By Heather Mac Donald — January 14, 2016
A handout picture released on January 13, 2016, by the news website and public relations arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Sepah News, shows US sailors under detention in the Farsi Island by Iran's Revolutionary Guards. (Credit: AFP)
As cable news chewed over Iran’s capture of ten American sailors in the Persian Gulf just hours before President Obama’s final State of the Union address on Tuesday night, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews pointedly observed that one of the captured Americans was female.
Now, perhaps Matthews was just being comprehensive in his reporting. But the all but unmistakable implication of the hostage situation was: The situation was all the more urgent.
Now why should that be so? Feminists declare that men and women are equal. They petulantly decry any atavistic male courtesy towards females as a relic of a still oppressive patriarchal culture. According to feminist ideology, it should be of no greater concern if a female soldier falls into enemy hands, including those of Islamic terrorists, than if a male does.
As the Pentagon moves inexorably to put females into combat units, let’s hope for the sake of our military capabilities that this abstract ideology holds firm. But it almost surely won’t. The enemy capture of female soldiers during a hot war will in fact provoke even greater than usual political pressure to quickly rescue them, if necessary overriding sounder but more time-consuming strategies. The prospect of a female soldier being raped by her captors or, say, “merely” being beheaded will override all other military considerations. If two platoons are captured, the one with females in it will undoubtedly take precedence in any rescue effort, thus jeopardizing unit morale and cohesiveness and combat effectiveness.
And don’t expect feminists to object to this military double standard. They revive traditional norms of chivalry on a moment’s notice in order to play the victim and sexism cards. Indeed, it was feminists who screamed the loudest at Donald Trump’s scuffle with Fox News’s Megyn Kelly during the first Republican debate. Kelly had accused Trump of being a misogynist because of his nasty comments about various celebrity women, most infamously Rosie O’Donnell. But Trump was not being a misogynist in those earlier insults, he was being a feminist: treating men and women with an equal degree of tastelessness. Typical of all feminists, including Republican ones, Kelly wanted it both ways: decrying as sexist a man who publicly derides a woman, while purporting to stand for female equality. But if women are equal to men, they should be equally the target of male boorishness, not granted some special protected status. Trump rightly brushed off Kelly’s sanctimonious hectoring. But his refusal to apologize to Kelly for his alleged past sins of sexism only subjected him to more feminist criticism for not treating his female interlocutor with a politeness utterly lacking in his treatment of men. (The outcry over Trump’s nasty comments about Carly Fiorina, no worse than his usual fare, was similarly hypocritical.)
And so it will be in the military. The feminists have browbeaten our armed services into a suicidal attack on combat readiness, mostly out of careerist self-interest (combat service is a prerequisite for the highest reaches of the Pentagon hierarchy) but also out of a preening, fictional ideology. They insist, against all evidence, that males and females are equally physically prepared for the grueling, skeletally punishing ordeal of long military sorties. And they deny the inevitable destructive force of eros in integrated combat units. But it will be the feminists who push the hardest to protect female soldiers from any risk of rape or other uniquely female abuse, a prospect all the more real in America’s future theaters of combat: the Third World and Islamic territories.
However galling such a double standard is, it would be worse for Western civilization if males actually took feminists at their word and snuffed out any last vestige of chivalry in themselves. A proper respect for female difference is one of the great civilizing disciplines; a society that truly treated males and females as equal, interchangeable parts would be not worth living in.
— Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute.