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.
Feature image via.