In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Father Christmas issues weapons to the Pevensie children. Peter receives a sword and a shield, Susan receives a bow and arrow and a magical horn that will summon help whenever it’s blown, and Lucy receives a dagger and a magic vial that restores the health of anyone injured. Later, before the White Witch’s army, Father Christmas tells the sisters that he has given them these weapons only so that the girls can defend themselves “in great need . . . for I do not mean you to fight in the battle.” Lucy is offended, believing her bravery is being questioned, but he tells her, “That is not the point . . . battles are ugly when women fight.”
Throughout history, most men and women—and even children—have recognized the wisdom of not sending our mothers, daughters, and sisters to the battlefield. Yesterday, though, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced he would lift the military’s ban on women serving in combat, a move that will allow hundreds of thousands of women to serve in front-line position during wartime.
In response to the news I won’t offer an argument, only a lament. The arguments against allowing women in combat have for decades been made with force and vigor, but to no avail. Because the rational commonsense of the arguments cannot be effectively rebutted, they are dismissed and ignored. Long ago, we made equality our end, and this is the inevitable next stop on our long march. If that requires the sacrifice of our sisters and daughters, say the egalitarians, then so be it.
The debate is being framed in the language of “choice.” The Obama administration, we are told, is “opening” combat roles for women who would “choose” to serve in the combat arms. We know, though, that eighteen-year-old girls will soon have to join their brothers and boyfriends in registering for the Selective Service. We know that when the standards are lowered to accommodate women (as they must be, since few women are physically qualified for combat), almost all healthy young women will be eligible to pick up a rifle and go off to war.
Of course when the government begins to draft our daughters for combat roles—and that day will certainly come—the children and grandchildren of the egalitarian elite will be the ones to get deferrals. Most of the men and women championing a woman’s right to choose combat have never served in the military and would certainly not want their own daughters to join the infantry. They are concerned only with choice and equality in the pristine abstract, rather than in the bloody, concrete world of warfare. What they favor is an equality in which our daughters get to join our sons in marching off to war.
I see little to do other than to start preparing our little girls. For instance, one of the realities they need to be aware of is that American society is filled with men who are anti-woman cowards. As pastor-theologian John Piper has said,
If I were the last man on the planet to think so, I would want the honor of saying no woman should go before me into combat to defend my country. A man who endorses women in combat is not pro-woman; he’s a wimp. He should be ashamed. For most of history, in most cultures, he would have been utterly scorned as a coward to promote such an idea. Part of the meaning of manhood as God created us is the sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of our women.
Piper’s statement is hopelessly out of touch with modern America’s views on gender roles. My views are too, I’m afraid, and I suspect there are others as well, both men and women, who think that when the Creator made us “male and female” he meant for there to be some distinctions in roles. Men, for example, were created to be self-sacrificial protectors of the family, and by extension, of the nation. Forcing women into that role will not lead to more freedom but rather to less equality, more violence toward women, and a general degradation of humanity. As Lewis said, battles are ugly when women fight. But societies that send their women off to war are even uglier.
Joe Carter is Web Editor of First Things and the co-author ofHow to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. His previous articles for “On the Square” can be found here.