Friday, April 23, 2004

There was an editorial printed in the Calgary Herald over the weekend that’s still with me. They’ve been printing letters in response to it, and I’ve been following it closely. Both the editorial and some of the letters make me uncomfortable. I know why the editorial makes me uncomfortable, but I’m not quite sure about the letters. Before this gets very vague and confusing, you can read the original article here, or when that link doesn’t work, here. You can read the rebuttal letters here.

Am I a feminist? I’ve never defined myself as such, but the way I live my life might make it seem that way. I live alone, take care of myself, earn my own living, and participate in a very male-dominated sport. I prefer to be treated as my personality dictates, not my gender (as indicated in my post last week). And I have a lot of problems with people telling me I can or can’t do something on a basis beyond ability. I am perfectly willing to admit my deficiencies of skill, but I refuse to be stereotyped by my gender. But is this why this article makes me uncomfortable? And it makes me uncomfortable, not livid…

I believe my discomfort might come down to procreation. One of Hannaford’s arguments is that women are supposed to be givers of life, not takers, nor in a position to have it taken away from them. But, despite advances in medical technology, we still need both sexes to keep the species going. Granted, there are no artificial wombs yet, but neither is there artificial sperm, and cloning is still in its infancy. In the letters of rebuttal, much is made of the parent/child relationship, and of the husband/wife relationship, both of which have a great deal to do with procreation (especially in the case of the former).

In my twenty-six and a half years on this planet, I can count the number of times I’ve felt the urge for a child of my own on one hand, and all of those were before I hit puberty. In all the time where having a child has been possible for me, I’ve never felt it was something I wanted. Despite my gender, I somehow doubt that I will ever be the giver of life in Hannaford’s argument (sorry, Sheila, that leaves it up to you to provide the grandchildren). If Hannaford would continue to argue against my right to face death in defense of a principle I believe in (whatever that might be), then he objects to my going to war based on my potential to have a child. Now we’re starting to get into The Handmaid’s Tale territory, and that is something best avoided.

Would it not make more sense for me to go to war in place of a young man, newly married, with a child on the way? He has shown the ability and desire to procreate, to give life. Why should he go off to face death while I stay home, simply because I am female?

I do not dispute the fact that women are physically weaker than men. That’s simple biology, and I have no qualms admitting it. If women cannot cut it physically, they should not be on the front lines. But if they can… If they can, why should they not? I do not pretend to be in excellent physical condition, but I have no doubt that in the First and Second World Wars, men who were in as good or worse shape than I were drafted and sent overseas. Such is the nature of war; you make do with what you have. And it wouldn’t take long for me and other women like me to be trained up alongside men to the same physical condition.

These are moot points, of course. I believe, or I hope, that the world has learned enough that the new wars will be like the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, fought by soldiers and reservists, not draftees. Indeed, it will be a moot point for me until I get off my rear end and join the CAF Reserves, as I have been thinking about for over a decade. But in the meantime, I’m still going to be thinking about this article, and how it made me feel.


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