During the last couple of weeks there has been a lot of discussion here in the U.S surrounding the role of women in the military. This is due to the recent article published by The New York Times about women in combat. I want to do my own examination of the language specifically surrounding the agency and representation of U.S. women in military. I am not arguing that the representation of all women in the military is the same; every nation has own culturally and historically specific representation of women in the military. I simply want to examine our specific representation of women in the military in the U. S. in light of the recent article posted.
Recently, the Pentagon decided to allow women to be closer to the front lines, however, they are still not allowed to serve in combat. They will allow many women to be permanently assigned to a battalion, even though many women have already been doing these jobs as “attachments” to a battalion. One of the main arguments against women serving in combat is about their physical strength. Some men in the army do not believe that women have the physical strength to either carry the gear, or the carry a fellow comrade off the field. However, there are some that just cannot accept having women next to them in battle.
‘I think the infantry in me will have a very hard time ever accepting that I’m going to rush against the enemy and there’s going to be a female right next to me,’ Capt. Scott A. Cuomo, a company commander of 270 Marines in Afghanistan and a strong supporter of women in the military, said in an interview in 2010. ‘Can she do it? Some might. I don’t know if this sounds bad, but I kind of look at everything through my wife. Is that my wife’s job? No. My job is to make sure my wife is safe.’
It is interesting to think about Fanon’s arguments about the agency of women in the Algerian war and our own representation of women in the military. In McClintock’s chapter entitled “No Longer a Future Heaven,” she explores Franz Fanon’s thoughts on women’s agency in the Algerian war. While Fanon’s arguments are contradictory and problematic, especially when he argues that women’s agency and militancy is received by invitation from men, their agency is not called into question (366). Today, the physical strength of the female body in comparison to the male body is one of the most cited reasons why women should not be in combat. There is a fear that they simply won’t be able to handle it. The language used by Capt. Couomo, who this article claims is a strong supporter of women in the military, compares all women in the military to his wife, which is both extremely problematic as well as slightly comical in its ignorance.
In Part III of Giorgio Agamben book Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, he discusses the terms “bios,” or qualified life and “zoe,” or “bare life.” He argues that the government controls and regulates bodies through biopolitics. Those that are “zoe,” and are stripped of their citizenship require more regulation and those that are “bios,” political beings do not. This is evident in the current stance towards women in the military. They believe the female body must be regulated, for protection of course. The female body becomes a cite of intense regulation by the government in way that the male body is never regulated or policed.