Women Aren’t Allowed In Combat, But They’re Fighting Anyway

Taken from here.


Women are not allowed to serve as ground combat troops in the United States military. The Pentagon’s position is that women generally lack the required physical strength, and that the American public would not be able to handle seeing women come home in coffins. And yet, as the Atlantic reports, more than 150 female troops have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan so far, about 100 in combat. That’s in contrast to just eight women killed in the Vietnam War. What gives? And is this the price of equality?

It’s tempting to imagine with the dismantling of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell that the military is now some kind of utopian equality zone. But the prohibition on women in combat has been in place for decades and there’s no major national movement to formally dismantle it. That doesn’t mean it’s not crumbling in practice, as the magazine reports:

Women who pass a rigorous selection process are now being deployed to Afghanistan to serve with Rangers and Special Forces teams. Later this month, female sailors will begin bunking on submarines. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus says that women should be allowed to try out for elite Navy SEAL units, and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a crowd of ROTC cadets last year that he expected female troops to move increasingly into other Special Operations detachments.

If this trend continues, it could have an even greater impact on the military than the reversal of the ban on gay soldiers, since there are significantly more women than gays in the armed forces.

The military is still an overwhelmingly male place. Combat experience is a major predictor of career advancement, which severely hampers women’s chances of rising to the top of military leadership. When the Army named Marcia Anderson its first black female two-star general in October, she was predictably criticized for her lack of combat experience.

Still, the line between combat and non-combat positions is becoming blurrier. That means we should expect to see more women taking on the most dangerous military jobs — and, yes, dying in those jobs. Workplace equality, in this case, comes at a terrible price. But if women are accepting the extraordinary risks that come from combat jobs, shouldn’t the military recognize that?

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