Women in Combat: Is It a Big Deal?
Published: Friday, February 8, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 10, 2013 17:02
On January 23, the United States Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lifted its ban on ground combat exclusion for women last month and announced they will be allowed to participate in all fields of the armed forces. Naturally, this announcement has garnered quite the response. One side indicates that it is about time that women received the right to fight and die for their country; the other side proclaims that war is no place for a female.
Is it really that big of a deal? Given gender roles in our society, the number of men in the armed forces will likely always outnumber that of women. Some might come out and say that this sentiment is exactly what this announcement is trying to combat, but at some point we should realize that not only is that the way it is, that is the way things will be for a while.
A lot of the opposition to the announcement comes from the belief that women are naturally weaker than men and are therefore less likely to make good soldiers. While it is a scientific fact that women are, generally speaking, less physically imposing that men, this is not true in all situations.
There are also women out there who are much more physically imposing than a lot of men. I would imagine that the women attempting to face combat in the armed forces would be the ones falling into this category. If a woman can pass or even get a perfect score on the physical fitness test for any branch of the armed forces, the “weaker sex” argument really does not apply.
Despite all my rhetoric favoring gender equality, I would be far more likely to allow a son go into combat than a daughter. Perhaps I am prejudiced, but I am definitely not the only one who feels this way and there is a good chance that most people reading this would agree with my sentiment.
The biggest piece of support I can give the order is that, right now, it just makes sense. In years past, it would have been a much harder sell to suddenly argue for putting female soldiers in harm’s way. War has changed. Given the emergence of guerilla attacks and suicide bombs, the danger a woman forces in a non-combative brigade is growing increasingly comparable to the danger a soldier faces in combat.
Finally, the United States military is often considered to be one of the most diverse institutions in the America. This order adds one more facet to the diversity of the armed forces. With data emerging that the gender wage gap is widening, this is an important step towards gender equality. Once we start believing that women are capable of more tasks previously reserved for men, maybe society will start believing that their work is of equal value to their male counterparts.
Front line combat is not for everyone, particularly every woman, but why not make it accessible for those who want it? There has been some concern that the military will lower its fitness standards to allow more women to participate. I disagree with this idea because we are attempting to strengthen our armed forces through diversity, not weaken it with lower expectations.