Memo from Rear-Admiral Stefan Vorlakial
Markov – Once again the General Staff are behaving like my maiden aunt when she saw a spider. Honestly, you’d expect men who’d faced the Cetagandans to have more backbone. I mean, these latest orders from the Emperor are total rubbish, but what can you expect from a man who’s newly married? Of course we’ll get featherbrained orders like this for a while, until he gets that foreign wife of his housetrained.
So the General Staff get the latest yes-dear-of-course-dear order, and they go to pieces. Tragic. All we have to do is throw a few ideas together, make it sound reasonable, and in a few months it’ll all go down the gurgler and it’ll be business as usual.
I mean – gender equity. Have you even heard the term? Certainly not on Barrayar, I’m pleased to say. We don’t have gender here, poncy Komarran term no doubt. We have sex, at least when our wives are in the right mood. Which reminds me, Markov, I’ll need a bunch of flowers this evening when I leave work. And a birthday card. And a bottle of perfume, no idea what kind, it’s got a flower on the bottle. And a box of chocolates, the good ones with two layers. And tickets for that new play, no idea which one, it’s got that actress in it, the one who was in that other play where she lost a dog or something. Oh, and put it in my reminder calendar that my wife’s birthday was three days ago, and next year I want a warning a week in advance.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, sex. Or not.
Gender equity, I ask you. As if men and women can ever be equal. I’ve been married for forty-five years, and I’m proud to say I’ve never been equal to my wife.
So, we need to get some be-nice-to-girls rules in place ready for that hopefully far distant day when the Emperor completely loses his mind and allows persons of the female persuasion into the military. Horrible thought.
So, what is a gender equity rule? I mean, if we did contaminate and totally degrade our military in that way, what sort of rules would we need? Apart from no giggling. Can’t stand women who giggle. My dear wife has never been a giggler, except for a few moments early on in our honeymoon. Girls who were raised on a horse stud tend to have unrealistic expectations.
Now, those rules.
• No sex. With anyone. Not officers, not crew, not superior or inferior officers (my dear lord, they couldn’t let women be officers, surely) No silly business of any kind. With anyone. Not that any decent Barrayaran girl would, of course, but they’ll probably let Komarrans in too, and Sergyarans, and who knows what those hussies get up to. Some of those Barrayaran proles aren’t much better, I saw a girl the other day wearing those Komarran pants, and they outlined her rear in the most disgraceful fashion. I was so disgusted, I followed her for a whole city block. She wiggled. No decent girl wearing skirts wiggles that way. At least I’m sure that Vor girls won’t behave like that. There are standards, after all. Not that any decent Vor girl would wish to do this sort of thing. Yes, that’s the biggest rule. No sex. I can’t imagine what it’s like on those mixed fleets. I’m amazed anyone has the strength to pilot the ship.
• Uniforms will be altered to fit their – their shape. Shapely bits. But not too well. We don’t need to give the men ideas. And maybe skirts instead of pants, after all it’s not as if they’ll be doing anything physical. I mean, I’m sure they’ll be doing office work. Or nurses, we could use females for nursing, so long as they didn’t have to look at unclothed men – you can’t ask a nice girl to do things like that. Not ship duty, of course, or driving anything, or handling weapons. Or anything that involves mathematics, girls are no good at maths. But they could make coffee and tidy up about the place.
• No underwear hanging up to dry. I have no idea why women always feel the need to drape bits of their underwear all over the bathroom. A man walks in there in the middle of the night, call of nature, happens more and more often these days, bladder the size of a peanut I swear, and a man walks into his own bathroom in the dark and suddenly he’s fighting off five stockings and a foundation garment. Why the woman has to rinse them out and then hang them up overnight to dry is beyond me.
• Leading on from a previous point, jobs for those females that are forced onto us – we’ll have to find nice safe little jobs that keep them out of the way. Suitable for girls. They can’t do any real work in the military, after all.
• Separate toilets. In fact, keep them as far away as possible from the men at all times. Separate everything. Separate armies would be good.
• No crying. Can’t stand it when women cry. It’s nearly as bad as giggling. If we have to take girls they have to stop acting like girls.
• In the unlikely event that one of them ever earns a medal, she’s pinning it on herself. There’s no way I’d approach that part of a woman’s anatomy unless she’s my wife, and only then under certain circumstances. Moody woman, my wife.
• I’m not calling any woman ‘Sir’. We’ll have to call them ‘Ma’am’, I suppose. Or something. ‘Hey you’ probably won’t work. And they’ll have to salute like anyone else.
• What sort of girl would join the military, anyway? I suppose we could recruit some of those Dendarii hills-girls. My father was up in those mountains during the war, he said that those girls could do things with knives that’d make your eyes water just thinking about it. They certainly surprised some of the Cetagandans. Briefly. And efficiently. But apart from that, well it’s just silly thinking about it. I mean, even my grand-daughter has the most ridiculous ideas, in my day a girl her age would be looking forward to coming out into society, going to balls at the Residence. Not studying some kind of applied astrosomething-or-other. Seems to think that she’ll be applying to the Academy in a few years’ time. I told her, over my dead body. She said that would add interest to the application. Far too outspoken, she is, can’t think where she gets it from. And my wife just encourages her. Says it’s about time, or something. Can’t think what the woman means.
• Training – well, they can’t do the same as the men, naturally. Since they’re only going to be doing easy stuff that’s not too important, maybe we can set up some nice little place to give them a few office skills. Some girls school, maybe. Far away from temptations.
• Pay rates, now this is easy. Obviously they can’t be paid at the rate of a man, since they’re not worth a whole man. Half pay, perhaps, or maybe even two thirds if the emperor feels generous.
• Maybe we need some special ranks, I mean it’s not as if they’ll ever be real military personnel, so we might need to make something up for them to keep them happy.
• It’ll never happen anyway.
I can’t think of anything else right now, but this seems to cover it. See - this gender equity thing is easy if you approach it right.
Knock this into some kind of shape, Markov, and I’ll give it to the General Staff at the next meeting. Apparently one of the Auditors is going to be there, to give us the benefit of his experience with women in space. I hope he’s got pictures of that to hand around.
And after that I’m sure this will all be forgotten. I mean, it’s not like we’re ever going to do anything about it.
Rear-Admiral Stefan Vorlakial
By the Order of Emperor Gregor Vorbarra
Supreme Commander, Barrayaran Imperial Fleet
Attention all General Staff
Gender Equity in the Barrayaran military service – regulations for implementation
• The current regulations about personal relationships between military personnel will still apply.
• Normal uniform regulations will apply.
• Addendum to the above, regulation underwear will be modified as appropriate.
• Female personnel will be eligible for any tasks for which they have the qualifications, training and ability.
• Necessary facilities will be provided as required.
• Emotional support will be supplied as needed, as is standard for all personnel.
• Female personnel will be eligible for all medals, promotions, and other rewards for service. Medals for female personnel will be presented by the Empress.
• Female officers will be addressed as Madam or Sir, as preferred.
• Female personnel will be recruited from all parts of the Empire, and all levels of society. Those females who qualify for officer training will be eligible to enter any officer training establishment.
• All military personnel will undergo the same training.
• All military personnel will be paid on the same pay scales, irrespective of gender.
• All military personnel will follow the same ranking system.
• Women will be accepted into the Barrayaran military as soon as possible.
This is a first draft only, for discussion and modification. Consultation with experts in mixed-fleet management will be undertaken as part of the preparation for the integration process.
Rear-Admiral Stefan Vorlakial