Says one of the interviewees in the upcoming miniseries, Women, War & Peace, "If you look at the front-line discussion of wars — the troops, the politics, the borders, the weapons, the armies — that is a men's story. How you actually exist and continue on living in war — that's a woman's story." PBS will be telling this story starting Oct. 11 — it promises to be eye-opening and disturbing.
My own mental image of "war" is still wrapped up in the whole Napoleonic ideal of neat lines of men marching into the meat grinder. Nowadays, we just have "conflicts" and "zones of hostility," where vulnerable or unarmed people are the ones taking it on the chin. Combatants want to eat, they want to get drunk, and they want to fuck, and any civilian population in the area is going to suffer in the fulfillment of those needs.
I think it's true that women also bear most of the responsibilities of ensuring survival in chaotic situations. In my own experiences in Iraq, the women were out in front, literally, when the chips were down. After all hell had finished breaking loose, they were always the first ones to come out from behind cover. If we were sweeping through an area, all the men and boys would usually pull a vanishing act, so girls and women would often be the only ones we'd interact with. Basically, if a man had any kind of fear that doing something was going to get his head blown off, he'd send a woman to do it for him.