Military lifts ban on women in combat, religious right flips out

It looks like my old t-shirt that read, “If gays get their civil rights, then everyone will want them,” just came true. The last (last?) vestige of discrimination against women in the military is gone – the ban on women in combat has been lifted, effective May 15.

And the religious right, and women-haters everywhere, died a little.

From the Washington Post:

Outgoing Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta announced Thursday a lifting of the ban on female service members in combat roles, a watershed policy change that was informed by women’s valor in Iraq and Afghanistan and that removes the remaining barrier to a fully inclusive military, defense officials said.

Panetta made the decision “upon the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” a senior defense official said Wednesday, an assertion that stunned female veteran activists who said they assumed that the brass was still uneasy about opening the most physically arduous positions to women. The Army and the Marines, which make up the bulk of the military’s ground combat force, will present plans to open most jobs to women by May 15.

Like the ban on gays, the ban on women in combat was a long time coming and based in all sorts of myths and fears. ThinkProgress reports that one of the biggest fears the women-haters have is having to poop in combat.


After Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s surprise announcement on Wednesday that women would be free to serve in most or all combat roles by 2016, the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by former Marine infantryman Ryan Smith. Smith argued that since soldiers had to “defecate inches from his seated comrade’s face” during his tour in Iraq, women could not be permitted in combat because it would “humiliate” men:

Societal norms are a reality, and their maintenance is important to most members of a society. It is humiliating enough to relieve yourself in front of your male comrades; one can only imagine the humiliation of being forced to relieve yourself in front of the opposite sex.

Despite the professionalism of Marines, it would be distracting and potentially traumatizing to be forced to be naked in front of the opposite sex, particularly when your body has been ravaged by lack of hygiene. In the reverse, it would be painful to witness a member of the opposite sex in such an uncomfortable and awkward position. Combat effectiveness is based in large part on unit cohesion. The relationships among members of a unit can be irreparably harmed by forcing them to violate societal norms.

Pooh-shy. That’s a new one.

And while we can all enjoy the expected fireworks from the religious right, the Joint Chiefs all supposedly supported this move. They were not so unified when it came to lifting the gay ban.

That’s not to say that women will get every combat job a man might get.  More from NPR:

female soldier

Female soldier via Shutterstock.

All of the service branches are supposed to come up with plans by May 15 for integrating women into combat positions and for requesting exemptions, Pentagon officials said.

The services are most likely to request exemptions in elite units where only a small percentage of men are able to meet the demanding standards, such as the Navy SEALs and the Army’s Rangers and Green Berets.

Unless it’s impossible for any woman to ever be as physically able for those specific jobs, and the jobs themselves require a level of physical ability that a woman could never achieve, then I’d think it would be better to simply require any candidates pass a physical regimen and prove their worth.  I assume men have to pass the same physical test to get these elite positions.

Actually, it looks like the Israelis might have helped things along here.  From the officially-designated hate group, American Family Association:

Apparently the IDF has gone totally PC on national defense, and the research on which my column yesterday was based, accurate at the time, is now outdated. The IDF was right before, and wrong now, but it looks like they’ll have to figure that out the hard way just like we will.

The IDF is actually now advertising “hardcore battle roles for women” in the Israeli Defense Force. They now have a grand total of 27 female pilots, have a largely female battalion of women who patrol the southern border and “ambush… enemy forces,” female soldiers who partner with dogs in their K-9 unit, a combat battalion whose job it is to “neutralize…weapons live in the field of battle,” and sea-going unit whose job it is to “safeguard Israel’s civilian ports.”

Right, because if it’s one the thing the Israelis are known for, it’s their weak-kneed PC military.

I couldn’t end this story without first checking what that other officially-designated hate group, the Family Research Council, had to say.  It seems that FRC worries that military women will lose their je ne sais quoi if they fight in combat.

In an incredibly compelling article for the Marine Corps Gazette, Capt. Petronio says that while she was extremely successful during both combat tours, she is a shell of her former self. (And based on the nightmarish conditions Ryan Smith shares in the Wall Street Journal, it’s no wonder.) “Five years later, I am physically not the woman I once was,” (including a diagnosis of deployment-induced polycystic ovarian syndrome), “and my views have greatly changed on the possibility of women having successful long careers while serving in the infantry. I can say from firsthand experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not just emotion… that should the Marine Corps attempt to fully integrate women into the infantry, we as an institution are going to experience a colossal increase in crippling and career-ending medical conditions for females.” Like us, she appreciates what the Pentagon is trying to do but believes that diversity is not a military necessity. “Let’s embrace our differences to further hone in on the Corps’ success instead of dismantling who we are to achieve a political agenda,” she pleads.

Yes, God forbid that women in the military suffer the same injuries as men.

While I’d prefer that none of our troops suffer any injuries, it seems downright 1950s to argue that it’s okay for our men in uniform to suffer mentally and physically from serving in the military but not women.  What’s the difference?  This attitude reminds me of tornado drills we use to have when I was in grade school back in Illinois.  I distinctly remember that the girls would get down on the ground in front of their lockers and scrunch down in a seated ball, while the boys would stand over them with their hands pushed against the lockers.  At the time it was explained that this was to protect the girls should anything fall from the ceiling.  Even then I did a bit of a kiddie-double-take over the bizarre logic.

Military service has hurt, even ruined, a lot of men too, especially over the last decade or so.  It’s typical twisted logic that the religious right thinks that’s okay for men, but verboten for women.  They oppress you because they love you, the same reason they’re always oppressing gays.  I do wish they’d stop loving all of us nearly so much.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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