The Rebel Girl: The Rapping Rebel

Against the Current, No. 31, March/April 1991

Catherine Sameh

ADVENTURE. White, hot sand. Exotic smells, sights and sounds. This is what thousands of young American men are encountering in the Middle East. Dan Rather can hardly contain his glee while regularly reporting on the status of our brave boys in far away lands.

Fear and apprehension. Tears and kisses. Guilt and uncertainty. This is the baggage that military women carry with them when they get shipped out Men go to war as men Many have just left behind their boyhood dreams when they quickly come face to face with manhood’s high price. Women go to war as workers, yes, but first and foremost as mothers—juggling job and family.

When men leave for war there is jubilant celebration. Red, white and blue ceremony. When women leave there are burning questions: Will their husbands manage shuffling work duties, dishes and daycare? What if mommy dies? How will women deal with the distance between their cold, sweaty skin and their children’s warm bodies?

I guess men don’t leave their children Already emotionally distanced from family life, their absence is simply commonplace. They aren’t faced with wrenching dilemmas when called to duty. Their insides don’t turn at the thought of never seeing their families again. Their children’s faces aren’t permanently engraved in the front of their minds. Duty is duty. Supposedly.

War can’t be sold as all glory. Even the most patriotic citizen wouldn’t buy it Someone has to represent the American public’s ambivalent, if deeply repressed, feelings about war. Splashed across the covers of popular magazines, the mother leaving her children to serve her country is  difficult image to digest, posing questions about the social cost of war.

There are many positive things about women’s increased participation in the military. These women are skilled workers, equipped with a sense of dignity that sharing a common endeavor brings to all humans. Like many working-class men, women joined the military because it seemed to be a better career option than the alternative of low-skill, minimum-wage jobs, or no job at all. Like their brothers, military women face the horrors of war made at their expense.

Real liberation for women would come in a world without gender divisions and women’s subordination, a world without capitalism’s ugly choices.

Men, too, would benefit Few young men in the Middle East dare to reveal the immense terror they harbor at the thought of permanent injury, sickness or death. But that’s what the artificial division of the human race into gender is all about: it ascribes certain human characteristics to one gender and denies them to another. If women are to be the nurturers, then men must be emotionally repressed; if men are to be the thinkers and doers, then women’s role is to be the helpmate.

Of course this has never been the reality of people’s lives, merely the ideal toward which we are to strive.

Here we do not have formal equality. We and our children are the sector of society regarded as the poorest of the poor. Yet women in the military are being asked to endanger themselves in order to preserve the “quality” of the American way of life. Women soldiers are being asked to use their skills to restore a regime in Kuwait from which women are excluded.

Perhaps after this war is over the government will even be forced to pass the Equal Rights Amendment Our Medal of Honor, so to speak Hopefully we will have something bigger in mind.

We who are clearly against this war reach out to our sister soldiers and demand that they, along with all other soldiers, be brought back—alive, now!

March-April 1991, ATC 31