From Our Readers Let’s Hear It For The Girls! Pentagon Approves Women In Combat From Our Readers

Yesterday, when the Pentagon announced that it would finally lift the ban on women in combat, I couldn’t help being excited. After the binders full of women’s right-related mistakes and endless fighting of 2012 – letting the Violence Against Women Act expire, unnecessary trans-vaginal ultrasounds, election talk of repealing Roe v. Wade, etc. – finally we might be making some progress! Yay for equality!

But, as we’ve seen these things often go, my joy was almost immediately hampered by the onslaught of anti-women rhetoric masked as “concern”. To be fair, the majority of the feedback after the decision was positive. It was seen as an inevitable righting of a wrong, rather than a momentous leap forward for equal rights. But the overwhelming positivity only made the sour grapes from the few naysayers taste even worse. I watched with sadness as quote after cringe-inducing quote popped up in my twitter feed, in news blogs and on TV. Most come from the staunchly religious or misguided Republican sources you would expect. For example:

Tucker Carlson tweeted, “The administration boasts about sending women to the front lines on the same day Democrats push the Violence Against Women Act.”
-Which, besides being childishly arrogant, wins the award for the strangest, most muddled analogy of the day.

Bryan Fischer from the American Family Association tweeted, “Obama putting women in combat is part of an intentional plan on his part to feminize and weaken the U.S. military.”
-How, exactly, would including every physically-able soldier regardless of their gender, race, or sexual orientation weaken anything? It could only make it stronger.

David Frum commented, “The people we are likely to meet on the next battlefield are people who use rape and sexual abuse as actual tools of politics.”
-Yes David, rape from an enemy is a problem, but so is rape from a fellow soldier. More on that in a minute…

Allen West said, “GI Jane was a movie and should not be the basis for a policy shift.”
-Umm, have you seen GI Jane? Demi Moore was ripped, and that was just the few months before shooting. Imagine what years of actual Army training can do…

But the big surprise came as I was enjoying my favorite two morning Joe’s, (my coffee and Joe Scarborough, host of Morning Joe on MSNBC). Although I do not share in the majority of his political opinions, Joe had always held my respect by being the one Republican on any cable news program that was actually willing to listen to another opinion besides his own. His show feels the closest to a rational, sensible discussion of the day’s news by a panel of well-informed and polite guests.

That was, until this morning.

I nearly spilled my coffee all over my flannel pajamas as I heard Joe give his opinion of the Pentagon’s decision. He ended with these little gems, “There’s a reason why there are no women in the NFL…. There’s a reason why there are no women in Major League Baseball. There’s a reason why there are no women in, you know, most male-centered professional sports. There is a difference physically between men and women… I’ll be damned, if we find out that the Pentagon is lowering standards for politically correct reasons… then the blood of dead Americans in future battles will be on their hands.”

Let’s get a few things straight:

Women have already been serving in combat for years. This is not news. The Pentagon’s decision was one that will allow women to get credit for the jobs they already do as well as allowing them to advance to higher ranks – allowing the better pay and higher honors their service has warranted.

Women will still have to go through training and meet the high standards set by the Armed Forces before being cleared for combat duty. Much has been made of the argument that “a 120lb woman cannot carry an injured 250lb man from the battlefield.” True, this would be a frightening scenario if it had any basis in reality. All battle-ready soldiers are in training for months or years before being led into combat. That’s months of endurance and strength training including battle scenario exercises. The point is: If you make the cut, you make the cut. Having a vagina is no longer an automatic disqualification.

To respond to David Frum’s argument that women in the military would be targeted by our enemies for sexual assault; I have to wonder – has he seen the statistics on rape within the military itself? Spoiler alert: They’re not good. In October, The Huffington Post calculated that a woman in the military was almost 180 more likely to have been a victim of sexual assault last year than to have died during the last 11 years of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. If that weren’t awful enough, it turns out that because they are considered a “lower” member of the military, women are not reporting these attacks, and the few that do are often swept under the rug or intimidated into recanting their statements. The Pentagon’s decision will allow women to freely ascend the ranks as any man would, effectively shattering the glass ceiling of silence for our servicewomen. Being seen as an equal is the only way attacks like these will ever slow down and, with all hope, stop for good.

In the end, even the deluge of negativity from talking heads couldn’t keep me from feeling great about the Pentagon’s decision. As with all fights for equality, those who stand on the side of expanding rights are the ones who always win in the end. All we can do is keep fighting the good fight of equality for ALL and enjoy the little tastes of victory along the way.

By Ashley Sims.

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  1. I’m a former soldier in the German army and we don’t have women in combat units afaik. The biggest problem here aren’t the women but the men. An example: I say I’ve never hit a woman in my life and you think “OF COURSE not”. I say I had some fights with guys, there even was some blood sometimes and you think “Meh, guys do that.” So how do you expect me to treat men and women alike in ground combat? The main concern here is, that male soldiers would hesitate to shoot at female enemies and would take extra risks to rescue wounded women from the frontline. In some engagements you have to continue with your attack even if fellow soldiers are wounded or killed. That’s tough and for me it would be even tougher, if that soldier was a woman. Because I was raised with a high threshold when it comes to violence against women, I want to protect them, when they are in danger and I don’t see why this is bad.

    This might be hard to understand for women, so think about something, that usually is physically weaker than you – like a child. There are some very young athletes who compete against adults- think about the swimmers at the Olypics. So a 13-14 year old child can have the physical fitness to be a fine Marine. Could you fight with or against such a child without having a problem with it? You couldn’t, right? Because there is more than phyisical fitness – you don’t want to use violence against children and you don’t want to see them hurt. So even though a 13 year old guy can and maybe even might want to be a fine Marine, you wouldn’t like that at all, right? That’s how a lot of (most?) men think about children AND women concerning ground combat.

    I think it would be hard for me to fire shots at a human beeing, but firing them at a woman or child, or finding out that I did after the firefight – hat would be so much harder to process, even if this woman or child was a danger for my life. There is a very big problem with PTSD already without women in combat units on a regular basis.

  2. Great article! I also love Morning Joe and was taken aback by his comments. After reading your article, and the comments already posted it seems like Joe’s was a knee-jerk reaction to the military’s decision. Perhaps Joe and those who share his concerns aren’t very informed as to our military’s current standards for combat soldiers, or even military strategy (I would put most Americans, including myself, into this category). I agree that standards shouldn’t be lowered so that the military is more inclusive, so to speak, but also that the standards put in place should be realistic (i.e. being able to carry 200 lbs) to current combat conditions.

  3. I’m a commissioned officer in the Army and got into a discussion with one of the (male) first sergeants in my battalion just yesterday. He’s a former infantry Soldier, so I fully expected him to give the whole “women can’t do this” crap that you wrote about, but he was surprisingly optimistic about the ordeal. The argument that a 120 lbs woman can’t drag a 250 lbs man off the field is crap for two reasons: 1) There are plenty of small, 120 lbs men in the infantry, and nobody complains about them being there; and 2) Everyone is trained to be able to do their jobs. Hardly any military recruit knows how to do a buddy rescue; that’s part of the years of training it takes to turn a civilian into a Soldier.

    The next step is going to be setting standards for combat units and validating the standards. That means that if the artillery says, “You have to be able to carry 200 lbs by yourself”, that they have to prove scientifically that that is required to do the job. That’s a really good thing for the military–any time you get science to back up your claims, it’s a good thing.

    We’ve gone through the same comments and complaints every time the military wanted to expand to women in positions where they were previously excluded: in the military at all, into the service academies, into airborne training, and so on, and now we look back at those and wonder why anyone ever thought women should be excluded. In ten years, we’ll be asking the same questions about women in combat roles, because women will go in and do those jobs and do them well.

  4. Well he is right in that men and women are inherently different, but those differences actually make women BETTER suited to combat – better at multi-tasking, higher pain threshold, better able to handle stress (read, won’t go crazy and massacre a village).

    Let’s also look at some pretty badass women from history who saw combat – and also saw combat as teenagers: Mulan (yes, she’s real, and she was like 12 when she fought), Joan of Arc, Brienne of Tarth (ok, not real, but have you seen her? I’d follow her into battle before some of the male soldiers I see today).

    Also look at Israel, Japan, Korea (North and South), Cambodia, Italy, Germany all who at some point had (or have) women in combat roles.

    Finally, check out these women who fought in the civil war! http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/think-women-haven-t-been-in-combat-situations-already-the-history-of-crossdressing-soldiers-20130124

    Rock on Ashley, thanks for writing this!

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