Friday, December 5, 2008

Maybe they should be treated for "head-up-ass" syndrome

I firmly believe that the US Armed Forces will always be the last frontier in conquering sexism. P.E. classes could be desegregated and the FCC could ban gender-typed marketing; but the US military would still insist that women are too weak to sign up for the draft, or too fragile to serve on the front lines, or too seductive and distracting to the men.

Evidence: Private Monica Brown. The CBS article is good and you should read it, but here is all you need to know:
  • Pvt. Brown was serving as a medic on Afghanistan's front lines with a paratrooper unit.
  • Brown's platoon drove straight into a massive ambush, complete with a roadside bomb, intense small arms fire, and mortar fire.
  • Brown ran through that ambush to provide medical aide to two of the most seriously wounded men.
  • As the ambush continued around her, Brown threw her body over the men as she worked on them, to protect them from the ongoing gunfire and explosions.
  • Brown then dragged the men back to the truck, and continued to shield them with her own body.
For all of this, Pvt. Brown earned a Silver Star. She is only the second woman to earn the Silver Star since WWII. She saved the lives of those two men, at the risk of her own. Both her brigade commander and sergeant major recommended her for the award, fully acknowledging her heroism.

Are you ready for the kicker? Sure? You're positive you really want to feel this story punch you in the face? Ok...

The two men who Brown saved, Larry Spray and Stanson Smith, don't really care that Brown saved their asses when they were bleeding, burned, lacerated, and dying. They don't care that in addition to doing her job as a medic in extreme conditions, she risked her own life to shield their bodies TWICE. Apparently what Spray and Smith care about is that Pvt. Brown has a vagina:

But both of those men, Smith and Spray, declined to give 60 Minutes an interview. When we asked why, Smith said flat out women have no business being on the front line..."People ask, you know, like, 'Was she a superhero? Did she do anything, you know, super woman, super heroic?' No, she did her job," Best (a gunner with the platoon) says. "And she did a very, very good job doing it. Now, that fact that she was 18 and, you know, a female and all, you know, that adds something to it."
I don't understand how the fact that Brown was not "supposed" to be there negates from what she did. She shielded two severely injured men with her own body as she gave them life-saving medical attention. Whether she was "supposed" to be there or not is irrelevant. She was. She did. It happened. People in cases of "right place, right time" aren't usually "supposed" to be there either, but everyone talks about how fortunate they are anyway.

As for Best's comments, I call shenanigans. While Brown was certainly "doing her job" as a medic, she went above and beyond the call of duty when she continued to expose herself to enemy fire. Her job as a medic is to treat wounds, not to act as a human shield. So yeah, I would say that what she did wasn't necessarily in her job description. Best's dismissive comments are the direct result of his inability to see past Brown's gender. He clearly feels that her femaleness gives her some sort of unfair "edge" in earning a star. I'd bet dollars-to-donuts that if Monica Brown were a Mark Brown, he would not be so quick to dumb the actions down to a job description.

But I'll give Best a fair shot, here: Let's look at the actions of some past male Silver Star awardees. I'm sure history will show that those men worked MUCH harder for their recognition:

Antonio Rodriguez Balinas (1951): Defended the left flank of his company from ongoing enemy attacks at great risk to his life. Hm. As a second lieutenant, isn't it his "job" to defend his company from enemy attacks?
Harry Frederick Bauer (1942): Was a Lieutenant Commander who was wounded, yet ordered his own men to turn attention from him and rescue another man instead. Bauer died, so I would say he definitely risked his own life while "doing his job" (ordering his men to rescue a wounded man).
Michael A. Monsoor (2006): Ran into a street under insurgent gunfire to rescue a wounded comrade. Sounds familiar.
John Stebbins (1993): Was supposed to be serving as a clerk for the Somalia conflict, but joined fighting anyway. That alone earned him the Star. But he had no business being there!

Sorry, Best. Looks like plenty of men have earned the Star for the same reasons as Brown. Try to contain your exploding head.

In 2008, there is not a single fucking excuse for feeling threatened by a woman's ability to match the ability of any man. We prove our equality all the time, but ignorant asses like Spray, Smith, and Best always find ways to justify the cognitive dissonance. Heaven forfend that they ever justify it by re-examining their personal perceptions of women. Brown could have thrown her body over a hand grenade for them and they would still claim that she didn't do anything special.

How about some fucking appreciation?


Lucy said...

How pathetic. I didn't see this on 60 minutes and I will read the article later. Sounds like they were embarrassed to have been saved by a woman. I guess the ultimate question to pose to these guys is "since there seemed to be no man around would you have preferred her to go, oh no, can't do it, I am just a woman, guess it's your day to die." I would love to hear their answers.

Phoebe Caulfield said...

Ha! I'd love to hear that story: "And then she said, 'I'm not supposed to be here,' and left us all for dead."

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