U.S. Army Cpl. Kristine Tejada from 1st Platoon, Task Force 2-82 Field Artillery Regiment, provides security on Sept. 24, 2011, at the ancient Ziggurat of Ur in Iraq. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey signed an order on Jan. 24 to lift a ban on women serving in combat.
The recent U.S. government decision to allow female soldiers to serve in combat positions and situations has provoked nonstop chatter among the press, public, and Internet pantheon.
In a bevy of stories, editorials, columns, and multimedia features published and posted since the start of the semester, student journalists have expressed enthusiastic support for the historic gender integration — with a few caveats.
“The move to allow women equal opportunity in the armed forces follows in the footsteps of greater equality for homosexuals (in both the civil and armed forces sectors), women in the workforce, immigrants, and a host of other minority groups previously marginalized by society,” University of Southern California freshman Nathaniel Haas writes in The Daily Trojan. “The American government’s priority should be to ensure equal rights for all, and part of that means allowing both capable men and women to serve our country in the way they best can.”
Syracuse University sophomore Rahimon Nasa similarly shares in her Daily Orange column “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar,” “Officially being allowed to serve in combat roles enables women to be recognized for their bravery by being awarded medals of honor or advancing to positions they would have otherwise been unable to. Not everyone will be able to be a part of ground combat units, but they should be given a chance regardless of their sex… Restricting women from these roles only perpetuates stereotypes about women that have no place in today’s society.”
University of Louisville student Rae Hodge compares the traditional arguments made against allowing women in combat to “so many bats from the attic.”
As she writes in The Louisville Cardinal, “All the greatest hits are breathed back to life in the hands of the newest players: religious opponents cite Biblical passages about the appropriate role of women in relation to men; would-be psychologists use outdated data to pronounce women unprepared for the mental rigors of combat; tee-totalers number the average differences in physical performances between the sexes; all while a chorus of neo-con women plead a case for sexism in their complicity with male military dictates, shaming female soldiers for ruining all the fun… Reading the arguments is like slipping a record onto the turntable and re-living the good old days when women knew their place, men did the heavy lifting, and all was right in heaven and on Earth.”
Writing for The Blue Banner — where she serves as campus news editor — University of North Carolina at Asheville student Maayan Schechter says with proper recognition of women’s combat roles now granted, one big question remains: “[C]an women expect to be treated with dignity, honor, and responsibility among their male peers?”
Schecter shares statistics revealing that an alarmingly high number of female soldiers and veterans have been the victims of rape and sexual assault. According to Schecter, many women in the military do not report such assaults due to fear of being ostracized.
As she argues, “If a woman wants to serve on the front lines just as men do, then let her. She is fully capable to protect the soil on which all citizens of the U.S. walk. In doing so, like our men returning home from war, we must also protect her body, mind, and soul.”
Separately, Ohio State University student Srikar Mylavarapu expresses a similarly cautious optimism about the expanded female military role. As she notes in a new piece for The Lantern, the military still has a long way to go before declaring true gender fairness or blindness.
“[I]n a time when women [make] up about 33 percent of the Supreme Court, 20 percent of the Senate, and about 18 percent of the House of Representative… our nation’s most patriotic icon, our military, has been thoroughly unrepresentative of women to the same degree,” Mylavarapu contends. “I hope the same pathways that have given many men national prominence allow for women to continue to close the gender disparity and produce more great leaders. I hope it gives rise to the first female defense secretary, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and even the first female president.”
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