As I was perusing the Twitter (as is my wont) I came across this interesting tweet:
The linked article was fascinating in its outright hypocrisy and blindness to what “equality” really means. The article (linked here so you can follow along) is about Norway’s implementation of female conscription and the feminist reaction to it. In Norway a “weak form” of military conscription is in use. For example in 2012 63,841 men were called in for examination for military service and only 9,265 were actually conscripted. In June of 2013 however, the Norwegian Parliament adopted a measure which included females in the conscription process.
As it happens, I have a very good friend who lives in Norway, is a female, and considers herself a feminist (I would classify her as an “equity feminist” ), Zoe. I forwarded the tweet and article to her for her reaction and insight. I was not disappointed. This post is a collaborative effort with her. I will show her commentary in a different font color.
She says “As a reluctant post-we-won-the-fight-in-the-80s feminist, and not least as an adoptive Norwegian, I find this article particularly disappointing because it is penned by official, public bodies – I usually only see this type of ridiculous hypocrisy on ‘teh internetz’ where I don’t take it totally seriously in real life… I can’t help feeling here that someone in the NKF, or IAW or WILFP really really doesn’t want to get her feet muddy in army issue boots…
The article starts with a very brief summary of the decision to include females in the conscription process. It then moves into the interesting part, the feminist reaction.
As mentioned in the above acronyms, several feminist organizations protested the inclusion of females in the conscription process. One organization, the NKF, issued a statement (linked above).
The first section of the statement is a historical recount of attempted goals to get higher percentages of women into the armed forces. Then they say this:
The Norwegian Association for Women’s Rights, NKF, is not opposed to women voluntarily seeking a career in the military if they want to…NKF strongly warns against the exertion of pressure to get women into the military and particularly the introduction of female conscription.
So it seems women should be free to choose military service like the men can, but not be forced into service like the men. The explanation of how this discrepancy in treatment can be considered “equality” should be interesting to say the least.
I think it’s also important to highlight the difference here between conscription, and a military ‘career’. The choice of the word career equates in my mind to the prevailing idea in the article that increased power and status are desirable feminist outcomes: “Women should be valued and allocated power and resources on equal terms with men(.)” whereas when it comes to ‘allocating’* let’s call them, I don’t know ‘shit jobs’ which are nevertheless essential to the continued well-being of society, well then… nah not so much enthusiasm for equality… In other words the NKF is at pains to formulate themselves so as not to preclude positivity when it comes to increasing the numbers of high ranking female military officers – career level women in military – but rather seems to feel that this would be better achieved by allowing them skip over the slogging footwork part of that year of compulsory basic training. I’m willing to bet the same ‘equality’ rules would apply the the Police, or Mountain Rescue etc.
* Note the interesting, or perhaps alarming, use of the word ‘allocate’ – a highly unfortunate choice. Apparently we are not ‘earning’ these privileges but merely being allocated them. By whom one wonders? Surely not the Men In Power…?)
It is difficult to understand why the Ministry of Defence tries to recruit more women in a situation where only a small minority of men actually performs military service, because the need for personnel is reduced.
Brilliant ladies, just brilliant. ‘We don’t even need that much military anyway, and the little we do need is covered by the (small) number of boys we’ve got forced into it. So let’s leave us girls to get on with contributing in ways we find more convivial shall we?’
I’m no mathematician – but surely if your need for military conscripts is identified as being approx 10.000 a year then equality would dictate that 5000 of them should be women. Same holds true if your need is 20 people. That’s 10 girls with muddy feet… Let’s not forget that there is a double-edged privilege in not fulfilling a years military conscription; one does it in most cases at the age of 19 – so anyone who doesn’t go in gets a years head start on university, apprenticeship, working etc than anyone who does. With the – unequal – rules applying only to boys, you get this causing a discrepancy among young men (many of whom, but not all, avoid service per today’s prevailing laxity) but an automatic head start privilege for all women entering the work/higher ed forum.
Admittedly one could formulate a potentially successful argument that the year head start is in many (majority) cases offset later by maternity leave. But only 9 weeks of ML are mandated by law in Norway to the woman exclusively (for biological and medical reasons), although societal norm is to take much more, meaning that in practice women do lose work experience and seniority as consequence of generous ML norms. Paternity leave at time of writing is set to 2 weeks at time of birth, and 10 weeks during the first 3 years of the child’s life, but individual couples have a great deal of flexibility in this. All well and good, but the articles didn’t provide analysis or data to suggest that military service and long maternity leaves offset each other in any way as career/success outcome predictors for say, 30 year old men versus women. Would be interesting reading if someone did do the research though.
The NKF states that female conscription (treating women the same as men in a situation not chosen by the citizen) is a “misunderstanding of the concept of gender equality”. No, actually that IS gender equality. If you only want equal treatment when it benefits you but not when it cuts against you, you’re not advocating for equality, but for special rights and privileges.
The statement goes on to say, “…it is important in many cases that women and men are treated equally. But they should not necessarily be treated equally in all situations. In some cases, the underprivileged gender must be favoured to be able obtain similar results.” I’m still at a loss to see how this statement is in any way a defense against female inclusion in conscription. The “underprivileged gender” in this instance are men. Men have been participating in the conscription process and women have not. This is a clear privilege for the women!
Further to this not one valid argument against the principle of conscription is made. There are several which spring readily to mind (personally I do support conscription (for all genders!) as practiced in Norway). Anything they claim (‘military career as choice = good, forced service = bad’) just as well applies to men as to women. They come with no clear compelling factors to back-up the vague sense that it’s an ok thing to expect men to have to do, but not women. There’s an underlying, if not stated, negativity to the idea of conscription, and it’s an inescapable conclusion that this is due to the group not fancying military service much personally. One wonders if they would have the same objections if women were suddenly being compelled to join the men sailing the Riviera on yachts for a year…
Later the statement makes reference to the biological burden women have in pregnancy and childbirth/rearing as a reason to exclude women from this societal duty. So when it is convenient, biology is a factor; when it is inconvenient (say as a reason for women’s differing career choices resulting in lower average earnings) then it should be ignored. This is hypocrisy of the highest order. Either biology is a factor in all outcomes or none. You should not be allowed to pick and choose in which arenas biological differences should be noticed.
And clearly in commonsense terms – having already conceded the well known fact that military service is quite easy for men to get out of on nebulous medical grounds, it is preposterous to suggest that pregnant or breastfeeding women (well, teenagers…) would be called up. I just don’t see the relevance.
Further on : “…real gender equality implies more than the incorporation of women into a social structure formed by men”. Is not the “social structure” formed by all people? Do women not have a vote or a voice in politics? This is an interesting statement in that it reveals a deeper goal of the modern feminist movement. The goal is not to incorporate women into prevailing society, but to change society into something else. It’s not exactly clear what that something else actually is, though.
Whatever else the new society may be like, it certainly wants women’s power and status increased, “In the current situation, however, the challenge is to strengthen women’s power and influence and promote better care practices and values such as equal status.” The problem here is that power and status are not bequeathed, they are usually earned. This is the nature of hierarchical societies (just like, oh yes – the military!). While a hierarchy is not necessarily the only way to structure a society, it is a rather efficient way to do so. In the words of Sargon of Akkad, “Hierarchies get shit done.”
In summation, a government instituted a fully equal responsibility of its citizens and the feminists protested it. Color me surprised. And me disappointed.