Debate · Military · Politics

Do Women Belong in Combat?

When it was first released as military advocacy, Uncle Sam’s “I want YOU for U.S. Army” became a patriotic icon. Exactly 100 years later, his recruitment has gained a whole new meaning: YOU, including women, too!

This may be news for those who aren’t necessarily military experts. In summary, there are many branches within the army branch (confusing, I know), including military intelligence, engineering, medical corps, and infantry. When you picture the army, you’re probably picturing the infantry – soldiers on the ground with big guns. The infantry is the nucleus of the army. Being a combat arms branch, they maintain a constant preparation for combat worldwide. This branch is stoic, treacherous, and for awhile, one that banned women to join.

That is, until May 19th of this year. Just a few weeks ago, 18 female soldiers became the first women to graduate from Fort Benning’s infantry school in Georgia.

For some, it’s a no-brainer to prohibit women in the infantry. Naturally, the most explicitly dangerous and physically demanding branch is only fit for masculinity – right?

Although that’s the common undercurrent, many opposers don’t stop there.

“There will be a clear double standard in training – lighter rucksacks and lower expectations.”

“Biologically, their bodies aren’t built for this physical rigor.”

“A group of men with a woman in the mix would shift from a cohesive unit of killers to a group of males competing for a female.”

“The sexual harassment they’re going to have to deal with would ruin the army’s cohesion.”

“If they become POWs, the situation is diverted into a possible scenario of rape which would ignite a much greater uproar back home.”

Women In Combat

I can comprehend some of these points. Yes, on average, our bodies are biologically smaller than mens’. This absolutely has an impact on how much weight we can carry and what exercises we can complete. Also, yes, the POW situation would get murky. Captives are heinous, and we know that those who are heinous don’t cower from doing the very worst to a person, including rape.

Should this stop women as a whole from being allowed to fight? As long as standards are not altered for them, absolutely not.

Many opponents are afraid of standards being lowered for women who want to go infantry. This is a reasonable worry. If standards are lowered, a risk is introduced, and our soldiers’ preparation is jeopardized. In training, if men have to carry a 200 lb. dummy while women only have to carry a 100 lb. dummy, what happens when a soldier goes down in the field but they weigh 200 pounds? If a woman who has prepared for less is there, they will probably be in trouble. Therefore, lowering standards for women is dangerous to the combat effectiveness of the entire army.

If standards are not lowered for women and if they can do the same things their male counterparts can, I see no reason why women shouldn’t be allowed in the infantry. “But…but…but…throwing a woman in the mix changes everything about the cohesion of men!” Does it? That’s making the dangerous assumption that all those men are (a) heterosexual and (b) attracted to that particular woman in the first place. It’s also feeding the stereotype that men are savages when a woman comes along, thinking they need to impress her and fight for her. Why can’t men and women just coexist without any romantic attraction?! (Let alone in the middle of a battlefield, where I would hope other priorities are paramount.) Oh, right. I forgot it’s still 1950.

Then there’s that other thing: “Dealing with sexual harassment.”

Several things are flawed about this argument. First, it just assumes that women are going to be sexually harassed, case closed. Think about how we instruct girls how to avoid being raped. The pattern followed is the same: assume it will happen before you teach to stop it. Second, the words “deal with” should never be used in the same sentence as “sexual harassment.” Goodness. “Deal with”? Dealing with something entails that you have to accept that it happens and move on. Like you deal with bad weather, you should deal with getting raped. Eh, sucks, but it happens, right? Just deal with it.

Instead of pinning “the sexual harassment they’ll have to deal with” as a reason to omit women from the infantry, we should do all we can to eliminate harassment entirely. From what I understand, the military hosts training sessions on abolishing sexual harassment, which is awesome. I would like to see the army keep moving forward with that. Unfortunately, though, claiming that it’s still going to happen and that women will have to deal with it negates that training. Let’s talk about how it won’t happen anymore, not how it will.

Although it’s mandated now, many people oppose women in the infantry. “But, give the feminists what they want,” I heard somebody say. “Let them watch it crumble before their eyes.”

If standards are not lowered for her and if she can do everything the men can, I see no reason why a woman can’t come on board. But, hey, maybe I’m just a feminist.

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