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Sorry, we don't agree: "Fighting is for Men"

In regards to Barbara Kay's Ideas & Issues column in the 2005-11-09 National Post titled Fighting is for Men, the Ruxted Group takes issue with the lack of relevant facts or reference to tangible evidence presented by Ms. Kay to support both her article and her fundamental position that "The military is -- was -- a unique, genetics-dependent culture, as specific to males as midwifery is to females" She delivers a stunning and disappointing appreciation of the modern profession of soldiering; it speaks of a view that is either wilfully blind or recklessly oblivious to the reality of 21st century military service.

By way of example, many members of the website are former military personnel while many others are currently serving in the military forces of a number of countries. A good percentage of these members- both male and female - are serving today as combat soldiers in military operations in the most dangerous places on earth. These members affirm that all people who can meet the standards are able to be soldiers. Given the necessary will and motivation both men and women can be regular infantry soldiers, clerks, combat engineers, weapons technicians and even commando's. As one member of stated "We have, many of us, soldiered with female colleagues; we affirm that there is no practical difference between most men and most women of roughly similar physiological and psychological attributes."

There are a few broad, general differences: most women are not as 'big' as most men but, pound for pound they may be just as strong; most women can get pregnant, no man can; most women have been socialized differently than most men. These factors may mean that: many women are unable to meet the physical challenges of some military occupations; many women need to have extended leaves to give birth and mother their infants; and many women who wish to serve in the military may eschew some occupations. That should in no way disqualify those who want to serve and who can meet the standards from serving wherever they can: at sea, in submarines, flying jet fighter-bombers, chest deep in freezing water building bridges, loading ammunition into a tank gun or in close combat in the infantry.

Members who have served scoff at privacy and relationship fears â “ all soldiers want to be as comfortable as the situation allows. All soldiers prefer a modicum of privacy and they work hard to look after their own creature comforts when the situation allows; when it doesn't they grin and bear it, male and female alike.

Ms Kay asserts that "Apart from rear-service, medical and administrative functions, where they shine, women don't belong in the CF" and, quoting scholar Jack Granatstein, says "It will take a large number of dead female soldiers before we snap back to reality". Recent operational experience proves her wrong. Despite being barred from the Combat Arms in the US, today's complex warfighting environment means that everywhere is a front and there is no rear area. In this environment American Servicewomen are showing their fighting prowess as evidenced by the awarding of the Silver Star (the US Army's third highest award for bravery) to Leigh Ann Hester, a military police Sergeant who fought with distinction from the wrong side of an ambush near Salman Pak, Iraq on 20 March 2005. Women are bearing their share of the casualties as well. Warfare is both a current reality and an ongoing activity for the Canadian Armed Forces which demands the utmost of its participants. To be successful in warfare, the Canadian Armed Forces must take the best Canada has to offer - male or female.

Some broad agreement may be found with one of Ms. Kay's contentions, which by no means is hers alone: "The single-standard Old Military shaped to meet fixed benchmarks. The double-standard New Military fixes benchmarks to meet enlistees' shapes." Most serving and retired members are concerned that critical standards have been lowered too far, and even those are not enforced. The end result is that there are too many people â “ men and women â “ who are unfit for the rigours of the battlefield, some are not strong enough and some are not (mentally) tough enough.

The Canadian Armed Forces require high standards that are set to ensure that sailors, soldiers and aviators can properly perform their jobs in any part of the battle. The harsh reality is that in today's form of warfare the battle presents itself everywhere and anywhere and the notion of safety "in the rear with the gear" is but a death-wish for the unprepared.

There are those, particularly certain groups of feminists, who have pushed a bizarre agenda that argues that the 21st century Canadian army is a hi-tech, pushbutton army and that strong backs and bare knuckles are no longer required. They are wrong. In fact they are dangerously wrong because they choose to be selective or even occasionally misrepresent the current or future use of professional soldiers, sailors and aircrew. Whether on the streets of Baghdad, the alleys Kabul, the scrub of Kandahar or boarding a ship it is the combat soldier and the truck driver, the helicopter door gunner, the mechanic, the medic and the cook who bear the brunt of modern asymmetrical warfare. Ignoring that reality amounts to a misguided policy that will inevitably produce a military disaster by putting Canadian soldiers at risk to advance questionable activist agendas with ulterior motives. Thus, they too are both factually and morally wrong.

The Government of Canada must find the courage to dismiss the arguments of those on the outside who lack the relevant military experience in the re-emerging combat capable Canadian Armed Forces. We submit that surely it would impose no burden and bear little political hardship to the Government of Canada by adopting a practical and rational approach to recruiting, training and equipping its sailors, soldiers and aircrew. It can do so by dismissing the portrayal by some people of the Canadian Armed Forces as the monolithic military machine or that of a high tech gadget and gizmo organization that rarely meets the enemy in person. Both of those constructs are simply false.

It would appear that many people on the outside who have an interest in women serving in the Canadian Armed Forces need to step back into reality and state what the truth of the matter actually is- without the spin and without bending the facts to fit the headline. They can start by making some effort to understand what the military exists for. There is an abundance of opportunity for journalists and others to inform themselves directly from the source about the Canadian Armed Forces. It seems that too many of these people purposefully choose to remain ignorant - there is no excuse for that if they want to be taken seriously.


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