Features Australia

Xena madness

23 June 2018

9:00 AM

23 June 2018

9:00 AM

For sheer grotesquerie, a recent push for the feminisation of the Australian Army would be hard to beat. Former General David Morrison, mincing about in women’s shoes, was the veriest amateur when it comes to official destruction of the Army’s traditions and values of masculinity and fighting efficiency.

There may certainly in the future be expanded roles for women in operating drones and probably many other aspects of remotely-controlled, electronic warfare, but that is not what this is about.

Former Major Bernard Gaynor, a decorated combat soldier sacked from first the regular Army and then the Reserve for his campaign against political correctness in the military, has discovered a lengthy (237-page) official Army paper, Teaming: optimising military capability for the coming era of equality: 2020 to 2050, by Major Elizabeth G. Boulton.

It claims future Australian soldiers may be modelled on the kids’ TV sword-wielding heroine, Xena, Warrior Princess. Their mission will be, apparently, to defend the country from marauding hoardes of enemy Xenas. ‘I wish,’ Gaynor writes, ‘that I was making this up. But I’m not.’ He explains: ‘The document, published by the Army for incorporation into future policy and capability planning, states that between 2020 and 2050 the threats Australia faces are likely to be female-led and female-dominated. In response, the Army should enable the emergence of a Xena warrior cult within Australian women. ‘And consideration should be given to reducing special forces’ fitness standards to enable ‘Xena’ to thrive as a warrioress.’

Does the author(ess) of the paper know why special forces are called such? It is because they are required to do things beyond the high standards of fitness, strength and endurance required of ordinary combat troops. The purpose of the armed forces – ultimately their only purpose – is not to engage in political correctness or virtue-signalling, nor to provide psychotherapy for those who consider themselves marginalised, but to win battles. Nothing should count except physical and mental abilities,

Political correctness, according to this line of thinking, takes precedence over both the lives of the personnel concerned and national security. Gaynor explains: ‘The document is based on a premise that the world is soon to experience an “Era of Equality” that will unleash a return of Amazonian female warriors.’ Gaynor continues: ‘The document calls for commanders to consider forming female infantry battalions, companies or platoons. And now we find that all-female infantry soldiers in the full-time Army are being posted to 1 RAR. ‘This front-line combat unit has not been mechanised. Instead, it has been feminised.’ The document continues: ‘It is not inconceivable, considering the trends described above, that in the 2020 to 2050 period, the Australian Army may face a female-organised or female-dominated type of adversary. The emergence, or return, of a female warrior type identity may pose an external threat, but also could be something Army harnesses from within its own society. A female warrior archetype has existed in the history and mythology of many cultures. Overviewing some of this history helps shift perceptions about ways that women “should” exist.’ It also claims: ‘The Army should be the home of Xena personalities, and help women bring out their “inner Xena” (to quote Captain Queeg, I kid you not).’ A return of Amazonian female warriors? Was their ever really any such thing? Or was it like the ‘Goddess’ cult, whose rituals, far from reaching back into ancient times, seem to have been invented by ugly men in the 19th Century as a reason to have women take their clothes off?

Although the Amazons are mentioned in a number of legends, chroniclers of the ancient world dismiss them as a myth, or male warriors mistaken for women because of their foreign dress. There may have been women hunting and fighting from time to time, especially in nations with small populations or manpower shortages, but that is a different thing. There is no evidence that women warriors were ever an institution in the classical, or civilised, world. The occasional female warriors, like Britomart, where they were not simply legendary, were very much the exception, not the rule.

However, the Australian Army paper solemnly states: ‘Adrienne Mayor’s multi-award winning historical study, The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World, draws upon new archaeological evidence; the historical, literary and artistic works of the Ancient Greeks; and other sources to help distinguish between myth and truth.’ What, exactly, has this got to do with the requirements of the Australian Army in the 21st Century? Even if there were female combat warrior in the past, is that any reason to have them now?

The paper is illustrated by, among other things, a statue of Queen Boudica driving a chariot. It does not mention that the hordes of Britons she commandeered were notorious for massacring civilians and were decisively beaten when finally brought to battle, by a  much smaller, tightly professional, army of Romans. Roman men, that is. There is a doctrine that a soldier must be acceptable as as replacement under fire. And however much the PC warriors would wish it otherwise, women on an average have considerably less upper-body strength than men.

How they can be expected to lift wounded (men and presumably women) out of burning tanks or aircraft before the flames reach them, is not gone into.

All fighting with any possible element of hand-to-hand combat about it needs physical strength. Xena Warrior Princesses exist in comic fantasies for physically, mentally or emotionally adolescent boys. The Romans who fought Boudica, like the British who have been fighting in Afghanistan since the 19th Century had, with good reason, a doctrine that wounded were not to be left on the battlefield. Remember Kipling’s kindly advice to young recruits, possibly still relevant:

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains / And the women come out to cut up what remains / Just roll to your rifle and blow out your brains / And go to your God like a soldier …

Carrying them off is also a situation that requires considerable upper-body strength. Israel, with manpower problems compared to its likely enemies, tried women in combat and abandoned the experiment as hopeless, though I am sure they are using women soldiers for high-tech electronic warfare, which is where Australia should be looking, rather than seeking to turn out imitation Xenas.

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