Women and the Military

Statistics show that the U. S. armed forces currently employ over 229,000 women in its various branches (Donnelly 8). This figure had been increasing exponentially for over 30 years. It’s no surprise to men that women are becoming an important factor in the U. S. military and now occupy every position expect those on the front lines. With the infiltration of women in the services in 1972, great controversy has arisen and has become a highly argued issue (Donnelly 8). I believe that women should not only be permitted to be employed in the military, but also should be able to fight on the front lines of combat.

For centuries women have been under great scrutiny due to their physical ability, thought processes, and the roles they play in society. The abilities of women were often matched up against those of men to measure their performance and, more often than not, women were seen as second- rate to men. As time marched on, women fought for their rights and finally established their position in society as equals to men. Still, women today often find situations with jobs in which men hold a dominate stature.

It wasn’t until 1972, when the All Volunteer Army was formed that women could finally join the United States Armed Services (Donnelly9). Even then, women were sanctioned to only nursing jobs or those which are not threatened by combat involvement. The main reason for this action was because people believed that women were not capable of fighting courageously and skillfully in combat situations. Women finally got their chance to employ more positions after Bill Clinton amended the “Risk Rule”, which allows women to hold all positions in the military except those on the front lines (Davis 8).

In today’s military which depends increasingly on technology, we need women in combat. The services today can’t get enough qualified males to enlist (Davis 9). The days of only using females in rear areas for administrative and medical jobs are long gone. Women have participated in the war in Iraq with more combat exposure than ever before. In World War EE our society never would have allowed Pfc. Lori Piestawa, Spc. Shoshana Johnson and Pfc. Jessica Lynch to be anywhere near the risky combat zone in which these soldiers ended up(Donnelly 8).

This shows that the military is evolving to include women into combat-ready roles. This progression seems to be happening by accident and without much recognition or preparation from the military. They still refuse to allow women into infantry units, armor units, field artillery units and submarines in the Navy and other units likely to come into direct contact with the enemy. Some assumed reasons are: women are weaker than men, women will adversely affect the cohesiveness of all male units, women’s menstruation can hinder them while in battle and men can be traumatized by seeing women die.

These reasons are tiny problems the military uses to excuse their outdated, sexist policies (Donnelly 8). The military should allow women into roles that they have the strength to handle. The military should integrate a physical fitness standard that is the same for both sexes, but only for these special positions. Another issue is male cohesion. Some say all-male groups would not be able to function if there was a woman present. However, studies done during the Clinton administration have shown that during basic training, integrated units performed better or as well as all-male units(Donnelly 8).

Women can handle larger amounts of pain, and if the military needed to perform a body search on an Iraqi spy who was a woman, men could not perform the task (Davis 9). Davis argues “by adding a woman into the picture, the concentration on the mission may be easier to recognize than the spats of violence that tend to occur in a testosterone-rich environment”. Any veteran will tell you war is hell. People do things they wouldn’t normally do. By not allowing women to be involved in the combat roles, the army is excluding what could be very beneficial to other soldiers.

Another excuse from those against women in combat deals with menstruation. We all know women menstruate once a month. It is an inconvenience at most, but will not hinder the ability to perform as a soldier. There are some cases in which cramps and bleeding can be cause to skip class or work and those instances would be dealt with case by case. Most women, however, can take painkillers to be relieved from symptoms. Obviously, these women would need to have the means to change feminine products every 6 to 8 hours, but that can be done. I think many military men blow this way out of proportion.

They forget men also need to be hygienic in these circumstances. An uncircumcised man must keep himself clean or risk infection. Is he then to be taken out of the battle field because of his foreskin (Davis 9)? The last excuse the military uses is that men will not be combat effective if they see women dying in battle. Seeing anyone die can be traumatic. Seeing an aftermath of a bombing in which innocent men, women and children are killed is traumatic (Davis 10). War itself is traumatic, and I doubt the assumptions that seeing women die will be too much for a man to go on.

Donnelly states “Life is life, whether it is a man’s or a woman’s”. It is a shame when it ends, but again, the military has no proof of this concept because they do not test it. Without experimenting, the military will never know. Minorities were given this experimentation period. The military experimented with an all-black section of the military (Davis 10). They were rightly integrated into all aspects of the military. The social ideals some soldiers held had to be put aside so the greater good of the protection of our country could be secured.

I think the military should show its women the same consideration and respect by giving them a chance to prove that they can do it. Women are a valuable asset to today’s military, without them the US would be hard pressed to operate and maintain the high tech equipment that gives our military its current edge over the fighting forces of the rest of the world. Works Cited Davis, Rita. “Women in the Military”. Library Journal. 136. 8, June 2005. Pg. 8. Donnelly, Elaine. “Women Soldiers Serving at Greater Risk”. Library Journal. 17. 19, May 2003. pgs. 8-10.