Whilst his first main observation (“Iran can now play with a country it does not fear, using the captured, female, naval rating to ‘tug at our heart strings“) is spot on, I think he makes two mistakes.
First, he suggests that the failure is on the part of women in the frontline:
“I’ve always believed that the presence of women in the front-line was a mistake and this only confirms my view, but the myth of sexual equality now even pervades the armed forces. While working in one the few remaining military hospitals in the mid 1990s — being run down even then — I was able to see the reality of women attempting to match their male counterparts and failing.”
I disagree and in this I am supported by an interview (a link to which currently eludes me) that a senior army officer gave to the BBC. In it, he suggested that problems in the front arose not from the failing of women but from men. It is not that women are not valued, it is that they are too highly valued.
(Never mind what Phib might make of that, taking it somewhat literally.)
Men in the front line have not adjusted and have not hardened their hearts to the fate of their female compatriots. We, as a society, have not done so either. this leaves us wide open to heart string tugging by our enemies.
Worse still, we are too blinded by the heart string tugging to notice that we are being manipulated in an unscrupulous – and ultimately illegal – manner.
Okay, different angle, but same problem, no? Either we stop highly valuing women, which, as one, is something I would rather miss, or else there’s a problem having them there.
(For an added unintended humorous twist, I give you: his title. Stuttering is well known to be a sign of sexual frustration.
That is all.)
I’m too under-caffeinated yet to quote any of this, so I’m just throwing it into the end of this post.
Slightly more caffeinated now, but still not enough to start a new post.
Are we really comfortable with the prospect of mothers going on active service, separated from their children and risking their lives for us? It is clear that the Iranian authorities expected the British public to be more concerned about the fate of Faye Turney than that of her male crew members. Had they instead singled out one of the men, even though he might be a father, the public impact would have been less. Yet, as Turney made clear in an interview preceding her capture, women in the forces — even those with young children — expect to be treated the same as male colleagues.
Western equal opportunities legislation requires us to make no distinction between the ability of men and women to undertake a task, however hazardous. Legislation also requires that women should not be treated differently on the grounds of motherhood. The phenomenon of mothers at war is nothing more than the logical conclusion of sex equality. So any concern that we might feel when a mother is placed in danger should, in theory, be dismissed as outdated. But theory may not be much use in a crisis. …
Is it wrong to accept that such a difference exists? Maybe we should be demonstrating our ability to rise above Iranian tactics by asserting that Leading Seaman Turney’s fate is of no more significance than that of male crew. Why should a mother be more important to her children than a father?
We have a tax system that denies any concessions to one-earner families. And it is all but impossible for a father to admit that he would rather his children were cared for by their mother than in a nursery or by a nanny. Just as Stewart’s talk of chivalry on the front line makes him sound old-fashioned, so a man who prefers to act as family breadwinner rather than nurturer risks being branded a throwback.
…All the same — whisper it quietly — [Colonel Bob] Stewart’s reaction [from Bosnia, saying that women in risky situations was distracting because the men were inclined to protect them and more distressed if one died] may in reality be closer to the feelings of many young men in action today than the equal rights theorists suppose. And however hard we try to set it aside, our unease at the prospect of young mothers going into war zones might be a sign of civilised values, rather than evidence of a failure to keep pace with change.
I keep getting this nervous feeling that somebody spectacularly affronted by all this is about to fall on me at any moment and start accusing me of all sorts of things I haven’t actually said.