BY DUSIN MENDUS
Last month the U.S. armed forces finally allowed combat duties for women. The decision is not without controversy, with some people fearing that women in combat will simply not be up to par with men in terms of emotional strength, physical strength, and the worry of how opposition forces would treat them. However, the opponents of fighting women ignore one key fact: Women have served in multiple armed forces in the 20th century with efficiency and positive contributions to their units. Not only that, but the arguments against women in combat are rather weak on their own.
First, there is the claim that women will not be as ‘emotionally strong’ as men. This dubious claim often rears it’s head in regards to women any time they come up in politics. It was one of the many attacks hurled at Secretary of State during her 2008 bid for the presidency, and again during her recent testimony during the Benghazi hearing. There is no science or logic to back up these accusations – and there is little room to argue that women are too ‘emotionally weak’ when they have fought in combat for other armies, and under much worse conditions than the present combat situation in Afghanistan.
Plenty of women fought against the Nazis in the 1940s for the Soviet Army under various combat and non-combat roles. Fighter pilots, snipers, and even one well documented tank commander. The women who fought for those units sometimes fought with sub-par equipment (particularly pilots), or in conditions where the enemy forces fought on an equal or higher footing. Interestingly enough, many of these same women came away with numerous combat accolades and honors. Women can perform under intense mental stresses.
The aformentioned conditions under which the Soviet women fought can also be used to argue that women are physically capable. Those who slam women and say that they are ‘too weak’ to do the same tasks as fighting men are quick to point out the the U.S. military has different Physical Training (PT) test standards for women than men. To complete basic training, one must pass the test. However, each branch has it’s own standards and requirements. Special units like the SEALs have their own tests to complete. The accusers are correct. Yes. Women are held to a lower standard in terms of PT requirements than men. Entirely true. On the opposite end of the coin, though, this does not mean women are weaker.
Raise the bar. Make the PT requirements equal with those of male soldiers if this is such an issue. Women who desire to serve can get into shape to reach the minimum requirements that the armed forces demands. Why is it OK for us to say that a lazy man can join the military with no effort prior to basic training because “the army will get him into shape,” yet lower standards for women? Nonsense. The military can turn couch potato men into warriors, it can do the same with women as well.
Lastly, a huge fear among people about American women serving in combat is how the opposition would treat them. No surprise. All militaries seem to have a colorful history of treating occupied people, POWs or injured personnel in sub-par conditions. The Soviet army went wild when the war ended in Berlin – a legacy that has led to one of the Soviet monuments in Berlin being nicknamed ‘tomb of the unknown rapist,’ Americans fighting the Japanese in the Pacific campaign were notorious for mutilating war dead; a ‘war trophy’ of a Japanese soldier’s skull graced the cover of Life Magazine during the war – a ‘gift’ for a woman from her active duty boyfriend.
No surprise that we have this fear. It’s entirely understandable. “War is hell” they quip.
Alas, though, the fear that the Taliban will be raping American daughters is more scaremongering. It is a double-edged blade that is sexist, and promotes ignorance toward problems in our own military. Firstly, it justifies whatever fighting men do to one another. It’s perfectly OK for two armies to butcher and degrade each other if they’re men – just leave the women out of it. It devalues the sacrifices of men to a degree. Second, and far worse, rape in our own ranks is a huge problem. It’s raising a huge fear that American women will be raped by the foreign bogeyman while ignoring the problems of rape within our own ranks.
Give women equality in the combat zone, stop pretending that they are weaker than men, and deal with rape in the armed forces. That should be the goal here. Not mocking American women and saying that they are too ‘weak’ for combat.
Editors Note: A Quinnipiac University poll released today shows that three quarters of American voters support women serving in combat.