Women in Uniform

I don’t know why, but I’m a sucker for slideshows. Add a feminist theme, and I’m all over it. So I really enjoyed stumbling upon this collection of images of women in the military, starting way back with the American Revolution. Here are some of my faves:

An unidentified Civil War women's volunteer unit of 24 women in 3 rows wearing dresses and holding guns
A women’s volunteer unit in the Civil War. I wonder exactly what these women were allowed to do – any war buffs out there who can let us know?

Group of 20 women dressed in white who were the first women to formally serve in the Navy
This is “The Sacred Twenty” – the first women to serve in the Navy.

Three women working on an aircraft engine, learning how to disassemble it
Women and heavy machinery! So cool! Apparently these women are learning how to disassemble aircraft engines which sounds (and looks) hella intense and complicated.

Woman standing several feet in front of an aircraft and repairing another at her side, off-camera, smiling at the camera
According to the story that goes along with this image, this is Sharon Hanley Disher and she’s part of “the first [family] in American history to send every member to the Naval Academy” – which is pretty awesome, I say. Her story is pretty cool, I suggest you read it if you have some time.

We’ve covered the WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots) before, but what are your favorite stories of women in the military?


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56 Responses to Women in Uniform

  1. A Guy In Denver says:

    I don’t know about the women in that picture, but lots of women (hundreds) fought as ordinary soldiers in the Civil War. They usually disguised themselves as men, though.

    http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1993/spring/women-in-the-civil-war-1.html

  2. frank says:

    Women fought on both sides of the Civil war & there are many documented cases. There is even one of a husband and wife team.

    Almost always the women involved were only detected after being wounded but there are contemporary accounts that make me think some of these soldiers were known to at least some if not all of their units to not be men. Also, many units were community based; it surpasses belief that men would not recognize neighbor women in drag as it were.

    That said I have read several hundred books on the Civil War but never heard of this outfit – If I can dig up any interesting bits I’ll report back.

  3. jaded16 says:

    Cheered me right up. I like this one .

  4. C says:

    Hey, the lady at the bottom is not a Disher. Or at least she doesn’t look like the Sharon Hanley Disher in the link. I’m sure she’s cool, though. And the Dishers are cool, too, although it sounds like the poor last kid (Matthew) felt a lot of pressure to go to Annapolis.

  5. Hot Tramp says:

    The story of the Night Witches is really interesting.

  6. ShelbyWoo says:

    Here’s the caption that accompanies the woman’s picture at the bottom of this post:

    Petty Officer 2nd Class Patricia Mescus, U.S. Navy, repairs an A-4 jet at the Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa, Japan, 1976.

  7. anna says:

    At least 240 women are known to have disguised themselves as men and served as soldiers in the American civil war (if you include the Confederacy as well as the Union) which you can read about in the book They Fought Like Demons, as you can see here: http://www.amazon.com/They-Fought-Like-Demons-Soldiers/dp/1400033152

    Deborah Sampson is the only woman known to have served as a soldier in the American revolutionary war (she also disguised herself as a man) which you can read about in the book Masquerade: The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier, as you can see here: http://www.amazon.com/Masquerade-Deborah-Sampson-Continental-Soldier/dp/0679761853/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1275078813&sr=1-2

    The Army Nurse Corps was established in 1901, and the Navy Nurse Corps was established in 1908. The Army Nurse Corps was all female until 1955, and the Navy Nurse Corps was all female until 1964. Women were first allowed to enlist in the American military in jobs other than nurse (and therefore no longer had to disguise themselves as men to do so) in World War I.

  8. Jay says:

    what are your favorite stories of women in the military?

    It’s difficult for me to answer this question – I don’t accept state authority as legitimate in the first place. Furthermore, America’s post-WWII military history has been particularly brutal and racist; and there is nothing ‘feminist’ about women’s participation in the mass slaughter of innocent people.

    Given this stance, I’m not inspired by those who participate in state violence, but by anti-militarist women who boldly oppose it. (A few prominent examples of such women: Ursula Franklin, Angela Davis, Cindy Sheehan.)

  9. Lucy Gillam says:

    When I’m feeling really down and discouraged, I look at this picture of women firefighters at Pearl Harbor.

  10. Hot Tramp says:

    You said what was on my mind, Jay. The stories of women who fight can be compelling and instructive, but ultimately, war is not feminist, even if women are holding the guns and dropping the bombs.

  11. Lasciel says:

    Saying war is or is not feminist is meaningless. It’s like trying to say grape juice is or isn’t feminist.

    Military service, however, is a feminist issue, insofar as it has always been a concern for women to have an equal right to serve.

    And that means the right and opportunity to participate whether the cause and actions are immoral or not; you can’t give people rights contingent on them being good people.

    The idea that everyone in the military is contributing to slaughter is incredibly ignorant, biased, and offensive in itself.

  12. Jay says:

    Saying war is or is not feminist is meaningless. It’s like trying to say grape juice is or isn’t feminist.

    I’m not usually one to participate in the ‘Is X feminist?’ debates over things like lipstick and blowjobs, as I find them tedious and irrelevant.
    ..but it’s pretty safe to say that participating in a brutally violent, coercive institution that disproportionately harms poor brown people (women included) isn’t feminist.

    Soldiers aren’t ‘heroes’, and their work has nothing to do with keeping us safe. These wars are racist, imperialist ventures ultimately driven by corporate interests. Why is it so taboo to admit this?

    Military service, however, is a feminist issue, insofar as it has always been a concern for women to have an equal right to serve.

    As a black anarchafeminist, I’m about as concerned with women’s ‘equal right’ to join in the slaughter of brown people as I am with someone’s ‘equal right’ to join a human trafficking ring.

    Rather, I’m not concerned about it at all; and I’m disappointed by assimilationists & reformists who seek inclusion in certain institutions without questioning the very legitimacy of those institutions in the first place.

    I don’t think a government decree grants violence some arbitrary cloak of legitimacy it wouldn’t otherwise have – war is nothing more than state-sponsored mass murder; and the horrors of war tend to impact women (especially ‘third world’ women) in specific ways – that is the space on the Venn diagram where ‘war’ and ‘feminism’ touch that concerns me most, not some American woman’s ‘equal right’ to drop bombs on innocent people.

    To be more clear, I’m not wholly opposed to all militia movements – I very strongly support grassroots, revolutionary movements aimed towards community autonomy (e.g. the Zapatistas) and the feminist elements within them. But a bunch of war-mongering corporatists stomping all over innocent people? No thanks.

    And that means the right and opportunity to participate whether the cause and actions are immoral or not

    No one has ‘the right and opportunity’ to participate in immoral acts. If you happen upon a bunch of white male skinheads beating up some brown queers, are you going to get pissed off because they tell you, “Sorry, this ass-kicking is for dudes only”?

    Would campaigning for women’s ‘equal right’ to bash queers with the racists be a feminist movement? Obviously not.

    The idea that everyone in the military is contributing to slaughter is incredibly ignorant, biased, and offensive in itself.

    Even if they aren’t actively killing anyone, they’re still contributing to the slaughter by their endorsement of and support for the war.

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m not perfect – in a way, I also support war by paying my taxes, which fund these atrocities.

    I also sympathize with people in the military insofar as they aren’t there willingly (e.g. poor people who joined the military due to lack of other options, people forced into duty, etc.); but war is a fundamentally evil activity, and no one should voluntarily participate in it.

  13. S.L says:

    Ailuridae, that image was moving to me to, and I understand what you mean.

    I second Lasciel. Military service is a feminist issue. Just because you don’t like the army doesn’t mean that women don’t deserve the right to serve their country if they want to.

    Amazing pictures here. I’m going to look for some more.

  14. Helen Page says:

    My father’s cousin, Arlene, was among the first Women Marines in WWII known as Lady Leathernecks. I don’t have a photo to send along of the group. They served in Hawaii toward the end of the war strickly in clerical, medical, etc. positions. Women Veteran’s Historical Collection, University of N. Carolina has more information as does the website for the lady leathernecks. Check ’em out.

  15. Jay says:

    You know, I actually left another (respectful) comment here trying to respond to Lasciel’s post, but my response is being censored; so I had to resort to posting it on my own blog.

    Apparently, feministe just adores being ‘inclusive’ of brown people until the pesky sort show up to make an anti-racist, anti-authoritarian critique of some behavior they’re lauding as ‘feminist’. If that’s the case, all the pesky blacks need to STFU and leave until it’s time for another post on Obama.

    Interesting behavior, from a (so-called) leftist blog that frequently makes noises about being ‘inclusive’. And of course, this post is going to be censored, too, right? In light of this blog’s hugely oppressive history, I’m not surprised.

  16. Natalia says:

    I also definitely recommend checking out the stories of Soviet women – snipers, fighter pilots, spies, etc. – who served in the armed forces.

    Had some pictures on my blog for Victory Day.

    I genuinely don’t mean to be snarky, but I wonder just how earth-shattering the “war’s not feminist” line is meant to be. Next thing you’ll be telling me that war causes bullet wounds and frowns. And that people die in it.

  17. Cherish says:

    I always like the story of Rear Admiral Grace Hopper: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper

    She also has a destroyer named for her: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Hopper_(DDG-70)

    Admittedly, she’s only one person, but she came into her military services as part of the WAVES group. She was never allowed to transfer to the Navy, so all of her service was to the Naval Reserve.

  18. Jill says:

    Jay, a lot of comments go into moderation automatically. They do not get cleared out until one of us gets to the Feministe dashboard. Your comment was left on the Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend. I have not accessed the blog since early yesterday, and I suspect the same is true of the other mods. So it’s not censorship; it’s the fact that we all have real lives.

  19. UnFit says:

    I don’t get how not having a gender bias automatically has to mean wanting women *in* the military. In a country with a general draft for men, the goal of my activism has always been to get men *out* of the military.
    And of course, as a German, I’m glad the allied forces mobilized every resource they had. But still, war is, at the very best, a necessary evil, not something to aspire to.
    I don’t get the whole fuss about don’t-ask-don’t-tell either, or the same reason. Of course that rule is oppressive, but as someone pointed out on another post: why is getting to die for you country as great or greater a priority than getting to see your loved one at the hospital?

  20. Jay says:

    I strongly agree with you, UnFit.

    on the censorship claim: The other night, when I tried responding to Lasciel, the post disappeared without even going into moderation; yet oddly enough, I was still able to leave a comment on the ‘Bits and Pieces’ thread that was approved within seconds.

    I was initially surprised, because the comment didn’t contain any abusive language or rude personal attacks; but if you say it wasn’t being censored, I believe you. Luckily, though, I still have the comment, and will post it here.:

    Saying war is or is not feminist is meaningless. It’s like trying to say grape juice is or isn’t feminist.

    I’m not usually one to participate in the ‘Is X feminist?’ debates over things like lipstick and blowjobs, as I find them tedious and irrelevant.
    ..but it’s pretty safe to say that participating in a brutally violent, coercive institution that disproportionately harms poor brown people (women included) isn’t feminist.

    Soldiers aren’t ‘heroes’, and their work has nothing to do with keeping us safe. These wars are racist, imperialist ventures ultimately driven by corporate interests. Why is it so taboo to admit this?

    Military service, however, is a feminist issue, insofar as it has always been a concern for women to have an equal right to serve.

    As a black anarchafeminist, I’m about as concerned with women’s ‘equal right’ to join in the slaughter of brown people as I am with someone’s ‘equal right’ to join a human trafficking ring.

    Rather, I’m not concerned about it at all; and I’m disappointed by assimilationists & reformists who seek inclusion in certain institutions without questioning the very legitimacy of those institutions in the first place.

    I don’t think a government decree grants violence some arbitrary cloak of legitimacy it wouldn’t otherwise have – war is nothing more than state-sponsored mass murder; and the horrors of war tend to impact women (especially ‘third world’ women) in specific ways – that is the space on the Venn diagram where ‘war’ and ‘feminism’ touch that concerns me most, not some American woman’s ‘equal right’ to drop bombs on innocent people.

    To be more clear, I’m not wholly opposed to all militia movements – I very strongly support grassroots, revolutionary movements aimed towards community autonomy (e.g. the Zapatistas) and the feminist elements within them. But a bunch of war-mongering corporatists stomping all over innocent people? No thanks.

    And that means the right and opportunity to participate whether the cause and actions are immoral or not

    No one has ‘the right and opportunity’ to participate in immoral acts. If you happen upon a bunch of white male skinheads beating up some brown queers, are you going to get pissed off because they tell you, “Sorry, this ass-kicking is for dudes only”?

    Would campaigning for women’s ‘equal right’ to bash queers with the racists be a feminist movement? Obviously not.

    The idea that everyone in the military is contributing to slaughter is incredibly ignorant, biased, and offensive in itself.

    Even if they aren’t actively killing anyone, they’re still contributing to the slaughter by their endorsement of and support for the war.

    Don’t get me wrong; I’m not perfect – in a way, I also support war by paying my taxes, which fund these atrocities.

    I also sympathize with people in the military insofar as they aren’t there willingly (e.g. poor people who joined the military for lack of other options, people forced into duty, etc.); but war is a fundamentally evil activity, and no one should voluntarily participate in it.

  21. CombatQueer says:

    I recently returned from a deployment to Iraq, and I tell you what, it is absolutely a form of oppression to not allow people to serve openly. I’m trans. I had to go off hormones be extremely quiet about what my life was like outside of the military, listen to people talk about how disgusted they were by trans folk without being able to defend. It sucks.

    Unfit, the idea that oppression is fine for everyone so long as you personally don’t mind being oppressed in that way is absolute bullshit.

  22. CombatQueer says:

    But not to be all negative, what my favorite Women in the Military Story. Hmm. I was out on a mission last winter in southern Iraq when one of the soldiers with us needed to get back to the FOB our unit normally worked out. It just so happened that as we walked through the airfield we ran into one of only twelve or so female general officers. It was a great honor to meet of course. She was awesome. Not only took the time to talk and take pictures but she offered the soldier who needed to get back to base a ride over there on her bird the next day. It was incredible.

    But is that my favorite story? I don’t think so. Stories are harder when you’ve been there. I mean, some of the best time were sitting around outside the MWR smoking a cigarette and talking, but that’s not the most hooahed-out ass-kickery, know what I mean?

  23. Jay says:

    why is getting to die for you country as great or greater a priority than getting to see your loved one at the hospital?

    For me, it’s not that I think ‘serving your country’ is just a lesser priority than hospital visitation rights – I don’t care about ‘inclusion’ in the military at all, as it’s a fundamentally evil institution.

    People often couch war in lofty rhetoric like ‘serving your country’ or ‘defending democracy’, but it’s all empty claptrap – war is nothing more than state-sponsored mass murder driven by corporate interests & rooted in irrational bigotry (i.e. nationalism, religious superstition, racism), period.

    Clamoring for the ‘equal right’ to join in the brutality is like happening upon a group of white male cops beating up a black teenager and then pouting when they inform you that women & queers aren’t allowed to join their lynch mob.

  24. UnFit says:

    Jay, good analogy. And CombatQueer, that’s exactly what I mean. I don’t know what prompted your personal choice to join the military, but at the bottom line, I don’t condone it, for anyone, period.

    Jay is right. How is it in any way liberating or working towards equal rights when people complain about not getting to join the forces of evil?

  25. Amanda in the South Bay says:

    Jay-
    You may not rate repealing DADT as a high priority, but there are *gasp* liberal, progressive, even LGBT individuals who take pride in having served/are serving in the military.

    I realize that not everyone has to like the military-hell, I’m a vet, and my default mode tends to be “fuck the Army”-but whether or not I like it there are going to be honest progressives and even queer people who *enjoy* the military and actually think of it as an honest career, and that’s simply something we are all going to have to deal with.

    If the left wants to abandon the military, then its going to be left to the fundies and their ilk to run things (have you read the news during the past several years?).Would you rather a fundie dominated Christian dominionist military that reflects rural/Red State America, or a military that reflects *all* of America, even us urban DFHs?

  26. UnFit says:

    This is not about “liking” the military.
    Killing people is not a matter of taste.

    And with that I’ll leave this thread, bfore I say something that will get me banned. Or shot.

  27. Jay, you’re annoying me with the censorship thing. Technology is weird, and sometimes comments go into mod for various reasons. I was not around yesterday after posting this, and I’m pretty sure others weren’t either so to assume that we purposely pulled it off the site right after publishing it is just ridiculous. And for you to insist that’s what happened after Jill explained otherwise, not cool.

  28. Jay says:

    And for you to insist that’s what happened after Jill explained otherwise, not cool.

    Actually, I didn’t do that. From the last post I made:

    …but if you say it wasn’t being censored, I believe you.

    And I do – that’s not sarcasm.

  29. Sorry Jay, I read it as sarcasm since you started that with an explanation of how it didn’t make sense for it to be a mod problem. But alrighty, if we’re all on the same page, works for me.

    • Jill says:

      Just FYI on the mod issue – I went back and looked and the comment was in the spam bin. It looks like it was sent their automatically, either because of an IP issue or possibly because it used one or more of the buzz words that trigger automatic spam que-age. Which is why it didn’t show up as “pending moderation,” and why we didn’t see it even when I cleared out the mod queue. But it should be up now. Sorry about that.

  30. Sara says:

    Interesting post and comments.

    One thing that irritated me about the original post was this section:

    Women and heavy machinery! So cool! Apparently these women are learning how to disassemble aircraft engines which sounds (and looks) hella intense and complicated.

    I think I understand what you mean – seeing women doing something that is not common or mainstream for women to do is very exhilarating and garners a sense of pride. But the choice of words did not convey this at all. It struck out at me as something you would see written around the period the photo was taken.

  31. But the choice of words did not convey this at all. It struck out at me as something you would see written around the period the photo was taken.

    Huh? I don’t get how it reads that way…

  32. Jay says:

    I’m not trying to be rude or hurtful; and I don’t mean to put anyone down who’s in the military – for me, the fundamental issue is my total rejection of massive violence as a means for settling disputes.

    Of course, there are people in the military who are good people; but good people can do evil things, and clamoring for the ‘equal right’ to participate in evil isn’t a worthwhile goal.

  33. Mimi says:

    My grandmother was in the WAVES – she joined after her fiance was killed and met my grandfather there. I should scan some of the pictures of them from back then, because they’re great.

  34. Holy! says:

    for me, the fundamental issue is my total rejection of massive violence as a means for settling disputes.

    I would tend to agree. However, some fights cannot be avoided. The Soviet women fighters mentioned above would have realized that. They may not have wanted to fight, but fight they did. You doesn’t philosophies when war comes to your doorstep.

  35. Holy! says:

    *opps “you don’t philosophize” pardon my typo*

  36. evil_fizz says:

    I’m not trying to be rude or hurtful; and I don’t mean to put anyone down who’s in the military

    Intentions aside, you’ve definitely succeeded in doing so. You cannot use phrases like fundamentally evil in this context and think that you’re not tarring the people who participate in the military voluntarily as complicit in that evil.

    The majority of people in the armed forces (at least in the United States) are there for reasons which are not malicious, imperialist, or anything like it. They’re there for the health care benefits, the GI bill, lack of meaningful employment options in small towns, all sorts of reasons. You can argue that people shouldn’t have to enlist in the military in order to access those kinds of benefits, but to demonize them for doing so is cruel. A sentence or two about being sympathetic to such individuals after repeated paragraphs comparing military service to lynch mobs doesn’t get around that.

  37. Maia says:

    The majority of people in the armed forces (at least in the United States) are there for reasons which are not malicious, imperialist, or anything like it. They’re there for the health care benefits, the GI bill, lack of meaningful employment options in small towns, all sorts of reasons. You can argue that people shouldn’t have to enlist in the military in order to access those kinds of benefits, but to demonize them for doing so is cruel.

    I agree with this. But this post celebrated and glorified women who had been involved in the united states military. While I don’t neccessarily agree with the individualistic ways the critiques of this post have been phrased, I think it is hugely problematic to glorify the United States Military in any way. I think doing so on a feminist blog site sends a real clear message about which women are important and which aren’t.

  38. S.L says:

    Clamoring for the ‘equal right’ to join in the brutality is like happening upon a group of white male cops beating up a black teenager and then pouting when they inform you that women & queers aren’t allowed to join their lynch mob.

    Yeah…no offense taken to the idea that wanting to be regarded as equal within your employment industry is just like wanting to beat up black people but not getting the chance. Seriously?

    Corruption is a problem. But having to hide your identity (like combatqueer) is a problem too. It makes me angry that people who are risking their lives (when they aren’t being evil and slaughtering innocent people) and being treated like this.

    I realize that anarchists tend to be against the military, police, capitalism, etc. But there is a fine line between critiquing the system and criticizing individuals. Is fighting sexual harassment in the workplace anti feminist because women shouldn’t want to be in the workplace and a part of capitalism?

  39. S.L says:

    Okay HTML fail. Sorry.

  40. Natalia says:

    Violence – both on a macro level and otherwise – is how humanity tends to “solve” its problems, and no, the stark reality of it is not pretty. I’ve lived through some personal violence, and may have flashbacks for the rest of my life, I don’t know. So having that experience, I like to think that I don’t approach the problem lightly.

    But I highly detest the use of the adjective “evil” to describe the military. I think it’s about as meaningful as Ronald Reagan going “zomg Evil Empire” when talking about the USSR. And it very neatly wipes out the huge sacrifices of the people who serve – and yes, these are sacrifices, not just the misguided actions of a bunch of savages who are not-enlightened-enough, or not nearly as righteous and noble as, say, the Zapatistas.

    Now, I do envy people who can have a fairly uncomplicated approach to the military – any military. But for some of us, that’s not an option to begin with. I mean, I detest violence, and knew fairly early that I’d never be cut out for military service – but hell, I can also use a gun, and there are reasons for that. There are reasons why I put a ribbon on my grandfather’s and great aunt’s portraits when Victory Day rolls around. There are reasons why you have a moment of silence when you stumble across soldiers’ bones in a Ukrainian forest one summer.

    Those reasons are more profound than the general idea described in UnFit’s comment:

    And with that I’ll leave this thread, bfore I say something that will get me banned. Or shot.

    That’s right. Surely, people like me can’t be trusted with our violent impulses – and you are in great danger whenever you communicate with us. That’s it exactly.

    Sigh.

  41. Cha-Cha says:

    Just wanted to second Jay in comment #15 (I think that was it).

    I think it’s incredibly important for feminists to talk about the military industrial complex, and the total hell that is war. As for not critiquing individuals, one of the reasons I am so anti-war is that the individuals I have known who have gone overseas are suffering from serious health problems right now. And, many of them were frankly preyed upon by recruiters who came to our working class / increasingly poor city and promised a glamourous time and then college. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. I’m not saying this is everyone’s experience, but it is mine.

    I think a straight discussion about the impact of war on women and people in general is important in feminist circles. I also don’t think that’s incompatible with, for example, wanting to repeal DADT… But I gotta say, every time the people around me start talking about the importance of DADT repeal, while I’m sympathetic with the pain they have been through because of DADT, a LOT of me is thinking “why the hell are we, as feminists and LGBTQ folks, making war on / killing incredibly vulnerable and historically oppressed people?”

  42. anna says:

    If you think a certain war or a certain institution is immoral, then you should work against that and try to convince everyone not to participate. But I do think it is sexist to say “Men can enjoy the perks and power of participating in this institution, but women shouldn’t because it’s immoral.” We can argue about whether for example the military should exist and have all the money and power it does, but as long as it does exist women should have equal rights within it, as women should have equal rights within all institutions. That wouldn’t be enough to necessarily make the institution morally right, but gender equality is morally right in itself, even when applied to institutions which are not always moral.

  43. Jay says:

    S.L.: Yeah…no offense taken to the idea that wanting to be regarded as equal within your employment industry is just like wanting to beat up black people but not getting the chance. Seriously?

    If your ’employment industry’ revolves around violent imperialist grandstanding, the comparison is spot-on.

    It’s not that most people who participate in evil do so knowingly – plenty of people have the best of intentions. But my descriptions of war itself are still apt here.:

    “Soldiers aren’t ‘heroes’, and their work has nothing to do with keeping us safe. These wars are racist, imperialist ventures ultimately driven by corporate interests. Why is it so taboo to admit this?”

    “People often couch war in lofty rhetoric like ’serving your country’ or ‘defending democracy’, but it’s all empty claptrap – war is nothing more than state-sponsored mass murder driven by corporate interests & rooted in irrational bigotry (i.e. nationalism, religious superstition, racism), period.”

    If you recognize war (not just all wars in general; but America’s military history more specifically, which has been the focus of most posts so far) as fundamentally unjust, clamoring for the ‘equal right’ to participate in it begins to look absurd – of course, if you heard about women trying to make a lynch mob more egalitarian for themselves, you’d think, “Whaaaat? The issue isn’t that this particular band of bloodthirsty yokels isn’t nice enough to let white women join in the carnage, but that lynch mobs shouldn’t even exist.”

    Why is war different? Again, the question isn’t ‘Are people who join the military evil people?’, but ‘Is the military itself an evil institution?’ and ‘Is war (more specifically, U.S. military history*) justifiable?’

    (*I’m not focusing on the U.S. to crowd out other perspectives; but the original post and most of the subsequent comments have mostly focused on the U.S., and the U.S. military is the one I have most knowledge of.)

    S.L.: Is fighting sexual harassment in the workplace anti feminist because women shouldn’t want to be in the workplace and a part of capitalism?

    A ‘workplace’ isn’t necessarily a ‘capitalist’ atmosphere; and even if it were, I support people being able to make whatever peaceful, voluntary choices with their bodies that they choose without being interfered with (i.e. sexually harassed or otherwise bothered). However, war is neither peaceful nor voluntary for anyone involved.

    Like UnFit said, killing people isn’t a matter of taste, but it isn’t as though my position just boils down to ‘Killing is bad, mmkay?’ and nothing more – these wars are unjustifiable.

    They’re imperialist. They’re racist. They impose sexual violence onto civilian populations – you know those faceless, nameless brown people we’ve been slaughtering? Many of them are women, too.

    Natalia: But I highly detest the use of the adjective “evil” to describe the military.

    You’re welcome to your opinion. But many ‘third world’ people who’re sick of being brutalized would disagree with you.

    ..or is the brutality that the U.S. military visits upon these people somehow less important than your pearl-clutching horror at hearing someone use the word ‘evil’?

    This reminds me of all the conversations I’ve had with (usually white and/or cis) feminists about my disdain for the police that inevitably start evolving into hand-holding sessions about how ‘hurt’ or ‘offended’ they feel about my descriptions of cops, as though petty quibbling over how ‘nice’ they think cops can be matters more than the evil (yep, that word again) most cops impose onto others; as though their feelings should be a more important topic of conversation than all the skulls cops have smashed in. It doesn’t ever stop, does it?

    ..and you might read this and think (but of course not write, because everyone wants to keep up the appearance of being ‘progressive’), “Gee, why is she playing the race card?”

    But ask yourself how you’d feel about someone’s ‘equal right’ to participate in violence if that violence were being visited upon people who look like you, and/or people that you care about. Imagine that violence were being visited upon you.

    On that note, it’s pretty clear that this isn’t going to be a productive conversation for many reasons (none of which are my fault). Hence, I’m done participating in it.

  44. Q Grrl says:

    Jay: if you live within the military machine (as we all do in the U.S.), but you aren’t allowed to serve, where then does one get the societal leverage to force change? Military leaders (including the President) will remain male with the entrenched ideologies that men carry about war and leadership. Humans are complex; I think it’s possible to address the disproportionate effects of war on women and brown people and simultaneously recognize what it means for women to enter and change the face of our war beast.

    I don’t like the military and have been a war-tax resister for over a decade. I do, however, appreciate the strides women have taken in leadership and decision-making and it is my feminist hope that these strides will eventually lead us away from war mongering.

  45. Q Grrl says:

    Cha-Cha: a lot of wanting to repeal DADT is so that US citizens don’t get the living shit beat out of them from a sanctioned government agency/policy. Or lose their livelihood. That’s pretty oppressive shit (and you don’t even have to leave home to find it). So I understand your outrage, but you come across as a little naive in your anger. I don’t like dropping bombs on people less privileged than me; but I also don’t like people more privileged than me not being able to see what less-than-full citizenship means to queers in the U.S. And yes, part of gaining full citizenship means access to all aspects of a nation. Otherwise you are less-than and we all know that when less-than gets arrested, beaten, raped, or thrown out of a job in a dishonorable fashion there are long-term, perhaps life long, repercussions.

  46. CombatQueer says:

    Look, there are some very, very serious issues with the military and the way that it is used by the nation, but the fact is that it is only a tiny, tiny group that join that the Army to do evil. I joined mainly to pay for college. I didn’t have the best grades and I don’t believe in being crushed under debt for the rest of my life, but well, the Army let me get an education. I don’t think I or anybody should be denied that because we’re queers.

    If you’re capable of doing the job you’re being paid for, well hell, there shouldn’t be an issue.

    There’s good work to do within the military. There’s work to do to make sure that folks within the military are not oppressed or less oppressed. Shockingly, sexism and racism are still issues within the Army, but there are good, strong women and men working to make things better. There are also a huge number of people working to limit the damage of our wars.

    We shouldn’t have gone into Iraq. It is a shitty war, and the Iraqis have paid for it. A lot of soldiers have paid for it too though. Their suffering has not created Freedom or Liberty. They were people who did a shitty job because it was their job.

    Jay, should I apologize that I didn’t have the grades or the money or the chance to get a job that doesn’t offend you.

    And who made you universal judge of Good and Evil?

  47. Bagelsan says:

    On that note, it’s pretty clear that this isn’t going to be a productive conversation for many reasons (none of which are my fault). Hence, I’m done participating in it.

    Best. Flounce. EVAH. :p

  48. Nenad says:

    Here is a woman who was almost forgotten in history but was the most decorated women in the history of warfare. Milunka Savić fought for the Serbian army in the Balkan wars and the First World War.

    She was awarded: 8 Medals for her service which included (Légion d’honneur) and the English medal of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael. And she received a medal for capturing 23 Bulgarian soldiers.

    Unfortunately because of communist Yugoslavia her merits were ignored and she became a persona non-grata in Yugoslavia.

    Here is a small bio of her life from wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milunka_Savi%C4%87

  49. Nenad says:

    My Mistake Milunka Savic Earned 9 Medals not 8.

    But I would also like to add that when a country is at war and its citizens are threatened, their leaders should not ignore the potential that women can bring to the battlefield.

  50. Natalia says:

    Oh yeah, that’s right, I am CLUTCHING my PEARLS – because I think the use of the word “evil” is utterly meaningless in this context. Not “omg hurtful” – just completely bloody meaningless. It does nothing to advance any peaceful cause, it does nothing to even begin to highlight the problems in the military (and not just the U.S. military – for God’s sake, THE WORLD DOES NOT REVOLVE AROUND THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, JAY-SUS), it does not even begin to address the reduction armed conflict, it just functions, in this context, as a showcase of moral superiority, and is stupid, self-righteous and nauseatingly Reagan-esque.

    And do not talk to me about my feelings – OK, love? Do not assume what is it that I do and do not know about violence – organized and otherwise. The best you can do is keep on flouncing every time someone has a contrary opinion.

  51. Bagelsan says:

    it just functions, in this context, as a showcase of moral superiority

    Yup. The whole “paying taxes = supporting wars” thing got brushed off pretty quick, didn’t it? Guess some people are holier-than-thou pacifist rebels when it comes to talking big on blogs, but not so much when it comes to facing down the IRS? :p

    I can’t stand people who prioritize most of all not getting their hands dirty. Hypocritical, cowardly, and tragically ineffective to boot.

  52. PanoramaIsland says:

    Jay, there is something that you just seem not to understand: one’s attitude towards the military is a function of one’s philosophy regarding governance and violence. Only seriously kooky extreme right-wingers have ever espoused the goodness of war per se that I know of (I’m thinking of the Italian Futurist manifestos here). I’m sure there are other examples in recent history, but it’s hardly a fashionable viewpoint.

    The critical difference that allows you to take what you doubtless consider to be the moral high ground which I, for example, do not is not that you are opposed to war and others aren’t. It’s really that you think, as an Anarchist, that there is some alternative to having sanctioned force-wielding bodies – police, military, etc. – and that these bodies can be replaced entirely with some non-coercive alternative.

    I don’t think the way you do because I don’t see statelessness as a practical idea at this point in human social/societal evolution (yes, I believe in that, call me what you will). War is terrible – but because we really can’t defend our country by any other means, we still need to have an army. Because we really don’t have any better last-resort mechanisms to prevent various kinds of wrongs than police, we still need to have police.

    Police, military and government itself are all problematic for social justice issues, because they all involve people wielding enormous power over other people. Unless one really believes that they can simply be gotten rid of and replaced by something better, though – a tall order for the best of us – one does not have the luxury of advocating for them to be entirely removed, and condemning anyone who participates in them as eeeeviiilll lynch mobbers. This goes for markets as well.

    Oh, and condemning soldiers? It causes me to lose sympathy for your viewpoint really, really fast. I don’t think you understand how disproportionately underprivileged the young people who tend to become involved in military service are as a group. Military service is a bad option, but sometimes it’s the best the bad options someone has.

    So yeah, you’re not really more anti-war than the rest of us feminists by dint of taking the positions that you do. You’re just more anti-state.
    Also, I’d love to see you theorize a way of preventing the Axis powers from taking over freaking everything and brutally oppressing and murdering freaking everyone that doesn’t involve going into war against Germany, either using state military, paramilitary resistance forces, or both. Go ahead, enlighten me!

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