Saturday, July 18, 2009

She Can Talk, Too!

This is a really old article from 2003, and I started to write it up as "a few years old but sounds like it's from fifty years ago," a commentary on how far ahead women in the west are of their third world counterparts. And then I read on and realized that the Kiowa helicopter pilot Adrineh Shahijanian it describes is in the American military. it was an American soldier who looked at her in uniform, then turned to a man sitting next to her and asked if women flew Kiowas.

When I bookmarked this I honestly thought the story was about some remote country in central Asia where the women are just crawling out from behind their veils. I know there are quite a lot of women in air combat roles in the US. And women were ferrying American combat aircraft before some of today's soldiers' parents were born. I guess some corners of the military are fifty years behind the general population when it comes to women. I'm so lucky to be in an environment where I don't encounter this. Or perhaps simply a mindset where I don't see it.

The "pee in the field" directive is an interesting one, because here is an area where, yeah, men are better equipped than women. But only if they are both wearing flight suits styled for men. If it were me who had to pee in fields on a regular basis, I'd extend the flight suit opening far enough south (with a velcro closure) that I didn't have to do the Kabuki dance to pee. If circumstances require me to participate in literal pissing competitions, I'm up for it.

You've got to love the part where the soldier asks the man who is with the woman about her capabilities, as if following some cultural law where he can't address a woman directly himself. This sort of thing alone would be hilarious, except that you know that for every man who asks if women can fly helicopters, there are a lot who just assume we can't, or can't do it well enough to be worth hiring. I try and think of it as their loss, and the gain of employers who don't think that way.

Also, Canadian Centennial of Flight celebration. John Lovelace is the Wings Over Canada guy, so he knows how to organize air travel, but hee hee, I want to know what happens to sleepy YQR ATC when 123 little airplanes pull into Regina for the night.

''I closed comments not to stifle debate, but because I laughed so hard at "People who suffer that attitude always seem to have lots of spare aggression, so it seems silly to treat women soldiers that way and NOT let them blow things up!" that I wanted it to remain the last word.''


hawk205 said...

on femaile pilots

Chris said...

At least the commander wasn't highly offended by the whole concept of a female aviator and refused to have anything to do with them.

Also "Kabuki Dance" is a new one on me :)

A Squared said...

With all due respect, you're reaching for something that isn't there. Go back and read the article, the question asked was not “could women fly helicopters” “But “if women fly Kiowas.” There's a world of difference when you read the question in context.


A Kiowa is is an aircraft with a primarily combat mission, which is actually a significant distinction with the US military with respect to woman's assignments. I'm not up on the latest nuance of the policy and it's current implementation, but it is generally that woman are not assigned to strictly combat positions, like infantryman. Infantryman is a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) where the sole duties are to kill other people with guns, they serve no other purpose. That MOS is closed to women. In some areas, like aviation, the lines become somewhat blurred. But while women have flown helicopters in the US army for 3 decades, it has been in transport helicopters. A Kiowa is not a transport helicopter; it's primary mission is finding and blowing up enemy tanks.

The article does not support your conclusion that the Tank commander was questioning whether women were capable of flying helicopters. Rather, it was far more likely that he was surprised that a woman had been *assigned* to Kiowas, because it is pretty much a strictly combat role, and having women in that particular assignment, would have been a very new development in 2003. No doubt the commander was quite aware that the MOS of armor (tank) crewman was and still is closed to women, and not being in aviation, was unaware that the aviation corps had started assigning women a little closer to the tip of the spear, so to speak.

It's not always there, but if you're looking hard enough, you can always find it anyway.

Wildcat said...

Well put square. Getting a bit tired of political correctness, and going way overboard on every little thing that can possibly be taken out of context.

"Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, Illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end"
R. J. Wiedemann – Lt. Col. USMC Ret.

Aviatrix said...

Point well taken, guys. Thank you for the explanation. I didn't know the difference between a Kiowa and a kiwi, except that the former can fly. The article indicates that Adrineh thought it was offensive, and I figured she'd know what was normal for her world, but perhaps she is excessively thin-skinned.

I don't go around looking for it, and I don't see it in my job--which was supposed to be the point of the post, but I guess I failed to convey that.

The part that struck me about Adrineh's story--the reference I made in the post title--was: why did he ask her companion instead of her? If it was out of fear that she would go all feminazi on his ass, why would he ask within her earshot?

Anyway, women get to fly stuff. Yay for us. Men get to fly stuff too. Yay for you, too.

Sorry if I offended any readers with the post.

hawk205 said...

why did he ask her companion instead of her?
My daughter encountered the same thing with Horses in Alabama. I would go with her to the feed store or hold the horse for the farrier. Initially they always spoke to me. My response was don't ask me ask her. she know more than I and it's her horse.
consequently she can play both roles " poor little me you big strong man" or "Dumb ass this how you do it and here's what I want" as well as a normal request to rational people.

sorry to be off topic( air craft) but the topic seems to fit.
My guiding principle for her when she was growing is girls can do anything men can do Plus they can have babies and be mothers.

A Squared said...

why did he ask her companion instead of her?

"companion" is conjecture not supported by the information in the article. They were at a meeting together. It's not clear whether the exchange in question took place during the actual meeting, or during a break when people were milling around chatting socially. I interpreted it as the latter, but I'm aware that is my own conjecture. Perhaps the Armor Officer was engaged in a conversation with the pilot, and Shahijanian was within earshot, but not actually a part of that conversation. Certainly, if the three of the had been chatting face to face, it would have been odd for the tank commander to turn to the male pilot and ask the question about the woman's assignment, but the article is far too thin on details to say for certain that was the situation.

Putting myself in the situation, I could see myself wondering if the woman aviator in attendance was assigned to the “tip of the spear” unit with which my unit was meeting, or whether she was a pilot from a Blackhawk unit who was attending the meeting for reasons I hadn't grasped. If I were engaged in conversation with a aviator from that unit, I could certainly see myself asking him, rather than disengaging from the person with whom I was speaking, stepping over to the woman, introducing myself, and asking her. I could also see myself not being too careful about making sure she didn't hear the question, because there was nothing inherently offensive in my intent, nor in the fact that I wasn't aware that woman were being assigned to that particular unit. As a tank commander, I'm aware that women aren't allowed to blow up tanks using other tanks, that fact that I'm not aware that they are now allowed to blow up tanks using helicopters isn't a result of being a chauvinist, it's a result of being unaware of the policies outside my own unit. From that perspective, knowing that my question is about army policy, not about women's competence, I might not have considered that it was a question I need to lower my voice to a whisper to ask.

Aviatrix said...

That would be a rational explanation for the man's behaviour.

I doubt it happened that way, because Adrineh was right there for him to then address her and hope she wasn't offended, and because she was. But I don't know her, so maybe she's hypersensitive and whiny. Is that what you expect?

Anonymous said...

"In a meeting with soldiers... one commander looked at Shahijanian and asked a male pilot next to her..."
needs a lot of stretching to change it to "not in the meeting" and "not next to her".

A squared said...

@ Anoymous: Yeah, in taking another look at those words I would have to agree that it seems more like the exchange took place during the meeting. I can't explain why the person involved addressed whom he addressed. Prehaps there was malign intent, perhaps there is a simple innocent explanation which escapes us because we were not there.

I will stand by the fact that asking whether women *could* be assigned to a particular unit, given that there are many which they cannot, is not the same as questioning their abilities.

Anonymous said...

Apparently people in wheelchairs get much the same thing: someone offers to make coffee and asks the person pushing their chair "Does he take sugar?"
A woman highway engineer says she gets stroppy public refusing to tell her what their problem is, because "you're just a secretary sweetie, I wanna talk to the MAN in charge".
People who suffer that attitude always seem to have lots of spare aggression, so it seems silly to treat women soldiers that way and NOT let them blow things up!