Military Ban Lifted On Women In Combat: Here’s What People Are Saying About It

Earlier this week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta lifted a ban that prohibited women from openly serving in combat roles in the military. This would entail overturning a 1994 rule that bans women from certain ground combat roles, thus opening up more jobs to servicewomen. Women have already been attached to ground units performing these jobs — they just haven’t been properly credited for it.

Yesterday, Panetta and General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Join Chiefs Of Staff, officially overturned the 1994 rule. “Everyone is entitled to a chance,” Panetta said.  According to The New York Times, the Army is now creating gender-neutral standards for all their positions but will not be lowering the physical standards required just so that women can be admitted.

All week there have been reactions to lifting the ban, both for and against. I’ve rounded up some of the responses:

  • The New York Times reminds us that women have already been “‘attached’ to all-male ground combat units, where they have been under fire, returned fire, been wounded and killed.” They just haven’t been doing it “officially.” [New York Times]
  • General Dempsey said in a press conference yesterday that equalizing women’s roles would cut back on sexual assault in the military because there would no longer be “separate classes of military personnel.” [Mother Jones]
  • My girl friend who is ex-military (she served as an MP in Iraq and South Korea) said this op-ed by Adrian Bonenberger in The New York Times best summarizes her own thoughts on the issue. It’s very long and thoughtful — definitely worth reading. Ultimately Bonenberger argues, “Rather than ignoring the differences (the current method) or trying to make women into men, or vice versa (the proposed future method), the military should be looking for ways to maximize the capabilities of both.” [New York Times]
  • Former Marine infantryman Ryan Smith wrote on op-ed for the conservative Wall Street Journal warning that women wouldn’t be able to handle the “absolutely dreadful conditions under which grunts live during war,” in particular peeing and pooping in front of their comrades. Also, not showering for a whole month. It’s unclear whether Smith is implying women are too delicate to handle that grossness. But he does argue men would find it humiliating to crap in front of women. [Wall Street Journal]
  • Feminist author Jessica Valenti responded to Smith’s “silly” op-ed in The Nation. Valenti wrote, “The arguments against women on the frontlines have always been more about about reinforcing traditional gender norms and holding onto an outdated and sexist model of what a woman should be like, rather than military protocol.” She also quite rightly points out that women are frequently raped on college campuses … and yet we don’t ban women from going to university. [The Nation]
  • Conservative talking head Tucker Carlson fretted on Twitter that women serving ground roles in combat (which they already do, just not “officially”) is like domestic violence. Ignorant sonofabitch. []
  • Writer Noah Berlatsky penned a piece in The Atlantic pointing out how this inclusion is a victory for equal rights, but reminds us that feminist activists have historically been anti-war. Berlatsky writes, “[M]any [feminists] have … written about the need to criticize male patriarchal values and ideals. And one of the male patriarchal values and ideals that has been consistently criticized and questioned by feminists is war.” He also noted that one of the reasons war has persisted throughout history has been because “the glory and necessity of war is often linked to masculinity—to the need to prove one’s moral worth as a man.” [The Atlantic]

What other thoughtful articles have you seen about the lifting of the military ban on women in combat? Tell us the titles and sources in the comments or send them to me at [email protected] and I’ll include them in my Today’s Lady News column.

[Guardian UK]

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