Sunday, May 27, 2012

A reply to a reader on female combat troops

One reader didn't like my post The body has meaning. He wrote the following comment:
The original post astonishes me. When I was 12 or so, I thought, "Men are this, and women are that." Then I grew up and realized the world is more complex than that.

The world is not made up of G.I. Joes and Barbie dolls. You seem to suggest that it should be.

Your idea seems to be that men and women each have a distinct, intrinsic nature, from which their proper roles in society can be inferred, en masse. But isn't it reasonable to expect a person to act on the basis of their own nature? If someone wants to do something, such as join the army, then joining the army seems to be in the nature of this person. You would say to them, "But that's not in your nature." I think they should reply, "Clearly it is in my nature, for it is what I want to do." How do you reply to this?

It's a reasonable question to ask. The answer is that masculinity is not only an aspect of the nature of men, but it exists as well as an essence in the sense of it being a quality that has intrinsic value and meaning.

So a man will not only have a sense of his own masculine identity, he will also recognise the existence of a masculine ideal to develop toward, one which brings purpose and fulfilment.

Ordinary preferences and wants do not have this same potential. They certainly do not define our nature as men; if anything, they are to be brought into line (i.e. ordered) according to our efforts to cultivate masculine character.

And the same goes for femininity & women. Women obviously have a feminine nature in the sense that their bodies are more fitted for motherhood than warfare, that women are in general more emotional than men and so on.

But that's not the end of it. Women have the chance to embody the feminine principle in life (to put this another way: to express a feminine essence).

They cannot do this in the role of a combat soldier. It just isn't possible to develop along feminine lines in such a role.

And so a woman who thinks she wants to be a combat soldier has some serious thinking to do. Even if she is at the more mannish end of the female spectrum, and so is drawn more than other women to masculine pursuits, she is choosing a pathway that cannot lead her to an admirable womanhood, i.e. to a womanhood that embodies or expresses that feminine principle of life.


  1. You do have an interesting view Mark but it's not that easy to accept... if it is true that men and women have fundamentally different natures, there is still an important difficulty with the argument that women should 'embody the feminine principle in life' and men should similarly embody the masculine: it is not possible for people to have such insight into the fundamentals of human nature that would allow them to adequately define these principles, and prescribe these roles for men and women. Often, if such an attempt is made, the definitions are hopelessly simplistic and reductive.

    And I think this relates to a problem with traditionalism more broadly: that it often seems to rely upon a romanticised conception of human nature, and of the perfect society, and that the way those romanticised conceptions are formed often betray some very modern influences on the part of the traditionalists.

  2. Tim,

    It's true that there is never going to be a description of the masculine or feminine that will cover all bases or that will grasp every nuance or complexity.

    But even so we know what it means when we describe a woman as lovely or a man as having a strength or a nobility of character.

    And most premodern societies operated on the view that men and women were distinct in their natures and that there existed an essential (not socially constructed) masculine and feminine ideal for men and women to cultivate.

    Far from being an impractical, romantic view, that's one necessary component of a functioning society.

  3. that it often seems to rely upon a romanticised conception of human nature

    If anything it has perhaps the less romanticized conception of human nature. Humans are by nature sinful for example.

  4. Tim,
    I think you are correct when you say that human nature is complicated. We do not begin life like little acorns, all embodying the same destiny. But the idea that each individual has a unique nature is also wrong, and also dangerous. One reason that it is dangerous is that it encourages us to confuse our nature with our will, our desires, or that which we have chosen. This seems to be what you are doing when you write of a young woman who “wants to be” a soldier. What a young woman wants is a very poor guide to her nature; it is, in fact, in most cases a product of her culture. To discover one’s nature, one has to, so to speak, look in the mirror and see what kind of a being one is. I know that I have wanted to be any number of things, but then discovered, to my (transient) sorrow, that I was not “cut out for it.”

    With respect to Mark’s original post, I’d say that it is the culture that is causing some young women to want to be soldiers. This is not a pent-up desire that liberalism has set free. In most cases, a young woman who feels this desire has only to “look in the mirror” to see that it is absurd. There may be some exceptions, of course, but I think it would be better to frustrate a few Amazons than it is to mislead (with possibly disastrous consequences) a great many young women who are not natural warriors.

    This last point is, I think, an important disagreement between liberalism and traditionalism, and one that bears close examination. Traditionalists endorse roles (including gender roles) because they disclose the nature of the majority, and so provide most people with clear and accurate directions as to what they ought to be/become. This is hard on the misfits, to be sure, but a traditionalist believes that the tradeoff is worth it. It is worth it because the alternative, which is to say no clear roles, imposes unnecessary questioning and uncertainty on the majority. Thus, for instance, traditionalists endorse “heteronormative” education. This imposes a hardship on homosexual children, but the total hardship is less than it would be under an educational system that encourages every child to question his or her sexuality.

  5. The military isn't there for the troops to fulfil themselves. We pay them to kill people and break things when needed to defend the country. In most combat roles, the strongest and most aggressive and determined women don't come close to meeting the minimum standards we can reasonably ask men to meet. They are physically and psychologically inferior at that job, to the point where they will seriously endanger the mission and get themselves and others killed.

    Any lefty who admits that fact will go on to admit that he just doesn't care if effectiveness is impaired. All they care about is gouging pounds of flesh out of the backs of productive people to reward their constituencies and increase their own power. Nothing else is real to them. They can't grasp the concept of "consequences".

    Women have apparently done invaluable work in the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan in public relations roles, interacting with the locals -- or so I've read. Israel uses women for tank gunnery instructors, and their tank gunnery is excellent. No doubt there are other examples.

    But keep them out of kill-or-be-killed roles. They may think they can do it, but they have no idea what's entailed. They think if it gets tough they can quit. It's not their world, they can't comprehend it.

  6. Hear, hear -- I believe TimT has is right. I would add the following reflections on the original post.

    Working towards this masculine ideal might bring a sense of purpose and fulfillment for a man who is geared toward this, but it will only bring frustration and confusion for a man who is made for something else.

    What about Woody Allen? Short little mousy man. Makes brilliant movies. Should he have spent his time in the gym, in a futile effort to become a warrior, instead of spending it in the director's chair, making excellent movies that have made millions of people happy? He would have wasted his life.

    So much for the idea of the artist. What about the idea of the statesman? Abraham Lincoln was a lanky, gawky fellow, but is he not typically regarded as a great man? And what about the inventor? Nikola Tesla never married, never even dated, and yet he gave the world AC power, without which there certainly wouldn't be any Internet on which to post our ideas, for one thing. I'd say a man who helped to bring us out of darkness was a great man.

    I could go on indefinitely like this, and I think the point is clear. There are numerous ideals toward which a person can strive: the inventor, the statesman, the artist, the warrior, the defender, the teacher..... You name it. Why take a limiting approach, and believe that all men should be striving toward just one or two of those categories, like warrior or defender?

    Sitting back and dreaming, that might be a world you'd like to imagine, but in fact, in reality, it would leave millions of men frustrated and unfulfilled, wasting their lives, ignoring their innate talents, abilities, and inclinations. The exact same goes for women.

    Inclinations such as I have discussed seem to be what you call "ordinary preferences and wants". But Tesla's preference to be alone in the laboratory instead of on the battle field, or at the hearth playing father figure, resulted in one of the greatest goods that humanity has ever received.

    You paint a dualistic, yin-and-yang world view, in which the most important thing a human being can do is strive after precisely one out of two acceptable ideals, determined by whether or not they have a Y-chromosome.

    I see no reason to take such a limited view of human life. We are much, much more than that. Why such a keen interest in defining oneself /as/ a man, or /as/ a woman? One might better envision oneself as: a generous person; a kind-hearted person; a non-judgmental person; a loving person; a strong person.... There are plenty of gender-neutral virtues.

    I think that what you want to say is that there are norms. Yes, there absolutely are norms. There are certain qualities that most men have, in varying degree, and likewise for women. Inasmuch as you find yourself born a normal man or normal woman, you are probably also born with a set of normal dreams to fulfill, and that's fine. Go forth and fulfill them.

    All I'm asking is: Why try to prohibit the dreams of a person who happens to fall especially far from the norm? A dualistic, yin-and-yang approach to defining our purpose in life is going to leave millions of people unhappy.

  7. This idea about female combat troops elevates the 'rights and equality' lunacy to new levels. For reasons of space I leave aside the emotional aspect. Firstly, most MEN in our current society would not be physically able to effectively serve in combat roles (primarily infantry, armour and artillery). Secondly, we have been deluded by the Hollywood myth that a hot, fit, skinny chick can kick any man's butt, so to speak.
    After seven years miltary service and 20 plus years in policing, I can tell you that this is a fantasy. Perhaps one in a thousand women could carry and load artillery shells all day, let alone drag the gun into and out of position. The same applies to subduing a drugged-up, violent drunk. For 20 years now this policy has increasingly exposed male police to greater risk of injury, yet now we impose the same idea on the defence force? We need female soldiers and police, but to equate them physically with males is a pure denial of biology, among other things. They will suffer, as will those who have to serve with them. And are our enemies doing this? Please let me know the last time a female bikie smashed up a pub. It is perfectly simple - lower standards produce lower outcomes. Common sense has become an uncommon virtue.

  8. Only when I see the names of 58,000 dead women on a wall will I truly believe that women have actually sacrificed and achieved equality. And that day cannot come soon enough. Women need to hurt now for the mindset of feminism and western ideals to change. That men will also pay the price in a combat situation with their own lives , well that's the toll for allowing the insanity to spread as far as it has. Maybe they might come back and shoot the politicians and cultural icons who forced that upon them and also put women back in their places. Which is out of the way until they show they are capable of making good decisions and not destroying society.

  9. A dualistic, yin-and-yang approach to defining our purpose in life is going to leave millions of people unhappy.

    So what if it leaves them unhappy? Our society is defined for the exceptions to the rule and not for the rule. We are geared towards satisfying the minority of effimate men and their feminist women instead. Our society is one of degeneracy, social breakdown, racial dissolution and unbelief. So what if it leaves them unhappy?!? Society should not bend itself to the whims of a few. You say millions will be unhappy. I say billions will be unhappy. Billions of normal people will suffer for a million of freaks.

  10. JMSmith has a great point in differentiating between one's nature and one's will. For example a man may believe himself to be Elvis Presley or Napoleon. Is he truly? No. In another case the person may be severely deluded (e.g. men who think they are women inside or women who think they are men inside) and in our society these people may achieve their "desires" by destroying their true innate nature and becoming mutilated men or women (e.g. "gender reassignment surgery") through following diabolical lies.

  11. Secondly, we have been deluded by the Hollywood myth that a hot, fit, skinny chick can kick any man's butt, so to speak.

    Recent Hollywood examples: the entire Snow White movie (Charlize Theron is in it if nobody knows the movie) and a couple of scenes in The Avengers with Black Widow.

  12. Some excellent comments, thank you.

    I want to respond to anon 11.50 who asked about artists, inventors etc. I think he has misunderstood my argument about masculinity.

    You can be masculine and still be an inventor or artist. In fact, the masculine drives would most likely help a man in such pursuits.

    So I have no issue with Woody Allen deciding to become a film maker rather than a soldier.

    It seems to be true that Woody Allen is not a very masculine man. It's not just his lack of physique, it's more that he has never connected with the values that come with the full development of the masculine personality.

    And this has no doubt contributed to the gloomy, neurotic and alienated quality of some of his films.

    I would not want to be Woody Allen and I would not want to live in a society which was based on a Woody Allen type of life experience (it wouldn't last long).

    In other words, I don't see Allen's masculine deficiencies as a positive.

  13. Mark said of Woody Allen,

    "And this has no doubt contributed to the gloomy, neurotic and alienated quality of some of his films."

    Of course and his self indulgent personal behavior is also well below that of what we would expect from an average citizen. For the Romans of the republic it was compulsory for all statesmen to serve some time in the military. Some men were obviously more suited to this than others, however, the experience did mold their character, build a national ethos, and help focus their priorities for when they became senior policy makers.

    "Harden up" and "Be a man" are continual refrains heard for people in the military. The obvious reasoning behind this is that masculinity is something that, whilst innate to a degree, is still something you have to work towards as a man. As stated if women are going to excessively concentrate on "hardening up" their female characteristics will not be developed and if men abandon this exercise they will become feminised and masculinity will suffer.

  14. All I'm asking is: Why try to prohibit the dreams of a person who happens to fall especially far from the norm?

    That depends on what they want to do. There is a lot of variation in temperament and personality within a sex, and a civilized society does provide scope for people who don't align with the center of the behavioral distribution. Do you really think that now, or in the Western past, all members of each sex were expected to adhere to rigidly monochromatic character templates? Do you find that reflected in literature or history?

    No, of course you don't. But the roles are neither arbitrary nor infinitely elastic. Most people do exhibit behaviors and desires that are characteristic of their sex, and you get real problems when you start re-arranging society and destroying fundamental institutions under the ridiculous pretense that the margins and tails are "normal".

    It is one thing to have a humane society where, for example, the relatively few woman who have real scientific talent, and the desire to devote themselves to serious scientific careers, can do so. Our institutions can accommodate these outliers. It is another thing to go on an ideological rampage and waste vast amounts of resources out of refusal to accept that there really are sex differences.

    It is even more pernicious to insist that we accommodate extreme outliers in roles that really do reflect what Mark is calling sexual "essence", such as that of warrior. Women in combat are, quite simply, insane. Even putting aside the fact that just about zero women, no matter how masculine and desirous of the role, are physically qualified for the role, that role, and the institutions that embody it, cannot be redefined to accommodate such women without destroying them.

    A sane and just society can provide niches for outliers and eccentrics; in fact they can play an honorable and useful role as outliers and eccentrics. What you can't do is arrange social institutions under the falsehood that they are normal, and pretend, without consequence, that they are excluded from some roles and institutions only for frivolous and arbitrary considerations that can easily be "fixed".

    A dualistic, yin-and-yang approach to defining our purpose in life is going to leave millions of people unhappy.

    I'd bet millions more people, underneath it all, are uneasy, unhappy, not to say downright viscerally repulsed, by the "ideal" of an androgynous society, one that does not honor in any way an "essence" of masculinity and femininity.

    Society has to have some basic structure, and since sex is built into the very foundations of nature, it will be the first building block. Even the outliers need some anchor on which to build an identity, even if it's only to realize that they really do lie outside the bounds of "essence".

    Yes, being a genuine outlier can be a tough row to hoe. But distorting necessary and functional institutions into futility and meaninglessness can't help that. Cultural chaos will leave a lot more millions unhappy, including the outliers. I think you can see this in the more and more frantic and crazed demands that ever more marginal human types be considered "normal", because people believe the nonsense that common sense traditional culture, with its structure and roles, is the root of their existential malaise. It isn't.

  15. Lol - correction on my previous post: I suppose some people might agree that "women in combat are, quite simply, insane", but what I meant to say was "putting women in combat roles is simply insane".

  16. Mark - thanks for your response. To me one problem with this idea of clearly-defined gender roles is with authority - who gets to decide what those roles are? Why do they make those decisions? I'm not convinced anyone has sufficient authority to make that decision.

    Elizabeth - good point, I actually agree with that one, but I find that traditionalists are often more naively romantic in other examples.

    JMSmith - thanks for your response. I didn't write specifically of the "young woman who 'wants to be' a soldier" so I take it most of your comment seems to be directed at Mark's correspondent.

    Interesting conversation, I'll keep following it.

  17. I can't help but laugh at the fat, slow-witted women who serve in my area as police and security guards. Some of them are even shorter than I am and morbidly obese. They're everywhere.

    I don't know what their employers are thinking, or what legitimate role these women serve, but they make a joke out of the entire enterprise. Thing is (as Anonymous described), most of the criminals aren't fat, slow-witted women. They're strong, quick men.

    So those women's employment in such a role is not indicative of their "high status to society", but of how expendable they are. They're essentially speed-bumps, meant to slow down opponents until a real fighter arrives. Sad. I suppose they could always nag and shriek until the opponent kills himself.

  18. Alte wrote,

    "They're essentially speed-bumps, meant to slow down opponents until a real fighter arrives."


  19. Tim T.,
    Sorry for my mistaken presumption that you were Mark’s original correspondent. Let me try to answer your question about authority, or who gets to decide. There are really two types of authority in human societies: (1) official or bureaucratic authority and (2) natural authority or charisma. Official authority goes with an office, and whoever occupies that office has authority to make decisions on specific matters, so long as he or she occupies that office. When he or she is out of office, more often than not, no one pays any attention to him or her. Natural authority goes to a person or institution that has a history of good decisions or sound opinions. Natural authority is really an expression of trust, or faith, in a person or institution that has proven trustworthy in the past. Sometimes official and natural authority coincide, sometimes they don’t.

    It seems to me that your question presupposes that gender roles would be decided by an official authority, by the Department of Gender Identity, say. If that were the case, I’m in complete agreement with you. I do not want to live in a country with a DGI (even if it weren’t staffed entirely by transsexuals). I think the authority to define gender roles naturally resides with the men and women that most boys and girls admire and want to be like, and that most parents want their children to resemble when they grow up. I’m not talking about action figures and Barbie dolls, just reasonably manly men and reasonably feminine women. They have authority (for me, at least) because it is among that sort of men and women that I see the greatest percentage of people leading happy, useful, fulfilling lives. A just society sets aside a space for true misfits, but it also makes clear the life-course that most of its members will most likely find successful and satisfying.

  20. His father Martin told another writer that “the kids on the block named him ‘Woody’ because he was always the one to bring the stick out for the stickball game. He was always athletic.” Contrary to his image, Woody Allen was indeed a good baseball player with the local Police Athletic League.

    Look at his real life. He only plays a loser.

  21. If a woman is willing to make any sacrifice to defend her nation then her best course of action is to get married and have lots of children. Armies need troops to fight and tax payers to support their costs and her children will do more to defend the nation by being born and growing up to be productive adults than she is ever likely to do by fighting.

  22. What Stewart said. And she should ensure that her children are well-educated and physically fit, so that military has a chance at a decent recruit.

  23. Rohan,

    The last paragraph of your comment struck a chord with me and exactly encapsulated my own, less clear thinking on the issue. Thank you very much.


  24. To me, every woman who wants to be a soldier can do it. But she has to be demanded the same standards as men and be paid the same as men in the same position. Any job should be allocated between the candidates on the basis of competence.

    And, if you do that, it will be obvious what male nature or female nature is. You will see that most STEM guys are men and most nurses are women. This will be natural: a consequence of natural desires.

    Yes, there will be exceptions: there always are. It's in the "crow nature" that crows are black but there are occasionally albino crows.

    Should a woman be forbidden to be a soldier only to be a woman? No. Should women be encouraged to be soldiers only to prove that they are "the same as" men? No.

    This is the problem with our society. Women are encouraged to be something the vast majority of them are not fit to be: a childless career woman. The educational system and mass media brainwashes them for them to delay motherhood, have casual sex and focus on job, things that the vast majority of women, left to their own devices, wouldn't do.

    Liberalism think the male nature and the female nature is the same and tries to shoehorn women in a men's role. There will always be women who want to play the male role. But, without indoctrination, they won't be the vast majority of women. And this is what female nature means.