Lifting ban on women in combat

crossposted at

I had an abundance of strangers and friends ask me in complete shock and disbelief over WHY I would ever want to join the military, when I had told them that that’s what I was doing with my life. I had a million reasons to respond with really (I myself had a great childhood because I was an Army brat), but the only one that stood out was that I had always wanted to show the world that no matter what the circumstances and obstacles, women could do the same damn job as a man could…and they already did, but much more invisibly than their male counterparts. I wanted this to change; I wanted women to finally get credit for their sacrifices, risking their lives too, their ability to save another human being in situations, or the fight to help liberate women and their rights in countries where they were repressed and abused, their god damn hard work, period. I thought that if I was one more woman in the military doing a bad ass job, and being really good at it, that that would in some way make a progression toward woman’s equality. There are significant psychological implications like toppling the highly built prejudice against women by our patriarchal culture about what a woman is capable of: physically, emotionally and psychologically. People asked me: “Well, do you know what you would be fighting for? DO you believe in the war?” Yes and No. I would have been fighting for women’s equality in the world and here in the U.S. and that was reason enough for me. As a woman I would have done my job as  25V Combat Documentation/Photographer damn well. I still think about  re-joining in a few years as an Officer, but now I have a daughter and inevitably certain things changed, like putting myself in harm’s way instead of considering my daughter.

In March 2011 a recommendation will go to Congress about lifting the ban on the military putting women into combat. Newsflash! Women are already fighting in combat and on the front lines in combat zones in the Middle East, they just don’t get credit for it because of this military code that supposedly “keeps them out of harms way and from effectually distracting and hindering the male soldiers from doing their jobs.” WHAT?! Yes those are a couple of their reasons. Crazy. Women have been in dangerous combat zones fighting along with the men since WWI, as nurses and medics right on the front lines. In 1917 the Russian Provisional Gov. actually deployed female combat troops in large numbers! How often do we hear about that? In WWII in America, several hundred thousand women served in combat units and especially as pilots and anti-aircraft units as gunners! All over the World starting during WWII, women were being mobilized in war efforts, in combat units, volunteering and every other position that a man was performing…so why do women barely get accredited with any recognition?

In a sense, this recommendation to lift the ban on women in combat is sort of infuriating. It’s almost as if to infer that women aren’t already in combat and deployed there specifically, not by accident. Another technique to disrepute or disassociate women’s work and abilities perhaps? Wouldn’t be surprising really!

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  1. Posted March 14, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Is it sexist? Well, it depends on the tone struck for justifying ending the ban. If the argument made includes a mention that the ban has been a fraud because in a war with no fronts, anyone can end up fighting, and women have already been in these roles making sacrifices and yet often don’t get respect as soldiers in spite of it, I don’t see a major problem. But even without giving credit where credit is due, I still find it preferable to see the ban removed without mention than to see the status quo continue, where the military says one thing (that women won’t be in combat) and does another (puts women where they will be engaged in combat).

  2. Posted March 14, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    I am positive women are not denied credit for participating in combat. The newly minted Combat Action Badge, Combat Medical Badge, Purple Heart, Bronze and Silver Stars and the Unit Patch on the right uniform sleeve get awarded to women all the time.
    The jobs that are closed to women are those that actively seek to close with and destroy enemies, Infantry, Armor, Special Forces, Cavalry Scouts . . . that kind of thing. Those jobs are also closed to alot of men, for physical or psychological reasons, which should be the only criteria to exclude anyone.
    Hundreds of thousands of women did not see combat in WWII. A ferry pilot is not part of a combat unit, and an AA gunner sitting outside of LA is not the same kind of duty as an AA gunner sitting in a half-track while artillery is falling around the beaches of France, or North Africa, or wherever. A nurse was usually a couple of miles behind any fighting.
    That’s not to take away from the Night Witches of the Soviet Air Force, or the Partisans in Ukraine or France or Belgium . . . and that’s all old news anyway.
    I fully endorse women who want to volunteer and be at the ‘sharp end’. If a woman can do the job, and assimilate with the culture of those units then by all means, move out and shoot someone.
    That seems to me a possible issue though, the culture of a combat unit is distinctly competitive, violent, mean and just rough. And also young, so there will be people hooking up, which could cause some serious leadership problems. It does already cause leadership and morale problems in units that are not focused on blowing stuff up and hurting people.
    Is it possible to get some women vets to speak on this? I only am in touch with a very few and my own time in the military was long ago, mid and late 80′s, when women in uniform where a rare sight (though one of my drill sgt’s was a woman, as was my AIT company commander.)
    Nebulous concerns about a culture I am out of touch with aside, women as a gender should not be barred from any MOS.

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