As of January 24, 2013, women are now legally able to serve in combat positions in the U.S. army. While many of us celebrate this change with a cry of, “Finally!” there are many people who oppose it. Why? Well, let’s take a look at some of the most common arguments:
First, women are weaker than men; it only stands to reason that the standards for serving in combat positions will have to be lowered in order to accommodate their physical shortcomings. In reality, U.S. Secretary of Defence, Leon Panetta, confirmed that physical requirements will not be altered. Panetta reiterates, “I fundamentally believe that our military is more effective when success is based solely on ability and qualifications and on performance.” General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the grueling training that all recruits must undergo – regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. – and concluded, “I think we all believe that there will be women who can meet those standards.” So, naysayers can breathe a sigh of relief with the knowledge that the physical standards will remain unchanged. (“Women in Combat: Good to Go If They Meet Standards”).
Secondly, as “Brandon from Miami” pointed out on the Air Forces Official Site: “Men are naturally hard wired to protect women even if it is with our lives.” Many other posters on the site decreed this claim as a fact, despite the lack of scientific evidence to support it as such. I would like to humbly remind these individuals that it is a fact that a female soldier is more likely to experience rape at the hands of her brothers-in-arms than she is likely to be shot by the enemy. Very protective indeed. (“Rape in the Military: Exposing the Shocking Truth”)
Third, having women in combat positions will hurt unit cohesion. This argument is the recycled product of discriminatory values. It was this argument that upheld racial segregation of African-American soldiers until 1948, and it was this argument that formed the backbone of discrimination of LGBQT soldiers with the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy of 1993. Indeed, it was understood that even “the presence in the armed forces of persons who demonstrate a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability.” (10 U.S.C. § 654: US Code – Notes). In taking a historical perspective on the argument of protecting unit cohesion, does it not become evident that this claim is one based solely on discrimination? Would it not then stand to reason that rather than refuse the service of dedicated individuals due to their race, sexual orientation, and/or gender, we address the issue of discrimination within the military? Would this not help to increase the number of military personnel as well as strengthen unit cohesion by generating acceptance and understanding?
Where equality is the norm for society, so then will the military have unit cohesion. As General Martin Dempsey states, “The more we can treat people equally, the more likely they are to treat each other equally.”
By Moira, WAVAW Volunteer