Monday, November 26, 2007

Women at War

We’re in the 21st Century. Women are ubiquitous in the workplace, to include the Armed Forces. I’ve gotten a unique look.

“Whoa! See that soldier over there?” a seasoned Army veteran told another male soldier as he pointed to a camouflaged soldier who looked the same as everyone else. “That’s a girl.” Her hair was as short as mine (nearly bald) and except for her voice we couldn’t tell it was a female. That site reminded me of when my old high school buddies talked about the Saturday Night Live skit with ‘Pat’—no one could tell if Pat was a boy or a girl.

To be honest, since I treat everyone equally and since most females in uniform behave ‘professionally,’ I’ve had a hard time realizing that there are female soldiers here in Iraq. The majority of them are noticeably female if you concentrate on that fact, I suppose, but they don’t have the womanly look.

Women in uniform have strict military grooming standards, and except for a couple of them who are overly prissy and/or lack what could be considered good military discipline, they don’t behave like women either. (That’s not to say, of course, that all women are prissy or juvenile, but when female soldiers act that way they are noticeably, impractically girlish. Of course, the same could be said for some male soldiers here too.) For the most part, though, there’s no distinguishable gender difference, really. We all wear the same uniform. Nope, everyone is treated equally, for the most part…sometimes to their demise.

Without being prompted or asked, one female sergeant (who’s married to another soldier here) told a colleague and me about how she was here for the initial invasion into Iraq. She had to drive from Kuwait to Baghdad in a humvee. The convoy couldn’t stop for personal ‘pit stops.’ I was embarrassed as she told us unabashedly that her male driver used a bottle to relieve himself while he was driving and that she “cut the top off of a bottle, stood on the seat and squatted over the bottle.”

I’m sure someone will accuse me of having a WWII-type chauvinist mentality. But is there anything wrong with modern-day chivalry except that it doesn’t exist? Is it so wrong to think women shouldn’t be subjected to some work environments? (Female war reporters, like my friend Sharon Behn, aside.)

Does the world need more effeminate men and more masculine women? I think not. Diversity among the sexes is what attracts us to each other. The population of our species couldn’t happen any other way. But I’m sure my wife doesn’t mind the ‘Pats’ that are here. Nevertheless, on a serious note, there comes a point when some women who want so desperately to have equality with men become man-like, and that, my friends, is a shame and a pity.

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