Women In Combat By: Rola H Hassoun
A few days ago my facebook newsfeed was bombarded with angry military men (friends of mine) stating that there was no way they would go into combat with a woman. These concerns were expressed due to a recent pentagon decision to lift the ban on women in combat. My first thought was “military men, of course they would feel this way, they are surrounded by sexism!”, but as I thought about the subject matter more, and researched some of the actions that will be taken by the military I realized, there is a pros and cons list that one must consider.
How I see it: As long as one is able to perform the duties required for a given position, gender is irrelevant. As long as the military is not lowering its current standards and is instead requiring women to reach those standards, lifting the ban on women in combat is a great idea. Based on this proposal, the military will not be lowering its standards; it will be increasing opportunity for both women and the military system as a whole.
Pros: Women who are in better shape than men can be sent into combat. In modern day combat, more than just physical strength is required and valuable technical expertise and skills can be provided by both women and men. Women are more successful than men in different aspects of military operations. Women in combat can diversify the talent in combat units which can better resolve issues and end conflict. Mixed gender forces keep the military strong by increasing the opportunity gap for applicants. Military forces are less effective when they do not appoint the most capable person for a job, which may be a woman. The opportunity to appoint women to the most capable positions increases military effectiveness. Serving in combat is often a requirement for promotion to senior office position. Making this available to women allows them to reach the higher branches of the military which indirectly helps decrease sexism in the military.
Everyone has the right to express their concerns about the people capable of fighting alongside them. Concerns should be based on the disadvantages of having women in combat and not the underlying sexism rooted in an individual.
Cons: There are many jobs in the armed forces can be performed equally by men and women, yet there are positions that most women are not physically fit to perform. Women may have an effect on unit cohesion. Naturally, men bond better with men and women with women. Incorporating women into units can affect the closeness of the unit and negatively affect their comradery. Women who become prisoners are more likely to be raped and tortured by misogynistic captures. Pregnancies can affect a unit by causing disproportionate numbers and leading a unit to become understaffed.
Response to cons: The effects on unit cohesion could also be a result of sexism and refusal to work with women which could lead to increased harassment due to the presence of women in a “hyper masculine military subculture”, which is a separate issue. As for all the other cons, just because there is a possibility of pregnancy, increased harassment, increased torture by captures, and/or physical inability does not mean we should restrict women from making the CHOICE to fight for their country. Men are also capable of not performing well, affect unit cohesion, be tortured by captured and harassed by fellow servicemen, yet they are still given the opportunity to be in combat.
I don’t believe any of these cons are reasons to keep women out of combat. They are mostly internal issues that people need to resolve within themselves.
A fear of what will actually happen: Many of the men who are opposed to lifting the ban on women in combat feel this way because “a woman can’t lift a 250 lb man, I don’t feel safe fighting with someone who can’t lift me”, and to those men I say, most men can’t lift a 250 lb man. Now, the issue at hand is that the military will lower its standards, how so? Instead of implementing the current male standard, women will be required to perform at the female standard. Women have different standards then men because they perform differently. Allowing women to perform at the female standard as opposed to the male standard can decrease the combat ability of a unit. Standards are set in place for a reason and I believe that the current standard that is set, the male standard, is the standard necessary to perform at the highest and best ability.
One thing that must be kept in mind is that women have found themselves fighting in combat over the years. Many women have proven themselves to be fit for combat and willing to protect this nation just as much as the man standing alongside them. I understand the concern for one’s life, but said concern should still exist if a man is not capable of reaching male standards. No one wants a weak man on their team. No one wants a weak woman on their team. NO ONE WANTS A WEAK PERSON ON THEIR TEAM, whether it is physical or mental ability.
To consider: Especially in modern combat, women that are serving in combat are exposed to “front line risks”. Many women have fought and died for this nation alongside men fighting for the same cause. Women in combat have not negatively affected the military when it was necessary.
In conclusion: I believe that lifting the ban on women in combat is more beneficial to the military. The opposition is mostly basing its reasoning on physical ability. I believe that one standard of ability (physical and mental) should be used and it should be the standard in which military personnel can best perform to protect our nation, and protect one another. That being said, I do believe that implementing a female standard might hinder our military units in combat. No one is sure what is going to happen, how different branches and units of the military are going to change, but incorporating women into combat is going to be a long process that will take a while to perfect. This is a step in the right direction.
History of women in the military: http://www.womensmemorial.org/Education/timeline.html