Ed. note: This article was originally written in 2013 as the U.S. military was debating the efficacy of allowing women to serve in combat zones. This week a Texas judge ruled that it’s unconstitutional for the Selective Service requirement to only apply to men, which could pave the way for women being forced to sign up for the draft. As the nation considers the possibility of women being drafted, it’s worth revisiting the problems associated with women in combat roles.
Manhood is not simply a matter of being male and reaching a certain age. These are acts of nature; manhood is a sustained act of character. It is no easier to become a man than it is to become virtuous. In fact, the two are the same. The root of our old-fashioned word “virtue” is the Latin word virtus, a derivative of vir, or man. To be virtuous is to be “manly.” As Aristotle understood it, virtue is a “golden mean” between the extremes of excess and deficiency. Too often among today’s young males, the extremes seem to predominate. One extreme suffers from an excess of manliness, or from misdirected and unrefined manly energies. The other suffers from a lack of manliness, a total want of manly spirit. Call them barbarians and wimps. So prevalent are these two errant types that the prescription for what ails our young males might be reduced to two simple injunctions: Don’t be a barbarian. Don’t be a wimp. What is left, ceteris paribus, will be a man.
— Terrence O. Moore, Wimps and Barbarians: The Sons of Murphy Brown
As we seem to be rushing headlong into the decision to allow women to serve in combat, a decision with wide-ranging implications, let’s consider a few inconvenient truths.
Men commit violent crimes more than three times as often as women. Ninety-nine percent of rapists are men. Serial killers are almost always men. Mass shooters are almost always men. From early infancy, boys and girls show sex-linked toy preferences.
This is not to suggest that all men are violent psychopaths, but anyone who has ever raised male children knows that they are born with an innate tendency to throw, hit, destroy, and create general mayhem.
When our boys were little we belonged to a playgroup that included girls. Quite honestly, I often found myself shocked at the behavior of my little boys compared to their angelic female playmates. My male tots, who were in no way being raised in a violent home and who watched nothing more violent on TV than Lamb Chop’s Play-Along, had an inborn propensity for violent behavior. If they could lift it they wanted to throw it. If they felt anger their natural reaction was to hit. They saw an open tub of Duplo blocks as an invitation to hoist the tub in the air and scatter the blocks across the room. Usually, their female toddler friends tried to reason with them — babbling incoherently, no doubt scolding them for their barbaric behavior. When that didn’t work, they just stared at them as if they were space aliens (the toddler version of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus).
Psychologist James Dobson wrote about this natural propensity in Bringing up Boys:
[O]ne of the scariest aspects of raising boys is their tendency to risk life and limb for no good reason. It begins very early. If a toddler can climb on it, he will jump off it. He careens out of control toward tables, tubs, pools, steps, trees, and streets. He will eat anything but food and loves to play in the toilet. He makes “guns” out of cucumbers or toothbrushes and likes digging around in drawers, pill bottles, and Mom’s purse. And just hope he doesn’t get his grubby little hands on a tube of lipstick. A boy harasses grumpy dogs and picks up kitties by their ears. His mom has to watch him every minute to keep him from killing himself. He loves to throw rocks, play with fire, and shatter glass. He also gets great pleasure out of irritating his brothers and sisters, his mother, his teachers, and other children. As he gets older, he is drawn to everything dangerous—skateboards, rock climbing, hang gliding, motorcycles, and mountain bikes. At about sixteen, he and his buddies begin driving around town like kamikaze pilots on sake. It’s a wonder any of them survive. Not every boy is like this, of course, but the majority of them are.
As our boys grew, we worked to strike the delicate balance between tempering their natural instincts to plunder and destroy with the constraints of living in civilized society (and also of living in the house with a mother who appreciates the toilet seat in the down position). One of the main benefits of having both a mother and a father in the home is that both perspectives exist in a delicate balance within the marriage to moderate the natural extremes of the sexes. I instinctively wanted to protect the boys and, left to my own devices, would have been overprotective. My husband naturally gravitated toward allowing them to explore, fall down, take their knocks and learn life’s lessons the hard way. The goal was always to turn out men. Not some feminized, politically correct, egalitarian version of manhood, but in keeping with their genetically driven impulses and God-given natures, we determined to encourage them to defy current societal pressures and become real, masculine men.
So my husband tossed them around and wrestled with them in ways that terrified me. As they hurtled toward adolescence and surges of testosterone entered the mix, their roughhousing seemed brutal to me. Elaborate wrestling matches were staged on the backyard trampoline. At times I was afraid to peer out the window at the pyrotechnic displays in my backyard (you can burn THAT?). We agreed (for my sanity) on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy about some of the dangers encountered on the father-son camping trips. My husband, who grew up with a houseful of boys, assured me this was “normal” male behavior and they survived.
Of course, we didn’t just teach them about the physical side of being men. We taught them responsibility, integrity, hard work, honor, respect for others, and chivalry. Faith was an integral component in their upbringing. Without these important lessons, all boys are at risk of turning into men who give in to their aggressive natures to the point that they engage in antisocial or even dangerous behaviors.
Through all of this, we clearly taught our boys that they were never, ever rough up the girls during playtime. We knew a time would come that they would be bigger and stronger than the girls and they needed to know that they were to never lay a hand on a member of the weaker sex. In this day and age of political correctness and federally mandated gender equity, this may sound “unfair” or antiquated, but the inconvenient truth is that the process of civilizing young men involves taming their aggressive instincts. If we want them to learn to treat a woman with respect, they must be taught that overpowering her with their physical strength is never acceptable. At the same time, they must learn that their physical size and strength are gifts that can and should be used to protect their families and property in the event of danger. Controlled strength is a sign of maturity and integrity.
As we find ourselves on the cusp of women on the front lines of combat, we must ask some important questions about how we will raise boys in the future in light of this decision.
Back in 1992, when cries for women in combat were sounding on the heels of the Gulf War, John Luddy wrote about the implications of such a decision in the Los Angeles Times:
All killing on the battlefield is not accomplished by precision-guided munitions; men must still drive cold steel into other men’s guts. Parents, picture a platoon of soldiers, your daughter among them, wielding bayonets in what we infantrymen delicately call close combat. Some are doing the sticking; some are being stuck. Therein lies the second problem with placing women in combat units. As a society, do we want to have women doing this? If so, what would be wrong with a man punching a woman under the same circumstances in which he might punch a man? One is no “better” than the other, but we react differently, don’t we?
While some of the aggressive behaviors men exhibit are the result of cultural factors, many are biological and part of the created order. Properly channeled, their aggressions have, throughout history, protected and defended family, property, and country.
Obviously, women are uniquely equipped to bear children. It’s something men cannot do. In addition to the obvious differences in strength, it’s the main reason men have provided protection for their families and were the ones to go to war throughout history. Biologically, a woman can only reproduce for a small window of time in her life, her fertility decreasing in her 30s. The very survival of society depends on protecting women. It’s interesting to note that the sex ratio at birth, both in the United States and around the world, favors men. In the U.S. 1.05 boys are born for every girl. I don’t want to say that men are more expendable, but from a purely raw numbers standpoint, we need women more than we need men. A society that doesn’t recognize this and fails to honor the important and different roles men and women fulfill blindly ignores all of human history.
If we as a country insist on pushing through this barrier and throwing our women at the enemy by placing them on the front lines in combat, some important cultural and sociological changes will need to occur. We will need to raise a new generation of men who will be willing to stand by and watch women being shot, stabbed, tortured, raped and battered. They will need to be desensitized to the realities of harm befalling women. Additionally, once the United States crosses the barrier of women in combat, other countries will likely follow, so our men will need to learn to stand face to face with a woman, look her in the eye, and kill her in hand-to-hand combat.
To accomplish this radical change in the psyches of male soldiers will require massive re-education. Will it fall upon parents to teach boys to stop playing gently with the girls? Will they teach their boys that girls must be treated the same — that it’s now OK to rough the girls up a bit? Somehow male soldiers are going to have to learn to stop protecting women. Perhaps it will fall upon the churches to stop teaching the biblical mandate: “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7).
More than likely, I suspect the military will be in charge of the re-education, requiring lengthy brainwashing sessions to teach men to cease to care about women as anything more than faceless, genderless soldiers.
Kathleen Parker pointed this out in a recent Washington Post piece:
We can train our men to ignore the screams of their female comrades, but is this the society we want to create? And though some female veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have endured remarkable suffering, their ability to withstand or survive violent circumstances is no rational argument for putting American girls and women in the hands of enemy men. It will kill us in the end.
Indeed, what will be the end result of a society in which the men have been trained to ignore the screams of women and disregard their suffering? When society trains them to stop protecting women? In our rush to achieve gender equity in the military, we ask questions about the physical strength of women, housing and living conditions for the troops, and whether everything is fair. But we don’t seem to be grappling with the important societal questions like the character of the men we will be raising in the future and then turning loose into society. We must ask and answer those questions before we rush headlong into the decision to allow women to serve in combat roles.
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.
Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.
They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.
They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.
For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.
Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt, D-Day Prayer, June 6, 1944
Previously from Paula Bolyard at PJ Lifestyle:
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