My own personal definition of feminism, unequivocally, is the simple idea that women and men are equal in all ways. Ergo, all human beings should have the same opportunities to pursue whatever avenue of life they so desire, period.
There are obviously exceptions. The common example I give is the fact that, at 5’2”, I could never have been a basketball star, at least the flashy kind that dunks and stuff. Being held back from that hypothetical dream due to being vertically challenged, however, is far different than being told I can’t pursue something because I have a vagina rather than a penis.
That is just asinine.
But it turns out that not everyone agrees with that, including Captain Katie Petronio, a female Marine officer.
In response to the frankly far-too-late decision to allow women to train as infantry officers, Petronio has … well, a very old-fashioned and—I’m just going to say it—sexist view of things.
Come September, a small group of young female Marines will break through one of the last bastions of macho in the U.S. military. They’ll be the first class of female officers to take part in the grueling Infantry Officer Course in Quantico, Va., a test of both physical fitness and mental will that prepares the corps’ future platoon leaders.
All of these women will be volunteers, and their training will be closely watched. The new coed class has sparked suggestions that such training could lead to integrating women in the Marine infantry, with some saying they “would make excellent grunts.”
Sounds good, right? Equality, and a coed class, no less, which further underscores the idea that fragile little women might be getting special treatment.
Not according to Petronio, though, who claims that, “Infantry is one of those fields we need to leave alone.” After hearing about the work of advocates for women’s rights in the military, Petronio actually wrote an article called “Get Over It! We Are Not All Created Equal” for the Marine Corps Gazette.
Now, obviously Petronio has served in the military and certainly knows things that I don’t. However, how a …
… woman can shit all over the efforts and backbreaking work of other women to achieve equal status just floors me.
And, of course, she wasn’t an infantry soldier, was she, so how can her word mean anything?
Nope, the unfortunate conclusion to be drawn is that Petronio has the mindset that … well, to use her own words, men and women are NOT created equal, which is both pathetic and frightening.
In Iraq, [Petronio] developed severe restless leg syndrome, and a spine injury pressed on her nerves. In Afghanistan she was the senior Marine in her engineering unit working 16-hour days for weeks at a time building patrol bases.
“By the fifth month into the deployment, I had muscle atrophy in my thighs that was causing me to constantly trip and my legs to buckle with the slightest grade change,” she wrote. “My agility during firefights and mobility on and off vehicles and perimeter walls was seriously hindering my response time and overall capability.”
Yup, because men don’t get restless leg syndrome, nerve pain, and muscle atrophy. If you have a penis, your agility is not remotely affected by injuries. Makes tons of sense, Katie Petronio, you moron.
The thing is, many people (myself included) have a tendency to generalize or have tunnel vision based on their own personal experiences. I think it’s really easy for the masses to forget that, and the credence that will be given to Katie Petronio because of her gender has the potential to wreak havoc on the opportunities for women in the military.
Petronio is not unaware that she’s being hit with the s-word.
“People just think I’m just closed minded and I’m a sexist and I’m not looking to expand opportunities for females,” Petronio told msnbc.com. “And that is absolutely not true. There are a lot of jobs in the Marine Corps right now that could be open to females. My big point is there needs to be a distinct line when it comes to the infantry.”
So is it me or does that sound like regression to a time when women interested in the medical field were encouraged to be nurses but could never be doctors? When women could be tellers but never bank managers? Secretaries but not lawyers?
So while that’s what pisses me off as a civilian and a feminist, I think Katie Petronio should be ashamed of herself on an entirely different level. She has metaphorically slapped the face of every female member of the military that has gone through basic training and specialization and served overseas, from the first woman to fight in a U.S. uniform through today.
Petronio’s ridiculous article includes this, which I think is perhaps most telling.
Tall Marines are restricted from flying specific platforms, and color blind Marines are faced with similar restrictions. We recognize differences in mental capabilities of Marines when we administer the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and use the results to eliminate/open specific fields. These standards are designed to ensure safety, quality, and the opportunity to be placed in a field in which one can sustain and succeed.
Which once again leads me, as a ground combat-experienced female Marine Corps officer, to ask, what are we trying to accomplish by attempting to fully integrate women into the infantry?
All I can say is, if Petronio considers being female to be akin to some sort of affliction that needs to be worked around (I mean, God forbid you’re a colorblind woman, you know?), then she’s clearly too obtuse to recognize that her question should be rhetorical.
That it isn’t is profoundly disturbing.