America’s military has slowly maneuvered along a continuum away from such delusions. In my inaugural novel The Bachelor Scrolls, the character Athena, a Marine Corps major, represents a fictional construct of what equality in the military might entail. And we should hope that recent American experiments to assess the combat effectiveness of women on the battlefield will yield encouraging results for female military careers. American legislators should be diligent in monitoring those experiments.
However, perhaps the most consequential examples of the equality of women in warfare are the Kurdish female fighters of the Syrian and Iraqi theaters of combat, women who are fighting against the threat of rape, slavery and extinction by the so-called Islamic State. Constituting nearly a third of Kurdish fighters mobilized in Syria, they have captured the fascination of many in the West who are typically accustomed to seeing women marginalized in other Middle Eastern cultures. With battlefield courage displayed and broadcasted by a curious Western media—much to the misogynistic chagrin of ISIL fighters—these warrior-saints of feminist empowerment are shattering preconceptions of female capabilities and vulnerability. Arguably, one of their most significant combat accomplishments has been the propaganda value of shaming Arab men to take the battle to ISIL and terrifying jihadist war criminals with the notion of being slain by a woman.
So as the United States Congress debates whether that body should provide President Obama with authority to wage war against ISIL, it should consider the example of these female fighters. It should not be forgotten that distinction earned in warfare has an interesting way of eventually advancing the rights of oppressed peoples. Although it happened far too slowly, and to the lasting shame of the American republic, the prowess of America’s all-black regiments of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as the African-American military accomplishments of WWII, all would help awaken some sectors of a racist America to the inherent dignity and rights of its dark-skinned populations. And that would help usher in the eventual victories of the so-called Civil Rights Movement. Granted, the American human rights campaigns of the 1960s were waged with a strategy of non-violence. But one of the most enduring questions that history asks of objective observers and political tacticians looking back on that era is this: just how effective would Dr. King, and the sons and daughters of Selma, have been without the threat of Malcolm X and his ballot or the bullet rhetoric? This is an important question to ask as the fiftieth anniversary of Malcolm's assassination is marked this week.
In a manner similar to the pressure point that Malcolm X provided, I believe that these Kurdish female fighters will, in time, prove an existential threat to the patriarchal prerogatives of Middle Eastern leaders in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, a threat that will ultimately force concessions that move the needle on the register of female empowerment. I say this because, once the battle against ISIL has been won, those same Kurdish women warriors will not be satisfied to be relegated to bit roles as cooks, wet nurses and the erotic play toys of males. And I suspect that the heroism and exploits of these warriors, broadcasted via social media, will eventually shape the consciousness of women in the Middle East—exploits such as those captured in media video clips. Congress should also be diligent in supporting the ripple effects of such waves of self-determination, as they occur. And legislators might—if their constituents encourage them to do so. After all, there may be no better opportunity to spread the seeds of sustainable democracy in the region.
So, perhaps the only thing that the populations of the former Assyrian Empire and Mesopotamia may be missing is their own female equivalent of a Malcolm X. And their valor suggests that, if well-armed with more bullets, they will ensure that all women (and men) in the territories they control have full access to the ballot and the God-given rights of men (and women). Indeed, the Kurds are showing the world that more boots on the ground can come in a size 6 or size 7.
–- Geronimo Redstone, author of The Bachelor Scrolls, the modern fantasy of female empowerment