NBC as well as other sources report that many female soldiers have been fighting against ISIS. For instance, the Kurdish female fighters are said to inspire fear in misogynistic ISIS because its fighters believe that they would not go to heaven if killed by women. Though such a theory was refuted by people who are more knowledgeable about ISIS, the fact that many Muslim women do not remain victimized by ISIS, which uses rape as the weapon of choice against women, fills me with a sense of pride: women can fight; women can defend themselves.
Gender stereotypes have often told women throughout most of human history that they cannot fight and that they are physically weak. And violence, particularly rape, has been used to frighten women into the perpetual state of subjugation. However, such a stereotype of women as a victim of violence can be contradicted when one studies history. There have been a great many female warriors recorded in human history, such as Joan of Arc and Zenobia, the warrior queen of Palmyra (currently Syria). In Japan, Tomoe-Gozen was a woman warrior and her military exploit was celebrated in The Tales of the Heike : “Tomoe, fair complexioned and with long hair, was of exceptional beauty. As a fighter she was a match for a thousand ordinary men, skilled in arms, able to bend the stoutest bow, on horseback or on foot, ever ready with her sword to confront any devil or god that came her way. She could manage the most unruly horse and gallop down the steepest slopes. Lord Kiso sent her into battle clad in finely meshed armor and equipped with a sword as one of his leading commanders. Again and again she emerged unrivaled in feats of valor… [After being relentlessly pursued by Yoritomo’s army, Lord Kiso has only five riders left, including Tomoe. Knowing he will be defeated he says to Tomoe:] ‘I intend to die in the fighting. And if it looks as though I’m about to be captured, I’ll take my own life. But I wouldn’t want it said that Lord Kiso fought his last battle in the company of a woman!’ But Tomoe did not move. When Lord Kiso continued to press her, she thought to herself, ‘Ah! If only I had a worthy opponent so I could show him one last time what I can do in battle!’ While she was hesitating they encountered thirty horsemen under the command of Onda no Moroshige, a warrior of the province of Musashi who was renowned for his strength. Tomoe charged into the midst of Onda’s men, drew her horse up beside his, and abruptly dragging him from his seat, pressed his head against the pommel of her saddle. After holding him motionless for a moment, she wrenched off his head and threw it away. Then she threw off her helmet and armor and fled somewhere in the direction of the eastern provinces.” Probably this narrative embellished Tomoe’s exploit in a colorful manner to make the story interesting, but the fact remains: she was one of the most able battle commanders in 12th-century Japan.
I am not trying to make an argument, by quoting passages about Tomoe’s feat, that women should use violence as a means of acquiring equality and respect. The point is this: women should be able to fight, in order to defend themselves, their families, and their peoples, if they must. As the Kurdish guerrilla force shows, women can defend themselves particularly in a group.
John Stuart Mill wrote in The Subjection of Woman:” [The authority of men over women] arose simply from the fact that from the very earliest twilight of human society, every woman (owing to the value attached to her by men, combined with her inferiority in muscular strengths) was found in a state of bondage to some man. Laws and systems of polity always begin by recognizing the relations they find already existing between individuals. They convert what was a mere physical fact into a legal right, give it the sanction of society, and principally aim at the substitution of public and organized means of asserting and protecting these rights, instead of the irregular and lawless conflict of physical strength. Those who had already been compelled to obedience became in this manner legally bound to it. Slavery, from being a mere affair of force between the master and the slave, became regularized and a matter of compact among the masters, who binding themselves to one another for common protection, guaranteed by their collective strength the private possessions of each, including his slaves.” Well, I cannot help but add another point to Mill’s well-reasoned argument regarding women’s legal inferiority at the time of his writing: it’s not only women’s “inferiority in muscular strengths” that kept women in bondage but it’s also women’s fundamental function in society, reproduction, which kept women in bondage (this is why so many conservative men want to control women’s reproduction even in an advanced society such as America). Human society will perish without women even now at the time of advanced reproductive medicine. Women should be considered and treated as equal partners of men in human society.