EDITORS NOTE: The print edition of this piece incorrectly states that Jeantte Reveles wrote this article. The correct author of this Nidia Sandoval.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has lifted the ban on women taking combat roles. Though units like Delta Force and the Green Berets can still petition to have women excluded if they can prove that the change will be a hindrance, women will regardlessly be allowed to enter infantry positions, taking on roles once considered too dangerous for them.
The decision is a win for women and equality.
As a woman who is proud of her gender, I can’t bear to read the regurgitated rhetoric that women are too emotional for combat, that they’ll need “special treatment,” that they’ll disrupt the camaraderie.
The old PMS myth has been debunked.
Women are not irrational beings and our primary reasons for existing do not involve being protected by strong pecs or crying and screaming when times get too scary. We have generations of policewomen, doctors, paramedics and, of course, military medics.
The special treatment argument is perhaps my favorite. It was hilarious, and gross, to read the comment sections of articles discussing Panetta’s decision. Grown men talked about bacterial vaginosis and tampons, arguing that women won’t last the showerless days of sweat, dirt and bacteria.
I, for one, didn’t know that after two days, my special area transforms into the black hole of disease and death.
As for disrupting the camaraderie; I’m sure that’s what White Americans said when African Americans, Latinos and Asians were allowed to enlist. Of course, there is an added twist in which soldiers will become sexually distracted if a woman is present. I doubt that when men are a bullet away from death, they will be thinking about sex.
I fail to find any validity in these positions but it is true that there are biological differences that cannot be ignored.
Beyond the rhetoric, there resides a clear concern in this debate, which is physicality. A woman cannot carry a 200-pound man. Of course, naysayers will argue that it’s not a requirement that the average man could carry a 200-pound fellow — and I agree. Most men at UC Irvine wouldn’t be able to carry a 180-pound woman for more than 50 yards without his knees buckling. Yet, the question is not about the physical attributes of average women and men but of the physical strength of soldiers.
Can women carry the 100-pound packs while running 10 miles? It’s difficult to say whether a woman can hold her own when even well-fit men drop out of training programs for the Navy SEALs. The feminist in me wants to say, “We can do it!” but the reality is that there is a muscular difference in our bodies that would prevent us from completing certain tasks.
And if the price for equality is endangerment, we need to re-think our wants.
Then there is the public question. Are all women ready to register for the draft? It’s only fair that if our brothers, fathers and boyfriends have to register, then we should as well. I personally wouldn’t mind, but I can say with absolute certainty that I will be huddled in the corner holding my rifle while, for the first time in about 15 years, praying that a bullet doesn’t hit me.
This is not to say that all women would react this way.
Is the public ready to witness women with their hands tied to together while their dead, naked bodies are paraded through the streets?
In 1993, the dead bodies of US soldiers were dragged through the streets of Mogadishu.
The public was appalled and everyone was unprepared.
Since then, we have taken a military policy of zero casualties, simply meaning that the US will only interfere in domestic problems if the risk of casualties is low. Although this would seem like a good policy, it also prevents us from interfering in events like Rwanda — it’s this writer’s belief that war and violence are, in some cases, necessary evils. This is not to say that it is less horrifying to witness our male soldiers enduring such pain, but there is a sentiment towards women in this country that women are to be protected. Although I believe soldiers in combat can put aside these feelings, the public and policymakers may not be able to react objectively.
Unfortunately, men have been fighting in wars for centuries, becoming the emblem of frontline bravery. To an extent, we have become desensitized to their grizzly end, but the horrors of war may be too much for some people to accept when it’s happening to women
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