Band of Brothers No More!

Can I start by saying that men and women should be equal?

Can I start by saying men and women are not the same?

Can I simply start by saying women in combat is a stupid idea?

Can I add that I feel bad for the men on the front line who’ll have to work at developing a camaraderie with women, while trying to forget they’re women?

Truly, I can go on and on, but you see – the issue isn’t that women on the front lines will be equal to men in training and strength. I have no doubt that they will be selected carefully.

Female Australian soldiers in Afghanistan

The problem is human nature: Men automatically feel women need more protection than men. I doubt you can change this visceral reaction under fire. After all, if there’s a chance that a troop will fall in enemy’s hands, who do we suppose will be raped first?

And I know that I’m going to hear screams from many feminists about the next statement (and I’m a declared one, so don’t beat me up too badly), but some women have cramps during their periods, they have PMS or they lose a lot of blood during their periods, so can they truly be equal to men under all circumstances and conditions? I think not.

And think about the medic. If there are wounded soldiers and you hear the screams of men and women, who would you go to first? Of course everyone is going to say that you treat the gravest injury first, but what if both men and women have the same injury?

The overt message is about equality, and I’m the first one to say equality in the eyes of the law is nonnegotiable. But this new law seems to be more of a reaction to the letter of the law without any regard to the laws of nature.

The many implications and complications of women in combat cannot be overstated, from the overt to the covert.

Do we really believe that women are less sensitive than they are? That they are less emotional than they are? We continuously hear about soldiers coming home with PTSD, and when you think of a woman combatant, a woman that was designed to procreate, should we be worried about the killer instinct in the body and soul of someone who is endowed with maternal instincts? And when we think of warmth and nurturing do we associate it with men or women?

And please, let’s not talk about the exceptions. I know that there are sensitive and nurturing men. I work with them. I know there are women who don’t want to be mothers, I used to be one of them. I know that there are women who have the killer instinct, we hear about them in the news. Ironically, the majority use poison, not guns.

Ok, you might say this is a first step in desensitizing men, and that things will be equalized. Sure…

As long as there’s an innate attraction between men and women; and the relationship between intensity and attraction … then we have to be realistic about the intensity of being in training together, in combat together – that’s a lot of intensity, adrenaline, and a lot of ‘together’.

If General Petraeus could not contain himself, why should we believe that Corporal Doe will? In battle, the intensity of life gets accentuated and the emotions emanating from facing the battle bring on a primitive instinct to mate, to imagine that we’re in love (even if you have a loyal spouse at home), and to experience reality in a unique way.

Is it difficult to imagine this thought process:

The “Band of Brothers” is no more, but this woman with whom I trained knows me better than the one I left at home. She knows our deadly reality and I have a special bond with her. And… I feel protective towards her, even though she can do more push ups than I can.

Why shouldn’t we have sex now? We may be dead tomorrow.


And last final note re: personal experience. Many years ago I was in the military, went through officers training and was very comfortable using all kinds of weapons.

About rachel bar

Psychotherapist and supervisor.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized, Woman in The Military, Women in Combat and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Band of Brothers No More!

  1. Thank you for speaking out on this; women who have served in the military have a unique and valuable perspective. Thank you for your service, and thank you for sharing your perspective.

  2. Jim Palmer Palmer says:

    I can’t add anything to your blog, you are right on point…. Women can and do serve in the Air Force and Navy they contribute as much as any man, but to serve in ground combat units is a bridge to far……

  3. mim collins says:

    Rachel, I couldn’t have said it better myself…bravo!! Mim

  4. Martha Carr says:

    Thank you for putting my unformulated reactions into words! I wonder what the women who are begging to serve on the front lines (I assume there are some) would say.

    • rachel bar says:

      I’m sure there are women begging to serve on the front lines. But like so many peak experiences in life, one doesn’t always know what she wishes for… It reminds me of one teacher who told her young students that before they think of having a baby they should have an alarm clock and wake up every three hours for a month or two and then hold a 10 lbs. bag of potatoes all day long while they’re washing dishes etc. I’m also positive that there are some unique individuals who will manage this challenge expectionally well. However, I believe that for the majority of soldiers, men or women, it would add a major stressor, and as a nation who cares about its armed forces, we should try to minimize the pressure of our combat troops. I hope the reader is clear that I have no problem with women in the military, only with women in combat.

      • Martha Carr says:

        Yes, agree totally with your further elaboration! Sometimes the macro view has to take precedence. (I wish there had been more public discussion of this issue before policy was implemented!) It’s very clear that you have no problem with women in the military.
        In the movie Open Range (a wonderful Western movie several years back) the roles of woman and men come to the forefront in several scenes. In one scene the Annette Bening character walks up to the Sherriff-gone-bad during a tense pause in a shoot-out and slaps him in the face with a few choice words. No one does anything. It is clear no one shoots her because she is a woman and the attitude of ‘women are to be protected’ overrides the immediate desire to kill anyone who opposes him. It struck me that the cultural value overriding the moment gave her enormous power. No man could have done it without immediately getting shot.

  5. Susan Papalia says:

    I’ve been wrestling with this and you have so succinctly articulated what I was feeling. Thank you.

  6. rachel bar says:

    This was written by David Silber as a response to this post:

    Dear Rachel:

    I could not get into your system. Your piece was excellent. I would add the following.

    The model we are asked to consider presumes a “foxhole” mentality or “face-to-face” combat situation. But we also know that in today’s warfare scenario, this will not be the case. Men and women will be operating not “hand-to-hand;” rather, they will be firing from computer consoles.

    Therefore, so long as women are not placed in positions of having to fire an assault weapon at an enemy combatant, they can operate keyboards to fire those same weapons robotically as in a “Star Wars” environment. This is a better way of regarding the picture of wartime equalization of the playing field.

    You are free to insert my comments anywhere for purposes of exchanging information.

    David Silber

  7. Margot says:

    Rachel, I feel very strongly about this. Why should women be punished because some people think men can’t control themselves, their stress levels, treat people equally, etc.? It’s a point of view that is actually an insult to men. You have made arguments similar to those that are frequently used to exclude minorities, for example blacks and gays in the military. Women have asked for this. Without combat experience they are excluded from a career path in the military that remains primarily only open to men. Women will have to pass the same requirements to qualify. Please give both men and women more credit.

    • rachel bar says:

      Unfortunately Margot I don’t give them more credit. Maybe because I see people’s reaction to life’s pressure every day? I did think about the gay aspect when I wrote it, but since about 90% of men are not attracted to other men, we are reducing the odds. I think you are commenting on it from a legalistic perspective which I understand, but maybe you need to see what happens when the bombs start falling. We are not talking about whether women can be good lawyers, we’re talking about war, where there’s a daily risk to someoen’s life. It’s not about losing a case on trial. If there was a combat unit of women only I would not be as opposed, but I know that you’d say that I’m creating segragation.

  8. Barbara Cooper says:

    In the words of my late mother, ” Why are women fighting so hard to be equal to men? We’ve always been superior, why take a step backwards?”
    I can’t help comparing this idea to an old song called “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better”. Yes, women can do anything a man can do, and as in dancing, she usually does it backwards and in high heels. But should we? I’m all for “live and let live”, in fact it’s my motto. But, I wonder, why? Why do some women want to fight on the front lines? I have no answer for this. But I would be surprised if any two people crouched in a foxhole waiting for an enemy attack actually have sex on their minds!

    • rachel bar says:

      I didn’t say they copulate in the foxhole, Barbara. You have very interesting fantasies:)
      There is a huge connection between sex and war/death.

      • Barbara Cooper says:

        I didn’t say they copulate in a foxhole either. I said I would be surprised if they were thinking about sex at that time. And FYI, having sex in a foxhole has never been a fantasy of mine.

  9. lylekrahn says:

    You’ve tackled a difficult subject and certainly have the experience to back up your point of view. Sometimes when society approaches issues with the idea of making everything completely equal it can sometimes miss the concepts of fair and reasonable. Most times I prefer to be treated fairly rather than equally so differences can be taken into account.

  10. Martin says:

    I am not qualified to have a personal opinion because I have never served in the military. However, I would like to transmit a radio opinion by someone was in the infantry: No problem with women in actual combat but the vast majority of time in the field is spent socializing with other soldiers, and that’s where the hormones take over, to the detriment of military effectiveness.

  11. Diana Welch says:

    I have been there. Survival school in the early eighties- and men did indeed feel their role was to protect the women… To a detriment. By the time desert storm came along 1991- things were different. When I was in Rwanda in 1994 things continued to show signs of changing. Men saw women as a part of the crew rather than a crew that just had a girl in it. By the time of the Iraq war I was looking at a different military. I chose it as my career. I wanted to serve with the same honor and was expected to maintain the same standard. And I did. For the first ten years I was a field medic and served in hostile fire zones twice. I can assure you no one was ever treated on basis of gender. We were medical professionals. It is the same in an ER as on a battle field. Most serious get treated first. The second ten years I was a counterintelligence officer and was never treated differently and was again in two separate wars. I served with several women in both arenas. I never heard one of them suggest they needed a day off for their period. If they had a medical issue such as you describe they would not be deployed. If they developed one while deployed they would be medivac’d – just like a male counterpart who developed epididymis. Given my personal experience of 21 years I have to respectfully give a dissenting opinion of women in combat.

    Diana Welch Sent from my iPhone

    • rachel bar says:

      Diana, I respect your opinion, a lot, and appreciate your career in the armed forces. Having talked to men and women who served in the military I would still prefer not to have men and women together in combat. If you’ve noticed, I was very careful not to talk about military service per se, but only about combat. I come from a country where there’s a compulsory army service for both men and women. It’s not a choice, it’s a must. Men often complain that a woman is a big distraction even the Navy Seal I talked to a year ago, and this is coming from someone who has the most intense and focused training. As I said in my blog, there are always exceptions, and I’m sure that we can always find cases to prove your point, obviously you’re one of them.

  12. Barbara Cooper says:

    Loved your response Diana. Particularly as you speak as someone who has “been there, done that”. Thank you for your service.

  13. godschool says:

    Interesting thoughts, Rachel. I too have issues with a simplistic understanding of ‘equality’, as if it comes to us vacuum-packed and with no relation to the rest of our experience. Clearly, according to Diane Welch, it can and does work: but it’s wise to be aware of the possible complexities.

    • rachel bar says:

      Godschool, you’ve made my point abundantly clear. Simplistic understanding without stopping to consider human nature, and especially human hormones is too limited.

  14. Jews, blacks, gays, women…………. I think all will be fine.

  15. aFrankAngle says:

    Well done Rachel … but I’m currently very tired, thus I can’t come up with a worthy comment … so Hi Rachel!

  16. Sue Cox says:

    Every instinct I have shouts NO WOMEN IN COMBAT so loudly that an argument/discussion about the pros and cons is pointless in me. Reason simply loses.

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