Stage I soldiers free women to be Stage II women

Ninety-five percent of women’s experiences are about being a victim.

Or about being an underdog, or having to survive. . . women didn’t

go to Vietnam and blow things up. They are not Ram bo.

Jodie Foster, The New York Times Magazine40

Muhammad Ali’s refusal to participate in what he felt was the criminal nature of the Vietnam War forced him into prison during the height of his career and deprived him of four years that could never be recovered. At the same time Jodie Foster was safe at home, becoming wealthy and famous and cashing in on her sex appeal. What would Jodie Foster have said if a sexist law kept her in prison when she was 24,25, 26, and 27? Or if her body was valued so minimally that the only way she felt she could make millions was to subject herself to batterings that could eventually lead to brain damage and Parkinson’s disease?

Just as first-generation college students had been freed by Stage I fathers to think of themselves as intellectually superior to their parents, so the Jodie Fosters were freed by Stage I men to think of themselves as morally superior to men who freed them from the dirty work of war.

To many men, it doesn’t feel good to hear the Jodie Fosters ignore men ’s victimization, then blame the victim, then claim herself to be the victim – especially a Jodie Foster who grew up in an era in which women had the fantasy of "a room of my own" while their brothers had the reality of "a body bag of my own." It saddened men who watched women their age get a head start on their careers while they fought in a war that tore apart their souls, to return from that war to hear a woman call herself the only victim of sexism because she was being asked to make coffee at a job that no law required her to take.

By the 1970s, the American woman was being called "liberated" or "superwoman" while the American man was being called "baby killer” if he fought in Vietnam, "traitor" if he protested, or "apathetic" if he did neither. Even men who came home paraplegics were literally spit on.

This was happening not only in America. Soviet women living safely at home were called "liberated” and "overworked" while a million Soviet men, after facing death in Afghanistan, returned home not to be called "heroes" but "dupes." We heard about Soviet housewives standing in lines to shop; we heard little about Soviet husbands sweltering in Afghan deserts, suffering from the poisonous stings of scorpions or contracting malaria, jaundice, typhus, hepatitis, and dysentery.91 When they returned home, the

Soviet government would acknowledge only that they were wowcombatant aides. The denial and dishonor led to alcoholism, hospitalization, and suicide. But we heard only of the overworked Soviet women.

The adults of the 1990s are a generation of men criticized for what they were obligated to do by a generation of women privileged enough to escape the obligation; they are a generation of unacknowledged men coexisting with a generation of acknowledged women.

This "acknowledgment gap" was widened by another media phenom­enon. . .

Trading places?

With the war in the Gulf came hundreds of newspaper stories about women leaving for war and of men trading places with the women. The stories almost always focused on how men discovered the difficulties of the woman’s role 92 However, women with children married to male soldiers rarely hold down full-time professional careers; men home with children married to female soldiers almost always had full-time professional ca­reers.93 For example, a chief petty officer who had been home only seventeen months of the past five years was now taking full responsibility for his four children: ages 2,4,6, and 13-

The result of the media acknowledging only her new role, though, was the chief petty officer feeling guіIty: “I am scared about my wife getting hurt. She wouldn’t be there if 1 made enough money to be able to live on one income.’’94 He felt guilty about not being able to financially support six people, even though he had 100 percent responsibility for four children’s care and all the housework.