Defence secretary Philip Hammond has indicated that females in the British army will be able to serve in direct combat for the first time, and not just in roles on the front line, as already happens. Hammond says that other countries have women in combat roles, and that the issue should be about fitness, not gender. Hammond says that he does not want to send out the message that the army is not fully open to women who meet the same fitness criteria as men. So, that's the political correctness box nicely ticked - but should it be? Should concern about women in combat roles automatically be written off as sexism or chauvinism?
This is not an attack on female army personnel – only a fool would have anything but the deepest respect for the courage and professionalism of anyone (male or female) serving on the front line. It's also worth noting that promotion to the highest levels can be barred to women who've not undertaken combat duty. Indeed, if I balk at the idea of women in combat, it's not because I think that women would be hopeless, over-promoted, tokenistic cry-babies, who would need to be protected – girlie Private Benjamins, who'd spend all their time ‘distracting’ their male counterparts with their hair flicking, pouting and lipstick applying.
The oft-brandished ‘distraction’ argument was always a farce - managing to insult both sexes. As is the notion that ‘chivalry’ (the urge to protect the little ladies) would override all other concerns on a battlefield. Even to a cowardly civvie like myself it seems obvious that soldiers would be constantly looking out for each other's safety, regardless of gender.
However, it seems to me that Hammond should be less concerned with the message being sent out, and more about addressing the key issues surrounding women in direct combat, some of which cannot be dismissed as mere chauvinism. For a start, Hammond needs to be more specific about these ‘fitness levels’, currently reputed to be so punishingly high as to be out of the reach of most men. Does the fact that so few women could realistically acquire this ultra-alpha ‘male’ brand of fitness mean that their combat numbers would end up being tokenistic? The training offered to deter outside criticism regarding sexism, but would women who didn't succeed at the male-oriented tests be dismissed as failures who couldn't hack it? Conversely, if standards were altered to accommodate female difference (please note, not inferiority, difference), would this result in placing effectively under-trained women and their colleagues at even greater risk?
Moreover, would combat be particularly dangerous for a woman precisely because she would be so unusual,- therefore representing a warped kind of ‘trophy’? Rape has been well documented as a method of humiliating and controlling civilian enemies, and there seems to be no reason why this would not apply to women in uniform. While it's true that male soldiers can also be sexually assaulted as a form of torture, in countries where even female education is opposed, it seems obvious that female combat personnel would be targeted. Or do we all prefer to pretend that combat is a gender-free zone because otherwise it's all too messy and complicated?
To my mind, it doesn't seem sexist or derogatory to question how differences between the sexes might impact on a dangerous high-intensity situation such as a combat zone. While I wouldn't question female abilities, there's no point refusing to acknowledge how women may have the odds unfairly stacked against them while training, after which they could be more exposed and vulnerable than their male counterparts. I certainly wouldn't rush to put a crowd-pleasing tick in some approving box that becomes something others have to live, fight, even die, by; and which simultaneously misleads the public about the true nature of military equality.
Monica, you can't go on blaming the sisterhood
Who'd want to be Monica Lewinsky - still defined, two decades on, by a mistake made in her early twenties? Any plans for reinvention always ending the same way - tangled up in the weeds of X-rated details about you and a former US president that the sneering, snickering world is loath to forget.
I truly sympathise with Lewinsky, yet I'm still confused by her saying in a Vanity Fair article that she feels betrayed by feminists of the time, who ignored her ‘need’ in their rush to defend their Democratic idol. While she has a point, was Lewinsky ever interested in doing women any favours? Having affair with your powerful boss, humiliating his wife in the process, is forgivable, but hardly a sisterly way to behave. Nor was it feminism. Lewinsky is astute about how Hillary Clinton blamed women (she and Monica) instead of predatory sexually incontinent Bill – yet here she is, blaming yet more women.
The brute truth is that Lewinsky messed up as a naive young woman, and paid dearly, for far too long. These facts are quite enough.
Guilty of smuggling class-A carbs
Some of you may have heard about the Colombian man who was caught with cocaine hidden inside a sandwich. The man was stopped by Spanish police at a bus station in Benidorm, and the sarnie (of the crusty baguette variety) was seized.
After the arrest, more drugs were found at the smuggler's home. Whether this was in the form of a fully-fledged picnic laid out on a checked tablecloth on the floor, with teddy bears sitting around in a circle, remains unclear. With cases like this, these days, one must also factor in the ongoing hysteria surrounding diet, health and obesity. In that, some people might be less horrified by the thought of the drugs inside the sandwich than they would be by the actual baguette.
For all we know, some of the onlookers at the Spanish bus station could have been pointing, screaming: ‘Oh God, not bread – get those carbs away from me!’
Enough of this – one shouldn't be flippant about such grave matters. Drugs cause untold devastation, both in their (mostly impoverished) host countries, and where they end up. So perhaps it's good news that this was such an extraordinarily incompetent attempt at drug trafficking. Looking at a photo of the actual baguette, there appears to have been no attempt to hollow out the bread, conceal the drugs or, indeed, display any criminal cunning whatsoever.
Instead, clingfilm-wrapped wads of cocaine brazenly sit alongside the butter, cheese and what appears to be sundried tomato. Aside from the seriousness of the situation, a random thought persists: if the trafficker hadn't been caught, there may have been degenerates all over Europe wondering why their class-A drugs smelled strongly of their local deli.–The Guardian