Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lady Warriors

I mostly appreciated this article about a female jet navigator serving in Afghanistan, as the experiences of female soldiers, vets, and pilots aren't often reflected in the media. I qualify my praise with "mostly" because of this unfortunate paragraph:

"Flying in itself has specific drawbacks for women. The effects of G-force on the female body is something that hasn’t been investigated. There is a possibility that it can damage the ovaries; and the weight of the helmet with night-vision goggles puts a huge strain on your neck. As Nikki points out, no girl wants a thick neck, it’s not a good look."

Will the frailty myth never die?

What greater strategy in the giant male-friendly affirmative action program that is Human Endeavor than to scare women away from doing Manly Things because they might harm those organs that separate (some) women from (some) men. I'm not saying that is the author's intention, but I wonder if she is aware that the powers that be have used the proverbial Threat To The Ovaries to deny women opportunities in education, sports, space flight, and the military throughout history.

I'm also not saying that in this case the threat is unreal. As the author notes, the threat of flight to a woman's ovaries isn't something that's even been deemed worthy of investigation. Rather, I'm noting that, in most other historical cases where this harm has been scarily alluded to, the proverbial threat of harm to the reproductive capabilities of women have proven to be false. The real "threat" turned out to be, actually, a projection of the male fear of the dwindling importance of what it means to be a man in society. And speaking of men, since it is a truth almost universally acknowledged that a woman's reproductive organs are public property, I wonder if the G-force's effects on a man's testicles has been a similar matter of deep concern.

With respect to the second half of the quoted paragraph regarding how Fat Necks Are Unbecoming On A Lady, it is unfortunate that women in male-dominated arenas still feel they must express that, despite their achievements, they are still Real Women who care about their looks. So, on top of enemy missiles, lady pilots must also worry about "helmet head" and getting too muscular so as to appear un-feminine? I don't note this to denigrate "femininity." But rather, given that these women are engaging in military piloting that used to be considered extremely and inherently masculine, their attempts to nonetheless continue performing "womanhood" are underscored as somewhat artificial.

Just as coverage of the WNBA invariable digresses away from basketball and onto a player's looks, hetero husband, and children, we are usually left with the message not that a woman can be anything that a man can be, but that her primary value rests in her looks and/or her relationship to a man.

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