Gender Conflict

Does Lifting a Ban on Women in Combat Help with Gender Equality in the Military?

The US military has always been a hotbed for a host of socio-political issues like racism, ageism, and, of course, sexism. Gender equality is a relatively new issue for America in general being that women were only enfranchised a little more than a century ago. So, since the military tends to be a few steps behind the general populace in terms of its ability to break with tradition, it is no surprise that men and women have very different experiences within its bounds. Recently, these differences came to the fore when the Pentagon took a very liberal step toward equalizing the genders when it comes to active military engagement. The archaic fixture of US government released news on Wednesday explaining that they will be lifting the ban on women in combat.

According to the New York Times,

“The groundbreaking decision overturns a 1994 Pentagon rule that restricts women from artillery, armor, infantry and other such combat roles, even though in reality 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.”

It is patently obvious that women are no strangers to military action. But, the ban on women on the front-lines has some merit. Several scenarios give the ban a bit of legitimacy. For example, when enemy combatants take our service men as prisoners of war (POWs), they often capture those who were on the front-lines. It is typically the soldiers in heavy artillery and infantry roles that find themselves in the most precarious positions during combat.

Right now, women are not allowed there, at all. And, by lifting this ban, women will have access to these highly dangerous positions risking life and limb right next to their male counterparts. This is not implying that they are not as capable. But, what it is implying is simply that women POWs are at significantly greater risk for sexual abuse, intimidation, and physical violence than their male peers. How detrimental would it be to a captured troop if they had to watch one of their soldiers repeatedly raped and brutalized to intentionally inflict psychological pain on the victim and those in her regime? This type of scenario does not exist today, for good reason.

Here’s another example. The military is reported to have extremely high instances of sexual assault. And, in many cases, the victims face retaliation when reporting their rape. If these women are in the same company as their rapist, they could face long, arduous journeys in close proximity with an aggressor with little to no support. This is not about sexualized situations in which male and female counterparts engage in consensual sex, because that would likely occur after the ban is released regardless of this discussion. Instead, it is about unwanted sexual situations wherein a female service women is unable to properly receive the services she needs to avoid sexual harassment or abuse.

Many have noted that they do not expect women to run into these positions with open arms. But, some may. And, though equality sounds great on paper, it is wholly different when it comes to execution and action. Women on the front-lines could have a host of positive impacts. And, it definitely creates a more equal environment in a realm typically guarded by testosterone and buzz cuts. It is true that women should have the opportunity to serve their country in the way that they see fit. And, no one has any right to deny them this exercise of their political and personal freedom.

However, the notion that putting women on the front-lines at a time when the institution has struggled immensely with ensuring their safety and personal security is frightening to say the least. To imagine a mother, daughter, or sister in the throes of war and potentially subjected to extremely harsh physical and sexual situations is horrifying. And, the liberal agenda seems to be the prevailing impetus for this change. But, ideology is not a just cause for poor judgement. And, this, indeed, should be thoroughly evaluated so that service women have the framework necessary not only to exercise their equality but to fully enjoy it.

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