Picture a world where tomorrow the leader of your country declares war, and you receive a letter telling you that you will either serve in that war or you will be executed for treason. You may not believe in killing others, you may not believe in violence, you may not even agree with the reason for the war or the concept of war—but your choices are go kill, or get killed.
This scenario is the real life cause of death for over ten men in the last generation of my family.
As a result, I am an extreme example of someone who has been raised to fulfill the traditional male gender role. Since I could walk, I started being prepared to be a disposable male. I can eat an entire meal in under a minute. I can shower in under 30 seconds. I can get dressed in under 30 seconds—and I can do all of these tasks in succession after literally leaping from a bed at the verbal command to wake. Why? These are necessary life skills if you are in an area that is experiencing military conflict.
My father was fourteen years old in East Germany’s city of Breslau when the Russian front-line made its way to the doors of his house, an eventuality that no one had prepared him for. At the time my father lived in a block of units with twenty-two other members of an extended family—over half of them male. By the end of the Second World War, he was the only surviving male in his family, saved only by protections that are reserved for two categories of people—women and children.
The ‘soldier’ is the apex of the obligations attached to the male gender role; a willingness to serve, a willingness to die, a willingness to commit murder—all in the name of a cause.
Despite appearances, my father did not want me to become a soldier, but after seeing all the men in his life forced into military service he felt that he would be powerless to stop the same happening to his sons. After all, his family survived World War One only to have the males conscripted and slaughtered in World War Two.
Here in Australia, we sent one third of our total eligible male population to World War One. An entire third.
Over one million mendied in the Second World War while fulfilling their male gender role, sizable amounts of them conscripted against their will for no other reason than they were of an appropriate age, and a member of the disposable gender.
If you’re anything like me, you have been bombarded with the disposability of men so often that even those figures don’t give you significant pause. Men have always killed and died right? Why does it matter?
I want you to imagine that tomorrow you pick up a newspaper with this headline:
One million women killed protecting men.
How would that headline make you feel? Is it different to your previous reaction of men dying as part of the protector gender role?
Picture this universe. During the next war the leader of your country says, ‘to date, 10,000 men have died in our nation’s growing conflict. Out of respect for equal rights and opportunities for women, we will only be conscripting women until 10,000 women have died also.’
If you’re anything like me, that thought is horrifying. But why is it any more so than men dying?
My gender role has taught me to accept male death as so normal that a lifetime spent preparing for death, deaths within my own family, even a million male deaths, does not overtly shock me. But when I think about women dying in exactly the same way, on exactly the same terms as those men… I am horrified. And the reason for that reaction? I am conditioned by gender role to believe that men are disposable and that women are not.
I am so indoctrinated towards male disposability, that I feel more comfortable with the idea of raising my own two sons to be willing to be disposable men, than to send someone else’s daughter to die in their place should the need arise.
Forced military conscription remains a male-gender-only ‘privilege’ in every nation on earth, and has been since its inception. Countries that have mandatory military service (eg Israel) for their citizens only require ‘service’ (undergoing military training) of both genders, military action (killing and dying) on the other hand is only required of men, with women having the choice to join action if they wish.