Equality in the defence forces?
Evidently what we need is more women in the defence forces. Who could disagree with gender equality?
In this case me, because this isn’t about gender equality. It is about recruitment, about numbers. In times of low unemployment and the still strong mining boom, who is going to join the armed forces, especially if it has a deserved reputation as an abusive and sexist organisation with a dominant male culture?
The Broderick Report is an attempt to beautify the soul of ugliness.
I am not going to side with Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick on this and agree that we need more women in more senior positions. Nor am I going to agree with the likes of Neil James from the Australian Defence Association trotting out tired old clichés about women’s (in)capacity to fight.
Let’s go back to basics. What is the role of the defence forces? To protect Australian capitalism from external and internal threats.
Yet, as the history of the Australian military shows, Australia’s defence forces are aggressors, not defenders. Our rulers have committed us to wars arm in arm with our ruling class’s big imperialist protectors the United Kingdom and the United States. And sometimes Australia’s imperialism sees our rulers invade countries in the region such as East Timor, the Solomon Islands and so on for their own purposes.
In other words the defence forces are an instrument of Australian capitalism, its cutting edge offshore and if needed in Australia. They exist to continue and expand inequality.
They are brutal killing machines. Having women in positions of power under capitalism doesn’t change the essence of capitalism and its oppression of women.
Julia Gillard isn’t liberated, because capitalism oppresses all women, although in varying degrees depending on which class women belong to.
In Iraq and Afghanistan Australian forces have been part of two invasions that have killed more than a million innocent people, many of them women and children.
Having women killing other women isn’t equality. It is killing in the name of. It is murder. It is imperialism.
More women on navy ships turning back asylum seekers isn’t equity. It is racism; it is pandering to xenophobia.
And because the role of the defence forces is to kill people, the training is a process of dehumanising men and women to accept the murder of others. It is as an accessory to this dehumanisation that the defence forces themselves are bastions of sexism. Abuse complaints in the forces are on a par with the wider population, but the number of unreported abuse cases is very high in this hierarchical institution.
This pool of sexism and abuse is essential to the role of the forces for capitalism and their training. Increasing the number of women in the forces doesn’t change their role as killers for capitalism or the dehumanisation necessary. It doesn’t challenge the abuse of women or the sexism on which the defence forces are built.
The way to do that is through struggle, either against the specific instances of oppression such as women’s oppression, or the system which creates them. Woman in the defence force if they want to have a chance of defeating the systemic sexism in their organisation should be organising strikes now. As if that is going to happen. Questioning let alone resisting authority is beaten out of them early.
Women in the Defence Forces strengthen Australian capitalism internationally and onshore. They reinforce the very system that condemns women to second class citizenry and oppression and postpone the days of real equality.
At best they give the cover of equality to an unequal system. At worst they kill women and children in the name of equality and democracy.
More gender equality in the capitalist defence forces? Not when it is really a top down push for more women to work in that hell hole of an organisation.