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Women in combat
January 24, 2013 7:05 AM   Subscribe

Today, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will announce that the Pentagon has lifted its 19 year old ban on women serving in combat roles in the military.

The announcement follows a November 29, 2012 lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of four Iraq/Afghanistan veterans.

Some state that the new military policy, which will be rolled out in phases, will just really align to the reality that women have frequently found themselves in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, where more than 20,000 have served. As of last year, more than 800 women had been wounded in the two wars and more than 130 had died.

Each branch of the military will have control over how the policy is applied; however, some branches, like the Marines, have been testing women for combat roles since this past summer.

Women will still not, at this point, be eligible for the Selective Service draft, per a Supreme Court ruling in Rostker v. Goldberg, which states in part that "since women are excluded from combat service by statute or military policy, men and women are simply not similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft, and Congress' decision to authorize the registration of only men therefore does not violate the Due Process Clause."
posted by roomthreeseventeen (73 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, come on mothers throughout the land,
Pack your boys girls off to Vietnam wherever there's oil.
Come on fathers, don't hesitate,
Send 'em off before it's too late.
Be the first one on your block
To have your boy girl come home in a box.
posted by tommasz at 7:12 AM on January 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Other points aside, if promotion boards take into account combat service record, which to my understanding they do, then you have to let the ladies have a shot at combat. It's just not fair otherwise.

'Grats women in the armed forces, sorry it took so long and I naively hope the implementation isn't too bumpy.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:18 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder if this will result in women having to register for Selective Service, or the elimination of it altogether.

service was autocorrected to suicide
posted by Elementary Penguin at 7:21 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Guess who has an opinion
posted by Flunkie at 7:22 AM on January 24, 2013


Good for equality.

As the post says, the truth of the matter is, women have been serving in combat roles in the US military for years. Look at Tammy Duckworth. The lifting of this ban means they will be legally recognized for it.

I'm curious to see if this change will alter military cultural attitudes regarding women -- perhaps they'll be less likely to be viewed as second class citizens by their male counterparts. Will sexual assault incidents and coverups drop as a result?
posted by zarq at 7:24 AM on January 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Other points aside, if promotion boards take into account combat service record, which to my understanding they do, then you have to let the ladies have a shot at combat. It's just not fair otherwise.

Not really. The issue isn't "women in combat," because they have been just because there are women in the military overseas, and the military overseas gets attacked. The issue is women in combat roles, which is to say jobs.

As currently stands, women cannot be infantry soldiers in the Army. Period. That means they can't be infantry squad leaders (sergeants), infantry platoon leaders (lieutenants), infantry company commanders (captains) etc. These jobs have been viewed historically as effectively required to get the top jobs (e.g. CENTCOM Commander, Chief of Staff of the Army (essentially the senior leader of the whole Army)), because you can't lead a combat division if you aren't a combat-arms officer (right now, there's one woman in a general-officer leadership position out of 12 active-duty combat divisions; she's a helicopter pilot, like Representative Tammy Duckworth). The current Chief of Staff of the Army (General Ray Odierno) was a field artillery officer (a job that was historically limited to men except for a few exceptions that wouldn't lead to the right jobs anyway); the previous one (who's now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) was an armor (tank) officer, also limited to men. And so on and so forth.

So this is much less about opening up the danger to women, though it will of course do that -- the danger was already there, but being an infantry soldier is even more dangerous than being a helicopter pilot. It's more about opening up the opportunities.
posted by Etrigan at 7:35 AM on January 24, 2013 [24 favorites]


To my way of thinking, a real feminist would have fought to ban men from combat, but instead of making men more like women, "feminists" insist on giving women the oppotunity to be more like worst aspects of men.
posted by three blind mice at 7:44 AM on January 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


To my way of thinking, a real feminist would have fought to ban men from combat

This is like the "gays in the military" canard though. I am a bit of a pacifist and I have strong feelings about no one being required to kill other people for their country. At the same time, the fact that not allowing out gay people into the military sort of furthered my pacifist aims in a twisted way did not make it okay for the US to continue to discriminate against them. I have no idea why you think you know what "real feminists" would be doing, but equal opportunity in the world we actually live in and not the ideal world of our dreams is often what we wind up with on the way to fighting for what we want.
posted by jessamyn at 7:49 AM on January 24, 2013 [42 favorites]


instead of making men more like women, "feminists" insist on giving women the oppotunity to be more like worst aspects of men.

Funny thing about equal opportunity -- not everyone who gets it is going to make the same choices you will. We have an all-volunteer military, and if women want to serve in it and want to serve in the most dangerous and physically grueling parts of it, then they should have that opportunity. I'm pretty sure that's what "feminism" is all about.
posted by Etrigan at 7:52 AM on January 24, 2013 [21 favorites]


I'm not sure how this is a step forward. My logical newbrain says yeah, this makes sense, equality and all that it implies, but my animal brain sez, hey, wait....war?

WTF?

Maybe we are supposed to hope that in the face of losing out daughters as well as our sons we won't notice the loss of our ideals.

America.
Amerika!
Go Drones!
posted by mule98J at 7:52 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm as pacifist as the next gal, but the handwaving and gnashing of teeth over the "loss of our daughters" to war makes me want to join up just out of spite.

As a feminist, I firmly believe that women, as well as men, are entitled to the basic human right of deciding how they want to live their lives. If a woman wants to be a CEO and a Mom, more power to her. If she wants to stay at home and raise children, again, that's awesome. If she wants to never, ever have kids, I say "Amen, sister!" If she wants to be able to fight and protect the country that she loves, while earning a non-taxable combat pay at the same rate as her male peers, by God she should be able to.

The discussion about war being bad and losing something valuable as society because our women fight is a distraction. The real point here is that this removes yet another arbitrary and false restriction based on gender that prevents men and women from earning the same pay and achieving the same ranks both in the private and public sector.

I do think women should be elgible for the draft as well, because the limitation is based in that same fallicy that somehow having women fight is more wrong and more hurtful to a society than having the men fight.
posted by teleri025 at 8:03 AM on January 24, 2013 [31 favorites]


Etrigan: That's true. I had just heard an interview on NPR this morning and they talked with a woman who had her "Combat Action Badge". That struck a note with me as I've heard of the CIB or Combat Infantryman Badge but not the other one.

I figured it was a journalistic mistake but turns out it wasn't. So what's the difference? The CAB has only been in place since 2005 according to wikipedia and

"Most commanders do not issue this award to qualified soldiers unless they are directly engaged in combat. Notably, it is granted exclusively for contact with enemy combatants, so actions by noncombatants like detainees or rioting civilians do not qualify. The CAB is not awarded unless the soldier is engaged in direct enemy fire. Combat Action Badges awarded to soldiers under indirect enemy fire are awarded to those injured or in direct personal injury threat by said indirect fire."

as compared to the CIB which has been in place since WWII and is awarded to

"enlisted men and officers (commissioned and warrant) holding colonel rank or below, who personally fought in active ground combat while an assigned member of either an infantry or a Special Forces unit,"

Semantics differences seem a bit thin but this is the military after all. That said, it got me thinking about how the CIB and the way that figures into non-infantry people being given decorations which figures into promotion boards. Keep in mind, that it seems females can get the CAB but will only now be eligible for the CIB. If I recall correctly military promotion boards for some crucial NCO ranks consider physical fitness, education (military and civilian), decorations earned, Time in Grade/Rank, and commander/board evaluations. Unlike the private sector it's a very fixed, quantitative process with regards to scoring and subsequent promotion. That's the extent of my understanding, therefor, at the very simplest level, them having access to one more decoration that was otherwise impossible to obtain can't hurt.

Of course there will be that many more leadership opportunities now that women can be in the Infantry/combat forces but that's semantics because to get the leadership jobs you have to have to make it past the promotion boards anyway.*

*I guess there's somewhat of an exception to that if you count a Second Lieutenant straight out of ROTC.
posted by RolandOfEld at 8:03 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The machine is hungry and cares not what chromosome composition is in the flesh it consumes.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:08 AM on January 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Of course there will be that many more leadership opportunities now that women can be in the Infantry/combat forces but that's semantics because to get the leadership jobs you have to have to make it past the promotion boards anyway.*

*I guess there's somewhat of an exception to that if you count a Second Lieutenant straight out of ROTC.


What may not be apparent to the civilian world is that in the military, your job determines about 90 percent of your career. Your first job out of ROTC or the service academies or OCS will almost always be branch-specific -- that is, you'll be an infantry platoon leader because you're in the Infantry branch, or a helicopter pilot because you're in the Aviation branch, or a signal platoon leader because... you get it.

It's not until you've had a few years in that you get to less branch-specific jobs (e.g., acquisition, teaching at the service academies or ROTC, recruiting), and sometimes you never get to that point -- there are plenty of generals who never had a job outside their branch, which for the combat-arms guys meant that they'd never held a position that a woman was eligible for. I remember one guy who was taking over a brigade in the late '90s who had never had a woman in any unit he'd served in or over. He was a Colonel, so he'd been in for 20-plus years, and he had literally never needed to have a professional interaction with a female soldier.

So the horse in this horse-cart equation is branch, which is the Army's way of saying "role," which means that 90 percent of a new officer's career that is determined by her branch is now much, much more open.
posted by Etrigan at 8:24 AM on January 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


A cousin of my wife is one of the highest-ranking female members of the Canadian military. She has just returned home from several tours in Afghanistan, and was, for at least part of that time, a field commander on infantry patrol.

I know several military people of her rank and deal with them on a regular basis. I have no doubt who I'd want leading my company.
posted by bonehead at 8:27 AM on January 24, 2013


Rather than letting women serve in combat positions, couldn't we have prevented men from serving in them too?
posted by blue_beetle at 8:30 AM on January 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Acknowledging reality is a step in...some direction.
posted by rtha at 8:38 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well this is good if we have to fight the bugs, anyway.
posted by Mister_A at 8:40 AM on January 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Instead of letting gays get married, why can't we ban the entire institution? /sarcasm

As a feminist and a pacifist, this is a great step forward. I mean, I'd go as far as to say that we should reintroduce the draft as that might be the only way to get people to pay attention to the human cost of war. Barring women from serving because of nothing but sexism (which is what this was) does no one any good, not the military and not society.
posted by lydhre at 8:40 AM on January 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


Women have been in combat roles for quite a while now - it's just that up till now, it has been "unofficial" combat roles, since "on the books" we would never do anything to endanger them. Heaven forbid!

In other words, you know how you can sometimes have a job where you're effectively doing something at a much higher pay grade, but you get neither the title, salary, or credit, thus crippling your career until you find a better job in a similar field? Women in the military have been experiencing this for a while now, except that they didn't have the "looking for a better job in a similar field" option. Another significant difference is that the job involved people shooting at them, and also the possibility of death.

This is definitely a significant step for equality, and the only moral outrage is that it took so long for our country to realize it.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 8:50 AM on January 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


RolandofEld, I never thought of the CIB as being necessarily better than the CAB. In my mind, the CAB is just the same thing as the CIB except it is for non-Infantry branches. As far as I know, the difference between having a CAB and a CIB shouldn't factor into promotion boards. Also, women will probably not be eligible for the CIB just yet, considering that a senior defense official said "[other branches], like special operations forces and infantry, may take longer".

Even so, Female Officers are already attending the Infantry Officer Basic Leadership Course and might be attending Ranger School in the near future.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 9:11 AM on January 24, 2013


Would Rostker v Goldberg still apply? From a glance, it seems to come down to the fact that Congress, after considering it, wants the Selective Service/draft in order to fill combat roles, combat roles couldn't have women in them, so the choice was constitutional. Now, the registration is still for combat roles, which can have women. So at least the reasoning in Rostker means that it'd be unconstitutional to leave women out of the draft.

And yeah, this is a good thing. I have some female friends who were active-duty here in Canada, I'm pretty sure combat roles. As with out GBLT* people, it's not a problem once it's in place, because the kind of people who choose to go into those roles are the kind of people that can handle them, generally.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:12 AM on January 24, 2013


Awesome, so I guess the digital voice announcing the targeted detonation of a wedding party can use the female option now.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:13 AM on January 24, 2013


Women have been in combat since the beginning of time -- and usually end up as victims.

I've always seen the ban by the US Armed Forces as being a ban on women being given the chance to be a fighter in combat, which just stymies women's careers and does nothing to protect women in general. Being kept out of combat roles has only detriments for women and the only reasons come down to either patronizing sexism or plain-old sexism.
posted by jb at 9:15 AM on January 24, 2013




Would Rostker v Goldberg still apply? From a glance, it seems to come down to the fact that Congress, after considering it, wants the Selective Service/draft in order to fill combat roles, combat roles couldn't have women in them, so the choice was constitutional. Now, the registration is still for combat roles, which can have women. So at least the reasoning in Rostker means that it'd be unconstitutional to leave women out of the draft.

I think it will depend on how each branch chooses to apply the policy. For instance, they may limit female combat roles to volunteers or something so that even if women were registered for the draft, they wouldn't be put in combat roles anyway. The rational of Rostker v Goldberg would still apply that way (I think but IANAL).
posted by VTX at 9:38 AM on January 24, 2013


So are they going to get 11B slots? That would be amazing. I think the same physical fitness standards will have to apply. Just as many men are not physically big or strong enough for combat, many women will not be either. But there are plenty of women who are stronger than some men, and so those persons should be allowed to serve in ground combat roles.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:45 AM on January 24, 2013


My favorite so far has been this former infantryman in the WSJ saying war is icky so it's not for women. It's cute how he thinks female soldiers didn't endure the same unsanitary and uncomfortable conditions that he did during the invasion of Iraq.
posted by lullaby at 9:47 AM on January 24, 2013


Women will still not, at this point, be eligible for the Selective Service draft, per a Supreme Court ruling in Rostker v. Goldberg, which states in part that "since women are excluded from combat service by statute or military policy, men and women are simply not similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft, and Congress' decision to authorize the registration of only men therefore does not violate the Due Process Clause."

I don't know, women are now not excluded from combat service by statute or military policy.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:47 AM on January 24, 2013


Here's a bit more on how it's supposed to work.
Here’s the plan. The services are required to report by May 15 to the defense secretary -- by then, likely former Sen. Chuck Hagel -- their plans to review all positions. The decision to open some jobs to women could come quickly. For other jobs, like tank operators who are required to load two-foot long, 50-pound artillery shells in tight quarters using pure upper body strength, the decision may take a little more study and testing, the officials said.

“We would fully expect this will be done in increments,” said a senior defense official, as the services work their way through the job rolls.

But the military has no intention of bending the rules for women just because of their gender. Not entirely, at least.

Senior defense officials said they already have identified 53,000 positions women are allowed to perform – medics, truck drivers, or logisticians, for example -- but which are closed off to them because the jobs are located within entire units that are off limits to women, such as combat infantry. Those jobs could be among the first to open this year.
posted by lullaby at 10:52 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't get why you wouldn't open the tank operator job to women. I'm sure they have performance standards now (be able to load X number of 50 Lbs shells at Y rate for Z hours or some such). Just open the job to women and don't change the standard.

There will likely be fewer women who can do that job but it doesn't as long as the standard is based on realistic combat requirements.
posted by VTX at 10:59 AM on January 24, 2013


Rather than letting women serve in combat positions, couldn't we have prevented men from serving in them too?

Oh, so I take it that's why all those people in the past wanted to keep the military segregated? To keep all the minorities nice and safe, right?
posted by FJT at 11:01 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't think of any good reason that women would be less useful to a combat outfit than any man--once you factor out any physical issues. Women can hump rucks, they can shoot, they can kill with their hands. Practical objections exist mostly in the minds of men, who need only to get used to the novelty. Blacks overcame the same obstacles, objections framed using the same rhetoric, buttressed by centuries of predjudice. Gays are overcoming these dynamics now. Women pilots have been successfully killing our enemies for years.

Military life is tough. It would be a mistake to paint all military folks with the same brush, because, in truth, they are a microcosm of our society in general. Not all of them are heroes. Not all of them are even competant. Some of them are dispicable human beings. Most of them are functional, though. In combat arms, for example the infantry, or in special units, they more often than not display impeccable on-the-job integrity: If they say they have your six, you can bet your life on it. In general I rate the life of a soldier as an honorable profession, even given that his (her) job is to kill the enemy; teeth-to-tail issues aside, the military's role is to kill people.

But I still don't see this (acceptance of women in combat) as an advancement of feminism. Or maybe it is, and I've just misunderstood the trend. I guess I somehow equated feminism (over the years) as a counterpoint to the various male-oriented entitle-isms: akin to chauvinism, racism, and certain nationalistic notions of superiority (breeding slavery and colonialism, for example). Male domination (though not always with evil intent) has given us these historical precedents; women, over the years, have generated some refreshing and sane counter-views.

The resurgence of feminism to which I was exposed in the 70's seemed to have humanistic roots, and embraced not only issues specific to women, but issues to which any group that's felt the heel of the boot would find familiar. Civil rights, in general, I guess. This strikes out against such things as nationalism (not patriotism), or corporate oppression.

Militarism was one of the themes in those days. The issue wasn't that soldiers are bad, but that using them to further (insert your favorite socio-political pet peeve here) was wrong. The notion of a pre-emptive war was still only a gleam in the dreams of the CIA in those days; we were just trying to keep the dominoes from falling, was the best rhetoric we could come up with. Anyhow, most of us thought war was a last-ditch tactic, not a tooth in the diplomatic corps' repertoire. In that pre-Vietnam context, the acceptance of women in combat, it seems to me, would have been a feather in the feminist cap. Now it just seems like a doggish licking of the master's hand in hopes of a pat on the head.

Or--this is where I must have had it wrong--feminism isn't about improving the quality of the bread, it's about getting one's fair share of the bakery. If that's so, then I guess I'm not so much of a feminist as I thought I was. By the way, I am by no stretch of the imagination a pacifist. But I'm not a running dog, either. If I lament the prospect of our daughters dying in war, it's not because I treasure them more than our sons. Or the sons or daughters of those they will kill. Anyhow, I celebrate the women's new victory in gaining infantry equity with about the same enthusiasm as I celebrate the technical advances made in arming drones (that help remove the American soldier from the tactical center of the conflict). Yippee.
posted by mule98J at 11:04 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Good thing, mule, that any celebration or approval is not needed from you. If you can't see how this is an extremely positive thing for women, then yeah...maybe not as much of a feminist as you thought. All equality won is worth celebrating.
posted by agregoli at 11:11 AM on January 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well part of it has to do with other people being able to tell any individual woman what "being a woman" is supposed to be. So I hear you, in the 70s there was a lot of "earth mother" type of rhetoric where there was a lot of feminism that was equated with healing the earth and loving our mother (the earth) and being kind to fertile beings because they are the way and the future. And that is definitely one branch of feminism and you can still see it today. But it was limiting to, say, people who didn't want to be mothers, or who wanted to be soldiers, or who wanted to both be female and be what they wanted to be and didn't want people saying that because they were female they couldn't be what they wanted to be.

So, me personally, I don't like war or the war machine. However, me telling another woman that she can't serve her country in a manner that is sensible and logical and important to her is not really okay. And I don't run the world, is sort of where that ends. I don't have to like everyone's choices. Part of just being able to be open about equal rights in these cases is that realizing, just like we realized that making men go fight and "saving" women from it was sexist (against men and against women) righting that imbalance does involve us having to confront some difficult issues that we may have been able to ignore before. Giving people equal opportunity to be things you don't agree with is really sort of putting your beliefs about equal opportunity to the test in many ways.
posted by jessamyn at 11:16 AM on January 24, 2013 [14 favorites]


My favorite so far has been this former infantryman in the WSJ saying war is icky so it's not for women. It's cute how he thinks female soldiers didn't endure the same unsanitary and uncomfortable conditions that he did during the invasion of Iraq.

Or that women care any more about being uncomfortable or unsanitary than men -- women deal with some of the dirtiest jobs (eg nursing) or dirty & dangerous jobs (meat packing) already. And women are already in combat, as support personnel, and in war zones as civilians often living in worse conditions than combat soldiers.

The only semi-valid argument I've ever heard against women in combat positions is the fear that if captured they might stand a higher chance of being sexually assaulted than male soldiers. But a) I've never heard that this actually happens (female soldiers captured in Iraq seem to have been treated better, not worse), b) male prisoners are assaulted (in the Congo, male and female civilians have faced rape), and c) "protection" is no reason to discriminate against women, crippling their career potential. They chose this life and they should have the right to choose it.

As for the "upper body strength" arguments: those are such hooey and they always have been. Secondary sex differences are all on a population level - there have always been some women stronger than some men. Just set your physical standards and requirements for each position and judge people by their abilities, not their chromosomes.
posted by jb at 11:17 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Actually: I thought I read somewhere that women can endure more cold than men, and also possibly carry more? (Or was that they could carry more in ratio to their body weight). Certainly, no one goes on about how much weight a woman can carry when she's carrying the groceries home (with or without kids to deal with as well).

And a naval expert has told me that there is one combat position where women, on average, would be much more suited than men: submarine duty. Currently, women are banned from all submarine duty, but women take less room, eat less and have fewer problems with the confined spaces that a submarine has. If you had to discriminate, you'd be better off making your submarine crews all female rather than all male.
posted by jb at 11:21 AM on January 24, 2013


Currently, women are banned from all submarine duty

Not anymore they're not.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 11:25 AM on January 24, 2013


jb: "Currently, women are banned from all submarine duty,"

The navy began integrating female naval officers into submarine crews in 2010. It's reportedly been smooth sailing.
posted by zarq at 11:29 AM on January 24, 2013


awesome news. Though I notice that women still aren't allowed on the smaller subs and they haven't begun to integrate enlisted women.

I was just thinking of it because this naval expert had said that if all people were worried about was fraternization on such a small vessel, they could have all-female crews and they would work well.
posted by jb at 11:37 AM on January 24, 2013


> If you can't see how this is an extremely positive thing for women, then yeah...maybe not as much of a feminist as you thought.

If you believe that the United States' endless warfare is a moral and ethical catastrophe, then allowing more humans of any type, female, gay, whatever, to participate in those wars is a net bad thing.

I'm an ardent feminist, but for me the small and quite abstract win of "women get to do one more thing they weren't allowed to before" is trumped by the practical reality that the thing these women get to do is something I believe is profoundly morally wrong.

The net result, that the military has doubled their pool of candidates for some positions, is a bad one and the fact that it contains a small symbolic "win for feminism" does not change the badness of the outcome.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:38 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you have objections to the strategic policy of the modern American military, that is both completely valid and ... entirely irrelevant to this issue.

If you believe a true, ethical feminist would not volunteer to join the modern American military, that's one issue. But it isn't this one. This one is whether you believe a woman should be banned by law from a job she is qualified for.

Look, when women are not restricted from business positions, some of them will be or work for corporate raiders or predatory lenders. When women are not restricted from owning property, some of them will become unethical landlords. This does not change the fact that it is a step forward for both women's rights and human rights if women are not banned by law from taking jobs or owning property.

If you don't like the American military, please advocate to change their bad policies. Please feel free to see doing so as a feminist issue, in fact. But you want to know what one of those bad policies was? NOT ALLOWING WOMEN IN COMBAT POSITIONS.
posted by kyrademon at 11:56 AM on January 24, 2013 [16 favorites]


"Freedom is bad, because people will use it to make choices I disagree with!"
-- every pro-lifer

You're sure you want to be on that ideological side?
posted by Etrigan at 12:07 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


If women are to have equal opportunity, they have to have equal responsibility. I didn't want to join the military, and the draft ended just before it would have affected me. If I'd been eligible to be drafted, my number would have been high enough to keep me out, not to mention college deferment. But the absence of women in the draft pool means that men got drafted instead of those women. The War in Viet Nam was a mess, and we still haven't learned. War itself is patently wrong. So-called 'just war' is a response to some other very wrong event(s).

Some people hold the value that military might is an appropriate response. Some women hold that view. The military has been giving women training and experience in technical skills and leadership. Many employers love to hire veterans because they know soldiers are accustomed to discipline. If you stay in the US Armed Forces for 20 years, you get a lifetime pension. You get lifetime medical care. Women should not be denied these opportunities. Meaningful careers in the US Military are greatly enhanced by combat experience. I'm glad women can serve in any capacity, but I don't want anybody to be in combat.
posted by theora55 at 12:08 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only semi-valid argument I've ever heard against women in combat positions is the fear that if captured they might stand a higher chance of being sexually assaulted than male soldiers.

The only way this argument could be even remotely valid is if the US Military paid any attention at all to incidences of sexual assault within its ranks. Otherwise it's just the usual load of specious shit, completely aside from your three very pertinent points.
posted by elizardbits at 12:37 PM on January 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


The only way this argument could be even remotely valid is if the US Military paid any attention at all to incidences of sexual assault within its ranks.

No one will disagree that the U.S. military doesn't pay enough attention to sexual assault, but I have personal experience that says they pay some, thanks.
posted by Etrigan at 12:46 PM on January 24, 2013


I'm an ardent feminist, but for me the small and quite abstract win of "women get to do one more thing they weren't allowed to before" is trumped by the practical reality that the thing these women get to do is something I believe is profoundly morally wrong.
lupus_yonderboy

Then you're not really an "ardent feminist". Women should have the same ability to engage in activities that are morally wrong as men do. They can decide for themselves what they wish to do with their lives, just as men can.
posted by Sangermaine at 2:18 PM on January 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


The only way this argument could be even remotely valid is if the US Military paid any attention at all to incidences of sexual assault within its ranks.

Amen -- I have to say that sexual assault by one member of the military against one of their colleagues disturbs me even more because that person is their brother/sister-in-arms. They are supposed to watch out for their comrades, not assault them.

But I'd actually heard this in relation to the Israeli military, which (I was told at the time) also kept women out of combat positions. I was told that the IDF were afraid that if Palistinian militants captured a female Israeli soldier, they would be likely to assault her, partly because the militants already have weird issues around female Israeli soldiers to start with. But this is all hearsay and I'd be happy to hear from someone who knows the situation better.

As for the draft: yes, of course, if men are drafted, women should be drafted. I don't want anyone to be drafted, but if it happens, it should be equal for both sexes.
posted by jb at 2:31 PM on January 24, 2013


Holy crap, Tucker Carlson has tweeted "The administration boasts about sending women to the front lines on the same day Democrats push the Violence Against Women Act."
posted by Flunkie at 2:48 PM on January 24, 2013


> I'm an ardent feminist, but for me the small and quite abstract win of "women get to do one more thing they weren't allowed to before" is trumped by the practical reality that the thing these women get to do is something I believe is profoundly morally wrong

You can't be a feminist and want women to have inferior opportunities compared to men, no matter how much you hate the decisions some women will make.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:04 PM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


> I don't want anyone to be drafted, but if it happens, it should be equal for both sexes

I agree. I fear the thought of my son being drafted just as much as I fear the thought of my daughter being drafted.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:06 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


jb: " But I'd actually heard this in relation to the Israeli military, which (I was told at the time) also kept women out of combat positions. I was told that the IDF were afraid that if Palistinian militants captured a female Israeli soldier, they would be likely to assault her, partly because the militants already have weird issues around female Israeli soldiers to start with. But this is all hearsay and I'd be happy to hear from someone who knows the situation better. "

Back in 90s, a female Israeli pilot applied for pilot training in the IDF and was rejected because of her gender. She sued, and the case went to the Supreme Court, who ruled that she shouldn't have been rejected. It was high profile, and in response some legislators filed a bill that eventually became an amendment to the Israeli military service law in 2000, and established equality in the military. I don't remember the exact wording, but it's something like, "The right of women to serve in any role in the IDF is equal to that of a man."

So, women are allowed to apply or volunteer for any position and may serve if qualified. They can't be rejected on the basis of gender. Service requirements for women are equal to that of men, even if they become mothers. I believe there is also a battalion that is deliberately, mostly made up of women.
posted by zarq at 3:11 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I live in a military town and as such know quite a lot of women who are, or have been in the armed services-here, mostly Army.

Quite a number of them are retired because of injuries-many of which are caused by the physical strains of the intense PT they do. A female body may be able to do exactly what a male body does, but the female body tends to break down more quickly.

I understand the arguments, I understand the inequities, after all, women do see combat, but I cannot help but think that we cannot ignore the biological facts that over all, most men are still much more physically strong than most women.

Just a thought.

Frankly I could live with a bit of gender inequity if it meant that we had the most physically strong and prepared army possible in wartime. The Army is not just any job. I'd rather think of accomplishing the purpose of an army in the best way possible before I'd think of making sure everyone in the army got the best career path they could.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:53 PM on January 24, 2013


Quite a number of them are retired because of injuries-many of which are caused by the physical strains of the intense PT they do.

And how many former military men do you know who have such injuries?

In my case, it's "damn near all." The military is a grueling job for anyone, and there's a reason they only make you do it for 20 years before letting you retire.

I cannot help but think that we cannot ignore the biological facts that over all, most men are still much more physically strong than most women.

No one is saying that we're going to make all the SF teams half men and half women. Every military leader (uniformed and civilian) has consistently said that physical standards will not drop and will not be gender-normed. The median woman is physically weaker than the median man, but not every woman is weaker than every man. No, most women can't be infantry soldiers. But you know what? Neither can most men.
posted by Etrigan at 5:28 PM on January 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


All I know is the WOMEN THEMSELVES have told me that the standards are really rough on female bodies in particular.

I plead guilty to being a dinosaur. But I don't have unalloyed joy over this development.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:23 PM on January 24, 2013


I am a bit of a pacifist ...At the same time, the fact that not allowing out gay people into the military sort of furthered my pacifist aims in a twisted way did not make it okay for the US to continue to discriminate against them.

On the sunny side of all this. Perhaps seeing our young women coming home in body bags, losing limbs and pictures of gory shell shocked girls will shake us out of our love affair with vicarious violence, we'll wake up and see how horrible it truly is and we'll only fight the conflicts that are truly necess... ah, who am I kidding. They don't show that stuff on the news. Don't even photograph the coffins or the funerals.
Probably just get a nice smiley shot of a young girl in the paper just above her glorious and proud obit.
Just like the boys.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:18 PM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]




> You can't be a feminist and want women to have inferior opportunities compared to men,

I thought I made it clear that I believe that serving in the military is the "inferior opportunity".

> Then you're not really an "ardent feminist".

Not unless "feminism" means "must prioritize women's equality over every other issue, no matter how pressing."

Here's an example that might make it clearer.

Societal pressure prevented women from smoking cigarettes for generations. As these traditional roles broke down, women started smoking at rates comparable to men. During my lifetime, the lung cancer death rates for women zoomed to being similar to the death rates in men. Even though this increase in cancer deaths for women is because of women's increasing equality, I think of these new cancer deaths as an entirely bad thing.

Similarly, I personally view the United States military as a cancer on the body politic. The United States has been continuously waging war somewhere for another for seventy years, we've been in a permanent war status(*) for over a decade, and yet we saw yet another electoral cycle without any discussion of this issue at all.

The Iraq War killed a hundred thousand if not far more Iraqis, killed thousands of Americans, set the country back thirty years and cost the United States a couple of trillion dollars. It was based entirely on lies - but has the United States learned one thing from it? Has anyone even considered apologizing to Iraq or in any way modifying its ultra-belligerent posture with respect to the reste of the world?

In 2008, candidate Obama called the Iraq War a "strategic mistake" - but President Obama has not made a similar comment, and much worse, hired Bob Gates, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Kerry, Hagel, and John Brennan - John Brennan FFS! - all rabid cheerleaders of that failed war.

It is the worst thing about America, and it's so entrenched that it is simply never discussed amongst Serious People at all.

America, you're a junkie, and war is your drug - I can be a feminist and still feel sick when I see that your wife now has the spike in her arm.

(* - The AUMF is not legally a declaration of war, but the United States and its leaders talk and act as though it is, so the difference is moot...)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:17 PM on January 24, 2013


[A couple of comments deleted. Don't attack other posters, and we're all here to discuss together; this isn't isn't a women-only space.]
posted by taz at 4:23 AM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was raised on a feminism that is (in part) about allowing people (women primarily, yes, but men too) the opportunity to make choices, even if those choices are bad, because this is infinitely preferable to a system that says "You're not even allowed to try to do [thing] because of what's between your legs."

Like a lot of other people here, not a fan of war or the military, but to me allowing both men and women the opportunity to (officially) try for combat jobs is far preferable to an irrationally discriminatory system that says "boys only."
posted by rtha at 5:53 AM on January 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


> Societal pressure prevented women from smoking cigarettes for generations. As these traditional roles broke down, women started smoking at rates comparable to men. During my lifetime, the lung cancer death rates for women zoomed to being similar to the death rates in men. Even though this increase in cancer deaths for women is because of women's increasing equality, I think of these new cancer deaths as an entirely bad thing

As do I, but I don't think the solution is to make it illegal for women to buy cigarettes.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:13 AM on January 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


On the sunny side of all this. Perhaps seeing our young women coming home in body bags, losing limbs and pictures of gory shell shocked girls will shake us out of our love affair with vicarious violence

This is actually my hope, as upsetting as I find the whole idea.
posted by jessamyn at 1:42 PM on January 25, 2013


This is actually my hope, as upsetting as I find the whole idea.

I cynically suspect it will just make for more effective, more sexist propaganda. "Just look at what They did to our poor girls!" Fully expect sexual assault to be strongly implied pretty much every time. Watch as people who normally don't give two shits about sexual assault suddenly become deeply and selectively angered by it.
posted by Amanojaku at 8:43 AM on January 26, 2013


I cynically suspect it will just make for more effective, more sexist propaganda

It's what we do now anyway.

However, and this will sound entirely sexist, I suspect we'll have more leavened wars if we get more women in the upper echelons.
Yeah, ya heard me. Less war and less intensity.

This is partly anecdotal, but it's been my experience that female commanders are less willing to commit troops to battle but more willing to follow through once its been joined.
Female military aggression seems more of a straight power line rather than the explosive peaks most male commanders have.

This is just generally. A male v male example would be Patton vs. Bradley. Both effective commanders. Patton was more aggressive and took risks (Sicily, landing at Brolo, racing Montgomery). Bradley was straightforward application (Operation Cobra).


There will probably be a lot of political pushback on any female general. I enjoyed hearing the squawks about Hagel being SecDef. The "oh we respect him" then going on to explain how a man with experience leading troops in combat doesn't understand war as much as the guys who sat on the sidelines but are really really for war.

Uh huh. I suspect that will be the main theme. Any female leader is going to have to pull off the symbolism thing first and be unassailable on that level. If we get one who wins a CMOH we might have something there.
People back home seem to have no problem kicking around Tammy Duckworth.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:58 AM on January 26, 2013


I understand the arguments, I understand the inequities, after all, women do see combat, but I cannot help but think that we cannot ignore the biological facts that over all, most men are still much more physically strong than most women.

But physical strength is really not as important for the military as it was 100 or even 50 years ago and will be less important as time goes on. We already have tanks and airplanes and ships that can project power and personnel to every inch of dirt on Earth. Now we're even doing research on power suits that enhance strength and endurance.
posted by FJT at 9:10 AM on January 28, 2013


Now we're even doing research on power suits that enhance strength and endurance.

Nice try, Weyland-Yutani corporate spokesperson.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:14 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]






Army Special Ops helicopters Opening For Women

Survey: 17 Percent Of Marines Would Leave With Women In Combat Roles

Cheap and easy force-reduction measure!

First pull-ups, then combat, marines say
How many pull-ups does it take to make a female Marine?
The answer, starting next January: a minimum of three, the same number required of male Marines.

If anyone thought the military’s decision to allow women into combat units would lead to exceptions for women when it came to fitness and physical strength, this is one service’s “gender neutral” answer — or at least part of the answer.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:28 AM on February 2, 2013


Marines only have to do three pullups? Wow.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:31 AM on February 2, 2013


That's the minimum. You don't want to be the Marine in your unit who did the minimum.

Also, this might end up being a net positive -- years ago, the Army made its male recruits do three push-ups before being able to start Basic Training, while the women only had to do one. The women's requirement was changed to three as well, and the pass rate went up immediately and stayed there.
posted by Etrigan at 7:48 AM on February 2, 2013


To get a perfect grade, the article says, women will have to do eight pull-ups while men have to do 20.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:04 AM on February 2, 2013


Good arguments here. Yeah. I agree, that if I validate the job of soldier for a male, then I need to validate it for a female. I believe that if the draft were actively enforced (it isn't), then women should be drafted with the same frequency as men, and their induction classifications ought to be carried out with no regard for their sex. Voluntary inductions ought to be conducted similarly.

I still reserve some thoughts here. My view (as a male) of feminism wasn't that women should simply gain equality in jobs and stature. I guess I had the idea that it wasn't about "separate but equal" versions of the American dream, but of a synthesis, where men and women create another reality besides the Ward and June Cleaver version, turned around according to who wears the apron.

The topic, women in combat, split my thoughts here. I think another issue rises above this, and I guess I hadn't given proper weight to each echelon of endeavor. This is about domination by one sex of another, sure. But some paradigm is at stake here. Nothing is gained if women in power act the same as men in power.(*)

So, I'd like to subordinate the (women in combat) argument to a larger possibilty that embraces both sexes: and all those appropriate human variations. That's not what I did in my original post, and I stand corrected.

*(Well, I guess that's not true, if you are the one who gets the pay raise.)
posted by mule98J at 6:56 PM on February 18, 2013


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