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In harm’s way

Headscarfed soldiers graduating ceremony of the Afghan National Army Bitmob has a (slightly ungrammatical) piece on “The five worst excuses for leaving out a female character option.”

I was asked: “OP is talking about violent FPS, and equality there is not something all that good. Inclusion to be shot at and killed?

Well, yes.

Discrimination cuts both ways, and left unexamined it can be subtle. Certain kinds of discrimination are obvious – that because of one’s race or gender or skin colour – that one is less fit or less able than someone born in another country, or to another gender, or with a different colour, all other things being equal.

Other forms of discrimination are less obvious, such as special favour to a race or gender or colour – because it creates discrimination, even if that isn’t the intention. Women in the military is just one place where that starts to stick out, and one benefit of violent games is that they highlight that issue.

Women – just as men do – volunteer for the armed forces of their nation. Male or female, they volunteer to serve, to train hard, and to fight or die for their country should the need arise.

A kurdish soldier stands in a line with her firearm shouldered That armed forces are necessary and that conflicts occur is surely regrettable, but given the circumstances there is no reason that conflict should not be egalitarian across the gender line.

Women volunteer, just as men do. They are trained – as soldiers, sailors, officers and pilots – just as men are. They are evaluated on the criteria of fitness and marksmanship, honour, loyalty, performance and so forth, and make the grade for certain roles or are cut, just as men are.

But when it comes to allowing them to face combat, or to be represented as combatants in many video games, suddenly some people balk. “Is it not kinder,” they say, “to keep women out of this? To not allow them in situations where they may see violence and harm?”

Spare me the kindness. Better yet, spare them. Are these women not brave enough, nor good enough to face the same combat alongside men who have had equal training and testing? Are they not good enough to serve their country in the ways that men are encouraged to? That is what you ultimately imply.

Yes, war – and the violence and death involved in it – is terrible, and the very fact that we should think twice is evidence that we know that.

There are many reasons for violence and for killing. Probably the only one worth a damn is – as any soldier will tell you – the defence of lives and of peace.

Two Candian soldiers in Afghanistan getting some sack-time against the wheel of a truckViolent games (and films and books!) depicting war are a bit of an unusual thing, depicting war in the form of entertainment. Do they glorify war? Not half so much – in my opinion – as they glorify the people who work hard, train hard, and risk their lives, trusting their nation and their leaders to spend those lives where and when it is decided that that is necessary and right (even though it may not always be the case).

Shouldn’t we, then, make an extra effort to see that the women in our armed forces are allowed to follow their chosen course – to stand in harm’s way, to fight alongside their male counterparts, and to be depicted doing so and acknowledged for it in society and in popular culture and media?

And if that makes some of us uncomfortable, then perhaps we’ve learned something useful about the nature of war (and ourselves) in the process.

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Categories: Culture, Opinion.

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