Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Let's Hear It For G.I. Jane
Naysayers have been putting forth a variety of arguments as to why women should not serve in combat zones. Some claim that introducing women to traditionally all male platoons, squadrons, teams (whatever you want to call it), will tear apart the traditional "band of brothers" and negatively impact morale. Times changes and all must get on board. If the status quo had been allowed to stand decades ago when the armed forces became racially integrated, we would still have a segregated military. Others argue that the situations are just too dangerous for women. Hello, too dangerous? Women realize they are serving in the armed forces and not attending an afternoon tea party. And how do you define "dangerous" when you are at war? Despite their not previously being allowed in combat positions, a total of 152 women have already died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan while serving in supposedly "safer" positions. The reality is that war is ugly and no one is safe regardless of your gender. And then, inevitably, there is the sexual aspect of integrated forces. I read one op-ed piece where the author said the introduction of women into the special forces would serve as too much of a temptation to the men who often go for extended periods of time without having contact with women. Or gasp (!) what if the troops saw each other naked!??! My initial reaction was to laugh since to argue this, one would have to naively believe that all of the men in the service are heterosexual. (But perhaps some are that naive..........). The same outcries were heard when the U.S. Navy began to allow women to serve on ships. Integration might not have been smooth sailing from the get-go but today all ships are fully integrated. I remember during Glenn's last deployment that there were several female spouses who regularly voiced their concerns about women serving on board ships with men. Yes, this was happening in 2008. This was years after integration but some people still were uncomfortable with the co-ed conditions. My reaction was the same then as it is now; if you are so concerned about your husband being tempted by other women because they are working and living in close confines with each other, you probably have larger issues in your marriage that extend far beyond a military deployment.
So what are the proponents of this move saying? (Besides, its about time). If we are to argue for equal rights amongst the genders it has to be equal on all fronts. And yes, that means having to face the same dangers that men going to war have been facing for centuries. No one is asking for special treatment either; women must follow the same physical fitness guidelines as their male counterparts. To this end, perhaps coincidentally or perhaps intentionally, the U.S. Marines recently announced that female Marines will now be held to the same pull up and push up standards as their male counterparts. Will it be difficult? Maybe for some but if you are going to be on the front lines, you must be prepared. Bullets don't discriminate based on gender. It has been too easy to dismiss women as being the "fairer" sex and therefore physically weaker. Undoubtedly, some women--myself included--are. (I am a self proclaimed wimp). But I have met many women who can out run, out push up, pull up, and generally run physical circles around many men. Let's give everyone the opportunity to prove themselves. Perhaps the largest bonus, however, is the opportunity for true career advancement. In today's battle heavy world, most of the military's generals and admirals have served on the front lines of combat. Prevent women from serving along side them and you are preventing them from having an equal chance at promotion to the highest military ranks. With the change in the law they literally now have a fighting chance. And lets be honest, could the world military situation be any worse if women were in leadership positions?
Are these changes going to occur overnight? Will everyone accept the changes today, tomorrow, and even next year? No and no again. Change is always slow and not particularly easy but most times it is for the better. And I think this move is definitely for the better. My next suggestion would be to open the Selective Service, and if there was a draft, to women. After all, if we want true equality, we must be willing to step up to the plate.