“We went to Kineshma, that’s in Ivanovo region, to visit his parents. I went as a heroine and I never expected someone to welcome me, a front-line girl, like that. We’ve gone through so much, we’ve saved lives, lifes of mothers, wives. And then… I heard accusations, I was bad-mouthed. Before that I’ve only ever been “dear sister”… We had tea and my husband’s mother took him aside and started crying: “Who did you marry? A front-line girl… You have two younger sisters. Who’s going to marry them now?” When I think back to that moment I feel tears welling up. Imagine: I had a record, I loved it a lot. There was a song, it said: you have the right to wear the best shoes. That was about a front-line girl. I had it playing, and [his?] elder sister came up and broke it apart, saying: you have no rights. They destroyed all my photos from the war… We, front-line girls, went through so much during hte war… and then we had another war. Another terrible war. The men left us, they didn’t cover our backs. Not like at the front.” from С.Алексеевич “У войны не женское лицо”
In Soviet Union women participating in WWII were erased from history, remaining as the occasional anecdote of a female sniper or simply as medical staff or, at best, radio specialists. The word “front-line girl” (frontovichka) became a terrible insult, synonimous to “whore”. Hundreds thousand of girls who went to war to protect their homeland with their very lives, who came back injured or disabled, with medals for valor, had to hide it to protect themselves from public scorn.
This has always happened in history: Women do something important. Then they get shamed for it (so nobody will talk about it) and it gets erased from history.
And then certain men will say: “Women suck, they’ve never done anything important.”
Look into history and learn that women have played a far greater role then douches (present and past) wanted you to know.
Hey Will (and Jack) I got you something.
So this is important. Let me tell you a story.
All the time I spend debating about women in combat, I’ve picked up on a trend that disturbs me. Supporting or attacking, people are quick to draw on biology, psychology, law, but very rarely - almost never - do I hear about the history of women in combat, and the evidence their service lends to this debate.
Hundreds of thousands of women faced combat in WW2, and on both sides, and on all fronts, and it is a history that has been almost completely erased from contemporary awareness. I have been given arguments about how women can not psychologically handle combat. And about how women in mixed-gender combat units will automatically disrupt group cohesion - the brotherhood, if you will. Both of these assertions are erasure.
Women have not lived in a protective bubble untouched by combat for all of history. Women have been killed, wounded, and captured in combat, and tortured after. We are not living a world where these are hypothetical situations women have yet to prove they can handle. Unfortunately, they have, they can, in the future, they probably will, again and again. Soviet women served as partisans, snipers, tank drivers, fighter pilots, bombers. And more.
Both British and American women served in mixed-gender AA units. I could drag you through several examples of British women performing exemplarily despite being wounded, or seeing their comrades die. The Luftwaffe did not discriminate. Between the British and the Americans, it was determined that mixed gender units actually performed much better than all male units, because of teamwork. Because women are better and certain tasks, men are better at certain tasks, and at other tasks they are comparably efficient, and in a team, hopefully, in combat, you let the best do what they are best at. For the most part, they were proud to serve together.
German propaganda never commented on the British AA units, but they thoroughly smeared the Soviet fighting woman - flitenweiber. People often argue with me that women are a threat to group cohesion because men naturally give women preferential treatment. Which certainly explains why men are more likely to survive shipwrecks. And history shows us that Germans soldiers had no chivalrous compunction when it came to shooting captured Soviet women who were armed.
We’re fed a history of war that almost exclusively features white male figures, most of whom fit into this destructive constructed myth of the soldier that is somehow both chivalrous and charmingly womanizing and who’s sense of brotherhood is unshakably dependent on the band being all man. There is no history of woman at war, none. I hear a lot about how women have no upper body strength, I hear nothing about the Front-Line Female Comrade.
THE WORD FRONTOVICHKA BECAME A TERRIBLE INSULT - are you fucking kidding me? Fuck, that made me cry. At first when I started reading I thought I was reading alernate history fiction. I’m ashamed to be ignorant about this, and full of rage and much worse bitter shame that this history is constantly repressed, suppressed, hidden. WHAT THE FUCK. D: D: D:
I didn’t know that bit about the AA (Anti-Aircraft) units.
And even in this article I don’t see a mention of the women of the Israeli Army, or women of the resistance if we’re just sticking to WWII. I didn’t know about the Russian soldiers, only the fighter pilots, the night witches, and I’ve spent years poking into the corners of history trying to find women who will serve as ammunition when men tell me women can’t fight.
The best explanation I’ve heard of what happened to women after WWII comes from “A League of Their Own,” the publicist’s character: “What is this—the war is over, Rosie, turn in your rivets?” Women all over the world had to step into the same old ruts.
I don’t think it’s any mistake at all that Betty Friedan wrote her ground-breaking text for the second wave of feminism, THE FEMININE MYSTIQUE, just 10 years after WWII, after women had dined on a full plate of the same old, same old.
And shame on the men who never stood up for the women who worked and fought beside them, and saved their lives.
This is like the argument that women don’t go into combat now, but hi, Lori Piestewa was killed in combat in 2003. Jessica Lynch got a great damsel in distress narrative that erased the fact that she was a trained soldier. And of course Shoshona Johnson was simply expunged. They were POW’s no less.
I once did an end-of-term paper on women in combat in WWII for a grad-level history course. Our professor had a sort of eclectic method of teaching, and all of the topics he didn’t quite have time to do, he gave out as research papers instead. We all had to present them on the last day of class.
I’ll never forget it, because at the end of the Q&A session after my presentation, my professor folds his hands and looks and me over the tops of his glasses- he’s a much older professor, one of the last of the old guard, very slow spoken and very very smart- and he says, “Ms. Chestnut,” and that’s not my real name, obviously, but he always addressed everyone by their last name, Ms. and Mr., no exceptions, “Ms. Chestnut,” he says, “if you were testifying in front of Congress, right now, on the matter of women in combat, in your expert position as a historian, what would you advise?”
At which point I took a deep, shaky breath, took a chance with this old, terrifyingly judgemental man staring me down, and replied:
“Historically, women have always served in combat, and always will. And when men serve with women, alongside them as equals, women are always accepted. It’s always the men above them and the women who’s never met them that make those women’s lives a living hell, and that’s the issue that needs to be addressed.”
My answer today is the same as it was four years ago. Women in combat aren’t the problem. Men and women in combat together aren’t even the problem. The truth is that, like women everywhere, it’s when people find ways to stop seeing them as human that we have problems.
(Also, I got an A.)
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