Women in the Military Combat Positions: Parallel Social Change

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Woman in service. Image by The U.S Army

Woman in service are now eligible for combat roles. Image by The U.S Army

Are Americans ready for women on the front lines in armed conflict?

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has lifted the ban on women in combat roles in the U.S. military, and according to a report by NBC News, any military positions that will remain closed to women must make a case for their exclusion by January 2016. This decision is a continuation of a sociological trend toward inclusion in our society.

Military Women on Military Service

According to the Washington Post’s “Wonk Blog” the employees most happy working in the military are black women, and the least happy are white men.  One of the reasons women cited for their approval was, “pay and job benefits are more equal in the military than in the civilian labor.”  While women are apparently underrepresented in the higher ranks, they still reported feeling that basing job pay on rank earned was more fair than what occurs in the civilian sector.

Objections to Women Serving in Combat Roles: Fitness and Privacy

According to MarineCorpsTimes, the Marines began to assign women to combat units in May of 2012.  The intent was to research women’s ability to serve in additional roles.  New “functional fitness tests” were also to be assessed.

Comments about test assignments ranged from the stereotyped, “[t]here will be softer tissue paper in MREs and tampons in the first aid kits. Camo paint will include lip gloss. Of course, vanity mirrors on the visors of 7 tons…” to the thoughtful “[a]s long as they are required to follow the same standards and requirements demanded and set forth in the infantry they will do just fine. I never saw a problem with it when I was a 03. But most would not share same room and board, showers, etc etc so it’ll be interesting to see how they try to integrate it if that time comes.”

Objections primarily focused on the inability of women to meet the current fitness requirements and the presumed need for privacy. The need to  separate the sexes was featured in TPM, Talking Points Memo, in an article quoting Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, executive vice president of the religious and conservative Family Research Council, as saying “they will now have the distraction of having to provide some separation of the genders during fast moving and deadly situations.”

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