Women in Combat

Finally the Pentagon has decided to recognize that women should be and have been in combat. Actually they’ve been on the front lines for a long time. If gun-toting female soldiers along side gun-toting male soldiers kicking in Afghan doors to find Taliban isn’t front line combat, what is? And what do you call women flying helicopters into war zones?

During my youth, I would have been one of the first to sign up. I was a good athlete. At 5′, 5 1/2″, 106 pounds, I took on all of my brother’s friends and beat them at basketball and track. Maybe not football, but they never let me play anyway.

I loved the movie G.I.Jane with Demi Moore. I wanted to be her. I know I could have out-trained all those tough guys, could have rung the bell. But I have a problem concerning women in combat.

All during my growing up years I was lucky enough never to feel threatened with harm by my male-friend competitors. Still there is much to fear. Tough as we are, we have trouble avoiding sexual assaults.

According to the Defense Department, 19,000 sexual assaults occurred in the armed services last year, some 56 of them during the summer at Lackland Air force Base.

Representative Buck McKeon, Republican Chairman of the Armed Services Committee said he would schedule hearings into that matter on January 23rd,2013, but  so far, they haven’t taken place. I wonder why not.

It appears that the armed service higher ups are in a quandary. Women who are assaulted go unheard and untreated while male perpetrators are excused and promoted. Apparently reprimands are determined by the ‘chain of command’ generals who still believe boys will be boys. That must change.

Representative Jane Harman stated, “a female soldier in Iraq is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.”

Here are five things we can do to help remedy the situation.

  1.  Raise awareness of gender violence
  2.  Work to prevent conflict-related rape
  3.  Address institutionalized discrimination
  4.  Change the population mindset concerning violence and women
  5.  Re-define the concept of masculinity from power and violence to equal and peaceful

Congresswoman Jackie Speier authored a bill in 2011 to make sure rape and sexual assault in the military were no longer tolerated. The bill, H.R. 3435, The Sexual Assault Training Oversight and Prevention Act—the STOP Act—would “take the reporting, oversight, investigation, and victim care of sexual assaults out of the hands of the military’s normal chain of command and place jurisdiction in a newly created office comprised of civilian and military experts.”

But guess what happened to H.R. 3435. It was referred to the House Armed Services Committee where Chairman Buck McKeon allowed it to die.

If 15% of the armed services are now women and the chain of command can’t even protect them, how do we expect the military to protect the rest of us? I agree with Congresswoman Speier. Investigations must be taken out of the chain of command. Furthermore, convictions must include jail time, fines, and dishonorable discharges. Maybe severe punishment will be incentive to deter these shameful acts.

And oh, by the way, I shudder to think what will happen if first line combat women are captured by the enemy.

6 Responses to Women in Combat

  • Bob Chrisman says:

    Oh, Betty, another upsetting, Sunday morning post. I’m going to have to keep you occupied on Saturday nights so you can’t post on Sunday morning. Do you have plans for Saturday dinner next weekend?

    First, if women are in the military, I think they should be able to serve in all positions, even frontline positions. It seems only fair that people of all genders should be able to fight and die or fight and be maimed for life.

    Second, the military has been a corrupt institution for a long time. When generals and other high ranking men were able to remove themselves from frontline combat, they became more likely to send thousands, perhaps millions of people, to places they would not go themselves. They should be on the ground in frontline positions fighting alongside the people they want to do ridiculous things.

    Third, the military is a “homosexual” environment, like a men’s social club. The “boys” don’t like gays, lesbians or women who are viewed as invaders of “male” space. We have a LONG way to go to cleanse the military service of those men who want a “male only” environment.

    Fourth, the military, like most other institutions, does not want to deal with problems except under cover. To admit that female soldiers are raped by male soldiers looks ugly to the outside world. The top brass deals with such things as little as possible. They might have to punish too many male soldiers for “doing what comes naturally” to killing machines.

    Fifth, the military has other problems they have not dealt with like the growth of gangs and white supremacists in the rank of the fighting forces.

    Sixth, what enemy forces do with captured female soldiers is beside the point. If a woman wants to fight on the frontline, she must know the dangers that come with it. Her experience with some of her own fellow soldiers will let her know that society’s that hate women more than Americans do will not treat her kindly.

    Seventh, we cannot depend on our military to defend us. That’s not what they’ve been doing since World War II. They’ve been invading forces called in to back-up failing dictatorships all over the world. How is that in support of our defense.

    Last, our military is simply a microcosm of American society where women are raped and battered and killed at an unnaturally high rate. To change the military, we must change American society, our love of violence against our fellow Americans, and our hatred of those we perceive as different than we are. Good luck on that. We love our violence and our holier-than-thou attitude.

    Betty, from now on, I’m skipping your Sunday morning posts to save myself indigestion. 😉

    • beth says:

      Bob,

      NO. NO. Don’t skip my Sunday morning posts. Everyone loves your comments. Next week I promise – birds or flowers or something not quite so upsetting.

  • Lynn Barnett says:

    I have another idea. Israel has been sending women into combat for a very long time. My neighbor and childhood friend, Miriam fought in the Israeli armed forces for the requisit two years when she was younger. I am curious how Israel deals with their femaie soldiers as ALL men and women are required to serve for two years in their youth. Either they don’t talk about their rape and violence toward women or it is not as much of a problem. I would think if we wanted to deal with this issue, we may want to talk to the people who have been doing it a lot longer than we have. I’m just glad I am a woman and didn’t have to deal with war “back in the day” when my generation was dealing with the lottery…after all, my number was 2 and if I had been a boy and from a different family, I might have had to go to Vietnam. No thank you.

  • I think it is a good post Betty and Bob, I suggest you follow my gardening blog. Good response, Bob. Personally, I think women should be able to go into combat if they choose and should be cognizant of all ramifications.

  • Bob Chrisman says:

    Lynn, I wasn’t able to find anything about the problems of Israeli women fighting in the IDF, except for the growing, reactionary religious nature of the armed forces. It’s the old “keep women out of public life” forces among reactionary sects of Judaism. You can read more about it here:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/10/women_in_israel_as_the_idf_becomes_more_religious_the_rights_of_female_soldiers.2.html

    Seems Israel will soon have to deal with the reactionary elements of Judaism which demand adherence to old laws about the natural subservience of women. Hey, that’s happening here in the U.S. too.

    The “good ol’ boys” are pissed the world over.

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