Why isn’t being a soldier more like being a mother?

Motherhood is unfair to women in a way fatherhood most definitely is not. Not only are there the physical risks (pregnancy and childbirth puts a woman at risk for nausea, fatigue, backaches, headaches, skin rashes, changes in her sense of smell and taste, chemical imbalances, high blood pressure, diabetes, anemia, embolism, changes in vision, stroke, circulatory collapse, cardiopulmonary arrest, convulsions, and coma), there’s the permanent damage to one’s career: if she stays at home, the loss of at least six years’ experience and/or seniority; if she doesn’t, the loss of a significant portion of her income, that required to pay for full-time childcare. (And even if she can swing holding a full-time job and paying for full-time childcare, she probably won’t get promoted because she typically uses all ‘her’ sick days, she’s reluctant to stay past 5:00 or to come in before 9:00 or on weekends, and she occasionally has to leave in the middle of the day, perhaps even in the middle of an important meeting. In short, she can’t be counted on. Such a lack of commitment.)

Either way, it’s necessary, then, for all but a few mothers to be attached to another income (typically a man’s) in order to even be a mother: very few women make enough money to support herself and a child, let alone a full-time childcare provider. A mother must be a kept woman; she must become dependent, financially, on a man. (So of course after a divorce, the man’s standard of living increase 42% and the woman’s standard decreases 73% – he no longer has to support two people, and she is no longer supported, she has to pay her own way, and start from scratch to do so.)

Cut to the man who becomes a soldier. After all, notes Barrington Moore, Jr., “for a young man it’s much more fun to prance around with a gun, or to kill several enemies with a bomb, than it is to sit at a desk day after day, bored by a dead-end job” (“How Ethnic Enmities End”). What if he weren’t paid to do all that prancing around? Would he be so eager to do so then? Why should we pay men to be a soldier when we don’t pay women to make a soldier? Why should we pay men to actualize their hormonal impulse when we don’t pay women to actualize theirs? (I say hormonal because neither desire is very rational: before she ‘signed up’, she really didn’t like kids much – now she wants to be with one 24/7?; before he signed up, he probably didn’t give other people the time of day – now he’s willing to die for them?)

How many men would do it if they lost six years of seniority or work experience (let’s say the experience they gain is considered as nontransferable to, as not useful in, the workplace as the experience gained by women as they raise a child)? If they didn’t get paid for the duration? If they had to depend on their wife to buy them their food and accommodations, their guns and bullets?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.