[Marxism] Re: Protesters: War a man's issue

Yoshie Furuhashi critical.montages at gmail.com
Sun Jul 30 10:00:40 MDT 2006

On 7/30/06, Steffie Brooks <steffie.brooks at gmail.com> wrote:
> If anyone has relevant data on women in the Israeli military
> (including if they serve for the same length tours of duty, in combat
> or support roles, and how much they confront sexual violence) I would
> be extremely interested.

What is clear is that Israeli women are the only women in the world
subject to conscription.

Israeli women's participation in combat roles (which became open in
1995)  is low, though, and it's been controversial in Israel, too:

On 7/30/06, Marvin Gandall <marvgandall at videotron.ca> wrote:
> Frankly, I'd be more interested in information on the combat role of women
> in the Soviet Union during World War II and during the revolutionary wars in
> China, Vietnam, Cuba, and Nicaragua. While the heavy hand of the past was
> present, I'm sure, in the composition and internal structure of these
> political parties and their armed forces, I suspect the historical record of
> these conflicts would still cast some doubt on the thesis that war is
> primarily a "gendered" rather than a class phenomenon.

Quite a bit of information is available on the extents and characters
of women's participation in combat roles in the USSR, China, Vietnam,
Cuba, and Nicaragua.  Take the USSR, for instance.  The USSR during
WW2 encouraged far more extensive women's participation in combat
roles than capitalist nations, most prominently in the air force (see
Reina Pennington, Wings, Women, and War: Soviet Airwomen in World War
II Combat, University Press of Kansas, January 2002,
<http://www.kansaspress.ku.edu/penwin.html>).  However, their
participation didn't survive the end of the total war: "At the war's
end, the vast majority of these women returned to civilian, and
largely female, occupations. Military ranks dropped from one million
to less than ten thousand; these were principally nurses and phone
operators. Despite their stellar aviation success in the war, by 1988
(with approximately 24,000 female military pilots in the United
States) there were very few Soviet female military pilots" (Jacqueline
Kruper, "Review of Kazimiera J. Cottam, Women in War and Resistance:
Selected Biographies of Soviet Women Soldiers," H-Minerva, H-Net
Reviews, December, 2001, URL:

To make a broad generalization, there are two kinds of war that
promote higher levels of women's participation in combat roles: total
wars like WW2 (though seldom in infantries); and guerrilla wars.  In
both cases, however, ranks of women tend to thin dramatically after
the wars, and the military gets back to its usual male-dominated

Besides, socialism never did much to abolish gendered divisions of
labor at home or outside home -- the military is no exception.

On 7/30/06, Sayan Bhattacharyya <ok.president+marxmail at gmail.com> wrote:
> I'm doubtful about that explanation because women lean less to the right
> *across classes*, whereas for upper-class males these days there is hardly
> any expectation or  likelihood of conscription, and hence little incentive
> to be socialized for the same.

Even upper-class males in the United States, whether they are
citizens, permanent residents, or even illegal aliens, are subject to
selective service registration -- see the requirements at
<http://www.sss.gov/FSwho.htm>; women categorically are exempted from
it -- see the government's explanation at
<http://www.sss.gov/FSwomen.htm>.  That is an important distinction.

On 7/30/06, Steffie Brooks <steffie.brooks at gmail.com> wrote:
> > That socialization for actual or potential military
> > service -- which is to say socialization into the sort of straight and
> > narrow masculinity useful for the military -- makes men politically
> > dumber than women, imho.  War is a man's issue in this sense as well.
> And on the other side of the equation, women are socialized and
> expected to be caregivers. This includes caring for the very young,
> the very old, the sick, and the wounded -- just look at who are the
> nurses, the home care-givers, etc. Women are socialized to see
> nurturing as socially valuable. This view does not mesh well with
> seeing the application of deadly force as socially valuable. Holding
> both views together creates cognitive dissonance.

Here's an important study by Andrew W. Jones, "Caring Labor and Class
Consciousness: The Class Dynamics of Gendered Work" (Sociological
Forum, Vol. 16, No. 2, 2001):

<blockquote>Previous research on class consciousness has not examined
the gendered nature of paid labor. Paid caring labor -- work that
involves the direct provision of care to clients or customers -- now
comprises 20% of the labor force. This is work that tends to place
workers in conflict with the goals of management.  The conflict
between caring values and exchange values may lead workers to greater
levels of class consciousness. I use national survey data to examine
whether workers in caring labor occupations are more class conscious
than other workers. Results indicate that caring laborers are more
likely to be pro-working-class conscious than other workers after
controlling for class position, income, education, government and
nonprofit sectors, sex, and race. Workers in high intensity caring
jobs are especially likely to be class conscious.  This suggests that,
at crucial points, the logic of caring and the logic of
commodification are at odds. </blockquote>

The teachers strike in British Columbia last year is a good example of
the conflict identified by Jones: the conflict between the logic of
caring and the logic of commodification.  The strike was about many
things -- the right to strike (against the law that makes strikes of
"essential service" workers illegal and classifies teachers among
"essential service" workers), fight against the wage freeze, etc. --
but, among other things, it was also about the quality of service that
teachers are enabled to provide: "our right to bargain learning and
working conditions," as Bill Hood, a Vancouver teacher and picket
captain put it (cf.

I'd venture to say that women have a higher level of class
consciousness than men (demonstrated by their voting patterns,
responses to opinion polls, etc.) because they are often employed to
provide "caring labor" -- education, nursing, etc. -- at odds with the
logic of commodification.  Caring labor also puts workers in an
antagonistic relation to clients and customers -- teachers, for
instance, can be assaulted by violent students, confront parental
complaints, etc. -- but that doesn't stop them from fighting for not
only their sectoral interests (higher wages) but also for
working-class interests (better education).

On 7/30/06, Steffie Brooks <steffie.brooks at gmail.com> wrote:
> The incidence of rape as a weapon of war is staggering throughout
> history (Congo, Bosnia are recent examples). This is certainly a
> gendered aspect of war. Not to mention the stats on sexual harassment
> and assault within the US military today, when women are entering the
> armed forces in greater proportions than ever before and are
> officially "equal" to male soldiers.

Men are also subject to rape and sexual harassment (as you can see
from studies of prison rape and sexual harassment, which are more
numerous than studies of rape and sexual harassment of men in or by
the military).  It's just that men seldom talk about committing them
or becoming victims of them, even in the age of Abu Ghraib.  Besides,
basic training itself, like fraternity hazing rituals, is sexual
harassment of both men and women in the military, whether or not men
or even women recognize it as such.

One thing about men: they are far more likely to die by war and other
kinds of physical violence than women are.  Live by the sword, die by
the sword.

Women, in contrast, are more likely to perish than men due to
sex-selective abortion, infanticide, malnourishment, etc. in very poor
and patriarchal countries like India: e.g., in 1990, Amartya Sen said
that more than 100 million women are missing: "More Than 100 Million
Women Are Missing," New York Review of Books, 37.20, 20 December 1990,

Overall, though, men tend to conk out sooner than women do as soon as
women quit getting killed by childbirths and so forth.  Biologically
speaking, men are the weaker sex.  "We will bury you."

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