Episode 84 — Women in Military SF (or The Kratman Rule is B.S.)

23 Jan

Our first hard-hitting episode of the year is finally here.  This week, we talk about the recent controversy at Tor.com over Liz Bourke’s post about women in military SF, sexism, Joe Haldeman, David Weber, how science fiction might look at the “gender” question in the military, and much more.  We’re a little less PC, a whole lot more opinionated, and altogether our cheery selves.

We hope you enjoy the episode!

Note:  If you have iTunes and like this show, please give us a review on our iTunes page, or feel free to email us with your thoughts about the show!

Here’s the episode (show notes are below):
Episode 84 — Download (MP3)

Intro and Discussion (0:00 – 51:23)

Our new intro music is “Time Flux” by Revolution Void (CC BY 3.0).

That’s all, folks!  Thanks for listening.  See you next week.

P.S.:  No, we’re not going to “block you” or “delete your comments” on principle alone.  We don’t have a comments policy.  That doesn’t mean we won’t ever delete a comment or block someone, just that is unlikely that we’re going to do block/delete just because you vehemently disagree with us.  All people have tolerance limits, but ours are reasonably higher than most.  It takes quite a lot of button pushing to get on the black list.  Spammers are the exception, of course.

P.S.S.:  Alright, everyone, we’re moving on now.  The comments are sort of circling around the drain, drowning out a lot of other discussions worth having about gender and gender things.  So we’re going to move on and save some of the good stuff for another time (such as when we have Liz Bourke on the show to talk about stuffs).  Thanks to all those who have thrown in their voices, dissenting or otherwise.


48 Responses to “Episode 84 — Women in Military SF (or The Kratman Rule is B.S.)”

  1. Tom Kratman January 24, 2012 at 2:13 am #

    Dear Hose and Bag:

    I don’t believe I’ve ever heard two people so enthusiastically, and even creatively, rebut arguments I didn’t make. It was hilarious.

    Just a couple of points:

    No, I defined racism _expressly_ as primarily learned behavior and said that what can be learned can be unlearned. Where do you think I said it was innate, as you claimed in your podcast? Don’t bother with a retraction.

    No, I nowhere said that women had no place in the military.

    If you want to see women in combat, in science fiction, realistically, and heroically, try The Amazon Legion by that well known whitesupremacistfacistbadwickedevilnaughtybadbadbadperson, Douche Nozzle.

    No, fluke means rare.

    Very Truly Yours,

    Douche Nozzle

    PS: I really don’t mind being a douche nozzle, per se, but rather than be _your_ douche nozzle? Yeah, I’d really prefer you just throw me in the fire.

    • Loopdilou January 24, 2012 at 11:30 am #

      I’d apologize for the mistake, but I’m really not all that sorry. It was however, completely my mistake, as you’ll notice I corrected Shaun when he tried to say that you said “learned”. In my defense, It’s difficult to separate that from your extended, biased and not based in reality, argument that sexual behavior is innate and will therefore ruin all integrated militaries for the rest of time. Because it’s true, you don’t say that women have no place in the military, you’re generous enough to allow that they can serve in segregated units or support roles. I mean, it’s common knowledge that women are only suited for support roles and that when you mix them in with men, men will suddenly turn into hormone beasts and want to rape the womenz.

      What I find most hilarious is that though you’ll recognize the sarcasm in my previous comment, you won’t recognize that it directly mirrors your own absurd argument.

      The worst part of your response to Liz Bourke’s article is not so much that you completely derailed the discussion with your pronouncement of “Truth” (although I think that’s a discussion fail of the worst kind), but that your “Truth” is not a universal one, it’s only yours. It fails to take into account both history and possible futures, it fails to take into account your own subjective understanding of the male/female paradigm and your cultural training. Basically, your argument fails, but rather than ever admit the possibility of this, you accuse those who do not agree with you and those who foresee a different possible future of being fantasists! It’s egoism of the worst kind and therefore one of our (Hose and I) favorite things to shred into tiny little pieces.

      • Tom Kratman January 24, 2012 at 11:56 am #

        Your apology isn’t accepted, anyway.

        Ignores history? Did you read The Amazon’s Right Breast? One suspects not. What do you think you know about the history of sexually compatable people in combat units that I didn’t cover?

        You’re still rebutting arguments I didn’t make. I’m not sure why you do this – inability to understand the arguments I did make seems a likely culprit, though. I never said or suggested that men will turn into ravening beasts in the presence of women. That’s your own cultural blinders in action. (Of course a few will; I’m thinking of the Army’s Number Two man in the Inspector General’s office, a few years ago.)

        What will happen though, is some will prostitute themselves (for which both are to blame) for favors. There will be jealousy, which is incompatable with unit cohesion (go look that one up). And people will fall in love, quite irrespective of positions and ranks..

        It is the last which is, far and away, the most dangerous. De facto prostitution and resulting favoritism can be handled legally and regulatorily, albeit imperfectly. Rape, ditto. Not that having more of either is a good thing, but up to a point the law can handle it.

        But falling in love? I have no idea how to control that and what flows from it. Do you? Do you really know how to reliably prevent men and women (or any sexually or romatically compatable duo) from falling in love, while remaining human, in the same units? I’d be fascinated to hear it.

  2. An American January 24, 2012 at 6:15 am #

    You’re talking about the thread concerning the works by author Tom Kratman? The one where he’s was banned, and anyone who agreed with, or gave his counter-arguments a fair hearing, were banned as well?
    I guess it’s easy to win an argument if the only one allowed to speak is you and the people who agree with you.
    Women warriors in SF vs real life? All I will say to this is that in my time in service, over ten years, I only saw fifteen to twenty women who could meet the physical and mental standards of an infantryman, and only one who might, I said might, have been up to the rigors of being a tanker.
    Science fiction allows for equality of the sexes in combat, because, quite simply put, it’s fiction! The lesser upper body strength, and lower endurance problems are magically cured with genetic engineering, or powered armor suits or, in some cases, the elimination of close combat.
    Of course realistic Military Science Fiction or Military Fiction that demonstrates the difference in capabilities between the sexes will be sexist. Just because a truth is ugly, doesn’t make it untrue. Distasteful and unpalatable for some,yes, but not untrue.

    • shaunduke January 24, 2012 at 9:55 am #

      My understanding was that he got banned for refusing to back off so others could get a word in and for exceedingly rude behavior (though I suppose it’s fair to say that because we never got to see the comments he made which were initially removed, we can’t prove that said rude behavior ever happened). In any case, it certainly is easy to “win an argument” when you can ban someone who cannot maintain a civil discussion. But I think it’s also fair to say that no argument could have been won based on what was said in the Tor.com comments thread. People weren’t going to change their minds, and the discussions being had derailed what appears to me to be the original point of the article: to discuss whether military SF is conservative and whether there are exceptions.

      That said, I don’t think you’re wrong that the military, to a certain degree, will be, in most cases, sexist in a limited sense. If we take as a given that body strength, endurance, etc. are factors, then those issues cannot be resolved today without technological or genetic modification. But since we’re talking about science fiction, that means we’re also talking about futures where science can resolve the apparent differences that make men better soldiers and women lesser so (if we take that as a given). The idea that we can’t get past the immediacy of now to talk about better and more fair future worlds is, I think, the problem Liz Bourke was pointing to. There aren’t many good reasons why military SF must uphold the sexist assumptions and values of the present when we know that current advancements in technology will undoubtedly change the gender paradigm in combat settings in the very near future (or at least have the potential to).

      • Tom Kratman January 24, 2012 at 11:39 am #

        Fascinating. Did you know, I was _completely_ unaware that posting on a forum actually prevented others from posting on that forum? Imagine that; it’s _exactly_ like stepping on someone else’s radio transmission in the Army, in the field; when you’re speaking they’re simply shut off.

        Ahem. Excuse me a minute while I clean some…stuff from my shoes.

        Okay, back now.

        Science fiction has three legitimate functions. The real life most important of these, go figure, is entertainment. Without that the other two can’t get anywhere. The other two are still important though, and much of the reason sci fi writers even bother getting out of bed in the morning. These are illustrating a possible far future (the lesser of the two, since it is almost certain to be wrong and no one reading the science fiction, today, is going to be around to see the change or be informed by the science fiction that presented it) and illustrating immediate and/or near term changes, social and technological, that people today _can_ do something about.

        That, among other reasons, is why I really don’t give a rat’s ass about some far future that postulates combat forces that, at most, may look somewhat human, but are really about some alien species with a bit if Man in its ancestry. _I_ don’t find those either particularly entertaining or particularly useful for the here and now or the more or less short term future.

        For example, 30 years ago, say, a work dealing with something like the internet would have been very much on point and could have been quite entertaining. Why, who would have thought, back in those days of stone knives and bearskins, that someday soon people would be making something called podcasts to rebut arguments some other person named, oh, say, “Douche Nozzle,” had not, in fact, made? And thinking they were just ever so clever and trendy in doing so? Just staggering, isn’t it?

        Oh, by the way, that powered armor thing? The one you objected to my calling a McGuffin? Yeah; it’s a McGuffin until we can a) solve the power issue and b) make it cost effective. Oh, and what kind of arrogance makes you think I was unaware of it? Especially since I mentioned it? Well…no matter, that’s fairly small change as compared to putting arguments in my mouth I didn’t make, or turning things I did say 180 degrees and then attributing them to me.

        Just out of curiosity, what do you two think is more important, postulating some quasi alien species, one where the sexes are indistinguishable, in a future combat no one today could possibly care about, or showing a realistic way to make women combatants _tomorrow_?

        Gee, I wonder which sci fi writer has done that?

  3. James January 24, 2012 at 10:11 am #

    I saw the thread and he wasnt post whoreing. Was he responding to alot of them yes but then people can not read something if they wish. Banning him in the least was a bad idea as it made him look like the victim of censorship and at worst WAS censorship.

    Im sure in the future that technology will make men and women more equal in some ways but you also have to allow that it could also continue just the same. For instance how many women want to have massive bone and shoulder muscles followed by legs as thick as tree trunks and cankles? A flat HARD chest and stomach? And sense Testosterone IS a advantage in combat will they require that too?

    The point is that by the time your done you end up with a Man without a penis. Its not so much will some do it? Sure why not. The question then is after these women do this will they remain in the gene pool?

    A good book to read is the Halo series where they tell how they made the spartans. Was written by William C deitz a good scifi author. At one point two ODST troops are talking and joking and one makes the coment that the spartan women barely look like women.

    There is a price for everything. The ultimate question is how many are willing to pay that price?

    • Cerebral Magpie January 24, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

      James, when one person completely takes over a thread making so many points over and over again, dominating the conversation with a massive weight of words in the hope that people will just give up and go away/agree, that is a complete derail.

      The censorship argument is also fellacious. Kratman has a right to free speech, but people also have the right to criticize that opinion. The moderators at Tor, the people who know best for their site, have a right to enforce the rules. He got abusive, as he is with following on with more passive aggressive attacks in another venue, and he was called on it.

      “The point is that by the time your done you end up with a Man without a penis. Its not so much will some do it? Sure why not. The question then is after these women do this will they remain in the gene pool?”

      I’m gonna let this quote stand on its own, because this sums up a lot of the aggressiveness coming from commenters surrounding this issue. People are afraid of gender change, because it is challenging to arbirtrary cultural norms. Men are afraid of having their masculinity challenged. People are afraid of having an opinion challenged by a woman.

      You’re invoking ridiculous fears that the human species will die out because gender norms will change. That is what science is for. It’s perfectly acceptable and increasingly common to procreate without with a male involved. But isn’t that what it’s all about, eh? Men are afraid they won’t be able to get their peen on.

      So WHAT if the women of the future don’t look like the women of today? Gender, sex, and sexuality are not static. If you think they are, if you want them to remain so, you are trying to control people.

      • shaunduke January 24, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

        The censorship argument is also fellacious since it presumes that the 1st Amendment extends to personal property, which it does not (that would violate one of the other Amendments). That, of course, is coming from an American perspective, which is relevant in that Kratman is an American. In any case, to tell someone they are no longer allowed to comment on Tor, while perhaps a position it is reasonable to criticize, is not remotely censorship in action, since Kratman’s ability to exercise his right to free speech has not been changed. Rather, he’s only been denied access to a private entity in which separate, private rules are in order. The same reason that Occupy Wall Street cannot legally waltz into a Wall Street building and yell and scream governs why Kratman’s removal from Tor.com is not a breach of free speech, but an exhibition of reasonable authority.

        But, again, that doesn’t mean Tor.com shouldn’t be criticized for taking that action, per se, just that to criticize it for free speech violations misses the point by a wide margin.

        I’ve no response to your other bits, since I generally agree there and you’ve said what I would say soundly enough. Thanks for the comment!

  4. RVM January 24, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    Liz Bourke started the conversation by throwing bombs.

    Tom Kratman…Bombthrower extraordinaire…responded in kind. (actually he was fairly polite and restrained -for him- for the first couple of responses)

    Is it any surprise that the place burned down?

    And…you know if you are going to discuss and denigrate a person’s opinions, you should at least discuss/denigrate their actual opinions, and not misrepresentations of their opinions.

    It makes your arguments stronger, instead of weaker.

    • shaunduke January 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm #

      Fair enough. We misrepresented some of his opinions, though not others (the part about race was, in fact, a failure on my part to doublecheck before accepting that what I had written down was inaccurate — turns out what I wrote was right, but what we said, by way of assumption, was not; I’m happy to admit that, since doing so doesn’t change overly much the content of the burning building that the Tor.com comments became).

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Tom Kratman January 24, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

        Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any of my opinions you got right. Even where you came close to right, the inferences you drew tended to be wrong. Or maybe I’m wrong or misremembering. Can you think of one or twp that you’re absolutely certain you got right?

      • shaunduke January 24, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

        I couldn’t imagine the point in bringing up one or two instances. You have already presumed I (or we) will be wrong before I (we) say anything. Offering even the modicum of suggestion that you might have remembered incorrectly is really just a facile gesture. But while you’re at it, consider waiting for Jen to respond to your other refutations, which have more substantial opinions within them.

        The good news is that without people like you, we’d certainly have a lot less interesting things to talk about. +1 for Being Interesting.

      • RVM January 24, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

        You know in some ways, all of you (Bourke, Kratman, S&F) agreed on one point…

        It doesnt seem that women cant be in close ground combat and remain “women”…

        I say that because that is one of the things Bourke mentioned in her article, then repeated in the comments, that if “women” cant take the physical nature of such endeavors, and dont have the psychological makeup to withstand them, they have to change (as Bourke put it those factors can be “artificially fixed”)…Ie they have to “become one of the boys”. It was also posit’d in a round about way in your podcast.

        I dont know if I agree with that supposition…heck on second look, Kratman doesnt agree with that women have to be “fixed” to be in combat

        Here is his direct quote :

        “Personally I think we could make decent women ground combatants, in useful numbers, but never so long as we insist on subordinating the realities of war to enlightened sentiment and wishful thinking.”

        In some ways his position is more progressive than was espoused by the idea that women have to be “fixed”…like they are inferior or something.

        YES!!! I just found a way to call Kratman a progressive I bet we can all hear him screaming right about…now.

      • shaunduke January 24, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

        Actually, I think Jen might be more willing to agree with you than I would. I don’t consider behavior as inherently gendered, and therefore a woman adhering to the behavioral principles of the military does not, to me, constitute the sacrificing of “woman”-ness. I don’t think there is anything stable about gendered behavior, as it is freely interchangeable among both sexes in societies which are, broadly speaking, free. We only have gendered behaviors because we’ve spent the last 2,000 years living in patriarchal societies, the traces and hangovers of which are hard to shake off.

        I’ll admit, though, that if we take as true that women, with exception, are unable to handle front-line combat, then something will have to change to resolve that. But I think we have to move away from any notion that such changes won’t happen simply because things as they currently stand suggest so. I see technology as a neutralizer. Exoskeletons and various drugs and genetic engineering can be implemented largely independent of gender factors. An exoskeleton, for example, depends not on how much upper body strength a person has, but on their ability to manipulate the controls. And drugs, which I suspect will be the human response to robotic warfare, need only be retooled to compensate for neurological variances in women.

        But I am also not willing to admit that women are, with exception, incapable of front-line combat, so all of this is conjecture on a premise I don’t accept. Think of it as theory from a philosophical standpoint.

        Still, I find this much more fruitful a discussion than devolving into why women can’t integrate into the military. SF is, I think, a way of thinking more than an aesthetic practice.

    • Cerebral Magpie January 24, 2012 at 5:14 pm #

      Hey, nothing like a little comparison of feminism to terrorism. Because we all know that feminazis are high on that violent rhetoric and follow through.

    • Tom Kratman January 24, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

      Oh, who – who with a sense of humor – minds the occasional bomb? Besides, the first thing she said was she found me, IIRC, “deeply unsettling,” or something quite close to that. That’s not a bomb; that’s a compliment.

      Funny, too, I thought science fiction was supposed to be unsettling. Who knew that the only way it’s permitted to unsettle anyone is by parrotting orthodoxies that unsettle no one? I mean, really, who _knew_?

      • Loopdilou January 24, 2012 at 6:19 pm #

        I’m sorry, what orthodoxy did you “unsettle”? As far as I can tell, your Amazon Legion book merely tries to reaffirm your own orthodoxy – that which says that gay people and women cannot serve in integrated troops. If anything is unsettling it’s that you’ve apparently spent most of your military career and post-military career not, at any point, ever questioning your own bias. Particularly since it sounds like the research you’ve done into “integrated” troops are within judo-christian westernized societies, where cultural norms of male domination are quite prevalent and actually ignore the instances where women have served quite successfully in integrated units since WWII. This doesn’t even touch the number of women in guerrilla units that have in the past and currently operate in a number of countries.

        Now let’s just touch for a moment on your assertion in a previous comment that you never argued that human beings cannot ignore their sexual urges, even if that never was your argument (which I will not concede, having read both your Amazon’s left breast and the comments on the Tor thread), and in fact were arguing that the biggest problem is that people fall in love.

        Really? That’s your argument? Since I, in fact, know MEN who have served in combat situations that have developed some incredibly intense, non-sexual, bonds with their fellow troops, one could even call them “Platonic love” of a sort, I’m surprised that you think that these types of relationships are exclusive to men and women. Frankly, giving the “love” consideration, I think it’s obvious that unit cohesion has never ever ever ever been possible in the first place. It’s a wonder any military has ever functioned!

        As for the power armor “McGuffin” issue… are you saying that the society you write about in your novel (which, as far as I can tell, takes place hundreds of years in the future) never solved the power issues or figured out how to make it cost effective? As both are within REACH of modern man, I’m again… well, let’s not say surprised.. perplexed by your lack of imagination. As I discussed with my husband this morning, when I asked how he saw a future military, he just laughed and said, “The integrated unit issue will be easy to solve as there won’t even be any people in a military 700 years down the road.”

      • Cerebral Magpie January 24, 2012 at 6:21 pm #

        Your original argument is that the place of women in the military and military SF can not and will not ever change, ergo there will never be gender evolution on a social, cultural and genetic level (even though it’s happening already). You call that UNorthodox?

        I find it unsettling that people don’t want to contemplate those sort of changes. If you don’t want to in your books, fine. Just don’t tell everyone else that’s how gender should be written in SF forever and ever amen.

  5. RVM January 24, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    As an addendum to my earlier comment:

    Elizabeth Moon is not a conservative. Unless you count center-left democrats as conservative.

    • shaunduke January 24, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

      Yeah. I think Jen and I got some of the political elements off kilter because we were associating social conservatism with conservatism at large. I switched the topic when Jen tried to explain what she meant.

      Thanks for the addendum and correction!

    • Loopdilou January 24, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

      I’m still recovering from her comments on muslims in America, an attitude I (generally correctly) apply to American Conservatives.

      I genuinely apologize for that incorrect characterization.

  6. Loopdilou January 24, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    I would just like to share an interesting military paper on this very subject:


    • Tom Kratman January 24, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

      I have to answer down here because the reply button seems to disappear after X (where X = a small) number of posts.

      Baker’s paper is interesting. I wish I knew his branch and something of his history. I’m by no means certain he ever really answered his own question, “A Culture Issue?” It’s there in the title; it ought to have been answered. By that, I don’t mean that he didn’t successfully assert that there were some aspects of culture – or at least political culture, if not military culture – involved, as that that kind of question means you can’t simply address political culture without addressing the other factors, and if you are going to address political culture you need to address all of it.

      One example, because I still have to knock off my 2600 words tonight: Back in the late 80s, the Army tried to institute something called MEPSCAT. MEPSCAT purported to require a certain level of strength for a given job, based on measured requirements for strength for that job. It lasted, IIRC, just a couple of months. Why? Well, as it turned out, even for the jobs where women were congregated, the theoretical strength requirements were beyond almost all of them. How could that be, you might ask, for a clerk typist? It’s really kind of interesting. You see, a clerk typist doesn’t just type in the Army. Oh, no, they go to the field. When they go to the field, some very damned heavy filing cabinets have to be loaded on some rather high truck beds. Things like that – looking at the totality of the physical requirement – tended to exclude women from almost everything. (Oh, who actually loaded the trucks? Mostly men, with some of the strongest women.)

      MEPSCAT was killed, politically, and that, too, is a part of the culture. If it hadn’t been, military women would have been set back decades.

      In my case, as I mentioned on TOR, I find the physical arguments – if not outright irrelevant – still, the least compelling arguments against women in the armed forces, generally. If one women can’t lift the filing cabinet, I’m pretty sure three can.

      It’s a little different in the combat arms. Two people can’t really carry a machine gun, or a mortar baseplate, or a Javelin. Two or three can swtich off, but that’s a little different. There is simply no place inside a tank to put an extra crewman, however, to help with slinging the 120mm shells. If three women combat engineers can’t hump a bangalore (really heavy), I’m pretty sure nine can. This, of course, is of little help when you only have nine, and have to sling _three_ full bangalores. (Bangalores, by the way, are somewhat obsolescent vice MCLC. But tthere are a few things bangalores can do that MCLC cannot.)

      What concerns me about the physical requirements is that what happened with MEPSCAT would be repeated if all combat exclusions were repealed, in other words, that the physical requirements for woman combatants would be lowered to an insupportable level. That, too, is part of our political culture.

      Anyway, enough of that. You can accept Baker”s paper at face value if you want. On to your post above.

      What orthodoxies were unsettled? Almost every orthodoxy mentioned on TOR, from the notion that it’s a boy’s club conspiracy to hold women back, to narrow minded bigotry. Whatever orthodoxy is required to get gender mixed combat units.

      if I never questioned my own biases, I would never have written The Amazon Legion. You may not have noticed this, assuming you actually did read The Amazon’s Right Breast (pretty safe bet considering how dismally you failed to indentify my real arguments and how facilly you substituted your own preconceptions) but when I started the project, in 1992, I was against it. It was precisely my researches, and my ability to overcome my previous biases that led to the book. So I really have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. And neither do you.

      You’ve never been in love, eh? I’m not really surprised. I can’t, in that case, explain it to you anymore than I can explain powered flight to my dog, or douching to the nozzle.

      You’re husband is certainly, but conditionally, right. If there are no people, it will be easy to solve, since people are the problem. If, however, there are still people involved, it doesn’t really help.

      The reason powered armor remains a McGuffin, _not_ within reach, quite yet, is power. We can make them work, right now, albeit to a very limited degree, with an external power source. We do not have a small enough, powerful enough, power source, yet, for them to move. When I see that power source, I’ll move them from McGuffin to “in reach.”

      I did, by the way, address powered armor, it’s uses and limitations – and in gender integrated infantry units, no less – in Caliphate.

      And COUNTDOWN: H Hour, beckoneth, so that’s all I have time for, right now.

      Ciao Bag. Ciao Hose.

  7. Tom Kratman January 24, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    @ Shaun:

    It isn’t, you know, as if I have no grounds for the presumption.

    Very Truly Yours,

    Douche Nozzle.

    • shaunduke January 24, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

      Love you too, sweet pea.

      P.S.: No, you really don’t. Your words have done much speaking, and they have yet to speak of your innocence in the most general of senses. But we of the evil liberal PC crowd (whatever that is) must be crazy to call you on words which call upon your sexist (sometimes ethnocentric) opinions, right?

  8. BrianC January 24, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    If you want to be intellectually honest about this, you would offer an invitation to Tom and Liz to have a discussion on your podcast about it.

    • shaunduke January 24, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

      I highly doubt both would agree to come on this show to play a game of “duking it out.”

      I’m also not of the mind to put a woman in a position where she can be berated by someone who has little to no respect for anyone who disagrees (let alone for women), but yet demands by unspoken proclamation to be respected in turn (which we don’t do, since we are nobodies with nothing to our names).

      That and I think Tom has said more than enough on this subject as it is. After this podcast nonsense is over, I think it’ll be time to move on to whatever else consumes the SF/F psyche for a while.

      Don’t think it didn’t cross our minds, though. I just don’t think it would work without devolving into, well, the kinds of things this whole fiasco has devolved into.

      • BrianC January 24, 2012 at 8:55 pm #

        I wouldn’t presuppose to speak for Liz, but i believe i have enough of a relationship with Tom to say that it wouldn’t be a “duke” out and his behavior would probably be more polite than the attitude you have shown towards him.

        In relation to your attitude on “protecting” a women from Tom Kratman. How can you be so obtuse.

        Toms has shown no disrespect except to those who have offered it first. Or did i miss where he insulted you first? (who called who douche nozzle etc)

        Further you prove Tom’s point for him. With your “Protection” agenda you make a mockery of your demand for equal rights.

        If we are to accept women as Equal then they must be all the way equal, and not 60% equal and 40% precious little kittens that must be protected from the big bad Colonels arguments. Certainly nothing in Liz’s attitude demeanor or comments would ever invite me to believe that she requires anyones protection. _You_ demean her and all women by assuming that she does.

        What you did here was a have a snide little laugh fest at someone you believe was a old racist / sexist white man. What you found instead was a man who spent 5 or more years researching his position on an issue, that _you_ realistically have no concept about.

        He has defended his position in a manner relative to the way _he_(not his argument) was been attacked.

        If I’m honest i don’t like Tom’s politics and views. We have a number of differing opinions and have had a number of good barneys in relation to them. As uncomfortable as the arguments in the Amazon’s Right Breast (have you read it yet?) make me. I can not logically dispose of them because they do make sense and they are reasonable conclusions from the evidence provided.

        If you disagree don’t just say. Oh well he’s an old curmudgeon with no concept of the way things are now. Show how he is wrong.

      • shaunduke January 24, 2012 at 9:57 pm #

        I think you misunderstand my point (and that’s more my fault than yours, to be honest; I spoke very poorly). I’m not assuming she needs protecting. I just don’t have an interest in creating a situation which will undoubtedly devolve into what has already been seen — belittling behavior and sexism. If she wants to have that discussion, then that’s great. I have no interest in telling her what she can and cannot do, and who she does it with. But I’m not going to go out of my way to create that situation to fulfill some idea of intellectual honesty.

        That said: yes, Jen and I went after Kratman quite hard. We called him names for our own amusement. We misquoted on a few points. And we certainly did not go into the discussion offering him respect. That’s not terribly defensible. I wouldn’t bother defending it.

        But neither is Kratman’s persistent arrogance and belittling behavior. Such behavior rarely warrants respect. Whether Bourke is at fault on this point seems mostly irrelevant, since the content of Kratman’s various posts has largely been that of a kind of moral (perhaps the wrong word) superiority (even outside of this discussion), which stems, in my opinion, from his political and social values (of the right persuasion, as it were). Look at almost any mention of “liberals” and you’ll see what I mean. And perhaps if this show were a political podcast, we might have explored what Jen meant by the co-opting of conservatism by social conservatism, which might add nuance to our own views on political factions. Maybe I shouldn’t have stopped her from making that point in order to avoid turning the show into morning political radio…

        But, frankly, based on the things he has written and his general attitude towards people, I can’t drum up respect for the Kratman we have been allowed to meet. I have no respect for someone whose words suggest he views anyone who disagrees with him with contempt. Perhaps in other contexts, Kratman is a far different person, and perhaps we are too. But that’s all speculative. Right now, what we have to go on are pronounced behaviors. So far, Kratman’s behaviors haven’t exactly made him seem the poster boy for equality.

        Jen and I disagree on a lot, but those disagreements are not based in contempt. Perhaps that has to do with knowing one another, or perhaps it has to do with our characters or backgrounds or political affiliations. I don’t know.

        But this is also rather circular. A non-defense defense. Amusing

        P.S.: For the record, we did talk about how many of his points were flatout B.S. in the podcast, some of which have to do with the act of creating science fiction. I’m not sure why it’s impossible to move beyond the present to the world as it might be, which, based on the course of events in the last 100ish years, suggests that equality will advance in all spheres, regardless of what we think now. Stalling arguments over details that currently can’t be solve is somewhat silly. 100ish years ago, they didn’t have batteries that could fit in the palm of your hand. Now we do.

  9. jennygadget January 25, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    I read the “one of the guys” argument as not being about masculine or feminine behavior, but rather about the way women often can’t talk about being *women* when they are they only woman in a group of men, and they way women have to curtail their behavior in that sense. There’s just too much risk of identifying yourself as an outsider, not one of the group. There is also too much risk that friendly teasing would be read as someone saying you are not part of the group.

    This could, however, be just me reading into it based on my own experiences from when I’ve been a girl among guys in other situations.

    • shaunduke January 25, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

      I’ll be honest that I really hadn’t thought of it that way when I wrote down my criticism of Bourke’s point. If that’s what Liz meant by that comment, then it points to a behavioral problem produced by men who make open engagement between the sexes impossible. I hope that my female friends do not feel that way when in my company :S.

      • jennygadget January 25, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

        I think, unfortunately, like a lot of sexism (and racism, etc) it’s one of those things where the number of bad reactions are just overwhelming enough that it’s often not seen as worth the risk to test it out in most new spaces.

        That said, to me, being willing to talk about sexism in the way you have is a good indication that you won’t make an “ew! girl cooties!” face if I curse out the evil god that gave me cramps while in your presence. :p

      • shaunduke January 25, 2012 at 11:11 pm #

        It’s probably fair for me to point out that I was raised by a single mother who happens to be a lesbian, with an extraordinarily large amount of role models in my life who happen to be women (plus a sister and only one brother). That invariably influences a lot of my interactions with women, though in no way suggests that *only* by being raised by so many woman do I come to that perspective. I’ve got my fair share of flaws and I’ve said things that I’ve been dead wrong about (about women, men, homosexuals, religious people, non-religious people, other cultures, etc.). But the one thing that really doesn’t get to me is when a woman brings up the subject of menstruation (and I’ll talk about this a little more deeply when I respond to Liz’s comment).

      • Tom Kratman January 25, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

        @ Jenny

        Oh, they won’t mind you cursing God or fate a bit. So long as a) you realize no one cares if you’re uncomfortable, not in the slightest, and b) you pick up you ruck and march on with everyone else no matter how miserable you are.

        You may recall my mentioning that one possible problem with women in the combat arms is that they’re far too rational. That’s an aspect of it. No one would think of preventing a woman from going on sick call, if she was having a particularly miserable period. But they would absolutely not respect it. They’re men; they revel in showing they can endure pain and misery. Not at all rational, but very useful.

        Sometimes, when you know a troop is life-threatening sick, you have to order him to go on sick call. Even then you may get an argument. (Rank will only carry you so far, when a troop thinks he’s doing the right thing.)

        A closely related matter; pain and misery are training tools, actively sought, to build character in individuals, cohesion / mutual trust in the group, and to select those individuals who are insufficiently tough minded for elimination from service or, at best, retention without promotion.

        That, by the way, is one of the problems I have with gender integration in the combat arms. Put thusly, “How far do I have to road march my company, in its current average state, under X load, to get Y increment of character building, in the aggregate? If my company is half female, and I march them that far, to get Y character in the men, will I literally break most of the women? If I march them only as far as it takes to get Y in the women, will it do any good at all for the men? If I have two separate march groups, so that I can have Y for both, but without breaking the women, how do I keep the men from feeling that the women are objectively inferior hence, in combat, inherently untrustworthy? How do I keep the women from feeling objectively inferior?”

        Explaining it to them? That the objective was character building? Mmmm…no. The troops aren’t stupid but they aren’t philosophers, either. They tend to measure things by the plainly objective and material. Moreover, whatever our real reason is, they don’t really like being told their characters are being built, so we do it incidentally by fitting the character building exercise in the framework of something else, a deliberate attack, say.

    • Liz Bourke January 25, 2012 at 5:52 pm #

      I meant this, among other things. Being “one of the boys” – and I’ve been there, on occasion – covers a multitude of sins: you don’t talk about “woman” things (which means different things to different people, but examples may include: menstruation, that men aren’t as awesome as they think they are, that touching non-sexual areas of the body when requested to stop isn’t funny, etc).

      It also covers a certain amount of enculturated gendered behaviours, the appropriateness of which are in *addition* situationally fluid. (Discussing gender is always bloody complicated, because while humans are adaptable mammals, we’re inclined to feel *is now* = *always*.) So “one of the boys” is more shorthand for tone, as much as anything.

      But what I wrote and what other people got out of it can be different things, especially since I wasn’t as specific as I could have been. (Blog posts are like that.)

      Entertaining podcast, btw.

      • shaunduke January 25, 2012 at 11:25 pm #


        I have a question about this, which I am going to try to get to by way of a scenario.

        I tend to view interactions among people within a culture as a series of exchanges (in the trade sense). When I come to the dinner table, for example, there are reasonable expectations (within whatever particular context that particular dinner table presents) for what can and cannot be said and so on (i.e., behavior). Much of that, I presume, is learned cultural exchange — we know that we don’t say bad words when grandma is around, or we know that talking about bathrooms or the dead is probably not a good idea when eating (and those exchanges change based on your culture, upbringing, etc.).

        With that in mind, I am curious whether there is some kind of exchange between men and women (I’m going with just these two sexes for now) which reasonably presumes that menstruation is not to be spoken about under the condition that something else to which men are attached may not be spoken about. I don’t know how that would work, though, since much of the male experience cannot be said to be static, whereas a woman’s experience, in the case of menstruation, *is* (static)(mostly, since menopause is a separate condition which comes with different problems). But if we’re to suggest that interactions among people within a culture are about exchanges of behavior, codes of conduct, etc, and if we’re to presume that certain bodily functions are, in most scenarios, unacceptable in many situations (not all, but many), then there must be some way by which a man could reasonable assume that certain subjects will not be discussed in detail (I don’t personally take saying “I’m on my period” as a disturbing utterance) as an *exchange* for something else which will not be spoken. I’m curious what that “something” could be, or if the expectation of that exchange is reasonable. If not, then why? Is it because of the static issue?

        This is my attempt at rambling to get to some kind of point about something that is far too complex. As you’ve already noted, Liz: “Discussing gender is always bloody complicated.”

      • Liz Bourke January 26, 2012 at 9:09 am #


        It’s not an exchange. It’s a status/dominance play, a cultural boundary marker, and a way to claim and define certain spaces as not for girls.

        What happens when you so much as mention menstruation in casual mixed company, in the world today, is that as a woman you have to be prepared to deal with a whole slew of dehumanising “jokes”: either ones that position you, woman, as “Other” – the juvenile bollocks of “never trust something that bleeds and doesn’t die” – or ones that position you as hormonally irrational – “Watch out, lads!” said in a supposedly jocular tone.

        One does not even need, in fact, to *mention* menstruation, since women’s irritation is often met with “PMSing, are we?” or the equivalent.

        There are others. These are only the most commonly encountered.

        Women have various strategies for dealing with this, in a career where it’s constantly part of the background environment. The most common is to position themselves publically *as* one of the boys, and claim exemption from Othering bollocks by virtue of “exceptionality” -they’re special, not like other women, they’re rational, they’re tougher, they’re just like *you*, O Man – and reinforce their status as part of the in-group by engaging in the same Othering bollocks themselves.

      • jennygadget January 26, 2012 at 3:03 pm #


        I’m a little confused on what you are asking, but you seem to be wondering if there is something that men hide from women that balances it out?

        I think part of the problem is that culture acts like there is – as if the taboo on farting, speaking in detail of sexual desires without invitation to do so, etc. are something that is asked specifically of boys and men. When, in reality, women have to be just as polite and are often pressured to hide the fact that they have the same bodily functions in the first place.

        And so when women mention even simple things like needing to pick up tampons – which should be on par with needing to pick up toilet paper, something you might say among even casual friends but possibly not in the workplace – it’s seen has having broken that pact.

    • Tom Kratman January 25, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

      There’s something in one of Sam Huntingon’s books, Jenny, concerning how we define ourselves by what we’re not. This is from memory, so may be off slightly. What Huntington oberved was that a woman psychiatrist in a group of male psychiatrists will define/think of herself as a woman, while the same woman amongst a group of women will define/think of herself as a psychiatrist. Whether that’s universally true, I don’t know. i could see it being generally true.

      As an rifle company exec, in Panama, in the 80s, I used to have to go get the troops out of jail about weekly, generally of a saturday morning. (Barring, of course, those not infrequent periods that we spent weeks and months straight in the jungle.) I did notice an interesting pattern to the bar fights. Troops from my company would gleefully join groups from any other company in the battalion in fighting any other group. Similarly, the battalion would join any battalion in the brigade against Marines, Air Force, or Navy. Army would gleefully join Marines against Air Force and Navy, and so on. One of the really heartwarming things about it was that race played no part whatsoever, with black Bandidos (B Company-3rd Bn, 5th infantry) happily joining white Moatengators (A Company-3rd Bn, 5th Infantry) in pounding on Air Force SPs, white or black or mixed.

      I don’t know that talking about being a woman would matter a bit. In almost every case, it’s going to very obvious indeed that she is a woman. If she has concerns that are woman specific, no, the troops are not generally going to be interested in hearing about it, though I doubt they’d mind her mentioning them, provided she didn’t harp on them.

  10. Tom Kratman January 25, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

    @ Magpie (down here because of the lack of a reply button):

    Which original argument? My _original_ argument, on TOR, was “read the damned article, The Amazon’s Right Breast.” My original article here, however, was only, more or less, “hey Hose, hey Bag, kisch mir im tuchas. Sincerely, Douche-Nozzle.”

    In any case, not exactly. It’s not particularly hard to imagine a drug that builds muscle in women and another that kills all interest in romance or makes personal love impossible in both sexes. It could happen, both the imagining and the future reality. Powered armor is easy to imagine and, although I don’t think it’s precisely in reach…a century? Sure, and maybe less. Robots that do all the fighting, so that men and women become irrelevant to war? It’s possible, too, though there are some things peculiar to war that make it less likely. A very far future with changes that make the society unrecognizable as human? Sure, why not? Aliens – even if descended from Man – with no real sexual dimorphism? Again, easy. (Though, in that case, it doesn’t really say anything about women in combat.)

    My problem with the way sci fi deals with it, typically (there are a few esceptions), is that it _doesn’t_ deal with it; it simply ignores the issues. It wouldn’t take much to fix – introduce that pill, explain that culture shift, mention the genetic engineering, show the sleeping roster a la Haldeman – but the genre doesn’t generally bother. Even where it does bother, _very_ few writers both understand all or even most the issues and problems – of which evil straight white male intolerance is among the least important – and are literarily ruthless enough in dealing with them.

    _I_ find that unsettling. If there are issues, known and potential, and you simply ignore them in favor of a different orthodoxy – the perfect, reliable, and easy malleability of mankind, say, or the notion that every difference between the genders is a mere social construct, or the efficacy of rules and regulations, say – and people believe that, then you’ve stopped peddling science fiction and are engaged in fantasy. The only differnce is that then you’re your own magician, waving away troubles with your wand.

    The other thing I find unsettling is nearer term science fiction, or just straight military fiction set a couple of years down the road, where none of those fixes are likely, and all of the issues are ignored.

    I set out, in 1992, to write a book that would damn the very idea of women in the combat arms, though not in the armed forces, generally. I found out, in my researches, that I had been too doctrinaire on that. I also found no instance – except for some iffy cross dressing tales (iffy because a) some of them are just not credible and b) because a hidden woman doesn’t stand in the same relationship to her comrades that an open and known one does) -that it had never been done with any success without realistically, and sometimes ruthlessly, dealing with those issues.

    Listen carefully: WE CAN HAVE WOMEN IN THE COMBAT ARMS STARTING TOMORROW. But we can’t do it to any good effect unless we are realistic about it, in military terms. Worse, if we do it based primarily on non-military,and sometimes anti-military values, we’re not only going to kill a lot of young boys and girls to no good purpose, we’ll probably kill the idea of female military equality for centuries.

    • shaunduke January 28, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

      All snark aside, as a last thought on all of this: I don’t necessarily disagree with what you’ve said above. I wouldn’t call SF that doesn’t deal with what might happen with integration in space militaries fantasy. I would call it lazy writing. But I think that greatly depends on when and where we’re talking about. Far future, those issues may be less pronounced for a lot of reasons. You seem to pass this off at times by proclaiming the humanity of the future as alien (or pulling the fantasy argument). Perhaps that’s true. I don’t see it that way. I see relatively near future military SF (say 100 years on the outside) that doesn’t address gender as simply lazy, on both sides. Regardless of what you or I think, the military is going to become more integrated, both with homosexuals and women. That’s the trend.

      Beyond that brink, though, I don’t see the gender divide as necessarily relevant unless it’s unclear that technological changes have rendered real-world gender differences irrelevant.

      What I think we will disagree on are the “problems.” The greatest problem with integration right now has only tangential relation to what you’ve thus far outlined: the rampant levels of sexual harassment and rape occurring in the militaries with women in them (and the military’s subsequent response: slaps on the wrist, generally speaking, according to the Pentagon). These are problems that have to do with leadership, training, and social control, and the military, thus far, has done a lackluster job dealing with it.

      But these are things that science fiction can deal with or move past. That was Liz Bourke’s original point: that most military SF, as far as she saw it, simply doesn’t; it tosses women aside or reinforces traditional gender roles at the expense of female agency. That’s a real problem for the subgenre.

      I figure that needs to be said as a coda, as the impression seems to be that we just disagree with everything you’ve written on principle alone. We don’t.

  11. PavePusher January 28, 2012 at 2:54 pm #

    Well, since you Godwin’d yourselves in the first 60 seconds, and admit to not honestly addressing the issues, I can only assume that you are merely blog/pod-whoring. Not, in and of itself, immoral, but certainly, by your chosen approach, unethical.

    • shaunduke January 28, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

      Which is why most people suggest, when reading a book, that perhaps going more than one chapter in is a good idea. 60 seconds for an hour long podcast? Hardly getting the full picture.

      Then again, you might have listened to the whole thing and neglected to hear when, in fact, we did “honestly [address] the issues.” Blindness to bias tends to do that.

      If we were “blog/pod-whoring” we would have chosen a far more controversial title. You know, something like “The Womenz Are Only Half-Human, Says Military SF” or “Women in Military SF — The Road to Prostitution.” But let’s face it: the title we chose really isn’t that bad. And titles are where blog/pod-whoring comes from. It’s called “link baiting.” We tend to “link bait” for silly science news, not for things like this.

      Edit: It’s also worth mentioning that Godwin’s law is defined as follows — “Godwin observed that, given enough time, in any online discussion—regardless of topic or scope—someone inevitably criticizes some point made in the discussion by comparing it to beliefs held by Hitler and the Nazis.” Godwin’s Law is also known as Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies, which specifically refers to a direct comparison to Hitlerian or Nazi beliefs, or a comparable figure. Since we made no such comparison in the first 60 seconds, we couldn’t have Godwin’d. Specifically, we made a joke about Kratman’s name (Krautman), but no direct comparison thereto between Kratman’s opinions/arguments and those of Hitler or the Nazis.

      • Tom Kratman January 28, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

        Honestly addressing issues and ignorantly addressing them is not quite the same thing. You and Bag, in this area, at least, are the very platonic essence of ignorance, you don’t even suspect what you don’t know. I, at least, have experience, research, and thought behind me. What do you have besides sound bites and snark?

      • shaunduke January 28, 2012 at 4:42 pm #

        Your arrogance is astounding, sir.


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    […] Episode 84 — Women in Military SF (or The Kratman Rule is B.S.) […]

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