Sunday, February 14, 2010

Women at War: Life on the Front Line

When deciding on what I would write my blog about I first decided to obtain my sources from the BBC because throughout the semester I have been using coverage from the United Kingdom. I then started reading a lot about Operation Moshtarak, which is a joint effort between NATO and Afghan forces in the area of southern Afghanistan. Over 15,000 Afghan, Bristish, American, Danish, Estonian and Canadian troops are located here in an offensive effort against the Taliban. Their main focal point is on the town of Marjah, which has been the center for trading opium. After trying to somewhat grasp the background of this operation, which you can learn more about by clicking on the word Moshtarak, I decided to focus on an article that related to not only this, but also a previous discussion we had in class concerning women in battle.

The article highlighting Lieutenant Colonel Jennie Carignan, Women at War: Life on the Front Line, simply caught my eye because it is a reversed story about a woman fighting in Afghanistan while her husband raises their family in Quebec City, Canada. She is a Canadian woman who is stationed in this dangerous location of southern Afghanistan, leading a group of engineers and landmine specialists. The article discusses how Col Carignan feels that she is treated as if she is one of the guys, but that it took some time to get to that point. She has been in the Military for 23 years and has earned much respect through other battles she has been involved in. Although she is comfortable with her own, she was very surprised by how well the Afghan commanders have also accepted her. I too was very surprised by this approval and wondered if it is only because she is a Canadian woman, and how they react if one of their own country’s women obtains this type of military rank? Not knowing much about women’s rights in Afghanistan I may be questioning nothing, but I also have a hard time believing that all the British and North American male troops are overly accepting of this. Although men and women share many equal opportunities, I personally think the military must still be a soft spot in equality. Consequently I was very surprised at how this acceptance was really only a blip in the article. Furthermore, I believe the Taliban is notorious for their maltreatment of women, therefore I worry if she were to be captured how she would be dealt with and where her treatment would differ from that of the men.

The article continues to discuss her husband and how the family copes with her absence. Col Carignan’s husband who also worked with Canadian forces for 22 years is caring for their four children and becoming a schoolteacher. The piece explains how proud the family is of their mother, but goes on to say that the father always receives astonished faces when people learn of their situation. In addition, Carignan’s husband shares how he is worried about their children and what they are missing because their mother is gone, but on a positive note that he is raising very independent individuals. Personally I felt like in the discussion of her family the journalist made it more evident that it is different for a woman to be gone at war than a man. Why is it so different? Although a mother is a huge part in a child’s life, so is a father and for as long as there has been war an abundance of children have been raised without their father always being there. Is there actually a difference between the severity of being raised by only a mother or a father, or is it just that it is in many ways more socially acceptable to be raised by only a mom?

Overall I thought this article was very interesting and it made me really think about where my opinions lie with regards to women on the front line in the military and how far along different parts of the world are in accepting the idea. What do you think about women in the military? Do you think the concept will ever be as well received as the service of men?

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