Thursday, August 25, 2005

Liberating women for war?

Derryn Hinch is a right-wing talkback radio host here in Melbourne – but he is no conservative.

I was listening to his programme a week or so ago and he introduced the topic of women in combat. First Hinch told us of a female friend who had argued against placing women in the firing line:

My friend said that women were inherently different to men ... That men can kill more easily than women. That women are protective. And if you have a female soldier alongside you then you are at risk because she said a woman is less likely to shoot. It’s in her nature.

This is roughly the conservative position: that men and women are different in their natures and are not interchangeable in all things.

How did Hinch respond to his female friend’s observations about the nature of women? He ignored them. He simply announced his support for placing women in combat on the following basis:

If women want to be soldiers then there should be no restrictions on what they can or can’t do.

So all that matters for Hinch is that we are not impeded in our individual will. This principle is so paramount for Hinch that he doesn’t even bother to deal with other considerations, such as how men and women in their real natures are likely to act in combat situations, or the real instincts and expectations men and women have toward the opposite sex. Hinch does not even bother to realistically consider the physical capabilities of women compared to men.

This is not surprising for a liberal. After all, liberals believe that we are made human because we can create who we are and what we do through our own individual will and reason. So for liberals like Hinch, it’s a threat to someone’s humanity to deny them their will. Unrestricted individual choice becomes everything, even when this is destructive of the framework of a society or of an institution.

Yesterday, there was an interesting sequel to this story. The Herald Sun carried an article in which the first woman to pass an Australian SAS training course spoke out against placing women in combat roles. Jane Cunningham, reputedly one of the physically toughest women in the Australian Defence Force, said of such roles,

Women will never have the personal strength and are not designed to carry the loads required ... in my view women just shouldn’t be out there.

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