Men and women in modern warfare
It is undeniable that wars wreck great havoc on mankind. Its detrimental effects are far and wide-reaching, ranging from the structure of the society to the collapse of the economy, but this essay will only focus on the social aspect the war impacts.
In times of war and in many countries, men are forced to leave their families and enroll into the army. This great infringement of men's rights have occurred since the times of Ancient Greece and Rome while such forced conscription was the British policy in both World War I and II. The men are then compelled to sacrifice themselves at the frontline.
Not only do men die, the after-effects of the war are sometimes even worse than death itself. "Now he will never feel again how slim girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands, All of them touch him like some queer disease." As Wilfred Owen the famous war-poet suggests in his poem Disabled, men who suffer from shell-shock (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and are handicapped after the war are viewed differently by women.
Shell-shock impacts not only the men who had experienced war, but also the family around him. It has been known that men, after witnessing the war and countless of deaths around him, have grown used to violence and aggression. Thus, they might transfer this aggression to their wives at home. Another example of how shell-shock negatively impacts men would be how some men suffer from impotency after the war.
Experiencing horrifying events as well as the men, women are also subject to sexual assaults by the soldiers of the invading army. For example, during the Japanese occupation in World War II, many Southeast Asian women (for instance, Singapore) were forced to serve as prostitutes and comfort women, thoroughly humiliated by the Japanese men. Invading soldiers may just rape any women they see as well, without any thought or respect for the women, wanting to impose their aggression and power over the citizens. During the Soviet Union's occupation of its zone in Germany after WWII, the Red Army raped millions of German and Polish women held in concentration camps.
Everyone suffers during a war, regardless of gender. The war also amplifies the differences between men and women, defining and changing their roles effectively.
Role of women
"To fight has always been the man's habit, not the woman's." - Virginia Woolf.
This is definitely not true. Since time immemorial, both men and women have had their part in war. While men may indeed have been the ones risking their lives at the frontline, women also play an equally important role, which is that of coordinating all that goes on behind the scenes of the battle, in other words, the wartime effort.
We have heard stories of men who are forcibly conscripted into the army in times of crisis, depriving numerous families of their sole breadwinners. Therefore, women have to step in to fill the void, the absence these men have created, with wives and daughters rising to the occasion magnificently and becoming, in lieu of their fathers and husbands, the sole pillars of support.
In addition to that, women play a vital role in providing various services for men such as sewing clothes, cooking, and even washing. However, these are not the limit of their contributions. By making various items and handicrafts, they are able to raise money for ammunition and weapons for the wartime effort. History has also recorded instances of women restricting the flow of income to enemy countries by boycotting the use of such imported goods. For example, during the American Revolution, women boycotted British tea, and even learnt to fill the roles of men by learning to maintain business on top of their household chores, an act of supreme juggling which indeed deserves to be lauded publicly.
As seen in the above paragraphs, we can see that "society indeed told women to carry brooms in place of swords; to carry firewood instead of firearms and to keep house rather than to protect a nation." Yet, in addition to these patriotic duties, some women even took on potentially dangerous occupations such as infiltration and espionage. In other words, some of them became spies. Since armies routinely employed females to do the cooking and household chores in an encampment, it was not difficult for women to sneak in and out undetected, gleaning valuable information that could potentially give their side an edge over the enemy.
Women were also able to contribute directly by farming auxiliary air forces and naval services. Such examples include the Women's Auxiliary Air Force and the Women's Royal Australian Naval Services.
In conclusion, women are also able to contribute to the war in many ways, and as we have seen, the burdens they shoulder are, in fact, equal to or greater in magnitude to those of men.