The Gender of Valor
January 25, 2013 § 3 Comments
War is hard. We shouldn’t be making it harder.
This is the attitude of many Americans on the newly lifted ban for woman in combat. In 1994, Les Aspin (Defense Secretary under former President Bill Clinton) signed a policy memo that excluded women from assignments to units below the brigade level if the unit would be engaged in direct combat. Although the ban has now been lifted, not everyone is ready for women in combat. Jerry Boykin, retired Army Lieutenant General and Executive Vice President of the Family Research Council, argues that men should not be forced to fight alongside women because it will distract from the mission, specifically because it will make soldiers feel awkward to defecate in front of the opposite sex:
Societal norms are a reality, and their maintenance is important to most members of a society. It is humiliating enough to relieve yourself in front of your male comrades; one can only imagine the humiliation of being forced to relieve yourself in front of the opposite sex.
Was it not societal norm to discriminate against colored individuals in the military? Was it not societal norm to exclude women from the military? Was it not societal norm to exclude homosexuals in the military? Is it not societal norm to exclude transgendered individuals in the military today? Societal norm is constantly changing, and it is irrational to halt progress on this basis alone.
Leon E. Panetta stresses that “not everyone is going to be able to be a combat soldier, but everyone is entitled to a chance…We are renewing our commitment to the values our service men and women fight to defend.”
General Dempsey states that by lifting the ban, “we are acting to eliminate all unnecessary gender-based barriers to service.” Dempsey reassures that “we will extend opportunities to women in a way that maintains readiness, morale, and unit cohesion.”
Will this lifted ban help further the careers of women in the military? Dempsey stresses that “we will integrate women in a way that enhances opportunity for everyone…this means setting clear standards for all occupations based on what it actually takes to do the job.” Many Americans are concerned that women are not physically “up to the challenge” of combat assignments. However, gender-neutral standards will ensure that if women can meet those standards, then they are similarly fit for the specified duties.
Is having women in direct combat such a radical idea? Israeli Defense Forces are the only military forces in the world with a mandatory military service requirement for women. Since the Israeli state was founded in 1948, women have fought in their armed forces. The 2000 Equality amendment to their Military Service law states that “The right of women to serve in any role in the IDF is equal to the right of men.” Now, women comprise over half of all military positions in Israel. It is ironic that, for a country that stresses freedom and equality as much as we do, that we are over a decade behind that of Israel on the inclusion and equality of women in combat zones.
Have women not already proven that they are ready and willing to serve in combat? More than 150 women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan and over 1000 wounded in recent wars, fighting for our rights so that we can sit here and read blogs about whether they should be allowed to or not. Now this change is expected to open 230,000 front-line positions to women.
Dempsey said it best…”we all wear the same uniform, fire the same weapon, and more importantly, take the same oath.” President Barack Obama considers this yet “another step toward fulfilling our nation’s founding ideals of fairness and equality.” Let us make our all-volunteer force an all inclusive one. If women are willing to volunteer to defend our country, let us give them the rights that they are fighting for. Valor knows no gender.