Should women serve in the military? Michael Coren doesn’t think so. The Sun Media columnist made the argument last week in his column
about Karine Blais, the second Canadian female soldier to die serving her country in Afghanistan. (A third, Major Michelle Mendes
, was discovered deceased the day before the funeral.)
It’s a belief he’s been foolishly espousing in print for years. Unfortunately, no matter how many times he dusts it off for unwanted public consumption, it remains archaic, unpersuasive, unproven and most importantly, deeply sexist and not just against women, either.
Coren doesn’t understand why this young woman decided to serve. (“…what on earth was she doing in such a place and in such a job?”) As The Star reported, it was her desire to do so. Have you ever had a desire to put your life on the line because of a deep commitment to the military and to your country, Michael?
Throughout the misguided piece, he pretends “to articulate the views of the silent majority” (without providing any polling data that backs up his assertion, which explains the silence) and yet, by his own admission in this week’s inevitably whiny follow-up column
, reaction to his horribly disrespectful piece was decidedly mixed. (More on that later.)
Despite “mean[ing] no disrespect to Karine Blais or to her family” while also claiming to “grieve for her and them”, he betrays his own words by focusing almost entirely on her size (“[she] probably weighed a little over 100 pounds”) and looks (“Look at the photograph of this beautiful girl. Look at the innocence, the gentleness, the grace.”), but never her contributions to the military. In fact, very early on, he calls her “a young girl dressed up as a soldier”. (Yeah, that’s not condescending.) Incredibly, he later claims, “I mean it as a compliment.”. Really? If we were talking about a man here would you refer to him as “a young boy dressed up as a soldier” after he died on the job? Talk about pissing on one’s grave.
Immediately afterwards, he opines, “I’ve known soldiers all of my life and I have an invincible respect for them. I’ve seen their courage, integrity and sheer decency.” If he really believes that, where’s the respect for the courageous Trooper Blais and all the women who put their lives on the line for Canada? Or do their sacrifices not count in any meaningful way since Coren clearly considers them the weaker sex?
If that weren’t bad enough, Coren offers this simply bizarre section:
“Can we really imagine for a moment that if a group of Taliban tribesmen rushed a trench or an encampment this poor young woman could fight them off, could deal with the thrusts of their long knives and heavy clubs? Do we seriously think that the men in the unit would not risk their own lives to protect a pretty young girl who was inevitably being beaten to the ground by salivating killers?
The very reason we have various weight categories for all forms of organized fighting is that whatever the training, a pugilist’s weight and muscle bulk give an advantage to the heavier combatant.”
Firstly, Canada isn’t boxing The Taliban with their fists like Rocky Balboa. They are fighting them with tanks, automatic rifles and grenades, which makes his weight argument irrelevant. Secondly, The Taliban uses “long knives and heavy clubs”? I thought they used IEDs, mines and automatic weaponry. And what’s with the damsel-in-distress imagery? Trooper Blais was a professionally trained volunteer of the Canadian army. Why would she have been deployed if her superiors didn’t believe she would serve her country with honour? Besides, she was a tank driver, not some helpless princess forever dependent on big, strong men in her “trench” or “encampment”.
But remember, he “mean[s] no disrespect.”
As for the very real threat of female soldiers being captured and abused, how come there’s no concern for their male counterparts who face the very same threats? Furthermore, as one astute reader noted in The Toronto Sun (second letter
), “So sending our daughters into war is not appropriate, but sending our sons is? It is not OK to send anyone to war. We are supposed to be a civilized society, we should be using every effort to avoid war.”
Thankfully, reaction to this literary garbage has been mostly and reassuringly negative. A Calgary Sun reader (the first letter
“I have a feeling that Karine Blais, rest her soul, would be able to knock Michael Coren on his back and have him on the wrong end of a deathly situation very quickly…I find it disrespectful to this fallen soldier to question her ability. She endured the same trials as the men she served with and deserves no less respect.”
A male soldier (the fourth letter
) noted in his stingingly succinct rebuttal to Coren in The Toronto Sun:
“Michael Coren’s piece about Karine Blais is offensive. If Trooper Blais was unable to do her job to the same standard as her male counterparts, she would never, ever have been deployed. The suggestion that few women have the capacity to serve in combat roles is horsefeathers. I’ve met and worked with plenty of female soldiers who have excelled in their job. I have also met plenty of male soldiers who were not half as good. When, exactly, was the last time the Taliban “rushed a trench or an encampment”? And what would she have done? Probably raised her rifle and shot them, because being deployed she would have met the standard of the Canadian Force’s reasonably demanding marksmanship program. Of course the men in her unit would risk their lives to save her. But not because she was a “pretty young girl,” because she was a soldier, and soldiers will risk their lives for their brothers and sisters without hesitation. Gender is irrelevant in that situation. Trooper Blais decided to join the Canadian Forces for any of a number of reasons. She knew the risks and she went anyway. She was no different than any other of our 116 fatalities and to suggest otherwise smears the sacrifice of them all.”
Blais’ commander in Afghanistan, Lt.-Col. Jocelyn Paul, told The National Post, “Yes, when we think of Karine she was a woman, but first and above all, she was a member of the troop, no matter what her gender, her origin or what language she spoke…It is obvious that when you lose a soldier everyone is under shock. Some people can make the comment that yes, she was a female. What I would like to say is that the Canadian army has come a long way over the last 15 years. Right now, you can see women serving in every type of environment.
These women show a lot of courage. They are here standing shoulder to shoulder with all the men in the battle group. Very often, especially with the younger ones, we don’t make much difference now in terms of sex.”
Only the cowardly Michael Coren does. (For more criticism, click here
. Type “Michael Coren” “Karine Blais” into Google for more.)
That brings us to his follow-up column. As expected, he considers the reaction to his poorly argued opinion proof of it being “a success”. (You gotta love how he still considers himself a “journalist”.) And, as always, those who are critical of him get no respect. They’re bad spellers, “the vast majority” offer “the usual nonsense” like “‘You’re a dinosaur'” (amusingly, this was also the headline) and “‘I hate you.'” (As Frank Barone would say, “Suck it up, Nancy.”.) Most absurdly, he claims, “Most of the critical ones seemed obsessed with the fact that the poor girl indeed should have been able to die. A rather perverse way to support her and her family.” (Unlike your previous column?)
Really? That’s what people said? I’m willing to guess they felt her sacrifice shouldn’t have been considered so insignificant by a heartless, immature writer too clueless and classless to understand how paper-thin and utterly sexist his argument against her deployment truly was, but that’s just a guess. No one wanted this woman or any of our soldiers to die. (To claim otherwise is evil and dishonest.) But everybody knows the risks involved and accepts them, no matter how unfair and heartbreaking they are. Coren should be more of a man and admit this instead of misrepresenting the opinions of his critics who have once again nailed him on his chronic stupidity.
The sad thing about all of this is that Coren is absolutely right about one thing. The ongoing Afghanistan invasion is “pointless”. However, where was his opposition to this needless colonial war eight years ago? Hell, where was he five years ago? The only Sun columnist to be consistently right on this matter is the incomparable Eric Margolis who condemned Bush’s bellicosity from 2001 onward. And that goes for Iraq in 2002 and 2003, as well. Coren claims he was against invading Iraq but he once wrote a column comparing the situation to the American Civil War and he hasn’t come close to writing the amount of words decrying the outrage like Margolis has done this decade. Coren now opposes bombing Iran’s civilian nuclear facilities although he once argued vehemently the other way. When the latter opinion was roundly criticized, he whined in the former and claimed with a straight face that he changed his mind despite their criticism.
Right. And my name’s Clay Aiken.
At any rate, for Coren to continually react defensively whenever he’s called out on his routine bullshit by saying that his critics offer “insults” rather than “cogent arguments”, well, boo hoo, little girl. When you demean Trooper Blais’ sacrifice in not one but two columns (he called her “intensely inexperienced” in the most recent one), don’t expect people to be respectful and polite when you inflame their passions for our military. You’re no better than Greg Gutfeld, the unfunny douchebag from Fox News’ Red Eye, who went so far as to bash the entire Canadian military. Neither of you dicktrees have any respect, any class, any talent, any brains, any heart, any wit and any business working for the media. The sooner you quit, the better.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, April 25, 2009