Removing The Gender Barrier: Women In The Frontlines Research Paper Example
Type of paper: Research Paper
Topic: Women, Veterans, Combat, Military, Deployment, United States, War, Armed Forces
Women on the Battlefield
In recent years, the US Army has extended the number of ‘Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) positions that women are qualified to fill. It is interesting to note that many of these positions are drawing women in closer proximity to frontline combat positions. Though women military personnel served in exemplary fashion beside their male colleagues in such theaters of war as Iraq, and face the same dangers in the field, there is relatively limited support for women to be actively involved in combat missions.
Here, it is imperative to note the reasons why there is such a low level of support for women being engaged in frontline combat action. The question that must be answered is whether the United States should allow women into theaters of conflict. With the debates again resuming in Congress over the budget of the Department of Defense, the policy whether to allow women into the combat zone will have far-reaching effects not only on women, but also for men as well. Furthermore, by considering whether to allow women into the combat theater, this will inevitably have an impact, whether direct or indirect, on the readiness of the American military to deploy to hostile zones across the globe.
In 1948, when the United States adopted the “Combat Exclusion Act, women have been prohibited from being deployed into combat zones, whether these have are enlisted with the Navy, Marines Corps, or Air Force. The Army, though not listed in the Act, maintains an independent ban on the deployment of women in combat positions.
In the traditional sense, women, specifically in the United States, are not considered as combatants. Nevertheless, women military personnel have been allowed into combat zones in increasing frequency compared to any other time in American history. The sole restriction here is that women are banned from being deployed to ground combat zones. However, in the context of allowing more and more women to be equal to their male colleagues, it is being debated whether the deployment of women is the next logical step in this direction.
Majority of the literature on the subject of the engagement of women in the military establishment, with specific reference to the ability of women to effectively perform in combat situations, has been heavily influenced by social-cultural mindsets that are drawn from an exclusive male-dominated “warrior framework” or the premises that support the premise. However, present-day dispositional and social research evidence has displaced much of the anecdotal presumptions and personal beliefs that dominated the issue then.
Because the military establishment is chiefly male, earliest military social study almost never challenged the manner that the social roles of males were constructed for the warrior class. Gender assimilation into the “fighting class,” as proffered by Zeigler and Gunderson (2004), can be divided into for sub categories: “liberal feminism,” “cultural feminism,” “radical feminism,” and “postmodern feminism.” Much of the research claims is that women have been excluded from the military owing to their biological makeup, contrary to the social claims that posit the claim. In this light, women are construed to be “nurturers of life,” compared to men who are considered to be fit for military stresses and situations.
This position, however, does not hold water; women have been employed in various positions in the combat zone, whether as camp aides, activists, emissaries, and even regular combatants, women have been deployed in the combat zones performing numerous tasks. For instance, in the course of the Gulf War, the General Accounting Office (GAO) noted that in overall evaluations, unit leaders gave sterling assessments of the performance of the women in the frontline units. In other situations, women in combat areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan are banned from being deployed in war zones.
However, given the porous character of the deployment in these countries, the units where the women soldiers are deployed, those that are supposed to be isolated from the conflict, are unnecessarily drawn into the conflict. Many observers would attest to the mental and psychological fortitude of the women combatants. Women were observed even to be leading the counterattacks, manning the convoys, and even being part of patrol teams on the dangerous streets of Baghdad and Kabul. In fact, women are fully integrated into the Canadian Armed Forces.
Even the United Nations emphasizes the effectiveness of women soldiers in peacekeeping actions. For example, female peacekeeping personnel can be utilized to facilitate the needs of demobilizing female soldiers and aid them in reintegrating back into civilian life. in addition, victims of gender-based violence will feel comfortable being interviewed by female soldiers. In equipping scenarios, female cadets for law enforcement and military training institutions will be greatly helped by the mentoring of female trainors. The diverse numbers of issues associated with the deployment of women in the combat field are drawn from two connected premises: one, the prevailing culture and framework of the Armed Forces that is tailored for the combat zone, and two, that changes and reforms, premised on the political needs of the times, will be ultimately detrimental to the efficacy of the military to respond to contingencies in the world. The collective response to the elimination of the exclusion policy against women in combat zones is anything but summative.
There are those that are supportive of the policy; there are those that even call the policy, such as Martin van Creveld, as integral components all directed to show the deterioration of the world’s most advanced military organization. The concerns run the gauntlet from the trivial such as the construction of latrines and “maternity leave,” to the purportedly more serious concerns that women deployed in combat zones will have negative effects on the efficiency of the various frontline units.
The main purpose of the military establishment is the “defense of the Constitution” by defending it against domestic threats or wining military engagements on foreign shores; the question here is whether that tenet will be negatively impacted by the deployment of women in combat units. The issue is addressing the concerns that women are unfit to be deployed to combat theaters, that their more feminine physique and “alleged” dearth in mental fortitude will place the entire unit at risk in combat situations, and two, that the deployment of women into combat zones as well as integrating their views will negatively alter the combat mentality of the military, showing a more “civilian” instead of a militaristic philosophy.
Though the apprehensions listed here are not completely unreasonable, these are founded on erroneous principles. The critical assumption here is that the prevailing military framework and culture is well-adapted to conduct itself in the most efficient manner in times of war. Due to this flawed ideologue, deploying women in combat zones became a necessary evil, removing this possibility from the “table” to avoid distorting the original and prevailing system.
Here, what must be studied are the potential benefits of women being deployed in combat situations. The dilemma here is the effective “marriage” between the objectives of military ethos and razor-sharp effectiveness of the military establishment and women soldiers. The gender viewpoint and universal military values are often seen to be diametrically opposed to each other, never to come together. By integrating women into combat units and situations, it is posited that this instance will not only enhance the efficacy of the units, this will also result in the addition of new abilities that were previously unused and unrealized in the past.
Women can help in playing the role regarding the avenues, the material component of the equation. Integrating women, those that pass all requirements, will support societal objectives of buttressing the overall effectiveness of the military fighting units. The focus on the “lean and mean” military establishment, centering on efficiency as opposed to size, is indicative that the possible benefits is in the manner that the military will go about executing its mandate.
In addition, women can offer particularized specialization and viewpoints that can help in improving the operations of the unit. Women in combat units can be deployed in intelligence gathering missions in ways that men will not be able to accomplish, and will be able to provide improved analytical capabilities of the various units in the field.
Present military actions and engagements waged by the United States and its allies have again highlighted the need to consider the inclusion of women in the military. Opponents for deploying women into combat zones argue that women would only disrupt the smooth flow of the combat units, and hinder them from being effective in combat situations. However, the demands that are required and even demanded by the positions in combat zones can be claimed as legitimate obstacles to integration.
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