It’s interesting to me that something so satisfying gastronomically—spending a lazy Sunday afternoon vacuuming the final crumbs of cheesy goodness out of a Cheetos bag through pursed lips or employing my silverware drawer in a special ops effort to recover the last tiny shred of mint chocolate chip from the ice cream container—comes across as so pathetic when applied to a serious subject. I refer to the term “scraping the bottom of the barrel,” which is a favorite culinary pastime of mine, and, less importantly, a campaign tactic employed by the GOP in the recent presidential election.
Scraping the bottom of the barrel was, in fact, my first thought when I came across a letter about women in combat sent in by Ken Goodman (read it on page 18), asking how women in the military plan to deal with going to the bathroom in the field.
Now, my first thought was that Ken might want to direct this question to Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Eritrea, Israel, or North Korea—all countries that already allow women to serve in front-line combat positions. Maybe Ken could call up their prime ministers or presidents or whatever the hell they have in those backward, barbaric countries that embrace gender equality for a serious discussion about pooping procedures on the front lines?
Of course, maybe Ken has a point. Maybe we should allow our military policy to be dictated by the accessibility of toilet paper on the front lines? Bathroom politics is as good a reason for discrimination as any other, I suppose. It certainly sounds better than simply admitting you have some kind of bias, or that the presence of women on the front lines undermines your very definition of manhood and therefore terrifies you. Maybe you’ll have to buy another sports jersey and behave like an even bigger jerk on Super Bowl Sunday to compensate. And anyhow, I highly doubt Ken’s fears about going “potty in a foxhole” rank very high on the list of concerns held by women in the military.
What we probably should be talking about is the real threat to women in the military—which is neither the prospect of finally having access to equal opportunities as their male counterparts nor where they will “potty” when nature calls. The real threat is, in fact, the men and sometimes women who stand beside them, the so-called heroes we pay to “defend” our country. The question of why some of our so-called heroes are raping some of our other so-called heroes at alarming and increasing rates seems like a more fit subject for concern.
The Department of Defense estimates that 23 to 28 percent of women serving in the military will be sexually assaulted at least once over the course of their service, and that 11 percent of women in the service will be raped. And perhaps even more appalling is the fact that the military doesn’t have a very good track record for reporting or punishing these crimes. In fact, many female service members are bullied into keeping quiet, or outright dismissed when they report the crime to their commanding officers.
In 2010, there were a total of 3,158 reported sexual assaults in the military, which the Department of Defense estimates is only 13.5 percent of the total assaults. Bringing the real total to more than 19,000. And only 529 of these cases even went to trial. Apparently, we can dump millions of dollars into hunting a single terrorist on the other side of the world, but we can’t be bothered to protect the servicewomen who have sworn oaths to protect our country. It’s pretty difficult to argue that combat is too dangerous for women when they stand a one-in-four chance of being sexually assaulted by members of our own military. Those numbers make the United States military the No. 1 employer of rapists and sexual assailants in the country—and the best place to get away with it.
But really, let’s go back to talking about shitting in a foxhole.
You’ll have to forgive me, Ken, for not compiling a thorough report of how, when, and where women in combat will do their business. If you’re really desperate for answers to these pressing questions, I recommend going camping with a member of the equal sex and noting whether she demands silk-lined toilet paper and a gilded throne on which to do her business. Or consider paying a visit to a Third World country and assessing whether women there require the aforementioned golden toilet. ∆
Shredder’s on the front lines of intellectual combat, but stays the hell away from shrapnel. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.