OMG the Women are Coming! (Updated)
Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted the 1994 ban on women serving in combat positions! Yay! Right after that many
military spouses and some service members crazy wingnuts began clutching their pearls and crying foul for some of the most idiotic reasons I have ever heard, such as:
1) “Women won’t be able to keep clean in the field without a shower.” To this, almost every female scientist, certainly every one that has done an 8-12 week field camp without a shower, laughed hysterically. That’s right, we civilian scientists routinely go without showering for long periods of time in the field and we don’t find ourselves to be stronger than female service members, so this is a non-issue.
2) Related to #1 above, “What about getting your period in the field.” As stated above, you just deal. I have had to backpack my blood soaked tampons with me through the Alaskan Wilderness and I am still alive to tell the tale. This is a non-issue.
3) “Men and women will have to do their business together….eeewww.” As stated above, been there, done that at a religious school where women and men being naked together was a serious deal. We were on a playa with no bushes or topography for miles, I asked the guys to turn around for a sec so I could do my thing, there in the dirt. Was no problem, so let’s move on.
4) “Women are not as strong as men.” Correction, some women are not as strong as men and those women won’t make it through the training to get into the toughest jobs, making this a non-issue. But I know you think women are weak creatures, so I will refer you to a woman I work with now, who while PREGNANT was doing field work with me on a volcano in Costa Rica. She could out hike even the men in our group (who were all in great shape themselves), leaving them panting along the trail. So if a pregnant woman can lap a man with a full pack of gear on the side of a volcano, I am pretty sure we can have faith in our sisters in arms.
5) Which brings us to: OMG, Pregnancy: “The women will just get pregnant to get out of deployment, which will weaken mission readiness and…” Maybe it is just because my husband has been in the service for eternity and a half, in two different branches, maybe it’s because I have been a milspouse for a long time now, but I find this one hard to believe. I have only ever met one woman who got pregnant before a deployment. My husband has met 2, in his whole career both officer and enlisted. In neither of the cases mentioned was it a nefarious plot to destroy unit readiness and secure an easy job. Believe it or not most women who want to be in the military, just like most women who want to be scientists or engineers, choose their jobs because they love their jobs…LOVE THEM. It is what they are passionate about and what they dream about. They want to do their job and they want to be the best at it, for the same reasons men do. The women who are going to pursue the training and be successful at it and the combat jobs it qualifies them for are fierce women who are going after their jobs because they love them. They are not the kind of people who are going to get pregnant to get out of deployment, assuming those people actually exist (I haven’t ever observed them and neither has my service member). So get a grip.
And honestly, it’s called an IUD, Depo, or any of the hundred other birth control items you can use that make sure you don’t even have a period, let alone that you are able to get pregnant.
6) Oh, let’s not forget: Protection. According to some military spouses, women have an innate desire to protect women. This will weaken mission readiness because they will be more worried about their female comrades being blown to bits. This seems like arm chair quarterbacking to me. Believe it or not, when you are getting shot at (spoiler alert I have been), you are not thinking. Your body and brain are completely tied up with how you are responding to the danger. Get low. Get to a “safer” position. Deal with the threat. Is everyone okay? You aren’t thinking about a penis or vagina at all.
Plus women have been in combat for a while now. Grown men actually have the capability of treating all of their compatriots as equals, stop selling them short by saying they don’t.
7) Finally: SEX. Rather than worrying about whether these women are going to get their claws into your infantryman, how about we address RAPE? It is entirely possible that women in these positions may be raped by rapists who are in the military. Should this bar them from these positions? Only if you think rapists belong anywhere in the military. I don’t. But I do think that if 30% of all senior officer firings are due to sexual misconduct issues, including RAPE, then we need to open up jobs that will allow women to get into senior leadership positions where they can change the culture. Because it is better for male and female rape victims in the military if sexual misconduct, including rape, is seen for what it is and stopped. We have observed these shifts in culture begin to take hold as women moved up though the power structures in many different communities.
Ladies and gentlemen, let go of your pearls. I assure you that just as people of color and gays were and are integrated into the military, the flag still flies high over the Nation today. After all, women have been in combat for a long time and now they are finally going to get recognition for the things they’ve been already doing. It’s not the end of the world. It’s a good thing.
This will actually probably improve the military, because women who wouldn’t join an organization that banned them from full participation will probably join now. God knows, I told the recruiter that called me that I wouldn’t join an organization that treated me as a second class citizen and the military’s policies toward women gave me pause about dating my husband. I was worried he was a misogynist prick like the men and women who are against hiring the best person regardless of gender for the job. Thankfully, he turned out to be otherwise.
Oh and just remember, we’re not breaking new ground here: Australia, Canada, Ceylon, Israel, New Zealand, and Norway all allow women in combat. And they’re still around too. I think we will be okay.