G. I. Jane goes to Baghdad

Women make up 15 percent of the troops in a war whose frontlines are ever shifting. It ought to make for a compelling and complex story and yet the New York Times manages to make it read like a Pentagon press release.

Turns out the nicest thing about women in a war is that they can turn even a nasty little midnight raid into a cozy tea party:

Inside, (Pvt. Safiya Boothe) saw a group of Iraqi women cowering in a corner. While her male colleagues searched for weapons and questioned the men there, her job as a female soldier was to put the women at ease and, if necessary, search them.
She pointed to the stubby black ponytail poking from beneath her helmet and immediately, she recalled, the women's apprehension seemed to fall away. Soon they had invited her to join them on their multicolored floor cushions for some chai tea and were urging her to stay for dinner.
That's impressive since our gals are just as good at smoking those same Iraqis when given a chance:
"Before this war, people only imagined how women would react in combat roles and thought that they couldn't handle it," said Lory Manning, a retired Navy captain who is now the director of the Women in the Military project at the Women's Research and Education Institute in Washington. "But for the first time women are shooting back and doing heavy lifting in a real war. The bullets are real, so are the roadside bombs and the blood. Now we see that women are bonding with the men and not going to pieces."
Why, it makes me want to burn my bra. That the story also appeared in the Style section of the Times -- because what could be more fashionable than women in uniform -- is pure icing.

Too bad the Times reporter didn't have the time to explore the other experiences that make being a female soldier in the U.S. military special -- like, say, getting pregnant or raped.

But even without that downside, I'm not sure that involving greater numbers of the human race in the business of killing ought to be considered progress -- for any one involved. Am I opposed to women serving in the military? Not really. But should military service -- especially on the frontlines -- be a priority for the women's movement? Not really. [LINK]

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