We've heard a lot of arguments against women in combat: They wouldn't be able lift injured male soldiers. (Not true.) They don't have the killer instinct. (Most people don't.) They are anatomically unsuited for combat because they feel unclean. (Even male soldiers carry around baby wipes.) Men don't want to poop in front of them. (Come on, guys.) On Thursday, The National Review's Heather Mac Donald gave us a new one: Women can't serve in combat because when they get raped by fellow soldiers, they get too depressed.
Mac Donald read today's front-page New York Times story about homeless female veterans who've been raped, and saw a lot to mock. In a way, Mac Donald's post is actually a case for women in combat. Despite some claims that women aren't tough enough, Mac Donald proves that even ladies can have a sick sense of humor.
The Times's Patricia Leigh Brown explains that while many male veterans become homeless "largely because of substance abuse and mental illness," many female veterans become homeless after they've been raped. It's called military sexual trauma, and it can lead to PTSD. Mac Donald thinks that's silly for three reasons. She casts doubt that rapes actually happened — "Military-sexual-trauma syndrome is that debilitating condition that befalls female service members who have allegedly been the victim of sexual assault by their fellow service members." And even if the rapes did happen, these homeless veterans probably made other poor choices that led to their homelessness, Mac Donald argues:
Some of these women come from environments that made their descent into street life overdetermined, whether or not they experienced alleged sexual assault in the military. To blame alleged sexual assault for their fate rather than their own bad decision-making is ideologically satisfying, but mystifying.
And finally, because rape can't be nearly as bad as war:
Why then have those same feminists who are now lamenting the life-destroying effects of 'MST' insisted on putting women into combat units? Arguably, coming under enemy fire or falling into enemy hands is as traumatic as the behavior one may experience while binge-drinking with one's fellow soldiers or as scarring as being 'bullied and ostracized' by a female superior.
You would think Mac Donald would intuitively know why a woman would want to be able to fight for her country without being raped by her fellow soldiers. Clearly, no one wants to be raped by her coworkers. Being betrayed by a fellow soldier is especially bad, because the military conditions its soldiers to face mortal danger by emphasizing a sense of brotherhood, to use a term that should be music to Mac Donald's ears. The Soldier's Creed says, "I will never leave a fallen comrade." An old military cliché, repeated in plenty of TV shows and movies, is that the only things that matter are the buddies to your left and right. That would be complicated if one of those buddies was your rapist.
You used to be able to make a pretty good living as a self-loathing female pundit. Phyllis Schlafly was super famous! But the genre is fading. What was once provocative, what made you a headline-worthy name, now just seems weird. The National Review, while it publishes solid female reporters, is the top outlet for the old woman-hating-woman genre. Here's The National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez telling Beyoncé to "Put a Dress On." Here's The National Review's Charlotte Allen, arguing that fewer people would have died in the Sandy Hook shooting if the setting had been less "feminized," if some men — even "some of the huskier 12-year-old boys" — had rushed the shooter. Mac Donald is Schlafly's heir. Here's Schafly in 1977: "I don't think rape ought to be excused under any circumstances but men read the body language of women and I think a lot of them can tell when a woman walks across the street what she's inviting him to do." It was a darker time. Mac Donald's column belongs back there. In the photo above, a female member of the Afghan special forces trains for a night raid. Mac Donald is outdated even for Afghanistan.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to email@example.com.