Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Un-Masculinist Military

FLG wrote yesterday that he'd like to respond to some of the things in this post about the de-masculinized military. He still doesn't have as much time as he'd like, but he'll give it a shot.

Charli Carpenter posits three points:
But “de-masculinizing the military” it’s also about at least three other things that are happening, if at all, much more slowly: a) balancing the esteem we pay to military service with the esteem we pay to traditionally feminized roles such as child-rearing b) making the same effort to gender-integrate traditionally feminized roles as we do to gender-integrate traditionally masculinized roles c) changing the relationship between the military and civilian sectors in security operations to be more collaborative and less hierarchical.

On the first point, FLG thinks that sounds great insofar as balancing the relative importance placed upon roles traditionally associated with femininity, but is more about wishful thinking. Why? It's pretty simple. You don't risk your life for the sake of your nation when rearing children or caring for elders. (Childbirth may have historically been risking one's life, but most of us don't consider that today in America.) Therefore, there's never going to the same emphasis placed upon the two roles. Why is choosing to risk one's life important? Look, Plato couldn't even fully describe courage and bravery, so it's beyond FLG; however, most of us intuitively understand that caring for elders, while noble, isn't as dangerous or courageous as soldiering.

Now, you could say that this valuing of risking one's life is a social construction. FLG would say, look, it's pretty universal and definitely goes back to the dawn of Western civilization, as his link to Plato demonstrates. A social constructivist might respond that this is precisely the point. These values are deeply ingrained into our culture. To which FLG will say, good luck trying to change something like that. Moreover, making a change to such a deeply held value is bound to have a ton of consequences beyond the military because its not like that particular value can be isolated and eliminated or changed. So, again, it's wishful thinking.

The second point is fine as far as it goes, but isn't as important in the scheme of things without the first. The third is already happening; however, as a practical matter, FLG would prefer a model more along Tom Barnett's -- have a combat force and a peace force. Military combat operations have been successfully conducted by young men for millenia. Coordinating with civilian populations takes more maturity and more skills.

Then, FLG went into the comments. Sjoberg's writing is still gobbledygook. What that fuck does this mean?
actually, my answer to the TRIP survey article about women in Politics and Gender talks a lot about this sort of thing, if you didn't want to read the early feminist books. What a "military" is was constructed by men, for men, in service of how men were interested in solving problems (and sometimes making them), and in a way that glorifies masculinity. Therefore there is nothing "specifically military" "before considering gender issues" - and thinking about gender/being gender inclusive/even being sex inclusive requires a rethinking of (if not a redefinition of) what "specifically military" is - methodologically, on this, I like Sandra Harding's Is Science Multicultural? which gives a whole lot of good ideas on the "how" and a lot of examples from the hard sciences about how to do inclusive rethinking/"strong objectivity."

There's no way this muddled writing doesn't imply muddled thinking.

On another point, however, she is much clearer:
[...] its not "our" military - because it certainly isn't mine. Its relationship with me, if it exists, is paternalistic, involuntary, and against my wishes - it has values I don't espouse, offers me "protection" I don't feel protected by (and in fact often feel threatened by), and fights wars I would do anything to prevent.

Another commenter:
You are confusing the military with the political leadership. The military is just the weapon. How and when it gets used is not decided by the military.

She continues:
I didn't "confuse" anything - I simply made an argument about military change that also required political change, in response to your (political) argument that the military is "ours" and "too much is at stake" in changing/risking it - I was arguing that it is not mine, and that I see little if anything at stake in changing it/do not see a worse outcome than the oneI see right here. Also, my feeling threatened not protected by the military is in part a political issue (e.g., the wars that are made by the military as a result of political decisions) but also in part a military operational issue (e.g., the ways that the military trains is soldiers that ...if unintentionally...encourage aggression and sexual violence). In sum, your argument that the military is the last mace "we" should be "eager to advance our society" as a part of a cost/benefit analysis is uncompelling to me because I see the costs/benefits differently, and because that sort of logic bites the critique I made in the original post about the military as a privileged location of citizenship which is based on and entrenches militarized masculinity/ies.

Of course the military encourages aggression. It's purpose is to fight wars, which are by definition based upon aggression. It also encourages honor and discipline to try to counteract the negative consequences of aggression.

Again, what's missing here is a simple fact. The military has a privileged location of citizenship because the members of our armed forces have pledged to risk and, if necessary, give their lives for the rest of us. Whether or how we should fight wars or what values the military culture inculcates are legitimate concerns, but FLG isn't terribly interested in them as part of this conversation. At the end of the day, the military will always enjoy a privileged status because they risk their lives. Period.

11 comments:

The Ancient said...

So, she wants to imagine a de-masculinized military because she thinks such a military won't (or couldn't) fight wars, which she dislikes, for reasons she doesn't (or can't) make clear.

Great.

And then, in an especially fatuous sally, she asserts it isn't "her" military. Well, that's obviously wrong. If she's a citizen, and pays taxes, it certainly is "her" military, no matter what she thinks.

Disliking what the military does, or how it's constructed or regarded, doesn't change that.

P.S. Laura Sjoberg is an employee of the citizens of the State of Florida. She may hold morally vacuous views that the overwhelming majority of those citizens (and taxpayers) find repellent, but she is still "their" employee. (Just as Ward Churchill was once an employee of the citizens of Colorado. May she profit from his example.)

Anonymous said...

Uhm, I know I'm just a stupid knuckledragger who doesn't use birth control - so glad there's no such thing as gender otherwise I'd have a bun in the oven continuously thanks to the stud I'm married too -oh dear, he's not a stud is he because stud is a gender specific term, isn't it? Am I still allowed to -in the privacy of my home- tell him he's a stud when he's just proven yet again what the stud he is or has that too been banned by Obamacare?

Anyhoo isn't Sjoberg one of those knuckleheads -as opposed to knuckledraggers -who have declared there are no genders now? And haven't ever been since day 1 for that matter but we're all too-knuckle-dragging to know it?

I dunno. Wouldn't a non-gender, non-masuculinist military look like one that has male and female officers all the way up to Generals as well as blended troops? And females flying planes, driving heavy equipment that can knock the socks off of anything in their way, piloting boats with aircraft on board and even on the battlefield, etc.etc...? You know, the very sorts of things you see daily in the military right now?

I guess that must not be good enough for her.

Mrs. P

william randolph brafford said...

I'm having trouble figuring out what's unclear in the excerpts you show here. Sure, it'd be better if that passage contained some precise illustration of how a "rethinking" works, but she's telling us where to find that information anyway.

FLG said...

William:

I have no idea what this sentence means:
Therefore there is nothing "specifically military" "before considering gender issues" - and thinking about gender/being gender inclusive/even being sex inclusive requires a rethinking of (if not a redefinition of) what "specifically military" is - methodologically, on this, I like Sandra Harding's Is Science Multicultural? which gives a whole lot of good ideas on the "how" and a lot of examples from the hard sciences about how to do inclusive rethinking/"strong objectivity."

What exactly are we rethinking and we do we have to go read a book to figure out how?

william randolph brafford said...

We're rethinking the concept of "the military" by trying to understand its relationship in detail to concepts of "masculinity." In the jargon used here, "rethinking" is some particular method of subverting these conceptual relationships -- i.e., demonstrating some conceptual problem that makes it hard to take the masculine-military connection for granted. Maybe this is a bad idea or an unnecessary task, but I understand what she's trying to do without even reading the article.

FLG said...

William:

Okay, I guess. It would be far more effective and clearer if she were to actually "demonstrate some conceptual problem that makes it hard to take the masculine-military connection for granted" than to call for said demonstration.

william randolph brafford said...

I was reading some of C.S. Lewis's writing on the English Renaissance. He never used a reference as a placeholder in an argument: all the references were either illustrations of a plainly-stated point, or they were sufficiently explained in the text. I couldn't evaluate his argument, but it was a pleasure to follow it. That's my standard for academic writing; some of my favorites still fall short. But I'm not about to hold a blog comment to that standard...

FLG said...

William:
"But I'm not about to hold a blog comment to that standard"

Fair enough, but there's a happy medium between Lewis and Sjoberg.

Chris Petersen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Petersen said...

As a current soldier in Afghanistan the notion that the military somehow, even if unintentionally, cultivates sexual aggression is ridiculous and repugnant to me.

The Ancient said...

Chris Peterson --

I'm very happy to discover your blog.

Best wishes.

 
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