Women in the Military Combat Positions: Parallel Social Change

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Integration in the Military

African American soldier. Image by The U.S. Army

Racism is highly discouraged in the U.S. Military. Image by The U.S. Army

Although men of all races fought on both sides in the Revolutionary War and later U.S. conflicts, when black men served in the military in World War I, the Army “operated under a policy of racial segregation and blacks were commonly relegated to supply and labor jobs.” The first black armor unit was not established until 1941. The practice of segregation by race was not disbanded until 1951 during the Korean War.

Homosexuals were also only slowly assimilated into military culture.  According to Kayla Weebley, writer for Time Magazine, the U.S. military “explicitly prohibited homosexuality in the Articles of War of 1916.”  During WWII,  “more than 4,000 of the 12 million men conscripted for the war effort were rejected for being gay.”  Women were not excluded for lesbianism during that era, however. This situation continued until the 1993 “Don’t ask, don’t tell” formally titled “the Military Personnel Eligibility Act of 1993.”  Liz Holloran covered the repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” in September of 2011 for NPR (National Public Radio).  At the time, Holloran reported that 67% of those surveyed supported its repeal.

Gallup Polls the American Public

Nearly three quarters of the American public, polled by Gallup after Panetta’s announcement, stated that they would vote to allow women in combat roles if it came to a vote. Now, the military, like wider society, is continuing its march toward inclusion. The gradual assimilation of women into all areas of military service has obvious historical parallels with the inclusion of other groups.

Judging the success or failure of a decision is complex and controversial – what is more apparent is that inclusion of all groups is becoming more valued by Americans as a whole.

Resources

US. Army. African Americans in the U.S. Army. Accessed January 26, 2013.

Brown, A. Americans Favor Allowing Women in Combat(2013). Gallup Politics. Accessed January 27, 2013.

Holloran, L. With Repeal Of  ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ An Era Ends(2011). NPR Accessed January 26, 2013.

Kliff, S. The Most Satisfied Military Employess? Black Women. Least Satisfied? White Men. (2013). Washington Post. Accessed January 25, 2013.

Lamothe, D. Corps IDs Units for Women-in-combat Research. (2012). MarineCorpsTimes. Accessed January 26, 2013.

Levy, P. Family Research Council: Allowing Women In Combat Not Worth Risks(2013). TPM. Accessed January 26, 2013.

Webley, K. A Brief History of Gays in the Military (2010). Time Magazine. Accessed January 26, 2013.

Africans in America. The Revolutionary War. PBS Online. Accessed January 26, 2013.

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