Iraq Files posted two opposing articles on the presence of women in combat.
This piece written by Phyllis Schlafly opposing it and this piece by Cathy Young, essentially supporting it, or, at least, supporting the current situation.
I noted comments from both that made me cringe, but, I must admit that Phyllis Schlafly's piece made me cringe the most.
My cringes from Cathy Young:
The notion that women deserve special protection from violence is not just a male plot to keep women down, as many feminists charge; it is also an expression of sincere concern for women's well-being. But such chivalry is ultimately infantilizing.
In response to this, I don't find "chivalry" or the idea that anyone would consider protecting another as "infantilizing", whatever that means. However, as far as we've come in today's society of accepting women as at least equally intelligent and capable of leading, we do still have areas that always seem to be off limits because of ideas about what women should be. It's a strange paradox. Maybe traditionalists are correct in their idea of male and female roles? If they are, I must surely be an abberation.
My cringes from Phyllis Schlafly:
Feminists are lining up their media allies to demand that women be forced into land combat situations, while falsely asserting that Hunter-McHugh is "changing" the rule.
"Forced"? I was watching a recent interview with Maj. Tammy Duckworth, one of a few women who have had bilateral amputations due to injuries received in the war. She indicated that her position as a combat pilot was her decision. When she was signing up, combat positions were not available for women except as pilots. When she had to select her five MOS (specialties she would like to work in the military) she did not have to enter any combat or combat related positions. Unlike her male counter parts that had to list three combat MOS within the five total they listed.
This is still true in today's recruiting. No woman must list a combat or combat related support role for her desired MOS.
Of course, I was thinking of Major Duckworth when I read the next item that made me cringe:
Much of the demand for women in combat comes from female officers who are eager to obtain medals and promotions. Enlisted women are acutely aware of the heavy lifting that must be done by combat infantry.[snip]
Major Duckworth did not mention medals or promotions in her desire to have one of the few combat positions allowed for women. Her sole comment was that she knew her male counterparts had to do it and she did not feel that she should be exempt.
I also have an issue with this statement from Ms. Schlafly as I feel that it paints a very wide swath across the female officer corps of "medal seeking gung ho nutjobs". I'm sure there may be a few, just as there are in the male officers, but I'm thinking that "earning medals" is not the primary goal of most female officers anymore than it is their male counterparts. This seemed to me to be the instant give away that, while Ms. Schlafly was busy quoting some statistics (which she gives no reference link) about what enlisted women supposedly think compared to women officers, Ms. Schlafly has really not sat down and spoke to any female officers and asked them their opinions or ideas on the subject, much less an enlisted female. I'm thinking that Ms. Schlafly really doesn't know much about the military at all.
Just simply putting myself in the place of a female officer that is currently serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, I am thinking that my primary concerns would be:
a) Stay alive and come home
b) Keep the people under me alive and bring them home
c) Do the best I can to support the mission and make sure other units' men and women stay alive and come home.
I'm thinking that "medals" and "promotions" would be far down the list of things that I was thinking about right about now. Maybe in Centcom or other secured areas or even back at home bases in the US and around the globe, far away from combat, the idea of promotions and commendations would be a concern and I would spend time comparing my performance and outcomes to my fellow male officers, but, some how, when you are in close quarters to the possibility of being blown to bits or shot or taken hostage, I'm thinking that it wouldn't be the primary concern of female officers any more or less than their male counterparts.
I think it is a shame that Ms. Schlafly took such a nasty swipe at women who are serving honorably in the officer corps of the military.
As for "enlisted women being acutley aware" of the heavy lifting done by grunts, I imagine that enlisted men understand that they are the front lines, too, in more danger than some of the officer corp stationed comfortably in the green zone or at centcom or any number of logistic positions far away from battle. This isn't a new idea or thought for female enlisted soldiers alone. This has been the grumble of enlisted men since armies have been on the field. Some how enlisted women's thoughts on the subject are unique?
Putting women in military combat is the cutting edge of the feminist goal to force us into an androgynous society. Feminists are determined to impose what Gloria Steinem called "liberation biology" that pretends all male-female differences are culturally imposed by a discriminatory patriarchy.[snip]
What is there to say? I'm not sure that "feminist agenda" is to create an "androgynous" society though I imagine that the stringent feminists have made some robust and inflammatory comments about "discriminatory patriarchy". Just as I'm quite positive that women who join the military and consider having combat positions are not all card carrying members of NOW, joining for the purpose of promoting this hidden agenda. Again, I wonder if Ms. Schlafly has actually interviewed any women in the military and asked them whether they even knew who Gloria Steinem is or why they joined?
Women, on average, have only 60 percent of the physical strength of men, are about 6 inches shorter, and survive basic training only by the subterfuge of being graded on effort rather than on performance.
I have a few issues with the "60 percent of physical strength" though it may be true (I haven't seen any studies and she doesn't reference them). Six inches shorter may be true as well, but I do wonder again if Ms. Schlafly has ever taken the time to watch any programs or observe actual basic training? I distinctly recall that the women must now complete the "crucible" to obtain their anchors and globes, just as the men do and these are not activities for the weak of heart or those who use "subterfuge" to get by. Maybe it's true they don't have to complete as many push ups or pull ups, but I dare Ms. Schlafly to say "subterfuge" to any female marine recruit that drops down in exhaustian after a three day stint in the crucible.
I think she'd get a painful reminder of just how tough basic training is and what it takes to become a member of our armed forces.
Denial of physical differences is an illusion that kills. That's the lesson of the March 11 courtroom massacre in Atlanta's Fulton County Courthouse. That's where authorities have returned a murder indictment against 6-foot, 210-pound Brian Nichols, a former college football player. Nichols is accused of overpowering a 5-foot-1, 51-year-old female sheriff's deputy, taking her gun and going on a crime spree that left four people dead, including the deputy, a judge, a courtroom reporter and a federal agent.[snip]
For the record, female officers have served as court officers, bailiffs and transporters for years without suffering any more inordinate amount of attacks or dangers than their male counter parts. I also wonder if Ms. Schlafly thinks that if a 51 year old, 5-foot-9, 180-pound male deputy wouldn't have been over powered and had his gun taken away from him, too? Maybe she doesn't watch "Cops" or "Real TV"? I am quite certain I've seen a number of episodes where officers alone and without back up have been over powered by their detainee(s)?
This seems to be one of the worst examples I've seen from opposers of women in the military, police, fire department, etc. If your attacker is bigger than you, you are at a disadvantage. Period. It doesn't matter what your sex is.
Of all the things that Ms. Schlafly had said in her column, I have to say that the closing gambit was, quite frankly, the most idiotic:
The Army is wondering why it can't meet its recruitment goals. It could be that the current 15 percent female quota is a turn-off to men who don't want to fight alongside of women who can't carry a man off the battlefield if he is wounded. Forcing women in or near land combat will hurt recruiting, not help.
Anybody really think the military is missing it's recruitment goals because a quota for female enlistments is turning men off or that there is a substantial amount of men who are concerned about fighting alongside a woman that "can't carry a man off the battlefield"?
I imagine that the real recruitment issues are that men are concerned about having to be carried off the field of battle wounded or dead. Period.
I also imagine that this idea concerns potential female enlistees as well.
Frankly, I think back on history and am continually amazed at the amout of subterfuge and denial that people in general will committ on themselves concerning women in combat and it's potential dangers. Maybe my history is a little fuzzy, but I'm thinking I remember that female officers and other women in the navy and army were taken prisoner by the Japanese in the Philipines; were being shelled in the battle of the Bulge; Pearl Harbor the Japanese didn't seem to have much care as to whether their bombs were striking women; Korea where military medical units were over run or in danger of; Viet Nam; shall I go on?
There is no safe job in the military. Since the first time women followed men across continents whether as family or camp followers or members of the military even in support units, women were in danger, suffered injury, death and imprisonment.
One of my favorite stories of the Revolutionary War is the story of Molly Pitcher commanding the cannon after her husband fell. Something we've celebrated for two centuries.
From my perspective, it seems that we continue to play word games with ourselves on the matter.
As for support roles being safer in any concept, I beg to differ. Women driving in convoys from one support base to another have been wounded and killed. They have fought and killed the enemy. It may take someone 6 foot tall and 210 pounds to lug a BAR .50 around the battlefield, but it doesn't take near as much to lug an M16 nor pull the trigger.
I believe that women are capable of doing the same jobs as men at the same level in the military. I don't believe all men nor all women are capable of doing all the jobs. Some are better fit for support, logistics and communications.
If they're capable and they want to, why don't we let them?