Last evening, I watched as the Indian Air Force's Vice Chief Air Marshal politely "explained" on TV that women couldn't be put into combat positions because they have babies and are psychologically not fit. You think I'm exaggerating? Here are his words,
"Nature's way of life is that you get married, bring up a family. Now the latest position on ladies flying is that if a lady goes into family way, she is off-duty for 10 out of 12 months. Now while we can always utilize... a lady in some other job, but in the pure profession in which we have invested so much if the poor lady herself who has contributed so much... if we cannot utilise... then it is not fruitful for either party. But we are looking at it and in a few more years we can see a change coming with certain pre-conditions."
Now I don't know what kind of way of life "Nature" has, but in the real world, we have birth control and child care. More from the esteemed gentleman:
"In a few years time, we might see this change (women getting inducted as fighter pilots) coming in with certain pre-conditions that till this age we request you to be happy, be married, but no offsprings."
Also, as we are chivalrous chauvinists:
"It is not right to have a lady or a woman exposed to a conflict where she can be a prisoner of war."
A lady or a woman, get it? He is not just kind and condescending to well-bred ladies, but also to mere women!
And this gem:
"Secondly, psychologically, are we fit? another factor," he added.
And, in case you thought he was being sexist:
'I have full respect for women……but there are also other physiological, psychological, cultural and historical considerations. We cannot send them into close combat.'
"What considerations?" you may be wondering at this point. Which is where I will enlighten you, gentle reader. First, physiological. You need a penis to man (see? I made a pun!) the controls of a fighter plane. What, you thought your hands would be sufficient?
Second, psychological. How can mere women deal with the immense emotional upheaval of being up in the air and fighting! with! the! enemy! You have to be a strong, warlike man to be able to survive the trauma. (Maybe some extra testosterone would help?)
Third, cultural. Don't you know women are supposed to be at home, making food and ironing uniforms while the men are out fighting? Who is going to have the male fighter pilot's uniform all starched and ironed in the morning, and the food hot on the table when he gets home in the evening, if his wife is out flying too?
Fourth, historical. We are a patriarchal society. That is, you stupid women who want to be equal be grateful for the crumbs of respect we are giving you. Isn't it enough that we are allowing you into non-combat positions? You want to actually FIGHT ALONGSIDE THE MEN?
I am not surprised at the IAF's policy; I am not surprised at the obvious sexism in a government agency. I am apalled though, that the Vice Chief Air Marshall doesn't seem in the least embarrassed about his own sexism - or about making such sexist statements as a defense of those sexist policies.