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History Says Rick Santorum Is Wrong on Women in Combat

more from Hrafnkell Haraldsson
Monday, February, 20th, 2012, 8:00 am

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The recent conservative surge in rhetoric opposing the role of women in combat resulting from a Pentagon decision to let women serve closer to combat ignores one important historical fact: women have served in combat since ancient times – likely since the dawn of time. And they were not eliminated from that role due to unsuitability physically or emotionally but because of cultural baggage we would be well rid of and the firm hold of an equally outdated patriarchy.

Here is Mr. Marriage, Rick Santorum last week:

This is no surprise coming from Santorum, though he later tried to clarify his position by saying that it wasn’t that he thought women were “too emotional” but that men would want to protect them:

“I’ve never raised that as a concern. No, the issue is — and certainly one that has been talked about for a long, long time — is how men would react to seeing women in harm’s way, or potentially being injured or in a vulnerable position, and not being concerned about accomplishing the mission.”

You don’t need to look any further for evidence for that patriarchal thinking; even Santorum acknowledges it (though he doesn’t see it as a problem that men think this way).

Here is Brian Fischer this week in defense of Santorum’s pre-clarification stance on women in combat:

Not only are women too emotional, but lack the physicality according to Fischer’s AFA blog post yesterday: they can’t throw a grenade far enough to avoid blowing themselves up.

It is just simple fact that neither nature nor nature’s God designated the female body for the rigors of combat. Men have greater size, upper body strength and stamina for a reason. God’s intention is for them to use that superior strength to protect women and children.

His conclusion is that “Bottom line: women in combat will jeopardize our national security.”

Flabby Fischer needs to come to grips with the fact that he is not exactly nature’s male archetype; there are many women far more physically fit than he has ever been or will ever be, who can throw a grenade farther than he can, run faster, and for greater distances; and likely carry more. A set of testicles (which we will presume the presence of in Mr. Fischer’s case) does not translate into instant he-man grenade-lobbing arm strength.

As a matter of record, the M67 grenade used by the U.S. military weighs 14 ounces, a little less than a pound. The average soldier can throw a grenade 40 meters. The effective range of the grenade’s detonation is 15 meters but fragments can fly up to 230 meters. In other words, nobody can throw a grenade to be entirely safe from fragments and it’s highly unlikely that most women can’t throw an object weighing less than one pound far enough to avoid killing themselves.

According to these conservative males women are by their very nature unsuited to combat. Yet women have historically fought in combat roles in various cultures, including the Celts, the Norse, Germans, Goths, Scandinavian Rus, the Scythians and elsewhere. We have evidence both from the literary record as well as the archaeological.

In one instant, a Roman historian, Johannes Skylitzes says that during the invasion of Bulgaria soldiers among the invading forces led by Sviatoslav (ON Sveinaldr), ruler of Kiev (942-972 CE), were found to be women – currently dead women – who had fought like their male counterparts and like their male counterparts, died in battle.

With regard to the Scythians we have abundant archaeological evidence of women buried with all the accouterments of the warrior, including swords and daggers and one historian estimates that 20 percent of the graves contain women outfitted for battle. The grave of a female Iranian warrior has even been uncovered (2004).

Plutarch attests to the Celtic women warriors saying of a battle in 102 B.C.E. that “the fight had been no less fierce with the women than with the men themselves… the women charged with swords and axes and fell upon their opponents uttering a hideous outcry” and Diodorus Siculus said that “Among the Gauls the women are nearly as tall as the men, whom they rival in courage.”

Zenobia, queen of Palmyra, fascinated the Romans and terrified them: here was a woman who led her army in combat against a Roman army – and won. For a time, Palmyra ruled the entire Roman East after defeating a Persian invasion the Romans could not.

The Roman emperor who defeated her and brought her to Rome in chains, Aurelian, also had Gothic women warriors in his triumphal procession. Says the Historia Augusta: “ten women who, dressed in male attire, had been captured fighting among the Goths, after many had died, and whom a placard indicated to be the gens of the Amazons – for placards indicting the names of their peoples were carried before all.”

There can be no doubt that women are suited to combat. There is too much historical evidence in favor of it. If a woman can wield a sword weighing in excess of 2 pounds or a spear she can lob a grenade without blowing up Bryan Fischer’s testicles. Women today are without a doubt larger and more fit than women in the first century before the Common Era.

There is nothing these men are saying that doesn’t smell (and badly) of misplaced patriarchal sense of “proper” roles for the genders – men do all the physically demanding stuff and defend their families (and presumably steal fossil fuel resources from other people) while women stay at home and make babies and nod stupidly at their husband’s ridiculous assertions. Some women have come a long way, but not, apparently, conservative women.

History Says Rick Santorum Is Wrong on Women in Combat was written by Hrafnkell Haraldsson for PoliticusUSA.
© PoliticusUSA, Mon, Feb 20th, 2012 — All Rights Reserved


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