By Elaine Donnelly
Member of STARRS Board of Advisors
A question asked in a recent Quinnipiac University poll sparked a national conversation: “If you were in the same position as Ukrainians are now, do you think that you would stay and fight or leave the country?”
Some commentators expressed alarm that only 53 percent of poll respondents said they would “stay and fight,” while 38 percent would “leave the country.” A partisan divide also drew notice.
More Republicans and Independents said they would stay and fight (68 and 57 percent, respectively), compared to 40 percent of Democrats. Twenty-five and 36 percent of Republicans and Independents would leave the country, compared to 52 percent of Democrats.
These responses reflect poorly on Democrats, but even more significant findings appear in the survey’s internals, which reveal striking differences between gender and age groups.
A healthy 70 percent of male respondents said they would stay and fight, and only 24 percent said they would leave the country. Among women, 40 percent would stay, and 52 percent said they would leave.
These findings do not discredit women. They are signs of a civilized culture and values that we are seeing right now in Ukraine. Amid the violence of war, under official orders, thousands of manly men have taken up arms and, with broken hearts, sent their wives and children away, hoping for reunification when the fight is over.
These painful family separations are happening without public controversy. When was the last time we saw an entire nation of men showing respect for women and children in this way?
The women of Ukraine also are showing remarkable heroism. Fleeing bombed-out cities in desperate journeys seeking refuge, under the worst conditions imaginable, they are shouldering the burden of saving their children and sometimes parents.
Womanly women are making Molotov cocktails and talking to international media from bomb shelters. Some have joined the military to fight or to care for wounded troops and civilian casualties, doing so with courage rivaling that of the men.
Even elderly people have confronted Russian soldiers and found ways to slow or destroy Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tanks. Women have always stepped up to serve in times of national emergency, but not necessarily in ways identical to men.
Complementary But Different Strengths
Doctrinaire egalitarians do not understand or appreciate complementary differences between men and women. They keep demanding percentage-based female quotas to achieve “diversity” in the combat arms, failing to appreciate the womanliness of nurturing children.
Civilization would not be strengthened if women were expected to fight in numbers equal to men, leaving vulnerable children, like the Ukrainian girl in the center of this Associated Press photograph, to fend for themselves. Like the Afghan girl on the cover of National Geographic, her expression speaks for all the children — bewildered, frightened, and needing protection in the midst of chaos.
A generational divide in the Quinnipiac poll also requires analysis. Sixty-six percent of older respondents (50-64 years old) said they would “stay and fight,” but only 45 percent of younger respondents (18-34 years old) said they would. The trendline is concerning because of its implications for national security.
In the civilian world as well as the military, it is easy to understand why younger men might be less likely to defend America. Columnist Kathleen Parker has noted a growing intolerance toward “boy behavior” in general. School reading lists have replaced books about male knights and heroes with aggressive “girl power” books and movies that leave the boys out.
In an interview, feminist Camille Paglia deplored gender politics being taught in universities. In a “very anti-male way,” she said, “it’s all about neutralization of maleness.” In 2019, the American Psychological Association defined “traditional masculinity,” meaning “stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression,” as “harmful” and conducive to unhealthy “behaviors.”
For years, pervasive Pajama Boy images have eroded manliness. Even at the U.S. Military Academy in 2020, a discussion program about “toxic masculinity” led one cadet to comment, “I’m being taught how not to be a man.”
At the same time, Colin Kaepernick kneeling demonstrations, combined with critical race theory (CRT) and 1619 Project instructions that distort history, have weakened patriotism. CRT ideology maintains that all institutions, including our Constitution, sprang from “white supremacy” and “systemic racism.”
No wonder some young people believe that America is not worthy of defense. The survey shows that increasing numbers would rather leave than fight.
Our history is not perfect; neither is Ukraine’s. But the valor and patriotism we are seeing there have earned the admiration of the world.
Zelensky’s Manly Leadership
Ukrainians are led by a manly leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, who channeled Winston Churchill while addressing the British Parliament in a green T-shirt and received a standing ovation. It is difficult to imagine anyone else in the world or history who could have done that with credibility.
Zelensky will not get everything he wants, but his public projection of courage is contagious. The men of Ukraine will continue to fight, and the women will do whatever it takes to ensure their families’ survival.
The 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, on which I served, discussed cultural values in the military. Would assignments for women in combat (infantry) units be a step forward for civilization or a step backward?
Fellow commissioner Kate O’Beirne summarized the majority position succinctly: “Good men protect and defend women.” Now, in real time, we are seeing real men putting their lives on the line to protect and defend women, children, and the nation they love.
Putin epitomizes a society that does not protect and defend women. Putin’s deliberate bombings of a maternity hospital, a theater, and an art school sheltering vulnerable civilians in Mariupol were cruel attacks on women, children, and civilization itself.
It is good to know that 70 percent of men would stay and fight if America were under attack, but the lower inclination of younger men to do so is a matter of concern. For the sake of national security, society must reinforce respect for manly men and womanly women, on which our civilized culture depends.
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