Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Gender Roles, Women in Combat, and Senator Tom Cotton

My senator has been in the news of late.  Maybe you've heard.  Perhaps as a result I was asked for my thoughts on the following commentary by the Arkansas Times' senior progressive editor, Max Brantley, on some remarks Cotton made. I'll comment throughout.  

[H]ere's an area where Cotton continues today to say things that echo his youthful comments and they seem likely to contribute to a gender gap in this race. Remember when he said all women should be legally prohibited from serving in combat roles? It's not just a muscle mass thing, because clearly some women could meet the physical standards and all men aren't automatically capable by virtue of their gender. He said, with emphasis added:
To have women serving in infantry, though, could impair the mission-essential tasks of those units. And that’s been proven in study after study, it’s nature, upper body strength, and physical movements, and speed, and endurance, and so forth.

Nature? We look forward to more from Rep. Cotton on the nature of women. We now know his patronizing outlook goes back many years.

TB: Where, oh where, to begin?

Apparently like a typical progressive, Brantley thinks that not only are there no natural, normative gender roles (that's a datum for most progressives), but nature is otiose when it comes to physical attributes as well.  Heaven forbid Cotton express what most people have thought until about five minutes ago.  Is Cotton wrong that women serving in the front lines of the military could impair a mission-essential task?  Apparently it's impossible that this be the case.  But progressives don't care whether it could or even would impair such a task; just look in the news.  They fall over backwards in embarrassment over the U.S. military might (invoking "colonialism" at every turn, wishing out loud to flee to Enlightment Europe because of U.S.--or pick your favorite Southern state--ignominy), so it's hard to believe that they would not be a little tickled to see it knocked down a peg...or three.  Who in her right mind thinks that the push to have women in combat roles is really for the purpose of making the military better at doing what it does--viz., killing people and breaking things?  No one, as far as I can tell.  No, the push to have women in combat roles is plain and simple the logical conclusion of progressive ideology hell-bent-for-leather on promoting the social engineering of culture with the aim of abolishing the practice and the very idea that there are any traditional (a naughty word) normative gender roles above and beyond whatever progressive social constructions are deemed to be fitting.  The goal: normative gender androgyny (at least for men; women have a right to do whatever they want with their bodies).  

And, sorry, ladies, I don't mean to break the hearts of you dying to die on the front lines, but here is a fact: men (men, not emasculated, genderless malesprefer to kill other men with other men.  Sorry.  If you privately ask most soldiers on the front lines, they'd rather sleep in foxholes with other like-minded men when their goal is to fulfill their role as combatants.  (Of course, some women feel similarly).  

As far as the physical aspects go, of course some women are stronger and more athletic than some men, one particular female in my platoon is favorably brought to mind.  (Though perhaps this is lost on Brantley--no doubt a student of the Word--who invokes silly St. Peter's misogynist musings in the title of his piece.) But that's largely beside the point.  Most men will also fail the physical tests demanded for combat duty in our voluntary military.  At peak performance, I was far stronger and more athletic than most men (in general and in the military).  Nonetheless, I would have never been physically able (e.g.) to be in the Special Forces, the Navy Seals, or Special Ops.  That is, unless the standards are lowered which they started to be in many military units even before I joined the Army.  (The promise is that they won't, but they have and will).  In Basic Training, before I even joined in the '90's, the physical standards were lowered to accommodate women--as well, while I was in.  But physical standards aside, most men prefer to fight alongside men for women and children, not with them.  What military advantage is there for forcing them to fight alongside women they would rather be fighting for?  There isn't any.  The only "advantage" is political.  [Aside: In extraordinary circumstances, I'd have no problem with women in combat roles--if they are needed.   But there is absolutely no evidence that women are needed in combat roles in the U.S. military to fulfill the primary military mission at this time.]

From the Ivy League wayback machine of the Harvard Crimson archives comes a taste. Here, Tom Cotton writes glowingly about covenant marriages (his tea leaves failed him on this gimmick taking hold, just as they failed him on the Internet) and the paternalistic Promise Keepers movement. 
TB: Cotton shouldn't be glowing about covenant marriages I guess.  The whole idea of a covenant marriage makes Brantley squirm.  Paternalistic Promise Keepers?  What, pray tell, is wrong with like-minded, Christian men getting together in support of men being good husbands and fathers?  Would Brantley heap similar scorn on women getting together in support of women being good wives and mothers?  Presumably not.  Is there something wrong with men on occasion simply wanting to get together with other men?  If women get together for some shared cause among women, that's fine, but if men do it it's the dreaded patriarchy.  Oh, the evil hegemony of the patriarchy.  (FYI: Progressives love the word "hegemony."  Brantley should get with the program.  Wait.  Seriously, I just Googled "Max Brantley" right now, and "hegemony."  Here it is!)  
He begins:
Men are simple creatures. It doesn't take much to please us. The problem is women. How does an utterly simple creature understand an infinitely complex one? Since this creature realizes he is even simpler than most men, I knew only women could help me understand, well, women.
You'll want to read the results of his informal survey of "Cliffies," the patronizing name Harvard he-men attached to students of Radcliffe, the all-woman's college that once operated as a separate and not fully equal collegiate partner. Cotton concluded Cliffies' driving motivation in life was finding and holding onto a husband.
TB: I'm not going to chase down every one of Brantley's animadversions.  I'll leave it to the reader to track down the results about the "Cliffies" and make the proper logical inferences.  But I will comment on Cotton's quotation, which Brantley doesn't comment on directly: What more do you want?  Cotton talks pejoratively of men and highly of women in the quotation (as one must do in today's culture), saying that he needs women and not men to help him understand women.  I wonder what Brantley would have said if Cotton had said that women could not help men understand men.  Perhaps, "Impossible!"
My sample is admittedly small and perhaps unrepresentative. [Unlike Brantley, very measured] If it is representative—I tend to think it is—then maybe men can unlock the secret to a woman's heart and soul. Maybe the key is nothing more than a lifetime of love and devotion, of selflessness and sacrifice.  [How dare he think that men could play a role in unlocking the desires of a woman's heart, by love, selflessness, and sacrifice!  How dare he!]  
Yet that is a lot to ask of a man: Talk to a psychologist, a sociobiologist or a mother and you learn that men are naturally restless and rowdy, maybe even a little incorrigible. [More pejorative talk about men.]  Throughout time, though, women and social institutions have conspired to break man's unruliness. In the past few decades, however, they have largely abandoned that noble and necessary project. [More pejorative talk about men.  Summary: Men need women, and women have traditionally played a role in helping men to be responsible men, through marriage, family stability, etc.]
Young Tom decries the impact of divorce on women, but he seems to imply that it's women, encouraged by feminists, who account for most divorces. 
TB: Where did Cotton mention feminists or divorce?  Oh, it's in the paragraph below not in the one he just quoted.  (A good editor might have fixed that).  What is the above paragraph doing in this essay?  I don't know.  At any rate, perhaps 'ole Brantley is unaware that women initiate divorce in 66%-90% of the cases. Does that statistic by itself show that actions of women account for most divorces?  [Yes, if we use stats the way progressives do to show racism/sexism as the cause of certain statistics.  See, for instance, the DOJ on Ferguson.]  Surely, not.  Divorce is a complicated business.  But perhaps what Cotton has in mind are no-fault divorce laws which certainly have been one of the causes of an increase in divorce rates.  Rejoinder: but no-fault divorce laws have also been responsible for women being able to get out of abusive relationships.  Counter: That's probably correct, but that's a red-herring.  One can make it legally easy to get out of abusive relationships without there being no-fault divorce laws.  Rejoinder: But then that would stymie our free-wheeling, free-'lovin' '60's sexual agenda.  Counter: [...]
Thus, the economic fallout on women is somehow their fault — not that they devoted themselves to child-rearing rather than careers; not that the judicial system for the longest was run by and for men and terribly unfair to women.
TB: Where is Brantley getting this?  What in Cotton's remarks indicates that it is solely women and not men who are at fault for anything?  What does the past history of the judicial system have to do with the current state of affairs?  Why bring this up rather than the past history of the world? How does dwelling on the past, in this respect, help to rectify the current state of divorce in the U.S.?  
Feminists who allegedly speak for women should attack divorce, not its effects. If men have easy access to divorce, many will choose it thoughtlessly. They may not gain true happiness with their new trophy wives, but they certainly will not slide into the material indigence and emotional misery that awaits most divorced women [and men!]. If restrained, however, men can fulfill women's deepest hopes. They can learn that personal happiness comes from the desire to devote and sacrifice oneself to one's beloved.
A few men can see this by themselves, and women are quite lucky to hook them. Ordinary women must not only defend these men against feminism, but also demand that all other men accept the lifelong nature of marriage. If not, one-half of all women who marry see their "greatest fear" come true. If so, they can have their "deepest hopes" fulfilled.
If those deepest hopes include medical autonomy, however, women should not expect that from Tom Cotton.
TB: Again, Brantley provides a quotation and then fails to provide any substantive commentary.  Instead, he draws attention to the fact that women should not expect Cotton to provide them with medical autonomy (something which Cotton does not even hint at in his quoted thoughts above).  This deserves a couple of remarks.  First, it seems a bit condescending to women to think that they are so helpless as to need Cotton or any other government official for their autonomy.  But this is the way of progressives; on one side of the mouth express how all are equal, there are no differences, etc., and with the other side make sure that the constituents feel helpless and victimized to insure that progressive elites always stay in business and in power.  (Have no fear, Max.  With people like you in the media your job is secure).  Second, presumably Brantley is talking about sex (again--progressives can't get away from the glorious '60's), contraception, and abortion.  "Medical autonomy" in reference to women is code for contraception and abortion.  But neither contraception nor abortion have, properly speaking, almost anything to do with medicine.  Pregnancy is not a disease or illness but the natural outcome of copulation.  Morning sickness--though terribly unpleasant--is (for those women who get it) not an unhealthy bi-product of pregnancy.  A healthy woman will get pregnant if sperm fertilizes the ovum.  Brantley is engaged in a typical semantic distortion, not uncommon on the left as I've noted previously.
Cotton's writing has drawn some modern-day comments on the Crimson website. More evidence of the educational value of the Internet. Sample:
Only Tom Cotton could actually believe that a woman's entire hopes and dreams are wrapped up in a man.

TB:  There's the semantic distortion, again.  Did Cotton say "entire?"  I don't see that word anywhere in the quotation above, nor does anything Cotton says suggest it.  Cotton is merely pointing to the fact that most women desire to be in a lifelong, loving, till-death-do-us-part, relationship with a man, and that divorce laws (again, I assume he has this in mind but am only reading what Brantley has quoted) make it easier for men not to live up to their end of the bargain.  For shame, Tom Cotton, for shame.

Max Brantley has now earned himself his very own imprimatur Tullius Est subject label.  The progressive animal is a curious species inviting industrious investigation, but to investigate the species one needs a specimen (even better, in its native habitat).  One can hardly do better than Mr. Brantley.

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