I watched the latest Republican Presidential debate with usual dutifulness. I want to be informed, I want to understand the candidates, and I want to play the small part God’s given me in this process, but as this was not the first one, I didn’t expect anything revelatory.
Imagine my shock as I listened to not one, but three, so-called conservative candidates vigorously support selective service–including combat—for women, even referencing the importance of equality for their daughters in their responses. Selective service registration exists as a way to reinstitute the draft should the need arise.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who was having a hard time equating women’s progress with conscripting them to fight wars. Don’t get me wrong. I believe fathers should value their daughters. I think they should encourage them to do marvelous things. I just also happen to think they should value them as members of the female sex, not pretend that there are no biological, muscle mass differences between them and men.
It seems our government, indeed our culture, has engaged in a rendition of The Emperor Has No Clothes, but instead it’s something more along the lines of, The Women Are No Different Than the Men. This idea that, because women can think as clearly as a man, that it would follow that she can (and should) also fight in combat against men with the same effectualness is, not to put too fine a point on it, absurd. I’m an average-sized female in relatively decent shape and even as I observe the smaller of the male sex, I know that it would be a poor bet to imagine that I could overpower or outrun such a man. There’s a reason women are anxious in dark parking lots at night and men aren’t. We aren’t stupid.
You may object. You may tell me about your friend who’s a fitness instructor or unbelievably strong or played on a boys’ lacrosse team. I grant all that. But is it the norm? And even given the fact that women can be physically strong, despite the reality that many are not, is that what God gave us strength for? To fight in combat against men?
God gave women marvelous strength. Strength that wasn’t meant to be compared or measured against a man. Last time I checked, I’d never met a man able to give birth. I’ve also never known a man able to handle months of sleep deprivation during which he fed a tiny human round the clock from his very own body. These are (some of) the unique strengths of a woman and we ought not to degrade men for being unable to perform these feats. Likewise, I should feel no sense of shame over the simple fact that I can’t take down a man in combat. Why would I want to? It’s not what I was made for.
Strength is a garment women ought to wear. The kind of strength that stretches out its arms to support the poor, to feed hungry souls, to grow and harvest all that God has given you. It is a strength that nurtures life, not war. Whether a woman can give birth or not, her strength is fundamentally different than a man’s. We can keep pretending this isn’t so, or we can embrace the body and the biology God has assigned to us.
In college, I was one of those girls who managed to get my MRS. degree along with my actual diploma. I remember the jokes and the smugness toward the girls who were open about wanting to be married and start a family. The peer pressure on college girls to forsake that sort of “wasting of your education” was sizable.
But let’s not succumb to that sort of juvenile peer pressure, as if an education’s value is found anywhere but saddled to a man and children. We won’t all get married in college (or at all) and we must all walk the path God has for us. But the desire to be married, the desire to have a family is a good one. Let’s not mistake it for something else. Similarly, the desire to live our lives now as women, clothed in the sort of strength that makes us uniquely women, not men battling in combat, is also a good one. Elisabeth Elliot said it best, “Let me be a woman.”