Women in the Military and Not

Gervasio Sanchez/Associated Press

PLAY for me as a child involved a small workable washing machine; a bathroom mirror in which I would pretend I was on TV; a back lawn laced with plastic cups and small hand-built ramps to mini-golf until I dropped; a need to bicycle everywhere; and all right, dolls, I admit to a lot of dolls–the kind that did NOT demand to watch TV or whine about my not feeding them fast enough. When I got together with my cousins, something I did regularly, there was the swing suspended from a hearty branch of a backyard tree and a creek to run along. I realize this takes on an idyllic tone, but like so many families, ours was in a state of flux and decay, and there was a lot of serious drinking when the adults got together for cocktail parties, and a woman had to up and leave if she hoped for a fair shake. But in all that play, I do not recall an engagement with weapons. I do not remember having a holster and gun. I did not say: You’re dead.

Now with Iraq and Afghanistan, for the first time, we send record numbers of women off to war. Tens of thousands. So I wonder if the young girls born to those fighting women will play with mock AK-47s as they grow up, if they will function in a home-combat zone where they will learn to navigate their mothers’ post traumatic stress (since I can’t imagine that this condition is gender specific), or if they will lose their mothers because their mothers have lost custody of them, due to all the time away as they fight for our country. We’ve seen some chilling articles about that reality. Or if those young girls will grow up with memories of mothers who died in the desert, or grow up with an infusion of can-do knowledge, with their mothers as new super heroes who can fix anything, who can scale walls on their way to breaking through glass ceilings.

One thing we know for certain, the world has forever changed.

A recent NY Times article on Women in the Military:
Below an excerpt:
“The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the first in which tens of thousands of American military women have lived, worked and fought with men for prolonged periods. Wars without front lines, they have done more than just muddle the rules meant to keep women out of direct enemy contact.

They have changed the way the United States military goes to war. They have reshaped life on bases across Iraq and Afghanistan. They have cultivated a new generation of women with a warrior’s ethos — and combat experience — that for millennia was almost exclusively the preserve of men.”

essay copyright, lise haines

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  1. Brava to you for taking on this bold topic, Lise, and for giving it a balanced view. I like what you say about female soldiers and their can-do celing-shattering heroism. I also like your line: “I did not say, ‘you’re dead.'”

    That line encapsulates for me what I don’t want to lose in girl-world, even as that world expands as a home of the brave– There’s all kinds of brave!

    Congrats on your own brave book and the great response so far– love the website too! ELizabeth