Mary O

Contributed by Mary O'Neill Le Rumeur

Director: Haifaa Al Mansour

Starring: Reem Abdullah, Waad Mohammed, Abdullrahman Al Gohani

Saudi Arabia is a country where cinemas don’t exist and women are hidden behind black veils. Yet this month a film has come onto the screens in France, Wadjda, the first-ever fiction film made in Saudi Arabia – and the director is a woman.

As a child, the eighth in a family of 12 children, Haifaa Al Mansour had watched many movies on the home television. She says: “My father was a lawyer and a poet, and to have some peace and quiet he brought home video cassettes and we were able to watch Bruce Lee, Indian films from Bollywood and Disney cartoons. We especially loved Snow White.

Her parents gave the same education to all their children, boys and girls, and Haifaa went  to Cairo to study comparative literature at the American. Back in Saudi Arabia, she worked for a petrol company, at first giving English classes, but was moved to the communications department where she learned to make videos.

Haifaa decided to use her new-found abilities to make a documentary on the life of women in her own city and in the desert. “For Women without Shadows I met old women who were very shy, never having been to school. And others who were younger, and had been able to go to school, but they suffered from much stricter segregation than their mothers.”

In 2006, this documentary was shown at international festivals, and one day also at the American Embassy, where Haifaa met her husband, an American diplomat. Later, she was able to study cinema for a Masters at Sydney University while her husband was posted to Australia.

Back in her home country, now 38 years old and the mother of two children, she decided to make a film “to show what it’s like to be young and a woman inSaudi Arabia. The heroine, Wadjda, is a mix of myself, my school-friends and my nieces,” she says.

Permission was given to film in the capital, Riyad, but a woman cannot be seen working with men in the street, so for outside scenes Haifaa directed the actors sitting in a van and using a walkie-talkie.

Wadjda is not a crusading film, but an intimate, often funny story which brings us close to a band of schoolgirls coping with strict limits on their freedom. The heroine, like many another 11-year-old, dreams of having her very own bike.

The main character is played by Waad Mohammed, dressed in jeans and trainers under her long black abaya, for she is just at the age where she must wear a veil in the street. We are privileged to witness a tender relationship with her mother, Saudi actress Reem Abdullah. Because women are not allowed to drive, this elegant and intelligent woman is dependent on the whims of an illiterate driver to be able to go to work.

Girls are not allowed to ride bikes either. But Wadjda keeps her target always in view, earning and saving whatever money she can get, and often, after school, passing by the shop where the bike she dreams of owning stands wrapped in plastic.

Then her school announces a competition for the recitation of verses of the Koran, with a prize of money for the winner. Wadjda begins to practise, and we Western viewers learn the intricacies of the Arab psalmody, sung by the school girls.

Many other stories are interwoven into the scenario. When Wadjda won the prizes for Best Arab Film and Best Actress in Dubai, some people from Saudi Arabia were able to see the film.

“What struck my own sister, who is very religious, was that the film shows the ‘real life’ in our country. On the TV we usually have only soap operas where heavily made-up women are seen in huge American-style apartments.”

In one scene, Wadjda accompanies her mother who wants to buy a new dress for a wedding. They find a beautiful red evening dress, but to try it on they have to go down the street to the public toilets where Wadjda sits on the washbasin and watches her mother put on the beautiful gown. As always in the film, there is no explanation, but we guess that there are no facilities for women to try on clothes in the shop. The mother has to make the best of the cramped space in the toilet to change, and looks at herself in the cracked, dirty mirror. There is a silent complicity between the mother and daughter, and a stark contrast between the bright beautiful red dress and the heavy black abaya that covers the mother from head to toe.

The way Haifaa found the funding for her film is a story in itself. “No-one thought it was possible to make a film, so no producer wanted to give me any money.” Finally, it was a member of the Saudi Royal family who financed the film. Prince Al-Walid bin Talal saw the documentary Women without Shadows and decided to help with the production of Wadjda.

“Some members of the Royal Family realise very well that we will have to end the segregation between men and women. Of course, it’s very slow. But King Abdullah has just named 30 women as members of his Council.” Women will get the vote in 2015, but only for municipal elections.

And they still must not laugh in public, nor let their face be seen by a man.

If this film comes near you, go to see it. It’s a gem.

Mary O’Neill Le Rumeur writes from Angers in France where she lives and teaches English.  This article is reprinted with permission from MercatorNet where you can access a video with the director and clips from the movie.

Awaiting Stretch Marks

Elizabeth Hanna Pham

I’d always heard about being comfortable in your own skin, about how every body is beautiful, about how you shouldn’t let the media affect how you feel about yourself. I knew that models were airbrushed and pushed up and manipulated in all sorts of ways and that they didn’t represent “real women.” I’d even been told that I was beautiful. But despite what I was told, I always felt like I knew of a deeper truth- that there was an ideal, far more perfect than I was and that I could never reach that ideal. As it does for many females, that idea stung. And it stung deeply. I’d try to reason it out. You don’t need to be perfect! You don’t need to be flawless! Nobody expects that of you! They love you as you are! Imperfections are lovable! But it didn’t matter. Though I believed it in theory, I didn’t believe it deep down, or at least, I didn’t feel it all the time. I didn’t feel it when faced with what I considered the ideal.

And then, I got pregnant.

I’d always heard the pregnant woman hailed as the beacon of femininity—and I interiorly scoffed—yeah maybe when the bump is small and cute! But beacon of femininity when she possibly weighs more than her husband? Come on! And I’d seen websites of women sharing their post-natal bodies—stretch marks and all—with pride. This body gave birth to new life and I’m proud of it! They’d say.

Good for you! I’d think, but my body better never look like that!

And now? Sure, I’d prefer it didn’t. But I’m not so concerned about it anymore if it does. All of a sudden I actually feel beautiful. A type of beautiful that is irrelevant of anyone else’s affirmation and irrelevant of what imperfections may happen upon my body. A type of beautiful that only I could convince myself of.

Because now I know what makes me beautiful. I can actually see it for myself. Now I know why the female body was made like it was. It actually has a purpose. And things are beautiful not just because of how they look, but because of what they are, what they’re meant for, what they can do. Pregnancy has forced me to see what my body can do.

I don’t mean to claim that the female body is only beautiful because it can be a pregnant body. Not at all! The female body is beautiful because it can love. And that is the most beautiful thing in the world. It’s just that pregnancy is one of the many ways in which the female, body can love. Hopefully, those who cannot, or have not, or will not ever be pregnant see that they have that same beautiful body capable of just as much love. But for me, it happened to take pregnancy to understand that.

Pregnancy forced me into an ultimatum. That is, either you accept that you won’t be physically, sexually flawless and culturally “perfect” or you don’t ever let your body fully love and do the amazing things it is meant to do. Because love hurts. Love stretches and bends and breaks and wrinkles and tires. Love wears on the body. But love gives the body purpose and meaning.

The old Skin Horse explains this phenomenon perfectly in his dialogue with the Velveteen Rabbit:

“Generally,” he says, “by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Pregnancy is teaching me how worth it is to be Real. For some of us, it may be a different lesson, but we can all be Real. We become Real when we love in the ways we were meant to love and when we accept fully the ways in which that love may bend and break our bodies (and even hearts.) It is in becoming real, that like the Skin Horse, we may one day look at all the new stuffed horses and think for a moment, “It’d be nice to look like them again,” but if we have really loved and lived we will surely laugh at such a thought. Laugh because the beauty of physical perfection, while nice, pales in comparison to the beauty of love.


Jennifer Lahl

No, this is not a tabloid headline you read while waiting to checkout at the grocery store or something you might read on Craigslist in their Help Wanted ads. This was a casual comment by Harvard University’s prestigious geneticist, George Church, made in a recent interview for Germany’s Der Speigel magazine.






Needless to say, Dr. Church caused a media firestorm with this request. Now he claims he was just speculating and was not making a request. His new book, Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves, has a mention of bringing back Neanderthals. To accomplish this it is simply a matter of fact that an “adventurous woman would be needed” to carry the baby. But just how far-fetched is this idea? In 2009, scientists in Germany reconstructed the Neanderthal genome and boldly proclaimed that with these new technologies (and $30 million) they could produce a living Neanderthal. Fast-forward three quick years and all that seems to be missing is a willing woman to be the surrogate. I suppose the artificial womb will eventually suffice, but it’s still not ready for prime time.

If Dr. Church isn’t inclined to clone a Neanderthal and implant it into a woman’s womb, I am sure there are many who would be. It’s not be far-fetched to imagine a woman willing to sign up to gestate a Neanderthal clone, given society’s proclivity to reality TV and sensationalism, even if only for their 15 minutes of fame. Truth be told, I’d welcome the chance to interview this adventurous woman for my upcoming film on maternal surrogacy.

As scientists pursue this technology in hopes of resurrecting an extinct species or of dealing with endangered species, one has to wonder what limits should be placed on this new science? What are the moral criteria that will be used in making these decisions? And who gets to decide? Our world today faces unprecedented technological changes. Staggering developments in biotechnology offer increasingly greater control over discomfort, disease, death—and over our very selves. But for all the promise of these pursuits, potentially de-humanizing problems emerge, like the ones we can foresee in this new development.

What is the role of medicine here? Clearly, we have long forgotten the deep roots of the Hippocratic tradition in medicine—first, do no harm—in breaking one of society’s most cherished covenants between physician and patient. In this bizarre case, both the pregnant surrogate and the Neanderthal baby would be patients and both would be harmed.

Culture would be harmed as well. The definition of Homo sapiens is blurred, nearly beyond recognition, as we conduct scientific research on human beings, molding them according to our will. This scientific breakthrough would threaten to abolish our own humanity as warned by C. S. Lewis in his great essay, The Abolition of Man.

Make no mistake—my position is not anti-technology or anti-progress, but rather one of questioning progress simply for progress’ sake. Again, what are the ultimate goals, the ends and purposes of this biotechnology and medical progress? Cloning a Neanderthal and impregnating a woman with such a clone is not progress. We must advocate for and demand progress based on rigorous and fact-based biotechnologies and medical therapies that honor and secure human dignity rather than undermine it. We must insist upon virtuous character in both the scientist and physician, and recognize the limits of the natural moral order, which promises us a truly human future, deeply situated in the dignity of the human person.

How undignified it is to treat a woman as a mere tool to gestate a scientific experiment. Have we have worked tirelessly for hundreds of years, advocating for the rights and protections of women and children, only to see stunts like this that strongly degrade the intimate beauty and gift of pregnancy and childbirth, done for novelty and celebrity masquerading as progress?

Biotechnology must reject such freakish carnival sideshow attractions. Instead, we must covenant to practice medicine, biotechnology, and all other sciences with fidelity to one another’s mutual dignity. In the words of Dr. Paul Ramsey, one of the pioneers of bioethics, biotechnology should become “a community of moral discourse”.

There are countless examples of real breakthroughs and real advances that promote and protect human dignity, all for our common good. These advances allow for human flourishing where the boundless scientific imagination is free to soar not only at the laboratory bench, but also the patient’s bedside.

Consider just two examples. Dr. Joseph Lister’s pioneering work in understanding antiseptics led to better patient outcomes because of decreased wound infections. The brilliant and courageous Madame Curie’s, whose discovery of the theory of radioactivity and the early uses of isotopes in treating tumors led to improved cancer treatments and better radiological imaging for diagnostic purposes.

Dr. Church’s announcement is not in the tradition of Lister or Curie. When an announced breakthrough looks and feels like a cheap tabloid magazine headline, you can bet it is not an advancement of true human progress.

This article originally appeared at To The Source and is reprinted with permission.

Masculine Love & Tolkien

Henry Karlson

In my last post, I discussed the way Peter Jackson’s films have misunderstood J.R.R. Tolkien’s works by including more roles for women in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I pointed out that Tolkien had already included significant role models for women, and that Tolkien’s work had to be understood in the context of a man’s story representing gender in a masculine way. To complement Tolkien would require a story from a woman’s perspective, not the creation of roles for women, placing them haphazardly into the scene, not exactly fitting right with the narrative. I would like to continue this conversation by examining one of the central themes found in all of Tolkien’s stories and how they represent Tolkien and his own life experiences. This theme is romantic love – but not just romantic love, but heroic love, the struggle that a man might have to go through for his beloved. Women have their own version of this, which one can find in other works of literature, and their version needs to be read and studied on their own, as a way to complement Tolkien’s insight. But Tolkien’s work is a masculine voice and what it can offer about masculine romantic, heroic love is compromised by Jackson.

J.R.R. Tolkien had, for himself, a great, romantic affair, filled with the struggles one associates with heroic love, and it served as the foundation for the great love story found within Middle Earth (the tale of Beren and Lúthien). After Tolkien’s mother had died, the priest and family friend, Fr. Francis Morgan, was given custody over Tolkien and his brother, Hilary. When a young Tolkien met Edith Bratt, they quickly fell in love. Tolkien’s love for Edith was seen to get the best of him, and Fr. Morgan forbade Tolkien from seeing or contacting Edith until Tolkien turned 21. Fr. Morgan wanted Tolkien to focus on his studies; he was also concerned because Edith was an Anglican. Tolkien reluctantly obeyed.

As soon as Tolkien turned 21, Tolkien wrote Edith, only to get a letter telling him that she was engaged and had thought Tolkien had forgotten her. A week later, Tolkien went to visit her, and convinced her to reject the man she was engaged to and to marry him instead (with the requirement that she became Catholic, which she did). It is clear, when one reads what happened over the following years, that their love remained through various struggles, some which hurt both them and their family (one struggle seems to have been a religious one, which later worked itself out). These hardships reminded Tolkien that even with true love, the struggle for that love would always be there, to test it and purify it until the end. The fun they had before being forbidden to see each other, as well as the wait and struggle Tolkien had to go through in order to be married, and the heartaches they felt after, can be seen throughout Tolkien’s works, but none better than in the tale of Beren and Lúthien (an identification Tolkien made early on, calling Edith his Lúthien, even on her tombstone).

The story of Beren and Lúthien is one of the greatest stories of Tolkien. It was one of the first he started to write, working on it throughout his whole life. It’s a wonderful, detailed story but a short synopsis must suffice here. It was a story of the First Age of Middle Earth. The hero, Beren, saw and fell in love with the Elven princess, Lúthien. He was the last survivor of a group of men who had withstood the onslaught of Morgoth, the Dark Lord (who, as Sauron’s master, was far more deadly and evil). Lúthien was the fairest of the elves, and loved by her father, King Thingol. When Thingol heard of Beren and Lúthien’s love, he was set against it. He said he would only give his daughter to Beren if Beren did an impossible task: bring one of the three Great Silmarils which Morgoth had stolen from the Elves and give it to Thingol. Beren said he would do just that, and that the next time Thingol saw him, he would have a Silmaril in hand.

The tale is one filled with great heroic deeds, of great love and great woe. Beren would prove one of the greatest men in history but he would die soon after completing his task. Lúthien, in sorrow, died from her grief. Being an Elf, and Beren a human, she feared their destinies would keep them apart, but because of her great story and the depth of love and grief in her heart, Mandos, the keeper of the Elven dead, gave to her the desire of her heart: both Beren and Lúthien were given another life together, both as mortals, to enjoy the glory of their love.

Beren and Lúthien became the great tale of love, told by the Elves themselves. The story of Aragorn and Arwen, as told in Appendix A of the The Lord of the Rings, is a secondary version of Beren and Lúthien. Aragorn was a great man, and Arwen, the daughter of Elrond, was like Lúthien reborn. She was the Evenstar, the most beautiful of her generation. They first met when Aragorn was twenty, when Aragorn fell in love with her, similar to how Beren fell in love with Lúthien. Elrond, her father, had taken Aragorn in and loved him, but when Elrond saw what was in Aragorn’s heart, Elrond warned him that Arwen was of a nobler lineage with a destiny among the Elves. Elrond foresaw dark times and counseled Aragorn not to be concerned with things which he could not have, including a wife. Aragorn struggled with this advice, but kept himself from Arwen.

It would be thirty years before Arwen and Aragom meet again and Arwen finds her love for Aragorn. Then, they would pledge themselves for each other. Elrond, when he heard of this, said though he loved Aragorn as a son, he would not allow the marriage and the doom it brought unless Aragorn proved himself by becoming King. This task represented, like in the tale of Beren and Lúthien, the difficulty and sacrifice one must go through for love. As with Lúthien, Arwen would have to face mortal existence and suffer the fate of men, for her love. Jackson’s version of Aragorn and Arwen lost this grandeur, the sacrifice and the nobility of the love itself, when he compromised Tolkien’s concept in order to create a bigger role for Arwen.

In these tales, Tolkien tells the story of how men struggle for love, and how that struggle is shared by their beloved (as well as with many others). Tolkien wrote a happy ending to the two great tales – though, both touched with bitterness – showing the great beatitude of love and how it gives men a sense of value through their struggles for love’s sake. This is how a man can understand love, for it is a man’s way of understanding through his own accomplishments, even accomplishments for love. In the end, if love wins, it is an eschatological joy, which must be earned and not just given for it to be of value. This is also how one can understand another love story in Tolkien’s works, the love of the Ents with the Entwives. The two have become separated; Tolkien himself is not sure if any Entwives still exist in the world. The Ents, in their desire for their Wives, represent their hope for their reunion, a kind of eschatological hope in and of itself:


When Winter comes, the winter wild that hill and wood shall slay;
When trees shall fall and starless night devour the sunless day;
When wind is in the deadly East, then in the bitter rain
I’ll look for thee, and call to thee; I’ll come to thee again!


When Winter comes, and singing ends; when darkness falls at last;
When broken is the barren bough, and light and labour past;
I’ll look for thee, and wait for thee, until we meet again:
Together we will take the road beneath the bitter rain!


Together we will take the road that leads into the West,
And far away will find a land where both our hearts may rest.

Together the two will find rest – the rest found in love, the rest Tolkien represents can only be had at the end of a vast struggle for love. Without it, without such testing, the love is weak and incomplete and lacks value to the masculine sensibility. Love’s labor – it is not lost; the hope for love, in the middle of the struggle, is an eschatological hope which keeps the lovers united even when apart.

Tolkien himself would feel the full blunt of this when his love, Edith, died. He would have to wait, like the Ents, for the reuniting with his love. And yet, it is clear, his hope was that the two of them would be together, in heavenly union, for all eternity, bonded by love. Buried with a tombstone naming them Beren and Lúthien, they now lie together, awaiting the final resurrection, where they too can be in the land where their hearts may find eternal rest

Learning Football

Marjorie Murphy Campbell

In honor of the football game today, I am reprinting a humor piece I wrote when I realized that I actually had to learn something about this game – a “game” which I’ve yet to see the radical feminists insist be opened, like the battlefield, to women!

The first play my son had to make in football was to get all the waivers of liability signed without being spotted by the Motherback. He did this. He worked with a man who I usually refer to as “my husband” but, in this case, I will call him “the Co-conspirator.” My son and the Co-conspirator devised a series of maneuvers that ran wide of me throughout July and August. My 14-year-old freshman was crossing the goal line with a football before I knew that there was a football team at his new Catholic high school. I, the Motherback, failed in my defensive position and one of my children, my baby to be precise, is playing football.

Now, I am learning about this form of combat which my son and the Co-conspirator hysterically call a “game.” First, I have learned that there are several backs (beside my back which everyone went behind). There are ¼ backs, ½ backs and running backs. There are some tight backs, too, I think – at least, mine usually is. There are no ¾ backs and no whole backs, but a full back seems close to the latter. There is a defense and an offense but the ¼ backs never play on the defense which is all about blocking and tackling and brutally hitting the person with the ball so that the pigskin flies out of his grip and into the air. That becomes a free pigskin and every single person on the field then must jump upon it and make a pile of bodies. The referees then unpile the persons, slowly, one at a time like pick up sticks, until they find a hopefully breathing human being who has the ball stuffed under his shirt moaning “it’s mine, it’s mine, it’s mine.”

A pigskin is the ball my son uses but they don’t call it a ball as in other sports. You use the ball in basketball, for example, to make baskets and you hit the ball in baseball to get to base. In football, the “foots” are most certainly used to run the ball down the yard line and across the goal, but the ball is not called a runningball, yardball or goalball, it’s called a pigskin. I have found this confusing.

There are a lot of calls in football I don’t understand but some of them have to do with interference. There is interference in a pass which seems to be called when a referee is very disappointed that a player did not catch a pigskin thrown really far down the field. I’ve never seen interference on little, dinky passes. There is also interference in a face mask. This seems to be called only when one player grabs the mask portion of another player’s helmet and swings him around until his feet leave the ground or when one player takes his fingers and jabs them through the mask into the other player’s eyes who then screams out loud. The face mask on a helmet and the nose guard on the defense are not related in any way to my knowledge.

I have also learned that five minutes of football is actually 45 minutes of time in the lives of real people. It is critical to learn this early in the season so you have proper supplies. If you say, “I have to go to the bathroom,” most Co-conspirators reply, “but there’s just five minutes remaining so you better wait.” Either you learn to ignore this bald-faced distortion of reality and go ahead to the bathroom or you must wear an adult diaper to all football games. It’s up to you.

Finally, I have learned to bring a prayer book to my son’s football games. The first game, I did not do so and found myself staring obsessively at the ambulance which was waiting for injuries near the visitor’s bench. We were the visitors. I thought it was incredibly unkind of the host team to put the ambulance and two excited paramedics next to my son’s team and I found myself thinking uncharitable thoughts and words. Then one of my son’s teammates got hammered and fell down totally still in the middle of the field. The activated paramedics dashed onto the field to pronounce the player dead, while all of the players kneeled on one knee to pray for his departed soul. I began to sob and realized that I did not have a prayer book with me. But the player miraculously came back to life and everyone clapped.

So far, none of the many injuries I have witnessed have been fatal. In fact, most of them have not required any treatment except ice and applause. I am still puzzling over what is actually an injury and what is not. The large deep blue and purple streaked bruises all over my baby’s arms and shoulders are not, I am told, “injuries” – they are merely caused by the pads which he wears to protect himself from injuries. However, when one of the ½ backs or tight wads gets tired and fakes a leg cramp to limp off the field, the football trainer runs out with a gigantic bag of ice and all of us stand up and clap because he is injured.

Personally, I do not believe that football is consistent with any teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. The only overlap between football and the Roman Catholic Church is the Holy Rosary which, along with my prayer book, is as necessary equipment as my son’s helmet and his big number 58 jersey.

“Equality” on the Battlefield

Fay Voshell

Contributed by Fay Voshell

It is said that General Robert E. Lee, as he surveyed the carnage of the battle of Telegraph Hill, spoke the words, “It is well that war is so terrible — we would grow too fond of it.”

War is terrible.

Perhaps that is one reason why during relatively peaceful interludes, but sometimes even in wartime, palliative fantasies are concocted to make armed conflict seem less horrible and the stresses of war more equitably distributed. Civilians, often the most ravaged by war, long to see their hopes and dreams of a perfect society, along with their ways of conducting affairs and mediating conflict, inform the armies of nations. Then peace will reign.

But most often, attempts to make armies resemble the mores and behavior of contemporary civil society amount to chimerical impracticalities and downright denial of reality. It seems the present administration of the U.S.is gripped by a fantasy of “equality” designed to distribute the rigors of combat more equitably between men and women by allowing women to enter combat zones as infantry. Women are to be both as endangered and as heroic as men traditionally have been in wartime.

The West has seen similar fantastical pipe dreams before.

Before and during World War I, the French military was gripped by an illusory vision of heroism. French soldiers were taught to think of themselves as unconquerable because they possessed elan vital. A concept developed by philosopher Henri Bergson, elan vital was a supposed life force imparting a heroic invincibility that would enable French soldiers to conquer the less nobly endowed, retrogressive Huns comprising the German armies.

Buoyed by their fantasy of natural supremacy, the French nobly went forth, garbed in their brilliant red and blue uniforms and wielding their flashing sabers. They met the cold, hard and merciless reality of German machine gunners who methodically picked off rank after rank of inspired Frenchmen who, despite elan vital, fell dead. Illusion eventually bowed before reality. The French changed uniforms and tactics. But not before the fiction the nation’s soldiers were taught to believe in had resulted in countless casualties.

The American military has now been asked to embrace a fantasy equal to or worse than the concept of elan vital.

Today’s adherents of heroic fantasy have decreed the battlefield can be a gender-neutral zone reflective of the Left’s domestic agenda for gender “equality.” The daydream is that women and men can act as interchangeable units on the battlefield. The eradication of the differences between the sexes the Left is seeking to achieve in civilian society is to be applied to the U.S. military, which is now expected to embrace a sort of psychological Lamarckianism that insists men and women can by sheer positive thinking — “I can be anything I want to be”–overcome the natural limitations of the female sex by an act of will.

Today’s version of elan vital, monotonously repeated for at least two generations, is reminiscent of the fatuous Emile Coue’s theories of self-improvement based on optimistic mantra, “Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.” Ideas similar to Coue’s theories of the transformative abilities of positive thinking were to trickle down to children’s literature in the form of The Little Engine That Could (1930) — “I think I can; I think I can.” In turn, the “I think I can,” motif has now become the ubiquitous mantra repeated continually to little boys and girls: “You can be anything you want to be.”

Including a female GI Joe locked in hand-to-hand combat with hardened male soldiers.

No. Sometimes, you can’t be anything you want to be. Sometimes, you shouldn’t even try.

It is impossible to eliminate the natural differences and natural attraction between the sexes. It is hallucinatory to believe there are not core differences between the way men and women think and act. It is also madness to deny the heightened testosterone levels characterizing men on the battlefield.

For instance, does anyone suppose women will not be assaulted and raped when put side by side with men in a battle zone?

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs has found sexual assaults within our armed services are far more common in war zones. Think of it: women face assault and rape within their own units. Even if the assaults sometimes don’t amount to physical rape, the temptation to trade sexual favors for protection and/or advancement is great. How many women in the military can testify that they are propositioned regularly by men who are their superiors in rank? How many have not been merely propositioned, but have been forced into sexual encounters they don’t want?

There is another reality that contradicts the fantasy: Special tortures await women when in the hands of enemies who regard women as unclean and as infidels who are lower than dogs. Such enemies are highly unlikely to be handing out birth control pills to the women they rape and use as sex slaves — if they allow captured women to remain alive. Women face impregnation and forced abortion or the killing of infants conceived during rape when captured behind enemy lines. Men may face torture and even death, but they do not face what women will inevitably face if captured by implacable misogynists who care nothing about the niceties of the Geneva Conventions.

The experience of the Israelis, a democratic nation that has deployed women to combat zones, is instructive. Phyllis Chesler reported in a symposium on Islamic Terror and Sexual Mutilation:

“Soon after the establishment of the IDF, the removal of all women from front-line positions was decreed. Decisive for this decision was the very real possibility of falling into enemy hands as prisoners of war. It was fair and equitable, it was argued, to demand from women equal sacrifice and risk; but the risk for women prisoners of rape and sexual molestation was infinitely greater than the same risk for men.”

During the same symposium, Dr. David Gutman said:

“During the Israeli War of Independence Jewish fighters, including female soldiers captured by Arab irregulars, were routinely tortured and mutilated in the most obscene ways (by contrast, water-boarding would have furnished a pleasant interlude), and IDF officers warned their troops against being taken alive.”

John Luddy of the Heritage Foundation cites the demoralizing effects on unit cohesion, another vital consideration. Male soldiers who saw their fellow women soldiers mutilated in obscene ways were devastated.
Luddy writes:

“For example, it is a common misperception that Israel allows women in combat units. In fact women have been barred from combat in Israel since 1950, when a review of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War showed how harmful their presence could be. The study revealed that men tried to protect and assist women rather than continue their attack. As a result, they not only put their own lives in greater danger, but also jeopardized the survival of the entire unit. The study further revealed that unit morale was damaged when men saw women killed and maimed on the battlefield.”

But just as importantly, when given combat units are facing each other, one of which has women and the other which has men, the most likely outcome is that the male-only forces will win. After all, war is about winning. Imagine the sheer joy of the SS if they had faced an American battalion made up of men and women — or only women? The ludicrousness of the situation would have been exceeded only by the slaughter. Weakness would have ensured victory by the enemy.

Is weakening our armed forces what is actually desired? We conservatives should never forget the military has long been a target of the Left, who wish to weaken it so it does not present a threat to their goals of a European-style America. It is a badly kept secret that our president dislikes the Armed Forces and would even allow “sequestration” — gutting our military — in order to promote his domestic agenda. What better tactic to complete the emasculation of the finest military in the world than to insist on enforced “equality” between the sexes on the battlefield?

Speaking of emasculation, what happens to the manhood of soldiers who are expected to fight alongside women? What man is going to choose being a soldier if he has to share a foxhole with a female and give up belonging to a band of brothers?

Radical feminists who want their fantasy of so-called “equality” to extend to the battlefield must ask themselves if they are prepared to have universal Selective Service, along with all it implies for all women, not just those who meet the standards and who would choose to be fighters alongside men. What transpires when choice is taken out of the hands of all women? Who, for instance, will take care of all the children if Mom and Dad both head for the battlefields?

None of the above is meant to imply American women have not shown they are capable of much when they serve in the armed services. The core issues concerning women in combat do not indicate women are not as intelligent, as brave and as true as men. Individual women can even sometimes outperform men. They can be just as ferocious when protecting what is precious to them and their country.

No, the core issues concern the innate limitations of and the unique dangers facing soldiers of the female sex as pertains to mixed gender battle units, the battlefield, and capture by the enemy. Even when women have met all the physical standards applying to male soldiers, they remain women and therefore automatically more vulnerable than men. That is why no armies, ancient or modern, ever incorporated women soldiers into their infantry ranks. In fact, the appearance of women on the battlefield would not only be welcomed by our enemies, it would be a fantastical exercise in political correctness that would not only to be uniquely dangerous to women, but might well prove fatal to the readiness and effectiveness of our military and our country.

Those who would conduct wars according to fantasies will lose. The French were on the verge of losing WWI no matter how firmly they believed a mystical endowment of heroism was bestowed on their soldiers by the elixir of “elan vital.” It was when France faced reality and changed her politically-correct assumptions that she began to break her losing streak, with the help of American soldiers — all of whom were men.

It is time to put the axe to the root of the fantasy of “equality” before it irrevocably damages the finest military in the world.

Fay Voshell, selected as one of the Delaware GOP’s “Winning Women” of 2008, is a contributor to American Thinker and National Review Online.  This article is reprinted with permission and originally appeared at American Thinker.