when pigs fly … expect the unbelievable

Archive for March 2009

Women and service….it’s not such a difficult question to consider when there is no conscription.  But during periods of conscription, rather than voluntary service, it is hard to contemplate the philosophical argument that would justify keeping women from conscription. 

Historically, military service has been tied to citizenship.  In fact, 9 of the original 13 colonies specifically tied citizenship and military service, articulating the duty of citizens to render military service and the power of the state to compel citizens to serve against their consent.  Chief Justice Edward Douglas White, writing for a unanimous US Supreme Court, noted in the early 20th century:  “The highest duty of the citizen is to bear arms at the call of the nation.  The very conception of a just government and its duty to the citizen includes the reciprocal obligation of the citizen to render military service in case of need and the right to compel it.”

In 1928, Rosika Schwimmer wanted to be a naturalized citizen.  She was a well known international pacificist, and she answered “no” to the question on the naturalization questionnaire which asked if she were willing to take up arms in defense of her country.  She was denied citizenship on the basis of her response to question #22 — that she would not take up arms in defense of her country.  She appealed to the US Supreme Court, which upheld the denial of her naturalization.  Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes is remembered for a line in his classic defense; he noted that as a woman over 50 years old, Ms. Schwimmer “would not be allowed to bear arms if she wanted to!”

The language of the majority, contrary to Justice Holmes opinion, stated:  “That it is the duty of citizens by force of arms to defend out government against all enemies whenever necessity arises is a fundamental principal of the Constitution.”  This concept was overturned in Girouard v. U.S. (1946) when the Court observed that the oath required of aliens does not require that they promise to bear arms, and Congress has not made that a prerequisite to citizenship. “…those whose religious scruples prevent them from killing are no less patriots than those whose special traits or handicaps result in their assignment to duties far behind the fighting front….”

The Selective Service Act itself (Public Law ch. 720, September 16, 1940) states that EVERY person enjoying the privileges of a citizen of the United States has therewith the duty of contributing military service in the common defense.  So, why is it that conscription of women remains inappropriate?

Do you know where the concept of “bra burning” came from?  Last night, I was watching a program on History International which focused on the year 1968, a type of 1 hour documentary with commentary by Tom Brokaw, former NBC news anchor and author of, among other, The Greatest Generation.  A small portion of the program featured the women’s liberation demonstration against the Miss America Peagant in Atlantic City in 1968.  Seeing this quick vignette reminded me where the concept of “bra burning” came from.

If you happened to see the documentary, too, then you saw young women dropping bras, girdles (oh yes, in 1968 we all wore girdles), high heels, steno pads, and other elements of “oppression” into a large trash bin.  The organizers had planned to burn these oppressive  items.  But, alas, they were unable to obtain a fire permit from the Atlantic City government.

So ther was no bra burning — or burning of any kind.  But the idea stuck and the bra burning which never occurred became the tag-line of derision to describe these young women with the strange ideas that the lives their mothers lived were not the lives they wanted to live.

Bra burners:  In 1968 a bra burner was just another word for a women’s libber.  In 1968, no one was a feminist…yet…

In Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee, U. S. No. 06-1595, the United States Supreme Court has extended the anti-retaliation protection of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to employees who answer questions in an investigation conducted by the employer based on another employee’s complaint of discrimination.  Ms. Crawford was interviewed by an agent of the employer about an allegation of sexual harassment perpetrated against another employee by the employer’s Director of Employee Relations.

When Ms. Crawford was intereviewed by an employee of the HR department who was handing the investigation, she alleged that she, also, had been a victim of the Director of Employee Relations’ sexually harassing activity.  Ms. Crawford never filed any sort of complaint against the Director of Employee Relations at the time that she alleged that he harassed her, and she never told her employer about it.

A few months after the investigation, Ms. Crawford and two other employees (both of whom had reported that they, too, were victim’s of sexual harassment at the hands of the Director of Employee Relations) were fired for reasons which were purportedly not related to their revelations during the investigation.

 

 


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