Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Post That Was Not

I was going to write a carefully reasoned post about this bit of news for Memorial Day, but life overtook:

Britain's female soldiers could soon battle enemy forces in face-to-face combat, if a ban on women serving in the most dangerous warfare roles is lifted for the first time.

In keeping with a wider overhaul of equality laws in Britain, military officials are considering whether to allow female troops to be deployed with previously all-male units on perilous missions behind enemy lines.

Armed forces minister Bob Ainsworth said a new study will decide whether to lift a long-standing ban on female soldiers, sailors and air force personnel taking part in close quarter combat.

The review comes amid an examination of gender equality across British society, including moves to expose pay gaps between men and women and to encourage affirmative action.

Britain last reviewed the role of female troops in 2002, when officials concluded that women were less able to carry heavy loads, more prone to injury and had a lower capacity for aggression than men. It said single-gender units also were likely to bond better and work more effectively.

My carefully reasoned post would have had all sorts of shit about how we could use something else than gender as the determinant. For instance, we could test every applicant for physical force and for aggression.

Then I started thinking about how to test someone for aggression. Doesn't seem possible. And then I started thinking about my martial arts training and how what is ultimately weeded out of you altogether is aggression and fear, in a particular situation. You act without any emotion one way or the other, just a trained machine, if you like. Aggression gets in the way and makes you commit mistakes.

That's the skeleton. But of course what's really interesting about this whole question is reversing it. Do we ever exclude men from a job on the basis of their aggression, say? IF there are jobs which demand aggression, there are certainly also jobs which demand that you don't use it. But those jobs are not formally closed for one sex.