Friday, December 07, 2007

Women Get Pregnant! (And Men Don't)

Surprise! You heard it here second, folks. You heard it first from Professor Kingsley Browne, as another reason why women should not be permitted in military combat or combat support roles. It goes without saying that pregnancy will cause women to, at times, be unable to perform in various military roles, including combat-related roles. Whether this should disqualify all women from such roles? Browne would answer "yes", whereas the military has implicitly answered, "We can plan for it, and accommodate it". Professor "argue from anecdote and don't worry about the facts" asserts,
Women’s ability to avoid deployment by becoming pregnant is a constant source of resentment among men. Intentionally injuring oneself to avoid deployment is a court-martial offense; intentionally becoming pregnant to avoid deployment brings no penalty at all, nor does becoming pregnant to avoid deployment, missing the deployment, and then aborting the pregnancy – a pattern that creates even intensified resentment. This latter phenomenon is almost certainly something that the military does not track, so it is hard to know how widespread it is, but while I was researching my book, several people (all Navy officers) spontaneously mentioned it to me.
Okay... so the fact that women can get pregnant causes resentment among the He-Men of Kingsley Browne's military - although they're chomping at the bit to demonstrate their toughness and masculinity on the battlefield, they simultaneously resent women because some become pregnant and aren't deployed? The toughest of the tough succumbing to womb envy?

It is interesting that the "worst example" of pregnancy Browne can muster is one that he can't actually demonstrate has ever occurred. Even assuming it had, it would seem to be an exceedingly rare phenomenon. But given a few misogynistic whispers about what could happen, Browne places them "front and center" in his argument.

Browne seems reluctant to place the "you can't put women among a bunch of horny men" argument on Volokh, perhaps because he fears being eaten alive in the comments, but it's so much part and parcel of his mindset that I knew he had to be making it. Sure enough.
Combat groups have to be cohesive and cohesive groups are cooperative, focusing on a mission. And if you take a group of, you know, late teens, early twenties guys who are focused on a mission, drop a few women into the group and all of a sudden their focus is somewhere else....

I don't know if you've heard of this book called "Love My Rifle More Than You" by Kayla Williams, a woman who served in Iraq, and she described her experience in Iraq as a massive frat party with weapons. And, uh, the fact is that there's human nature and military discipline doesn't always trump human nature.
From another interview,
Q: Is there any other reason women shouldn't be flying combat aircraft?

A: Well, the possibility of being a POW, which raises special problems. Once captured, female prisoners face a substantial risk of rape, and that's something that, for the most part, men don't face.

Q: If a woman is willing to take that risk, shouldn't she be allowed to?

A: The thing is, it doesn't just affect her. The captors may very well also have male prisoners, and can use the abuse or threats of abuse of female prisoners as a means of extracting information or other kinds of co-operation from male prisoners....
Because there's no military in the world that would try to elicit confessions by sexually abusing and sexually humiliating male prisoners, right? And men just can't take it when one of those cowardly, untrustworthy women who serve with them might get hurt.

In summary, Browne has two valid points:
  1. Strength differences exist between men and women, and those differences are a valid consideration when determining who should serve in combat roles; and
  2. Young women serving in the military become pregnant at a considerable, predictable rate, and their inability to serve in certain military roles during and after pregnancy, as well as whether their units will remain effective if they cannot deploy, are valid concerns for the military.
For some reason, he apparently feels compelled to bury those points in a mountain of misogynistic supposition. Wouldn't it be more useful to look at how the U.S. militaries (and other militaries that are sexually integrated) have accommodated women, and whether or not those accommodations had an effect on combat readiness? Would that be so hard?

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