster, he said a guy told him either sluts, lesbions or abused women join but please consider the source. Some military men are prejudice, not all, and it is an unfair stereotype that all lesbions are masculine and as he believes this I suggest he has ignorant views. Also how could he possibly know every single women's reason for joining, if he could the way he suggests he would be physic and would most likely be ruling the world. The author of this source insults this women who for whatever reason went into a career where she knew she could be killed. Good reasons/bad reasons I believe she deserves more respect that she has been shown. He claims he knows why she began a relationship - how could he? He claims to know what she was really thinking - how could he? He also does not mention that the father broke his promise and abandoned his child. He is extremely biased and I wonder if he has been hurt by women in the past leaving him with a negative view (sorry if I am wrong). There have been men who's lifes has been saved by women in the military, there are women who have suffered horrific injuries for their country and those who have died for it. Whatever your opinion of this woman please don't insult every woman in the military as many deserve our full repect.

    ReplyDelete
  20. "First of all I want to know why war is a man's world."

    You can always take a guy on in a fist fight and see how you go. Of course as this is preparation for war he's allowed to fight back and shouldn't feel restrained at all because you're a woman. When he's pounding you to jelly, and realistically he's likely to, you can then comment on whether being a fighter is advancing the cause of women.

    "How can you as men know what is natural for a modern day woman because this has changed over the years"

    As this is a conservative blog the argument is that such things shouldn't change, at least that much, over the years. The argument is that society is better served by women not abandoning all of their traditional roles and entering male roles. That society is well served by gender distinction or specialisation and that this is also an expression of our natural instincts, tendencies, desires and strengths.

    "... Obviously in the past this was just accepted to be fact but that was when it was also accepted that women were born inferior and had no hope of bettering themselves."

    If your idea of women bettering themselves is to act like men, in every sphere, then you're not going to have an enjoyable time of it as your femininity is sacrificed.

    ReplyDelete
  21. yeah, see, not all men? are good fighters, either.

    also - it's a freaking idiotic and ignorant view of history to think ONLY men have gone to war, ONLY men could FIGHT. i could pull up HUNDREDS of women who went to war before it became legal for women to do so.

    the problem here isn't that I, as a woman who learned to fight and WELL, am "rejecting" my feminity and trying to be a "man" - i'm not. never have. hell, i'm not even BI, let alone gay.

    the PROBLEM is this continued notion that ALL women can be is wife and mother - and WITHOUT looking at all the freaking work women did thru the ENTIRETY of history. did you know, back in those caveman-days evo-psych junkies extol, that over 80% of the food eated was gathered by WOMEN?!
    did you know that it wasn't until VERY recently that women didn't work at LEAST as hard as men, men in the fields, women doing EVERYTHING else - i'd NEVER take on, say, Laura Ingalls Wilder - talk of back-breaking labor that builds muscle mass!

    i'm a woman. i'm even a straight woman. yet i will never have kids [can't]. i like makeup. i wear it. and yet, until i ended up in a freaking wheelchair, i quite literally kicked ass.


    people are not all the same. not all MEN are capable of being soldiers! neither are all women.

    but let me tell you - given the choice between being a soldier fighting or a "non-combatant" while my country is invaded, i'll take soldier EVERY TIME. do you know how many WOMEN are killed in wars? much more than men - not because they're soldiers, but because historically, any - ANY - women found in "enemy territory" [or, hell, even in home territory, depending] was doomed to rape and death if she was lucky. no WAY to defend herself, because "women shouldn't fight", no one to protect her because all the men are off fighting elsewhere - and if the SOLDIERS didn't kill her when they were done raping her, chances are "her" men would do it, because she "let" herself be raped, and screw the fact that she was left utterly defensless because "women shouldn't fight."

    no, historically, women? have had as much to do in war as men, with fewer tools. go read some history. see if you can even FIND the stats on women raped and killed, women kidnapped and forced to serve as camp followers.

    oh - wait! - just like you, most historians don't care about women. like you, ALL they see is a uterus. the fact that women are as smart, capable and motived as MEN doesn't matter.

    and in TODAY'S military, where it's about TECH, that's equally accessable to both men AND women, seriously? because, on average, women can't bench press the same means that they can't SHOOT?! whatever. your ignorance and misogyny is quite apparant.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Anonymous said,

    "and in TODAY'S military, where it's about TECH, that's equally accessible to both men AND women, seriously? because, on average, women can't bench press the same means that they can't SHOOT?! whatever. your ignorance and misogyny is quite apparent."

    If war was all about pulling a trigger from the safety of a bunker I wouldn't bother to work out. Women in the combat corps aren't tough enough to hack it, and will only lower the standard. Women mixed in with men totally change the culture of the organsiation and in the Army that's unacceptable. Women aren't needed in the military because thankfully due to our skill at arms you're not about to be raped by a foreign army.

    Now women are allowed in many non frontline arms of the military. Unfortunately their history there is generally not one to be that proud of. We've seen a general lessening of capability in recent years not its increase. Too many people join up for a secure career and aren't interested, indeed are horrified, by going to war. This is not good. Whether they're men or women, being in the services is about service to the country and if you're not up to the highest of standards you should go. The military is not a place where women should go to express their equality.

    For every one woman who you can find who can fit in with the guys you're letting in ten who aren't up to it and who drag the whole thing down. I'm not interested in compromising our security or our edge for the one nor am I interested in putting women in the Green Berets to stick it to men.

    ReplyDelete

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.