In the 1970’s, Gloria Steinem said, “We kept saying we hope no one will be in combat, but, if they are, women should be there, too”. It took awhile, but it’s finally going to happen. Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has once again made historical changes to the United States military and how it operates by blocking down one societal barrier after another. In 2011, the Pentagon did away with the infamous Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. Today, Panetta is slated to overturn a policy from 1994 that excluded women from front-line combat. The policy isn’t going to be implemented quickly. The military will have until May to submit a plan that will be fully implemented by 2016.
Women make up about 14% of active military and only serve in what are considered combat support roles as medics, military police, or intelligence officers. So far, 280,000 women have been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas due to the ongoing war effort. Out of the more than 6,600 who have been killed, 152 have been women, even though they have not been include in front-line combat.
Many women have ended their military career due in part to the exclusion. Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine captain and head of the Service Women’s Action Network, said her decision to leave the Marine Corps in 2004 owed partly to the combat exclusion policy.
“I know countless women whose careers have been stunted by combat exclusion in all the branches,” said Bhagwati, who called the decision an “historic moment.”
But not everyone agrees with having women on the front-lines. Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team had this to say:
In my opinion, I do not believe women should serve as combat soldiers. I know they are fully able to do so. I know they would acquit themselves spectacularly well. But I can’t deny that I value the special place of women in society as a protected gender. I can’t deny my core feeling that women–by virtue of their anatomy and physiology and whatever God-given ability to nurture they possess–would be impacted more negatively by mortal combat than men. I can’t deny that I think it would bleed out some wonderful chivalrous quality in men were we to collectively send women to the front lines to bleed out as Marines shot up taking hills.
With the 1994 law being overturned, where does this put issues like Selective Service. Men are required to register when they’re 18, but women aren’t. Will this law need to be changed as well, since everyone is now “equal”? Also, a safety concern question comes into play as well, and it has nothing to do with enemy fire. In 2011, there were over 3000 reported cases of rape in the military. Reported is the operative word. Will allowing women on the front-lines, and in closer proximity to men, increase these occurrences? Or, will this actually begin to shed light on the issue of rape in the military and have them do something about the issue they’ve so gallantly swept under the rug?
What do you think? Should women join men on the front-lines?