It's been a rough few weeks for women. First, a group of men who have only ever had relationships of whatever kind with other men (hopefully) pronounce us as condemned to hell if we use birth control. Then another group of 16th century thinkers claims that if women go into combat situations, they will either be raped by the brutes who surround them or protected by the chivalrous knights who surround them. Either way, this group states, women should not be in combat.
Do you realize that in this scenario, it's the military that's progressive? Truly we have fallen through the looking glass.
Those objecting to women in combat have two main concerns. One is that men are so darn chivalrous they will automatically protect the woman firing the rocket launcher next to them and be too distracted to fight. The other is that these same chivalrous men will rape the women they are protecting.
Have you ever seen an Alaska woman club a halibut, shoot a moose or gut a caribou? If Alaska women weren't pretty equal living partners in the Alaska Bush, survival would be much harder. When a bear attacks, most Alaska men are very happy their woman has a gun she knows how to use. I've yet to hear of an Alaska man flinging himself over the woman raising her gun to take a bear down in order to protect her. Alaska men are simply too smart to get in the way of a woman and her raised, loaded gun.
As for the issue of rape, I find it astounding this needs to be said, but rapists are not good representatives of our country or its military. Rape may be primarily a women's issue but it's not the woman's problem. It is the problem of any man who feels he has a right to invade a woman's body in the most horrifying way possible simply because he can overpower her. That's not someone I want representing my military and neither, I'd guess, does our military.
If the implication is that no man can control himself around a woman, that assumption is wrong. Most men are more than capable of controlling their carnal desires and only expressing them in appropriate situations. They do not believe they have a right to rape a woman because they're working in close quarters with her. Those men who do hold that opinion should not be part of our proud and honorable military forces. The wrong person in this scenario is the rapist, not the woman standing next to him trying to serve her nation.
This is a great big country that should have room for us all, both women who want to be treated as delicate hot-house flowers and women who want to strap on an M-16 and enter combat with their unit. The one does not negate the other. They can co-exist, as can all women who fall somewhere on the points in between.
To deny women the right to a job for which they qualify based simply on their sex is wrong. If they can do the job, they should be given the opportunity to do it. And if they fail, their failure should have no more nor less meaning than it would have if it were a man who failed.
I grew up in the '50s and '60s when a woman's horizons were limited. I can still hear my mother telling me I shouldn't let a boy know I was so smart. I should make him feel smart instead. That's what a real woman did for her man.
Well, it's a new dawn of a new millennium. Women no longer need to hide their light under a bushel. We no longer have to rely on men for a home, income and sustenance. And isn't that wonderful? Because now when a man and woman are together, it's because they have both equally chosen to build their lives as one, not because the woman has no other choice.
If a woman is qualified to do the job she wants to do, then she should have a chance to do it. I know a lot of women who are way scarier than my male friends. I'd be happy if they had my back in combat.
Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," her memoir of 28 years in Barrow. Website, www.elisepatkotak.com.