FACEOFF: Women In Combat

A woman’s place is not on the battlefield

This is highly unusual for a young female college student, but I belong to a school of thought occupied mostly by Republican men over the age of 50. I admire old-fashioned sentimentality and the practice of men “wearing the pants”; what many condemn as backwards gender stereotyping is actually a crucial aspect of Americana nostalgia.

The days of able-bodied men going off to war, while their women stayed behind to care for the children and wait on bated breath for letters from abroad, is a romanticized cultural experience derived from nature. Inevitable evolutionary processes that give males most of the power exist for a reason; it is an undisputable fact that men, on average, are more physically capable than women. They are more “fit”, as Darwin would say.

Even though I approach the recent lift of the ban on women in combat from these practical sociological and biological perspectives, I am definitely proud of the progress America has made in learning to pay women respect and provide us with opportunities. We are no longer simply homemakers and dressmakers. We are business owners, firefighters, wrestlers, and soldiers. I am proud that we now have the right to choose to serve in combat units.

But there are so many unanswered questions in the wake of this latest development in the battle for women’s rights. Why are we integrating the armed forces before professional sports? Can America’s families afford to let their mothers, in addition to their fathers, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder? Most importantly, will female service members be expected to meet the same physical demands as men? If we are now to be regarded as equal to men in the face of armed combat, a brutal aspect of military service once executed solely by males, then I expect implementation of every aspect of military jobs’ regulation.

Wars will never cease. In fact, they keep growing in intensity and duration. So, America shouldn’t be surprised if a mandatory draft is imposed in the future. When that does happen, I’ll expect both men and women to comply; we are equals now, after all. Families will inevitably be disrupted.

Combat is a necessary, but grim, affair. At least one American soldier dies every day. The number of bodies is highest in dangerous war zones, the setting of combat that has recently opened up. The average woman just can’t handle the physical demand of heaving a wounded teammate or a deceased soldier’s body to safety, in addition to a hundred pounds of gear. Of course there are exceptions, and some females can easily out-perform males. Therefore, every soldier must be able to meet the same standards and pass the same physical tests, man or woman. If the Pentagon wants to be true to its intentions of establishing equality, it will simply apply the current requirements to new female unit members.

A majority of male military servicemen and veterans are wary of the new policy. The general consensus is that women have no place in combat, because the long-standing tradition of the armed forces is to protect women and children. The comment sections of every news website’s report on the change are riddled with opposition from men.

An anonymous commenter on CNN.com, “I have two daughters; I may not be able to stop them, but I will try so that they don’t have to face the mental agony that fellows combat troops”. An anonymous soldier shared the same opinion, also on CNN.com: “When females outnumber males so greatly, they will have to take a greater role in combat. Until then, leave it to us. Don’t be in a hurry to face this burden.”

It goes without saying, but I’ll say it — women are emotional creatures. I’ll concede that some are made of tougher metal than men, but the average American woman would no doubt face struggles with PTSD and other anxiety disorders. Our nation has already left a majority of our veterans in a pitiful state. I already cringe at the sight of crippled men clutching cardboard signs on the side of road; I don’t want to see women there as well.

Feminists are upset at the lewd insults about female weakness running rampant. But I choose not to interpret outrage at the new policy as primitive gender discrimination, but rather, good ol’ American manly pride. I don’t know about other women, but I feel distinctly honored that so many men are willing to take bullets for me. It doesn’t take a coward to admit that guns and grenades are scary; I’m not about to tell the men in our combat units that they’re not allowed to be my heroes. Chivalry ain’t dead, ladies; just check out them boys overseas.

Until the Pentagon delivers its first 90-day report about the status of combat jobs and their respective physical standards, my feelings about this latest development will remain numerous and very conflicted. I am afraid of the adverse effects gender integration will have on male and female combatants and their families, during and after their service. I am also leery of lenient standards, which will only result in the loss of more lives. Most of all, I am fearful of America losing its “manly pride”.

Of course, I still wish America’s brave women the best of luck. I am opposed to this change in policy, yet admiring of the women who are eager to enlist and enter the fray.

For the other side of this FACEOFF – “Women should serve just as men do”, written by Davy Karkason, click here.


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