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?

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10 Responses to “Why isn’t being a soldier more like being a mother?”

  1. Philosochick Says:

    Hi Peg, I finally made my way over!

    Absolutely, and let’s not forget that women are seen as employment liabilities because they *may* become pregnant in the future, and who wants someone who might go on mat leave?! Yeah…ugh.

    Stuff like this makes me glad that I get to teach ethics and inject some feminist perspectives.

  2. Peg Says:

    Hey, Philosochick, welcome!

    Your agreement is sooooo gratifying. This piece was chosen for crosspost over at ieet.com and my god, but they’re a bunch of mansplainers there!

  3. shmiggen Says:

    It sounds like you were schooled in postmodern third-wave feminism, which rejects objective truth and views social and cultural reality, as well as social science itself, as a human construction. If that is the case, then yes, I agree with you. Mothers should not have their careers penalized for bearing children. But now that we have agreed there is no objective truth, the door closes on us and we can not get back in. If there is no objective truth, how do we know mothers are being penalized, because, after all, we have know way of ‘knowing’. I’m not being fickle. Some people consider having children a blessing and not a burden. How can we ‘know’?

  4. ptittle Says:

    Shmiggen, how does my post assume a subjective theory of truth?

  5. shmiggen Says:

    Motherhood as being more unfair than fatherhood is problematic because you are attempting to affix a cost/benefit analysis onto something most people consider a private, spiritual undertaking. There is simply know way of knowing which is more unfair. I agree that a woman suffers in childbirth, but is that unfair? The questions seems absurd to me. It is what it is.

    As for being financially dependent upon a man after a child is born, well, that’s not so awful, is it? We presume you love each other and all wages are shared and become the family income. If there is a divorce, nobody wins, regardless of standards of living. Most men do not rise like a meteor after a divorce and whatever rise there is negligible.

    As for the hypothetical soldier losing six years of seniority to raise a child and be dependent upon his wife for guns and bullets, again, this is a private matter between him and his wife. It would be a disincentive for a soldier but it’s not an apt analogy. A soldier can’t take six years off and return to duty. However a tradesperson can. A carpenter can take six years off and return to work anytime, and if his wife wants to support him while he goes to acting classes she is free to do so.

  6. ptittle Says:

    Shmiggen, you’ve misread the piece. I’m not comparing motherhood to fatherhood; I’m comparing motherhood to soldierhood.

    To say “it is what it is” regarding state-provided economic assistance is to ignore the ethics of the matter.

    I don’t mention soldiers losing six years of seniority to raise a child.

    My question is: if the state pays for men to be soldiers for six years, why don’t they pay for women to be mothers (to make soldiers) for six years?

  7. shmiggen Says:

    I thought your piece was about the unfairness of losing one’s place on the career track, and how (most) men do not face that problem. (like soldiers)

    “It is what it is” was a reference to the suffering a woman endures giving birth. I’m not unsympathetic, I’m just not sure it’s a matter of fairness.

    Your part about the soldier being dependent upon his wife confused me; what were you saying there, and how did it compare to the unfairness of mothering?

    As far as being paid to be a mother, I guess that is possible. I don’t know how much of a salary that would be, however. In Canada there is a Family check and I think it is a measly $100/month. Soldiers were probably paid originally as an incentive to do it, whereas motherhood was something most women wanted to do anyway and thus required no incentive. We still live in a world which requires soldiers, and there must be some money in it or else no one will enlist. We don’t need mothers (and therefore new children) as much and the one’s who really want to do it bad enough go ahead and do it. So it’s probably a matter of supply and demand and not so much ethics.

  8. shmiggen Says:

    *What I meant by ‘we don’t need mothers as much’ refers to the fact that if a large proportion of women in the western world decided not to have children, society could still function so long as mass open borders immigration continues as it has unabated. We still need people, however, who are trained and ready to go at a moments notice to go get their faces shot off.

  9. Xiao Mao Says:

    Oh, LOOK, shmiggen the mansplainer her to MANSPLAIN it alll to the silly laydees. Because men understand ALL about childbirth and raising children. Without even having to, you know, DO any of it. /s

    Dude, take a hike.

    radicalhub. com /2011/10/28/global-population-to-reach-7-billion/

  10. ptittle Says:

    nice blamin’, xiao mao


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