When the Pentagon and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made the decision to lift previous policy of 1994 that banned women from combat positions, debate erupted. The previously instated policy banned women from engaging in positions such as artillery, armor, and infantry, or positions that put women on the ground, engaging in physical contact on enemy lines.
The conditions of the policy will take full effect by January of 2016. This allows meaningful discussion to take place before the policy materializes. Reports have been made that this decision stems from increased pressure to formally acknowledge the women who occupy combat positions, despite the loosely enforced ban. Additionally, the policy will give other women the choice to do the same.
With igniting conversational debate of the ‘should we, shouldn’t we’ persuasion, it is important to note that despite the minority occupancy of women in all branches of the military, women are an equally integral part of those committed to defending our nation. It is vital to acknowledge this.
Opposition to policy outlines their arguments in many of the following ways. Allowing women to participate in combat situations creates distractions for their male counterparts. Having females on the ground disrupts cohesion. The male cohorts are unable to trust women in the line of duty. The biological differences between men and women do not allow women to perform at wartime standards. Each explained reasoning sounds as though the opposition is uncomfortable with the progressiveness of gender roles that is taking place. This is an issue of gender role progressiveness.
Despite these positions, I argue that the physical standard should not change. I say this because by doing so, we implement combat positions that are separate, but equal in nature. In order to ensure equality in its truest form, we must keep the current physical standards in place. Women able to meet these standards will put to rest conversations of national security threats and questions about maintaining the high performance of our military branches (in theory, of course). If women are able to meet these physical standards, not only should they be eligible to participate, but also receive the recognition that comes with these standards as well.
Most obviously with the commitment to serve in the United States military comes the commitment to sacrifice, but with sacrifice comes reward. In the military, the majority of four or five star generals of any branch are those who serve or have served during combat situations. Given this, if women are not being formally recognized for their work, their chance of becoming four or five star generals in their respective branch depletes. The possibility for upward mobility in terms of rank is made possible through this policy.
Additionally, those in higher ranks, much like other occupations, earn higher salaries. If women are not able to make career advances, and those who have are not formally recognized, we find ourselves a glass ceiling of sorts. This issue can and should be looked at in terms of equal pay for equal work.
This policy is good news. The formal acknowledgement of women and opportunity for women to infiltrate a highly male-dominated profession marks necessary, and needed progress.
Tori Whitworth, NOW Intern