A while ago, this article caught my attention. It's about the British Ministry of Defence reviewing its ban on military women in close combat roles, in which soldiers are required to kill the enemy face to face.
There is opposition to the possibility of women combatants from within the military. One officer is quoted as follows:
"The reason [for the ban] is not because women are not capable. It comes to the dynamics of units of 18-year-old soldiers ... they would be fighting for attention." He added: "It is all about unit cohesion, not the capability of the soldier."
So women shouldn't be allowed to participate because men can't control their behaviour? Where have I heard that argument before? And these same men who can't control themselves around female fellow soldiers are expected to abide by the conventions of war, including appropriate treatments of civilians? Hmmmm.
That aside, I'm interested in how feminists should respond to this possibility of 'equal opportunity'. I for one, don't want to kill people up close and personal. I don't want to kill them from a distance. In fact, I don't really want to kill people at all. Most women are socialised to have an aversion to violence - but I've no doubt that some of us can and do kill people proficiently, and fancy making a career of it.
I'm trying to separate my own distaste for violence, and my cynicism about the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, from the issue of what women should and shouldn't be able to do. I'm not a fan of the military as an institution - but so long as we have it, should feminists fight for women to be able to participate in all aspects of it on the same grounds as men? Or is this just fools' gold, masquerading as women's liberation?