Women and combat, the real vs. the unreal

There’s a mini-debate raging in the comments of a different thread, regarding women in combat, and how this is often portrayed in fiction. Ergo, real vs. unreal. Rather than keep that thread going (because it’s a whole topic unto itself) I wanted to branch things off. And offer a few opinions of my own.

1) I don’t think this is an argument that’s ever going to end, because people are heavily invested in their opinions, there are many different points of view, and each and every one of them is convinced that (s)he is right on the matter. So I won’t pretend that I can “solve” the thing. I merely have my own viewpoint. Take it or leave it.

2) From a real-world perspective, combat capability has (I think) far more to do with politics, than it has to do with anything else. Many say putting women into ground combat roles is foolish and dangerous. That it actually hurts (and does not help) the mission. Which might be true. Then again, the U.S. Department of Defense dumps billions of dollars into jet fighter programs (like the F-35) which may or may not give us airplanes capable of performing to mission spec, thereby proving foolhardy and dangerous too. The drag about being a ‘little person’ at the bottom of the food chain in the military, is you’re given what they decide to give you. And you do the best you can with it. Even if you think the people making the purchasing, strategic, and tactical decisions are full of crap. (Regarding the F-35, I don’t know why we didn’t spend the same money developing a 21st century version of the A-10 or even the A1 Spad. Not resurrecting those precise airframes, per se. I mean, creating a new aircraft with similar flight characteristics, loadout, loiter-on-target potential, and combat damage survivability. Obviously I don’t get to make the call.)

3) World War 2 was not won with 6’2″ 230-pound UFC champions. It was won with 5’7″ 150-pound teenagers. Who had minimal hand-to-hand training. But they did have the M1, and were drilled extensively in its proper use. Being able to shoot means a teenager with a rifle is more deadly than an entire formation of 14th century pikemen. Technology invariably changes the way we fight. Note that a 150-pound woman with steady nerves, good eyes, and good trigger-squeeze, makes her more deadly (on the modern field of battle) than those very same 14th century pikemen.

4) Lowering standards (solely to ensure that x-number of women/people pass a combat arms school) is wrong. But like I said with #2, it might be inevitable. I have been in the military long enough to realize that while the military preaches endlessly about training to singular standards, the military is also adept at inventing rules for itself why it doesn’t have to have a singular standard. In a perfect world, the only people who’d ever enlist would be 6’2″ 230-pound UFC fighting champs, with perfect Chuck Yeager vision and the ability to ruck their own weight 15 miles without breaking a sweat. In the real world we get the enlistees we get. There is no draft. So you either have a very small force capable of meeting a very high standard, or you get a bigger force with variable standards. Sooner or later, raw numbers matter. What kind of Army (or Navy, or Air Force) we decide to have, is a decision (in the United States at least) made by elected civilians. Lots of people hate and loathe this. And for good reason. But hating it won’t change it. Some realities, we’re simply stuck with.

5) Some jobs really do require raw muscle. Can two 120-pound 5’4″ females lug an M107 howitzer shell as effectively as two 175-pound 5’11” males? That’s roughly 100 pounds of high-explosive ordnance. Almost as much as one of the females by herself. Physics matter as much as attitude in this instance. So that even two well-trained, gung-ho female troops might find it a lot more difficult (and time-consuming) to wrestle that M107 to the gun breach, than two male troops who are larger and have more muscle mass. This is the reality most feminist arguments wholly ignore, when discussing the “inevitable” penetration of female troops into all sectors of the military–especially combat arms. I say, by all means, let women apply for entrance. But let them achieve the same results, to the same standards. If it takes a 175-pound 5’11” person to do a given job, then this should be true for females too. It will mean far fewer women get to earn the MOS or the slot. But those who do, will know they didn’t have to have a booster seat to do it. And that’s a good thing. For the women, and for the men who serve with them.

6) Everyone has a libido and this is what fucks (literally) a lot of things up. As long as we put young men and young women into the same space, in uniform, they’re going to be having sex with each other. Everyone knows its a terrible idea, and yet everyone keeps doing it. Peace-time, or war-time. It introduces a range of disciplinary and morale problems. The best way to combat it is to segregate: keep the men and the women apart for much of their operational careers. A co-ed military inevitably results in people fooling around. Even though they know they shouldn’t. Again, item #2: our politics (as a country) probably dictate that we just live with the fallout. Because politics dictate that we share spaces (as genders) everywhere else in the world. The military inevitably reflects this too. Lots of people hate it. I think they have solid reason to hate it. But then again, there are a lot of other strategic, political decisions apart from gender-mixing, being made by DoD and civilian legislators alike, which have detrimental consequences. We just have to learn to live with some things. Mixed-gender military is probably one of them.

7) Many women can shoot and fight. I hate to break it to the macho-man contingent in the debate, but there really are women in the U.S. military who can run circles around them when it comes to basic soldiering skills, like shooting. I can’t shoot worth a damn. Minimal aptitude. Bad eyes, bad reflexes. Things that almost kept me out of the military. I have known women who were deadeyes with the M16/M4, and were far more qualified than myself to fight in a front-line capacity. I don’t think those women should be barred just because they have vaginas. Lots of guys do think they should be barred, just because they have vaginas. Being barred from a role merely because of what’s between your legs, isn’t a very defensible policy. It might satisfy a few folks who think women literally don’t belong in uniform — beyond the capacity of secretaries who fetch the General’s coffee. But I say, let the standard be an objective, measurable standard related to combat effectiveness. Not whether or not a person has boobs. (Speaking of which, I’ve known some Army guys on height-weight who needed a bra!)

8) No matter who decides what, or why, there will always be bitching and moaning, plus finger-pointing any time someone gets killed. Most civilians don’t realize this, but even during complete peacetime, the military lose numerous lives every year, just to accidents alone. Both on and off-duty. It may be true that putting women into combat roles is a questionable risk. But this is the norm already. Carrier flight operations involve daily, extreme risk. We lose planes. We lose people. Without a shot being fired. That risk is deemed acceptable (despite the deaths) because the United States wants a large carrier fleet able to project American power around the globe. Some blood and treasure inevitably gets spent, because the American people say it should be so. I suspect integrating women into combat arms is more of the same. There will always be detractors, and any time a death might be blamed on a woman, the critics will come out in force. But as long as the American people want it that way . . . well, “Cost of doing business.” And it has ever been thus.

9) How this all applies to storytelling and fictional portrayal, depends on the sensibilities of the storyteller, and the sensibilities of the audience. Frankly, I had a tough time believing Black Widow kicked butt the way she kicked butt in The Avengers. A woman capable of dealing that much hand-to-hand damage would look more like an androgynous man, than Scarlett Johansson. Because Black Widow is not Wonder Woman. Black Widow does not have superpowers. And really, unless a female character has superpowers, it’s difficult to explain how or why she can lawn-mow her way through scores of bigger, tougher, more heavily armed and armored male opponents. As noted earlier, physics matters. You can decide to make your female character an indomitable fighter. It’s just that you’re banking on the credulity of your audience in the process. Some people (especially those with actual martial arts or hand-to-hand experience) will be rightfully doubtful. So if you’re going to go there, be ready to take some criticism from informed sources.

10) Of course, a woman capable of lawn-mowering a platoon of stronger, better-armed men, need not be explained with magical or fantastic powers. We can amp her up with a technological solution. Maybe she is “juiced” to be as strong, quick, and durable as her male foes? Maybe she has cybernetic implants for the same reason? Maybe she’s normal, but we put her inside a powered armor suit that gives her the fighting prowess of a main battle tank? World War 2 fighter pilots were often chosen because they could fit into the tiny cockpits, not because they were NFL linebacker material. Robotic augmentation doesn’t seem too far away. They’re already working on this concept, for theoretical combat theater deployment before the middle of the century. When both the men and the women are all wearing exoskeletal machines which boost their capabilities way beyond normal levels, the intrinsic biological differences between male and female troops might be insignificant. If Black Widow puts on Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit . . .

11) Suspension of disbelief varies from person to person. Each and every author will find his or her “sweet spot” in this regard. Stray too far, and the audience will let you know. I have less difficulty believing Black Widow can lawn-mower a platoon of toughs, than I do believing a 21st century feminist will exist (and fight) in a medieval European historical context. Even if it’s fantasy. Feminism (as we know it now) simply did not exist at that time, and in that place. So I get a bit annoyed when the women (portrayed in these periods, be they real or fantastic) act and talk and behave just like a 2015 graduate of a Womens Studies course from the local state college. I understand why authors and movie-makers decide to do this. They want to make the audience happy. It’s something I’ve learned to (mostly) put up with, even if I disagree with it sometimes. Again, suspension of disbelief varies from person to person. I should note that I often find my suspension of disbelief tested with male characters too. The human body can only endure so much punishment. Male heroes (in books and movies) often withstand a colossal amount of damage, and keep fighting like it’s a mere nosebleed. My suspension goes twang while the suspension of others goes bwong.

12) Fictional license probably should not dictate real-world employment of mortal battlefield forces. Consider this very long but very astute analysis of the U.S. Army Rangers, by former Ranger John T. Reed. Especially regarding “off brand” use of the Rangers in situations and under conditions that were ill-advised, at best. Reed’s contention is that the mythos surrounding the Rangers has made them out to be literal supermen who can do anything, under any circumstances. This mythos penetrates at both the civilian and the military leadership level. Rangers are not, in the end, bulletproof. No amount of P.R. can make a real soldier invincible. Even if he believes it. Even if his bosses believe it. This belief is liable to make him a very dead troop. And whatever mission objectives he was to have accomplished, become moot. As a culture, we love action, fighting, and war stories. We are steeped in them. To include larger-than-life heroism that defies the odds. When approaching actual fighting and war, it pays to be conservative. Dial back your expectations. Bank on the vulnerability of your people. This is why raw numbers almost always matter much more than our storytelling might indicate. If Hitler had been sane and sensible, he’d have realized that Russia, Britain, and the United States had far, far more young men to send to the fight, than the Reich did. And restrained his ambition accordingly.

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62 thoughts on “Women and combat, the real vs. the unreal

  1. I think 9 through 12 are the most relevant points, and they are what I agree with.

    Basically, I think if you want to make a slim, very attractive woman a great fighter then you better come up with a good reason they’re able to go toe to toe with men. Superpowers, robotic enhancements…whatever. Just something.

  2. Nice essay. And I think you are right about the need to consider the physical requirements of a given task and to ensure that only people who can actually perform that task are assigned to said task. There is no way I would be able to lift 50 pounds and walk any distance with it. So expecting me to help with your howitzer shell carrying duties would be silly. And futile. On the other hand, I’ve been told that I would make an excellent librarian.

    I do rather like the Black Widow in the Avengers movies, even though she may not be realistic without superpowers. I just figure that the Marvel universe is slightly different from ours and thus it’s okay in their reality.

  3. Whedon looooves his action heroines. In all fairness, the commentary for the movie contains a part where he notes that, yes, Black Widow is the last physically intimidating of the not-Stark-sans-armor Avengers, because he’s too honest of a writer to ignore that. But yeah, the part with Hawkeye was revealing in that Widow had to use dirty tricks, leverage, and flexibility to overcome his superior strength… And even then it was obvious that it wouldn’t have been that fair of a fight.

    That said, I think the part that causes the most issues is when someone just flat-out contradicts reality… Because message. Or “artistic license.” Or whatever, really. Nobody is complaining about the heroines in WoT for a reason… Jordan never wrote them as men with boobs, not even his desert Amazons.

  4. I was Navy not Army, so my take on women in combat has always been seen in that perspective. And in a machine-powered Navy, there aren’t a lot of jobs women can’t do. (No human is humping an SM-2 missile around.) I do think the USMC is on to something by having sex-segregated boot camps, however.

    For another take, this combat veteran says females in the infantry? Er yes. He specifically addresses how point #6 is handled by European militaries. From the link:

    The French, on the other hand, always had a bucket-o-condoms sitting on their clinic’s counter. A French military doctor told me, “Our only rule about sex is, ‘be smart’.” Other than that, sex wasn’t considered the military’s concern. Denmark sounds like it has the same attitude.

    “Our med center had morning after pills for the asking,” Mary [Danish infantrywoman] said. “I was getting checked for athlete’s foot once, and there was just a freaking Tupperware box of it on a shelf. I asked, ‘Uh… do you guys need that a lot?’ The medic just shrugged and said, ‘It happens.’” (Oh, don’t get the author of that link started on “French Surrender Monkeys.” He fought extensively with them in Afghanistan and was highly impressed.)

  5. A lot of this starts with dishonest portrayals of an era by feminists whose main talent seems to be lying about men. If you grew up in the ’60s you had plenty of women fighting in your SFF and comics. There was Jirel of Joiry, Red Sonja comics, Black Widow, The Scarlet Witch, Medusa, Sue Richards, Red Nails, a woman shooting a German officer dead with a bow and arrow in the Land That Time Forgot, Diane the Beautiful, deadly Bene Gesserit, Wonder Woman, the Black Canary, Batgirl, Thor’s girlfriend Sif, and more. In short there was a higher percentage of women in active combat roles than in 2,000 years of actual military history. That was also reflected in comics from the beginning.

    The constant question of a lack of women in epic fantasy is also dishonest. The most important epic fantasy of it’s generation – The Wheel of Time – couldn’t stuff more women in it. In the other most important series since then – A Song of Fire and Ice – you have a gradeschool girl assassin, a murderous witch, Jon Snow’s dangerous girlfriend, Jaime’s deadly keeper, the Khaleesi, and the most interesting woman in fantasy for me, Cersei.

    It doesn’t seem unreasonable to strike some sort of balance between reality and fiction. Even SFF has to rein itself in to a certain extent to reflect a certain verisimilitude which maintains a suspension of disbelief.

    As for actual history, there has probably been a lag between what women can do and what they could do. In the early 16th century could there have been crossbow-women in a combined arms tactical formation? I don’t know, but the likelihood of participation was greater than a century or two before. On the other hand those same mutually supporting combined arms tactics reproduced in miniature by Cortes in Mexico often broke down and it was hand-to-hand. There was reportedly a woman’s combat troop in the Nizam of Hyderbad’s army during the Battle of Kardhla before 1800. Fast forward to today and it’s obvious women can have a greater role.

    In fiction I don’t care. Make it work and it entertains. I remember a Shaw Bros. movie where an elderly woman buys time for her friends to escape by going out into the central walled yard of her home and killing a bunch of guys which is part of a force surrounding them. Guys on the roof pincushion her with so many arrows right around her waist you can’t see her waist. She plucks them out and throws them at the archers and kills them. But more guys come. She dies. Her friends escape. That was the start of the movie. It was nuts. It was great. For me that type of silliness doesn’t translate well into books. Sanderson’s Way of the Kings starts out like a Shaw Bros. and I didn’t like it. It might be cuz every little act of power has to have the rules explained. In the Shaw Bros. it’s visual and they don’t really explain it. It’s usually understood in advance, like the select specific powers of comic book heroes. I think this is more an issue of a writer’s abilities.

    But of course there’s the obvious agenda stuff and it bores me. I really don’t need any more distant tough but available to the right guy mixed-race spaceship mechanics. People usually smell agenda and I don’t think they like it very much. This is the age of the internet and you can usually tell what’s up with an author. My advice is to do what Peter Hamilton does and just STFU. More readers, less whining. Women authors Tweeting that epic fantasy seems like an eff you to women is BS, but the eff you from that woman is unmistakable when she never shuts up about men hating women based on zero evidence. There is no old school male author I have ever heard such vitriol from but there are plenty of men-hating women doing just that today and I’m sick of their whining voices. Let ’em marginalize their own careers.

  6. James,

    I suspect the current anti-male (for feminists) litmus test is this: if the female protagonist was in any way designed to be attractive to the male libido, then it’s not a “real” female protagonist. Because guys being attracted to the female protag (especially for her body) is bad.

    I think that’s daft. But it does seem to be the rule.

  7. Three concerns from my time in as a signal trooper.

    1) Some of the physiological differences aren’t going to be readily apparent. With the standards, first let me say that I struggled with weight and running throughout my time in the Army. My supervisor in maintenance was a classic example of those female soldiers who do the job as well as men. She could best me in push-ups, sit-ups, running, etc. and could hang with the 18 year old males. But when it came to ruck marches with 40 lbs, she couldn’t hang with the rest of the unit and would inevitably fall behind. (In fairness, without the weight, she would lead the pack on the marathon hikes we did for fun.)

    2) Standards are going to matter. I knew two women who could perform to the male PT standards. I knew a dozen that had been driven out of the Army by injuries because their NCOs insisted that they match the males in running. My fear is that those women who are willing to try get sidelined by injuries trying to make the standard.

    3) I was in a unit rocked by a false rape allegation.* Discipline and morale took a long time to recover. *(Yes, it was found to be false under oath in a court martial. No, I won’t go into details.) While this was the biggest breach in discipline caused by sex between soldiers during my time in, it wasn’t the only one, to include lying to NCOs about relationships. Sex might happen between soldiers, but it’s not the sex itself that’s the issue, it’s the impact relationships and allegations have on the unit.

  8. “I think that’s daft. But it does seem to be the rule.”

    Just look at the paroxysms of rage directed at Heinlein. His women are brilliant, beautiful, and fully willing and able to blow your head off if you get out of line. Usually they have some type of STEM career, or are in some other responsible position. Nonetheless, the SJWs HATE Heinlein. Why? Because 1) he believed in individual liberty and 2) his female characters like men (okay, sometimes they also like women, but generally men are the primary focus).

  9. Brad – Because guys being attracted to the female protag (especially for her body) is bad No, it’s not bad. It’s bad if the woman’s only function is to be eye candy for the man, or if she defines herself solely by whether or not the man likes her. See the Bechdel test: If two women characters in the story have a conversation with each other about something other than a man, the story passes. The female exists in the story for some reason other than to be ogled over by the males.

    SBP – in my experience, what gets females irritated about Heinlein is that his women are all 1960’s swingers who wanted to get pregnant. The idea that women liked sex was radical for the 1960s. Now, 40+ years later, that’s pretty much given, but “all women want to get pregnant” part is problematic.

  10. That may be so Brad. I’ve never really researched it in fiction so my examples would tend to be anecdotal accidental meeting engagements. I’m not really concerned with these themes in fiction – even if they’re hateful – because I don’t see fictional stuff like “Wakulla Springs” or “Weight of the Sunrise” to be actively dangerous in the same way the non-fiction hate speech of the authors is. It’s fiction and not likely to be taken seriously, move gov’t policy or get cops shot.

    “Wakulla Springs” is one extended smear of scapegoating and yet that’s where such explorations can at least make some claim to legitimacy, no matter how weak. But it’s not legitimate to actively smear ethnic groups in non-fiction comments. The problem with “Wakulla Springs,” like all SJW fiction and non-fiction, is that it should’ve been done in 1949. These Freedom Riders need to get a new bus. “The Weight of the Sunrise” would never work in any era. It’s just transparent racial revenge fantasy. Ironically her story is as racist than the non-existent stories she’s supposedly lampooning. And that’s the problem; they don’t exist. That leaves only one racist high and dry.

    Feminists have a higher profile for their non-fiction rhetoric than their fiction for the simple reason their fiction is not very good and so not profitable. On the other hand actively lying and smearing men can boost a career or even make one; See: Amanda Marcotte and Jessica Valenti in the mainstream press.

    Even within their own feminist in-groups, if they don’t constantly rattle sabers, women SFF authors tend to disappear. Their fiction just isn’t that interesting. Exactly how much crap by Kameron Hurley is one going to read just because she’s Kameron Hurley and whines a lot? Good luck with that career choice. In her fiction even her own editor had to tell her to lay off the bi-sexual sex because (paraphrasing) “we get it already.” That’s a two-fer of whining boredom.

    How much of the terrible racial scapegoat fiction of Sofia Samatar are they going to support because she’s black? How much of the fanfic of Alex MacFarlane because she’s gay? They’ve really boxed themselves in and by never shutting up have once again consigned themselves to the ethnic/gay/feminist section of the bookstore they escaped for maybe all of a year. They’ll continue to have support within the now delegitimized core of SFF but everyone else is leaving them behind with a hearty “See ya!” Hate doesn’t sell. A kid in a wheel chair was good in Silver Bullet. A steady diet of that along with comments you’re a heartless reactionary who hates the disabled is likely to have a reverse effect.

    Some N.Y. Times best-selling moron has decided to boycott any convention panel that is all white or male. What’s going to happen if SFF authors decide to boycott non-Western, gay, black and female characters but just say nothing cuz they don’t need the grief about how wrong they did the “other,” or just to strike back at the tide of bigoted filth from these people? The more I have to hear Daniel Jose Older and N.K. Jemisin mouth off about “white saviors” the more likely I am to start pretending they don’t exist. Then next time they wonder why there’s no black people in the future in an SF novel they’ll know exactly why.

  11. Well said. I agree with your points, particularly #5. If a woman is capable of the duty, let her carry it out. What I don’t like is dropping standards so that a certain demographic gets represented in that category.

  12. “Now, 40+ years later, that’s pretty much given, but “all women want to get pregnant” part is problematic.”

    It’s only problematic for SJWs. Most people do, in fact, want to have children. More than 9 in 10 Americans either have them, are planning to have them, or wish they could have them.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/164618/desire-children-norm.aspx

    The real problem is that more and more women are delaying childbirth based on SJW nonsense, and then finding out that it’s too late.

  13. My wife was in the Army, and she says the main problem with integration is male predjudice. Men as better on average at some things, women at others, most men tend to behave in a more cilizied many with women around, some behave worse. It’s comlicated.
    But if I’m ever in combat, I want my wife by my side. She’s kick your ass nine ways to Sunday, and she doesn’t meed muscle mass or testostorone to do it.

  14. Screw the Bechdel Test. I have my own test. It’s called the “How I Spend My Money Test.” If anyone obsessively singles out humans according to their race and sex and smears them on every occasion, they fail. It’s also called hate speech. Having Sophia Loren in a movie isn’t hate speech and it isn’t “bad” as in immoral. You’ve been well-trained in French Queer Theory. You see, in the normal world, men actually like the way women look. It’s nature. The idea that’s all they like or that amounts to women-hatred is feminist schizo paranoia. What about male guards who’s only function is to die or get beat up by the Black Widow and Xena? Should I start pie-charting that and create a Men’s Studies course?

    Good job erasing the first 20 years of Heinlein. “Delilah and the Space-Disco.”

  15. Again, my wife was in the army. Don’t worry about standards being dropped for women. They aren’t. Worry about standards being dropped (at least in practice) for fat, middle age officers, and certain reserve and guard units. THAT is a real, if certainly not universal problem.

  16. RE: the Bechdel test. There are dangers in taking punchlines from obscure comics too seriously, especially when Debbie Does Dallas passes the test and Pacific Rim does not.

  17. The Bechdel Test always seemed (to me) to be one of those contrivances which deliberately tries to arrive at a specific result. As James said, my test is my wallet: did I enjoy it? It gets my money. Did I not enjoy it? It doesn’t get my money. I find it ironic that some people fret and fuss over the Bechdel Test, when a huge, massive publishing industry is built on romance and erotica: tremendously popular genres with women, which are almost entirely driven by female protagonists who do little else but think and talk about men.

  18. Well said, Brad.

    2, 3, 5 & 7: I have been saying something similar for about 30 years now. Of course it was because I didn’t understand why having two X chromosomes bared me from consideration for “combat related” positions.

    4 is something I have been opposed to since HS. I got my hands on a copy of the USMC boot-camp prep booklets – one for men and one for women. I about went through the ceiling when I saw the differences.

    8 .. .. you can say this about law enforcement as well.

    9, 10 & 11: You nailed the X ring here my friend. Friday and Diana Prince get a pass for obvious reasons, but watching Nikita or Black Widow “lawn-mow her way through scores of bigger, tougher, more heavily armed and armored male opponents.” does stretch the suspension of disbelief a bit. I appreciate a well-rounded female character being able to fight just as well as the next person, but make it realistic. Don’t take Jane from the secretary pool and turn her into GI Jane over night.

    Chris Gerrib says: “in my experience, what gets females irritated about Heinlein is that his women are all 1960’s swingers who wanted to get pregnant. The idea that women liked sex was radical for the 1960s.”

    It irks me to no end that some people use today’s morals (or lack thereof) to judge stories that were written 30+ years ago. I see people say that Larry Correia’s “Hard Magic” has sexist and racist tones because women and minorities are treated in keeping with the time period of the book. How many claim that “Huck Finn” is racist because Mr. Twain uses a word that was in common usage when the book was written? Utter BS. If you can’t judge the work against the time period it was written (or set in) than you shouldn’t read it.

    Oh, that really should read ‘what gets Liberal (or what ever word you care to use) women irritated’. Don’t lump as all together, okay. 😉 We’re not interchangeable cogs. There are more than a few of us who like Heinlein and do not consider his to be the slightest bit sexist.

    “If two women characters in the story have a conversation with each other about something other than a man, the story passes. ” Ah, really? I find this a bit hard to believe. I have heard “If This Goes On” and “Menace from Earth” referenced as an example of RAH’s alleged sexism. Never mind what some of my women libbers friends say about Friday. -sigh- As long as some people believe that a writer is biased, they will see everything that writer produces as “ist”

  19. In Black Widows defense, she was dosed with the Soviet version of the “Super Soldier Serum” making her a peak athlete like Steve Rogers aka Captain America

    Other than than spot on.

  20. It’s more than a little amusing to hear this subject discussed by people who are, for the most part, middle-aged, overweight, and never participated in sports. I was an NCAA D1 sprinter and spent two years training every day with female sprinters, jumpers, and hurdlers. I have run against two US Olympic sprinters, lifted weights with a US Olympian shotput thrower and also with the women’s US national champion in the discus. Then I spent six years doing heavy contact mixed martial arts, and sparred at least 30 women during that time from a variety of styles.

    My observations: women are almost comically slow from a fighting perspective, they lack any explosive power, and they cannot take a shot. Red Sonja could never, ever exist without magic or divine powers. Never. Forget the 90-pound waifs, even a strong, fit, well-trained 130-pound woman couldn’t fight me at 175, much less some of the big boys going 250. And by “couldn’t fight”, I mean one shot and down. And by shot, I mean a freaking JAB.

    Mass is another problem. As an experiment, I once tried to go toe-to-toe with a 230-pound Marine. I knew I was roughly as strong as he was, since we lifted together, but even though I could hit as hard as he could, I couldn’t absorb the punishment as well, being 55 pounds lighter at the time. He could take two full force punches and stay up, I could take the first but the second knocked me down twice before I decided the experiment was a failure. It’s not about being tough, there is nothing you can do because your lesser mass simply can’t withstand getting hit by that much power.

    I would encourage anyone who doubts me to simply go to a boxing ring or a fighting dojo, get in the ring, and fight a woman. Or if you’re a woman, fight a man. And then you’ll realize that the fantasy trope is as ridiculous as writing about little boy warriors who can defeat any grown man.

    Now, modern and SF combat isn’t about going toe-to-toe with speed and strength like fantasy combat is, but there the primary physical issue is injury resistance. Women get injured by physical stress much more easily than men, in part due to their differing leg and hip constructions. It’s why so many young female athletes have knee surgeries. Female athletes who play basketball and soccer are up to EIGHT times more likely to suffer an ACL injury than male athletes.

    Given that militaries prefer to wound rather than kill an enemy soldier, it is reprehensibly irresponsible to even consider putting troops in the field who will be unable to perform even basic troop movements without suffering a high rate of incapacitating injuries that will take them out of action for months and often require surgery.

    Those are the facts. They can be written around with clever plots and worldbuilding, of course, but if the SF/F author doesn’t accept reality or bother with addressing it, he may as well just give them wings and magic breasts that shoot arrows.

  21. “My observations: women are almost comically slow from a fighting perspective, they lack any explosive power, and they cannot take a shot.”

    My observations: multi-ton flying, firebreathing dragons and spaceships that travel faster than light cannot exist.

    I mean, you could actually make breast implants that shot arrows. I’m not sure why you’d want to do that, but it wouldn’t violate the laws of physics.

    In for a penny, in for a pound, dude.

  22. My personatake for science fiction is that violates-laws-of-physics stuff is acceptable if the story is good and if the story couldn’t exist without it.

    That allows hyperspace, for instance, but disallows stuff like the wind noise and banked turns in vacuum in Star Wars (that doesn’t make Star Wars bad in and of itself, but tips it over into the category of fantasy rather than SF).

    In fantasy, more or less anything goes.

    Ih historical fiction, minor violations are okay (you need your character to meet George Washington, but actual history records that he was elsewhere that day), but not major ones (you don’t get to make George Washington a Marxist).

    What bothers the audience is going to vary a lot depending on exactly who the audience is. I recall some welders who didn’t like the movie Titanic — apparently some of the pipes shown in the ship were clearly welded with a technique that didn’t exist in 1911-12. It’s all personal. Vox Day doesn’t like chicks beating up dudes. Lots of other people enjoy it (as Joss Whedon’s bank account no doubt shows). It may be unphysical, but it’s a helluva lot less so than hyperspace.

  23. “My observations: women are almost comically slow from a fighting perspective, they lack any explosive power, and they cannot take a shot.”

    My observations: multi-ton flying, firebreathing dragons and spaceships that travel faster than light cannot exist.

    It depends on what breaks immersion for you. I think the difference is that in this case we’re dealing with people. Do fire-breathing dragons exist? Well, no, but I can imagine one pretty easily.

    FTL ships? Same. Technically, yeah, it’s impossible, but I can imagine it fairly easily.

    But women fighters fighting as well as male fighters?

    I KNOW women. I KNOW men. Both in ways that I don’t and never will know dragons and FTL ships. So when something unbelievable is happening in that regard, I would at least appreciate the courtesy of a writer saying, “Oh yeah, by the way, she was genetically modified”, or something like that. Otherwise, yes, it’s much harder for me to believe than it is for me to believe in FTL ships.

    There’s a line we need to draw somewhere. Otherwise we wouldn’t be praising characters for being true to life or slamming characters for being unrealistic, and yet it’s obvious just by the things we read and watch that we should try to strive for one and avoid the other. Characters are clearly in a different category than worldbuilding.

  24. It’s worth noting that Carlos Hathcock was 5’10” and weighed about 160 pounds when he was in Vietnam. Depending on how long he was in the bush, his weight could drop to as little as 120 pounds. Yet Hathcock was one of the deadliest snipers in American military history. Not everything about fighting a war boils down to being a bull in the ring, or the dojo, or on the street corner. Somewhat recent statistical analysis seems to indicate that men and women aren’t that far apart, where sports injuries are concerned. In fact, my actual military experience suggests that being out of shape is far more likely to get you hurt, when you’re doing squad tactics and road marches. I’ve seen guys who were not in shape fall out during instances where the females (who were in shape) did just fine.

  25. Well Brad, I have no problem with the character of Zoe from “Firefly”. I would, however, have had a problem with River Tam if Whedon hadn’t made it clear that she could only fight the way she did due to governmental experimentation.

  26. Just watched The Seven Ups. Not a single woman in the movie other than a potted plant role. Just fine. Great movie. Nice car chase. There is no real world all-female equivalent in all the history of human civilization. Tough break dat.

    Someone mentioned racism and sexism in Hard Magic and Twain. I’ve made it clear that in SJW ideology a straight white male is racist and sexist just by waking up in the morning and apart from any actual event. In intersectional racial/queer theory an ethnic European heterosexual male himself comprises an oppressive political opposition ideology that has had the upper hand for all of human history.

    I know that’s hard to wrap one’s head around but that’s the deal.

    “From a feminist standpoint, however, this is nothing but male supremacist ideology. Far from being ‘natural,’ phallic sexuality is a moral and political activity. Men’s sexual behaviour is not caused by hormonal dictates. It is because the penis serves the ideological function of symbolizing ‘human’ status that it is so heavily charged with erotic energy, and not because it is driven by testosterone. Men must keep using it because they need to keep proving that they exist, that their ‘humanity’ is inextricably entwined with penis-possession; women must be constantly used by it to prove that men exist, that the sum total of a man is his penis, what the penis can do it ought to do. Anything and everything must be subordinated to penile activity if men are to be what phallic ideology requires them to be.” – Denise Thompson, Radical Feminism Today (2001)

    Lastly, the centerpiece of Dune revolves around the martial art hand-to-hand combat skills of Lady Jessica and of personal combat in general. The Bene Gessirit are the deadliest fighters in the galaxy. That matters because of shield technology. The Fremen already have a secret decided edge over the Sardukar. Bene Gessirit training over 2 years increases that. The BG don’t take over the galaxy because they don’t want to. The whole point of the Emperor siding with the Baron to take out Paul’s father is because the Atriedes were at the point of training their own men in martial arts skills that would take away the crucial edge the Emperor’s Sardukar had which allowed the Emperor to terrorize and control other aristocratic houses. In short, Dune defaults to a game of thrones featuring martial arts combat and who can control that secret with the BG girl fighters at the top of the chain.

    What’s amusing about that is that follows much of the later Shaw Bros. kung-fu movie plots where different groups fight over secret martial arts techniques each school has.

  27. That would be a good SF panel discussion: Why Dune is just like a classic 1975-85 Shaw Bros. kung-fu movie.

    It’s probably belaboring the obvious but European real-life games of thrones involved secret martial skills as well; sometimes prolonged but always temporary. Sometimes they involved an actual superior technology but most often the secret knowledge was tactical. This is why we see a continued evolution of tactical/technological secret skills that involved archers, oblique frontal attacks, cannon, crossbows, use of pikes, squares, mutually supporting combined arms, superior rapid deployment and articulation of formations from marching to attack, etc. Counter tactics naturally evolved which led to entirely new innovations.

    Napoleon said something like the more he encountered an enemy the more they learned his secrets, although Napoleon himself was great at improvisation, since great generals are made because well-laid plans often breakdown in the reality of battle.

    My memory tells me one of Frederick the Great’s innovations on an old theme was the oblique frontal assault where troops would advance in a long line to mask their intent and then perform a set of diagonal changes in their lines to converge on a single point and overwhelm the enemy’s flank. Sometimes that was tried by Union armies late in the war at the center of a line in a reverse type of flanking maneuver where the intent was to have the enemy line rolled up from the center rather than the flank. They usually didn’t succeed because they weren’t properly exploited. Someone who knows this stuff better than me would have to talk about all of this localized “secret knowledge.”

    In the movie Gettysburg, we see Longstreet draw a map on the ground before Pickett’s Charge where he orders a series of oblique adjustments to the attacking line, all to converge on one point and overwhelm it. Whether that’s a made up scene I don’t know.

    What Dune and kung-fu movies have in common is that each try to create plots that somehow marginalize small arms fire, spears and archery so people fight with their hands. Kung-fu movies are less clever about this. They show archers only rarely for obvious reasons and though there is lots of combat where one unarmed man fights 20 men with spears the spearmen rarely throw their spears.

  28. My observations: multi-ton flying, firebreathing dragons and spaceships that travel faster than light cannot exist.

    Your observation was already made and shown to be irrelevant by multiple parties. Firebreathing dragons and FTL spaceships don’t exist. Literally everyone who has engaged in intersexual combat knows that women cannot fight with men; it is as intrinsically absurd as portraying flying babies or talking dogs. That doesn’t mean you can’t write about warrior women or flying babies or talking dogs, only that you must explain why the woman can fight as well as a man, why the babies can fly, and why the dogs can talk.

    Why are you so committed to the trope? This is where suspicions of ideology enter the picture, because I have learned that many SF/F writers genuinely believe in the unrealistic concepts they utilize. Remember, for the most part, these writers are not athletes or combat veterans. They literally don’t know what they’re writing about.

    Somewhat recent statistical analysis seems to indicate that men and women aren’t that far apart, where sports injuries are concerned.

    That study is an outlier, Brad. It contradicts many other studies. Go to any local high school. Look at the knees. There will be at least three times more girls with knee surgeries than boys. Many girls who play soccer have multiple surgeries before they turn 18. As I mentioned, I ran D1 track, and we all got injured from time to time. But the girls were injured more frequently and more seriously. We had four or five on the team who never actually competed in a meet in the 2.5 years that I ran because they couldn’t manage to get fully healthy.

    And note that the female washout rate of the Marine’s Infantry Officer Course is 100 percent. One woman who tried said: “there came a point when I could not persuade my body to perform. It wasn’t a matter of will but of pure physical strength. My mind wanted more, but my muscles quivered in failure after multiple attempts.

    Lots of other people enjoy it (as Joss Whedon’s bank account no doubt shows).

    Yes, and even more people enjoy reading about women being chained up and being sexually penetrated in various ways by kinky young billionaires while babbling about their inner goddesses. That doesn’t make it any less stupid. In fact, the two concepts are probably not entirely unrelated; a psychologist could probably derive a fair amount of psycho-sexual information about an individual simply from knowing he, or she, finds pleasure in reading about skinny little women beating up muscular men.

    I have no problem with the character of Zoe from “Firefly”.

    I rather liked the actress for the role, although I thought River Tam was much more credible as a fighter because a) her capabilities were explained and b) the actress was clearly a dancer. River’s kicks were visibly without power, of course, but they were pretty and she moved fluidly, except for her weird running. Zoe was not credible as a fighter despite her size because she is very slow and has very feminine, very unathletic movements. She reminded me of Tim Robbins in Bull Durham. The guy is supposed to be a rocket-armed pitcher, but he can’t even throw a ball properly?

    The difference between this sort of thing and pipe-welding on the Titanic is that considerably more people have played sports than welded pipes.

    I appreciate a well-rounded female character being able to fight just as well as the next person, but make it realistic. Don’t take Jane from the secretary pool and turn her into GI Jane over night.

    I concur. That is all I am saying. You can have all the warrior women in fantasy and SF you want, but you need to EXPLAIN their otherwise implausible capabilities.

  29. As a real world observation that anyone can do re:body mass and its effects:

    Watch some football on Saturday or Sunday. Those big guys on the line are BIG for a reason. Over the course of a game the beef up front can have a HUGE impact. Tactics are also very important, and can counteract some of that. But a disciplined set of big bodies almost always has an advantage over a disciplined set smaller bodies. Being from NDSU I get to see this quite a bit. There is an article on SB Nation from last year that talks a little bit about this. When you get continually smacked in the face over, and over, and over again, and can’t do anything about it, it’s gets to you.
    http://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2014/8/26/6005585/craig-bohl-wyoming-north-dakota-state-football-offense-defense

  30. I see this as being situational. It doesn’t take a lot of physical strength or mass to pull a trigger or run hydraulics, but it comes in handy when humping a M249 around or needing to do track maintenance on a tank. But, outside of hand-to-hand combat between similarly experienced opponents or lifting women can do pretty much anything men can.

    My mother worked construction/roofing for awhile when I was growing up. Hauling rolls of felt up an extension ladder was difficult, but she could shingle circles around some of the guys.

  31. “Your observation was already made and shown to be irrelevant by multiple parties. ”

    No, it wasn’t. Not by any party, much less “multiple” ones. Assertion is not proof, no matter how much you might like (or pretend) that’s the case.

    “Firebreathing dragons and FTL spaceships don’t exist. Literally everyone who has engaged in intersexual combat knows that women cannot fight with men”

    Firebreathing dragons and FTL spaceships don’t exist, but women who can fight with men don’t exist? Umm… okay. I’m sure you have a point in there somewhere, but damned if I can see what it is.

    “Why are you so committed to the trope? This is where suspicions of ideology enter the picture”

    Why are you so opposed to it? Why this particular hobbyhorse rather than FTL or dragons?

  32. Why are you so opposed to it? Why this particular hobbyhorse rather than FTL or dragons?

    Don’t answer a question with a question. I’ll be pleased to answer that after you answer my question. Why are you so committed to the trope?

    Firebreathing dragons and FTL spaceships don’t exist, but women who can fight with men don’t exist? Umm… okay. I’m sure you have a point in there somewhere, but damned if I can see what it is.

    Women do exist. But women cannot fight with men. So, if you’re going to introduce women who can fight with men, you need to provide some worldbuilding element to explain it, just as you would have to do so if you were going to give them the ability to fly or to walk on water.

    Do you understand it now?

  33. Zoe was not credible as a fighter despite her size because she is very slow and has very feminine, very unathletic movements.

    I don’t disagree. My point was that Zoe rarely DID engage in physical combat. Far more often she just shot people. And that’s one way to neutralize physical disparities.

  34. Chris: “The idea that women liked sex was radical for the 1960s. Now, 40+ years later, that’s pretty much given, but “all women want to get pregnant” part is problematic.”

    I don’t know if anyone else discussed this yet but the number of women who don’t want to get pregnant *ever* is really very small. It’s got nothing to do with some nurturing urge, because really, get a puppy. It’s just biology. There are reasons (one of which is not making adopted children feel bad) besides feminist silliness that this desire is downplayed, but all one has to do is look at just how much is spent on fertility treatment and how many articles are written about having a baby even if you can’t find a suitable man (these get by the “women aren’t brood mares” censors because they’re about doing it without a man) to see that desire for reproduction right out in the open. The time limit for women adds to that, of course, because there really is a biological window that’s going to close.

  35. That “window” for reproduction for women pretty much exactly matches the “window” of youth and strength for military service… if that’s relevant. I’ve known, or known of, a married woman who flew her children to grandma every time she had a TDY, a single officer who took her mother as a formal dependent so the military would let her adopt her son, women who left their children with grandparents permanently so they could enlist and support them, and some extreme system-tweaking to avoid an unaccompanied year in Korea. I’ll not suggest that it’s easier for men to leave their babies, but it’s more expected. And actual pregnancy is debilitating, either in fact or by military policy.

    I still *write* women in the military when I write but I explain (at least to myself) what is going on with reproduction, how strength and size differences are dealt with, and what elements of military culture are in place or have developed to deal with fraternization and sex.

  36. Julie Pascal – I’m actually the wrong guy to ask about sexism in Heinlein, as I don’t have a problem with him. (This may be because I *am* a guy.) So I was relaying what I had been told was the issue.

    I do think this argument has a very American bias to it. The US military says “no sex please” and so we go to great gyrations to avoid it. European militaries, as discussed in my link upthread, seem to take a different attitude towards sex. Of course, Europeans in general have a more relaxed attitude about sex.

  37. I think that the “issue” with Heinlein is whatever anyone wants it to be at the moment. What is supposedly problematic about the portrayal of women in science fiction and fantasy can be anything at all… Is she described as attractive? This implies that women need to be pretty to have value. Is she described as plain, practical, and proficient? This undoubtedly implies that women are only effective in whatever role if they give up their feminine nature. Is a SF military primarily or entirely male? Oh, that’s bad. Does the SF military have 50% women in it? Well, that’s nice but putting women in male roles is just writing men with boobs, right? Same with women putting off or giving up childbearing. If the “win” at the end of the story involves biological success, that’s bad. If the “win” at the end doesn’t involve biological success then women are shown only to be successful if they become men and take on male roles and attitudes. If the story is a fantasy and the female characters are all magic users depending on sword wielding versions of Conan insulting of women or empowering of women? It could be either and with equally convincing arguments.

  38. Does anyone else find it amusing that gender feminists hate Frank Herbert? He creates a universe where hand-to-hand combat is restored as the primary military tactical expression and puts women at the top of that food chain. Herbert has noble PoC neo-Muslims fighting neo-Euro colonialists and he features a gay character.

    So why would a sexist, racist, supremacist cult still hate Herbert? Gee, that’s a tough question. Herbert and Heinlein in fact did plenty right, even by wacky radfem standards. The inevitable conclusion is what’s wrong is who they are, not what they did. They were the wrong sex, the wrong color and the wrong gender expression. Typical fare for the neo-KKK social justice warriors worship. SJWs are the football player who scoops up a fumble and returns it to the wrong end zone. The difference is that’s the actual way SJWs play the whole game. If there is any stiffer, stupider, unrefined, more ignorant, miseducated and unsophisticated group of morons in America today I’d like to know who they are. An SJW Twitter feed presented without comment is the equivalent of the biting satire of the old underground comics. SJWs write self-satire and all that is needed is to draw some stick figures and puts SJW words inside balloons and R. Crumb and Zap Comix is once again on the loose.

  39. Chris, from my experience, it is less that the US military says “no sex” than they are concerned with the problems to order and discipline caused by the relationships (fraternization, pissed-off spouses, favoritism, etc.). Even in the case I mentioned earlier of the soldier that lied to a NCO about their relationship, all the unit would have done if that soldier told the truth was to transfer the soldier to a sister unit, not disrupt the relationship. After all, the common aphorism that a soldier who won’t fuck, won’t fight is an American aphorism. And it seems that every safety brief prior to a weekend ended in some silly variation of “wear a condom.”

    It would be interesting to the European regs on fraternization, though, since that’s the real issue, not the sex act itself.

  40. Nathan: Everything I know about European armies (at least with regards to sex) I read here. From the article: “A French soldier in one of the line platoons had a girlfriend in Headquarters Company. His platoon shared a big tent that had been partitioned into individual cubicles. Every night he wasn’t in the field, his girlfriend stayed with him. Nobody up the chain of command said a word to him about it. As one French officer told me, “Our only rule about sex is, ‘be smart’”.

  41. Chris, there’s nothing remarkable about that example, which plays out the exact same way Stateside. On deployment, General Order One may apply (which would only affect the cohabitation), but that is more of a result of an exceedingly scandal-shy and risk-adverse military culture than the puritanism you seem to have implied.

    Picking a non-sexual example, on one TDY, we were barred from drinking alcohol. This wasn’t because of any inherent moral choice imposed by the commander, but because three years earlier, a soldier on TDY from my unit was walking to his hotel while drunk and somehow managed to topple off a bridge onto railroad tracks below. Nothing more than freakishly bad luck, really, but that one incident years earlier poisoned the well in the commander’s eyes. He was retiring, and he didn’t want any…complications…in the short time he had left. So, no alcohol for the troops. Was it warranted? Probably not, as we returned with the same people months later without the alcohol prohibition and conducted ourselves as professionals and adults on and off duty, but the choice was never required of me to make, only obedience.

  42. The military is a somewhat unique environment where hurt feelings can disrupt more than an individual’s home life. Take a guy I worked with… enlisted… body builder. Sweet guy, actually. Had an affair with a pilot’s wife. Was probably even her idea though I’m not going to suggest that he wasn’t entirely willing. They met at the gym. Adultery is another one of those “quaint” US military prohibitions. Now *probably* the officer wouldn’t find a way to retaliate against the senior airman or even desire to do so, and our shop was a very long way from any airplanes, but I’m sure that King David wasn’t the first fellow who got rid of a rival by letting the enemy kill him. And in normal, general, every day terms… your whole career can quite easily be toast due to retaliation. There’s reasons for these sorts of rules that have nothing to do with Americans being prudes.

  43. Incident made the news several years ago… female officer had an affair with an enlisted fellow at Minot or Grand Forks… I don’t remember. The guy’s civilian wife was suing, or generally demanding that the military discipline the officer. Civilian news reports were all… what’s the big deal? This sort of thing happens all the time and expecting people not to have sex is so very… silly. But imagine just how much damage can be done because an officer doesn’t think she ought to keep her pants on around her crew? How much damage can that scorned wife do on the base? How much trust does anyone below that officer in her chain of command have for her judgement or her orders? Fraternization is a problem when sex isn’t anywhere in the equation. Add it and all you’ve got is a mess.

  44. “Why are you so committed to the trope?”

    I’m not “committed to the trope”. I’m pointing out that you are being irrational by objecting to this (minor) bending of the Newton’s Laws (in this context, roughly, “the big one wins”) while accepting outright breaking of them.

    I’ve answered your question (actually, I’m pretty sure I’d answered it before). Now answer mine. Why are you obsessed with this topic?

    “Women do exist. But women cannot fight with men.”

    Big lizards do exist (and, of course, much bigger ones have existed). But they can’t fly at that size, or breathe fire. The upper limit for pterosaur size that I’ve seen is around 500 pounds. That’s a long, long way from Smaug.

    Fast spacecraft do exist. But they can’t go faster than the speed of light.

  45. “I don’t know if anyone else discussed this yet but the number of women who don’t want to get pregnant *ever* is really very small.”

    See the link upthread. The number of people who don’t want to be parents is right around 5%, according to Gallup. That’s tiny.

  46. I note in passing that Vox Day’s position has shifted from “unimaginable” and “not remotely credible” (previous thread) to “okay as long as it’s explained”.

    Of course, it is almost always explained. Magical powers learned from the Mystical Monks of Malabar. Genetic engineering. Possession by the Goddess Hooha. I’m actually having a hard time thinking of an instance where it isn’t explained.

  47. I note in passing that Vox Day’s position has shifted from “unimaginable” and “not remotely credible” (previous thread) to “okay as long as it’s explained”

    You can’t be serious right now. You have to be willfully misrepresenting him. There’s no way you can be this clueless if you’ve been following the conversation from start to end.

  48. The proper response to the stupid ‘Bechdel Test’ is to have two female characters complain about what a sexist, racist, homophobic, illogical moron feminist female number three is.

    Then, like Joe Buckley, put that same person in everything as exceedingly brief cameos. And have a skyscraper land on her.

    Just triple check that the usual disclaimer “All characters are fictional!” appears before naming this character something completely random like Scalzi.

  49. I saw VD say several times that women being able to fight men “has to be explained” (although I’ll admit I wasn’t following closely) I took this to mean “has to have a technological or magical element”. I don’t find this at all outrageous. (My technological element of choice is a sweet Walther PPQ.) In any case, I don’t tend to get annoyed until someone tries to suggest that women are too nurturing and nice by nature to effectively wage war. (Or that it’s somehow uniquely horrific if they get hurt or end up with a scar… reminds me of that Conan movie with Arnold and the evil queen rips off her mask to show this minor, cleanly healed, slash across her cheek and screeches something or other explaining that this justifies all of her evil.) In the end, it’s a good thing that men wage our wars, because if women did so the world would burn.

  50. I note in passing that Vox Day’s position has shifted from “unimaginable” and “not remotely credible” (previous thread) to “okay as long as it’s explained”.

    My position hasn’t changed at all. Women fighting men in the real world is unimaginable and is not remotely credible. In fantasy and science fiction, giving them the ability to do the highly implausible is all right so long as it is explained in some regards. Which is all too often NOT the case.

    I’m actually having a hard time thinking of an instance where it isn’t explained.

    You must not read very much fantasy and science fiction. To give one recent example, the beautiful blonde sergeant in Marko Kloos’s Terms of Enlistment is the best hand-to-hand fighter in the platoon; she just is, we are informed. No one dares to mess with her, we are told.

    Why are you obsessed with this topic?

    Because I have been a slushpile reader, I am now an SF/F editor, and I see numerous examples of this ridiculous trope appearing in submissions I review as well as in books by writers who should know better like David Gemmell. Unlike the chubby little gamma males and obese women who write this stuff, I know how ridiculous it is. I’ve actually punched or kicked dozens of women and knocked them down. I’ve actually had women hit and kick me and felt how little power they can deliver.

    And a lot of those writers actually believe it too! It’s like reading a fantasy novel and suddenly realizing that the writer is a delusional lunatic who genuinely believes that the magic elves about whom they are writing actually exist.

  51. To be fair to the gals, there is this thing called the “Lingerie Bowl” – football. As ridiculous as the title sounds, the gals are mean, tough, big and physical. I think if one of them went up against an average guy on the street, there might be a tussle. Same for women who are professional wrestlers and top mixed martial artists. Such women are not shrinking violets and are in ungodly condition and have some very real skills. I’ve sometimes wondered what level of male competition would match up with the Women’s Professional Basketball Association. Could the top male high school team in the nation beat them? An average male college team? At what point would equity be achieved?

  52. And also, to be fair, the “best” hand to hand fighter… meaning, most knowlegeable and skilled and the person, if you were planning to learn, would be the best person to take you to the highest level, just might be female. She also might be no one to mess with. But physics is what it is and mass and reach matters and standing toe-to-toe and fighting until one person has won and the other has lost isn’t something that a smart man does out side of formal competition and it’s particularly stupid for a woman, because unless the fight is over very quickly, it’s going to take a very large skill differential to keep the larger, stronger, person from winning.

    As a smaller person you get surprise, one opportunity to do damage, and then you run as fast as you can. Because that’s what “training” teaches you to do.

  53. Another example of a woman being an amazing physical fighter not being explained: In “Firefly” we have Zoe, who is fine by me because she’s more a run and gun shooter than physical fighter. Okay.

    But read “Leaves on the Wind”, one of the “Firefly” companion graphic novel series. In issue 6, after Zoe has given birth and gone to the hospital to treat internal bleeding she is arrested and taken to prison. There she gets into a fight with two men. She beats the crap out of them. Later, three men. She beats the crap out of them. No real injuries.

    That was ridiculous enough to be immersion-breaking. It’s less “eye-rolling” than it’s “almost threw the book down in disgust” type of ludicrousness.

  54. Great discussion points, especially with the A10, totally agree there. Here’s the thing, women can and do out shoot men in many cases, but the effectiveness of an infantry soldier can not be represented by marksmanship alone, as was hinted to by the bit about rucking (we call it humping) a pack (70 lbs at peace time, almost twice that in war time) to the firefight. The Marine Corps does it best, and even Marines find it physically exhausting, some fall out during training exercises. I have no objection to women in the military and agree with your points that they should be segregated and should serve an MOS that provides an equivalent playing field: Supply, Motor-T, Air Wing, and Admin to name a few. One last thing to consider, at 150 lbs a man is healthy, if a bit weak, but a 150 lbs woman is not healthy with regards to cardiovascular stamina, something combat requires in spades.

  55. Let’s address the other side of this argument and point out that if men (particularly those pesky marriage-addicted ethnic European republicans) hadn’t done 99% of the work on a civilizational level there would exist almost not one single institution for women to plug into ranging from dentistry to literature to combat. It’s civilizational crumbs really. Equal rights feminism is one thing, this bizarre supremacist gender feminism breaking SF literature over its Ace bandaged knees another. Put WisCon truly on its own and the entire affair would disappear in a single generation. That is not equality but a leech which hates legs and dreams of a leg-free world.

  56. Over the five years I trained in martial arts, I sparred with dozens of women. One of them was an international gold medalist who was probably top 30 or 40 in the world. She had a full room of trophies and gold medals from every tournament she entered all over the US and internationally.

    One afternoon, our instructor decided to remove the normal competition rules and have the students fight like people on the street. He matched me up with this particular woman.

    The fight ended in less than 10 seconds. She attempted a long kick and I merely moved inside her kicking radius and threw three quick punches, two face and one abdomen. I didn’t make contact beyond a slight graze in the lower strike. She quit almost immediately.

    Now this is not to say this particular martial artist isn’t skilled. She certainly is. But even with a full decade of fighting the very best women in her weight class around the world, she could not stop a male a few years older than her and with 1/100th the experience. Now that she is an instructor, I notice she also teaches young women that running is a viable option when facing someone far larger than yourself.

    *shrug* It is what it is. Why is accepting that reality so hard?

  57. To be fair to fantasy/SF women, what men do in the world is often just as absurd. If I have to read another story where 1 man fights off 20 people by himself and DOESN’T have some kind of magic. It’s so implausible the few times it has occurred like with Miyamoto Musashi it’s literally legend and it certainly wasn’t a thing casually done all over the place. My opinion is if you want to make a super awesome sword fighter make magic used in swordsmanship part of it. Because otherwise 1 expert swordsmen against 2 pretty good ones is really really shitty odds for the 1, people knew back in the day that a dozen barely trained pikemen could easily kill the most expert swordsman in the land.

  58. Re Point 6: You know the film STARSHIP TROOPERS was a fantasy, not SF, by the infamous scene in which teenage boy and girl recruits chastely shower together. In theaters, always got lots of laughs – no doubt Verhoeven’s droll intent!

  59. There are a TON of tropes in SF/F that regularly violate any sort of realistic hand to hand combat.
    -The large amount of damage the protagonist can take.
    -The minimal amount of damage required to take out a mook.
    -The ability of the protagonist to dispatch multiple opponents.
    -The ability of a small number of good guys to deal with an army of mooks.
    -The fact that the size of the bad guys doesn’t give them any advantage. (Orcs were HUGE in the hobbit. There should be about 4 people from Bree still alive.)
    -The relative unimportance of Armor in fantasy movies.
    -The fact that using a Bow like a club, or to block a sword, will likely damage the bow.

    They violate these over and over again because the audience likes it. Makes the hero seem cool. They’re putting women into action roles for the same reason. Makes them seem cool. They want to sell books and tickes to poeple who want to see women do cool things. Many of these people are women who want something they can identify with so they can put themselves into the story.

    In the avengers movie they never explained why Black Widow is so tough. (In the comic books they do but whatever.) So you’re right that it doesn’t make sense from a physics stand point in the movie . It also doesn’t make sense why Hawkeye is using a bow and arrow and not a gun with a granade launcher. Or why Tony Stark doesn’t have serious closed head injuries. Beyond that it’s cool.

  60. Politics seems to overcomplicate simple ideas. Combat is a job that requires a certain set of capabilities and skills. If you have the necessary abilities, you can do the job. Period. It has nothing to do with which bathroom you use.
    I worked a summer job at a railroad company that required you to frequently lift 200-lb. kegs of spikes and put them in a customer’s truck. We did not have any female employees in that job, but we didn’t have any 130-lb. male employees either. In the years since I did this the industry has shifted to a more ergonomic 50-lb. bucket in place of the 200-lb. keg. Now Manny Pacquiao could work there, where in the past he would not have been able to, despite being a badass. It has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with physically being able to do the job.
    The old saw “A good big man will beat a good little man most of the time” is a cliché for a reason. It is why combat sports segregate into weight classes. It’s also why there are men’s and women’s divisions in most sports. Most women are going to be smaller and less powerful than their male counterparts. Those that are not, that are capable of doing the job, should have every opportunity anyone else has to do it.
    As for a co-ed military… there is literally nothing you can do about the human animal and sex. Hell, my co-ed softball team dealt with those same issues (just with more beer and marginally less violence)

  61. Have you ever been in combat? Have you been combat with female warriors? Have you ever been in combat with female adversaries? i can’t tell by your rather ignoramus thesis. Were you on drugs when you wrote this screed? WEre you rebounding from a broken relationship when you came up with this dystopic view of women warriors. You need some less misogynistic and some realism in you statements concerning female combatants.

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