Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Mental Health of Women Warriors

Apparently, the American military is so far superior to its adversaries that it can send women to the front lines. In the Iraq and Afghanistan wars we had more women than ever before.

After all, why not use a war as an exercise in gender-bending social engineering?

The dominant ideology dictates that there is no significant difference between men and women. Anything a man can do a woman can do, too. And vice versa. Thus, women soldiers should be allowed in combat or in combat support, lest they lose out on career opportunities.

As we know, people fight wars to advance their careers and to make ideological points.

Reporting the experience of Courtney Wilson, a lieutenant who led a platoon in an engineering batallion, Benedict Carey shows that Wilson had real difficulty bonding with male soldiers.

Naturally, no one is allowed to imagine that women are never going to enjoy male bonding and male camaraderie. It’s easier to think that the women and perhaps even the men just need more therapy.

In Carey’s words:

One of the biggest adjustments the United States military attempted during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars was cultural: the integration of women into an intensely male world. Women made up about 15 percent of the force during these two wars, compared with 7 percent in the Persian Gulf war of 1991, and they saw more combat in greater numbers than ever before.

Yet even though women distinguished themselves as leaders and enlisted soldiers, many of them describe struggling with feeling they do not quite belong. For men, the bonds of unconditional love among fellow combatants — that lifeblood of male military culture — are sustaining. But in dozens of interviews with women who served, they often said such deep emotional sustenance eluded them.

To today’s military officers, it’s a problem needing a psychological fix:

“Clearly these data beg us to account for why there’s this apparent surge in felt hopelessness and alienation among so many women service members during deployment,” said Dr. Loree K. Sutton, a retired brigadier general, a psychiatrist and the commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs. “This is a critical endeavor, and it’s got to go beyond individual factors and look at group dynamics.”

Of course, everyone asserts that women are great soldiers and great officers. But, if these women cannot bond with their troops and if their troops do not respect them, how good can they really be?

Carey does not address another important issue, so we will. Do female soldiers undergo the same basic training as male soldiers? Are women required to undergo the same physical exertions and demonstrate comparable strength?

If the military changes the standards in order to accommodate women’s constitutional weakness, one understands why men would not treat them as one of the guys.

If Lt. Wilson is any indication, women soldiers do not feel that they belong. Thus, they are prone to interpret even good-natured ribbing as ridicule and contempt.

One hates to say it, but even though the dominant ideology forces everyone to agree that there are no significant differences between men and women, the facts remain and reality will out.

Considering how strict the army is about sexual harassment and sexual assault and even fraternization, the presence of women represents a threat to men’s careers.

Consider this:

In contrast, the women said, they got mixed messages. The Army bans most jewelry and makeup yet is institutionally protective toward women, at least out in the field. “You’re treated like a girl, and yet you can’t really be a woman — that’s the feeling,” Lieutenant Wilson said.

Mixed into this odd displacement were ever-present sexual undercurrents. Many women said that at night, on base, they would not go to the bathroom without an escort. Lieutenant Wilson said a noncommissioned officer in her unit continually made sexual jokes that made her so anxious she thought about reporting him. She decided against it, but the threat lingered.

In fact, almost any consorting with a male soldier was enough to feed an appetite for gossip that rivaled high school, veterans said. “What made it unbearable were the moments you felt you couldn’t socialize or bond with the men after a hard day — they were mostly hard days — because of the rumors that would fly,” said Susanne Rossignol, who served in Baiji, Iraq, in 2004 and 2005.

Lt. Courtney Wilson might have been tough as nails, but she could not deal with mockery and nearly became anorexic when someone called her fat.

Carey describes the problem:

“Lieutenant Wilson is a model officer whom I would trust with the most difficult mission,” her company commander wrote in September of 2010.

But she was less certain she inspired affection. “Courtney doesn’t have that laid-back humor a lot of guys have, so she’d get teased and didn’t know how to shrug it off,” said Lieutenant LaPonte, who became a close friend. “She took everything personally.”

Perhaps no more so than when a couple of soldiers cracked that she looked fat.

It was a bad joke, at best; a distance runner, she worked out whenever she could. Still, it got under her skin. “I was living on carrots and water,” she said. “I was down to 122 pounds, so skinny you could see my clavicle. It was crazy, but I felt I had to prove something to them.”

Weigh her words: she felt she had to prove something to them—prove what, exactly? That she was a slim, attractive woman?

When her efforts at self-medication failed, Lt. Wilson tried therapy:

Jack Daniel’s and Coke blunted the anxiety, but the relief did not last. She tried biofeedback, prayer, meditation and psychiatric medications. Finally, reluctantly, she began regular talk therapy with a psychologist at the Fort Hood military base in Texas.

 “She really struggled to connect with other people, and in part it’s because she was trying to be someone she was not,” Roger Belisle, a clinical psychologist at Fort Hood’s Resilience and Restoration Center, said in a phone interview.

It’s not just that she was trying to be someone she was not. It’s that the army was allowing her to pretend to be someone she was not.

This all raises an interesting question. America has chosen to ignore the fact that men and women are different. It has chosen to place more and more women in combat or combat support missions.

And yet, most men consider themselves duty-bound to protect women. Does this mean that as more and more women join the military the nation will feel less and less interested in fighting wars? Does it mean that with more and more women in the military America will prefer to see wars in terms of winning hearts and minds? Does it mean that the nation will feel queasy sending women into combat, unless it’s in a war against climate change?


Leo G said...

Well up here in the frozen north, we have allowed women to fight on the front lines for over 20 years now. Still, only 2.5% of the troops are women, as they have to pass the same standards as men, etc.

Nice article from 2013 from the Telegraph. One of the women interviewed for the piece was awarded the Medal of Military Valour while leading an all male platoon in Afghanistan.


Ares Olympus said...

Information is good, but I don't see a need to prejudge success or failure of integration. Men aren't all the same either, and you might wonder if gays also "do not feel that they belong", and I'm sure some would like to reopen that issue as well. But at least gays can keep quiet, and do their own uncomfortable "good-natured ribbing" to make sure everyone knows how repulsive gay people are.

But the most important thing we learned from Iraq and the photos from Abu Ghraib is that young women are no more moral or compassionate than men.

Apparently we have to teach our youth, male and female, right from wrong, and before we send them into the battlefield and torture chambers.

priss rules said...

In all these war, men have died and been maimed.

Women wanna fight? Okay, it's time to send women to the frontlines.

Time for men to step back into the safe zone.

Sam L. said...

She cannot do anything that might look like fraternization. Her platoon, her company, she has to maintain separation, so bonding in out the window. Not happening. Also, the physical requirements are less for women.

n.n said...

Once, repent. Twice and more, natural born killer. Send in the abortionists.

Larry Sheldon said...

A little off the point, but possibly useful observations.

A "observations" (and now, a long time later--"recollections") but not a well documented fact in the lot.

I worked for a Bell System company, beginning as a craftsman (a "transmissionman" -- for a while a member of the Order of Toll Testboardmen and Repeatermen).

The first building (one of a cluster of three, actually, but most of the time you could not be sure which of the three you were in) in a state that required there be a women's restroom on any floor that had a small number (6?) assigned to it there was only one accessible restroom on any floor but one and it was a "Men's". Floors that had operators had an "operators locker room" -- women only and not publicly accessible.

As the company struggled with the Consent Decree of 1956 and later actions, they began to open the "traditionally male" jobs to women, and vice versa.

My recollection is that a lot of men were tired of climbing poles, and digging ditches and other onerous facts of life and applied for and got assignments in "traditionally female" jobs--requiring among other things rearrangements of the "operators locker rooms" and (I didn't mention them earlier) "quiet rooms" which existed where ever women were employed, darkened, literally quiet rooms with cots.

Not many women should interest in most of the "traditionally male" jobs but there were a few in the switchrooms and testboards.

Dennis said...

In my more cynical moods I agree with "priss rules" in that may be women should do the dying on the battle field. A significant number seem not to be able to relate to what it requires to have a free country that makes it possible for them to be little butter cups so fragile that words alone can destroy them. At least on the battle fields a "trigger warning" would have real meaning. But, alas I am a realist and would rather win wars, not withstanding the current occupant in the WH.
It has several pluses though in that women who think abortion is great can commit to killing people who can shoot back. Here the comment "baby killer" would have real applicability. If women are going to eschew marriage and having children then the least they can do is protect those who would. It also happens to do away with the imbalance of males in relationship to females. And finally there would be a step towards real equality. Another outcome would probably be more stable marriages because men would have more time to be husbands and fathers.
I suspect that we will not see too many women as described by Leo G especially since in this country we don't expect women to meet the standard and justify the lessening of those standards so women can compete in that this is what one calls "dumbing down." That would be an interesting experiment if the results were not seriously in question. Though the thought of every woman professor in the Women's Studies programs on the front lines as defenders of freedom appeals to my sense of the macabre. Though one wonders how vaginal diseases would affect unit cohesiveness and the ability of field a squad et al?
What a chance to walk in the shoes of those men who make one's life choices possible. Feminists first into battle!

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

The feminists are using the legal system to make misogynist savages of us all. We've seen the extent of pain the uber-rational and super-logical offer us under false premises, and this is no different. The idea that men and women are the same is farcical. The idea that it's come to be acceptable is tragic. The idea that it has come to be directive practice is destructive of everything civilization stands for. Truly. We think the Islamists are insane for giving their women, wives, sisters, aunts, daughters, and grandmothers explosive vests to detonate themselves? Why? We've convinced ourselves that everything woman wants -- no matter how barbaric, inconceivable and costly to others -- is plainly necessary for her to have as her right. Yet she also can refuse at her own convenience. It's preposterous. Women want it all. They want it both ways. They want newfound rights and, simultaneously, traditional privilege. On their whim, with subjective authority and universal consequence. This is all out of control. Choose.

Dennis said...

All I can say is that you have come a long way baby? Can one imagine paying someone for sex? (sarcasm off) My how the mighty have fallen.

I would agree, but I believe that there really is a significant number of women, most of them not feminists, who don't fall into the mold dictated by feminists. It is one of the reasons I like Megyn Kelly (http://theconservativetreehouse.com/2015/05/27/baltimore-state-attorney-marilyn-mosby-claims-hacks-and-begins-shutting-down-social-media-after-megyn-kelly-sunlight-and-our-research-exposes-her-bias/,) Kennedy, Harris Faulkner, Coulter, et al.
What makes it seem bad is that the opinion leaders, if one wants to believe that, are in the "Blue Hell States" where much of government, media, academia, and the left resides. Once one gets out of these small enclaves one finds a large number of women who not involved with such poor thinking and are horrified to be identified with it. This may sound incongruous given what I have written earlier, but one has to read between the lines to see the real points being made.
Ever wonder why there is a growing number of women who do not identify with feminism? Feminism exists in the only places where bad ideas can live forever, academe, the public education system as currently constituted, the "blue hell states," and the federal government. All of these places are under attack from more and more sources in and outside the "bubble" created by those who would rule us. Why do we see the attack on free speech and words? There is a real fear that they are losing control. We just have to keep up the pressure by challenging those who would be our betters. Once we have them resorting to pejoratives, invectives, name calling vice well reasoned argumentation we can undermine them with their own actions. It took a long time and effort to create these conditions and will take a long time and effort to change.

Dennis said...


Enjoy and know why so many women are running away from feminism.