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.

Seriously.

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 | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • UncleBucky

    Yes, thanks samizdat. I just wrote about this, but not as from a personal point of view as you. You are a saint and an angel. And you could be part of a speakers’ bureau who could talk about, more than me.

    When both my Mom and Dad died, separated by 3+ years, all I could do in this way was, just after they passed, to wash their hands and face, saying, “you took care of me and washed me when I was a kid, now I wash your hands and face for the last time.” I hope someone does that for me.

  • UncleBucky

    Another thing we should remember is that ROMAN bathrooms had people sitting cheek by jowel on the can. It was thought to be “normal”.

    But for the most of us, poisoned in the mind by the holy rollers of the Catholic Church, Renaissance, Protestant Revolution, Victorians, and 20th century thumpers, bathrooms were places private, even when one’s “bathroom” is behind a bush in a forest near a campground.

    I don’t think that, as a society, we will get. over. it. Nope.

    But let me talk about desensitization for a moment. Consider not the job one must do with a newborn or child who is not yet toilet trained. But consider what one must do to care for a very sick or senior person who has temporarily or permanently lost the ability to go to the toidie. A person CAN and WILL take care of the mess. The alternative is to see the other person suffer from the results of being in their own you-know-what. Even teens and 20-smths can do this.

    And let me say that military training can accomplish this desensitization faster than anywhere else. Just like you go through gasmask training, and other things that take you kilometers out of your “comfort zone”, the military can do that. At the present, there are apparently influential enough people in the military who DON’T WANT TO DO IT. ;O)

  • JohnAGJ

    You may not have explicitly said it but it was certainly implied, which your comments here only reinforce. The standards are different for age in both sexes because older vets are usually of higher rank, while the younger ones are typically the lower grunts who carry out the orders given. In addition, we know that in general someone in their 20s is in better physical condition with more endurance than someone else in their 30s or 40s. Hence why you see more younger folks on the battlefield than older ones. This hasn’t been an issue for the military or impacted combat readiness. As far as IQ goes, the minimum standard for every MOS is determined by the ASVAB. There is also performance in training and other factors, but we’re talking minimum standards here to even begin. Now is there a better way of doing this? Perhaps. I’m not opposed to examining better ways, but not at the expense of combat readiness and not by enforcing inequality in the name of equality. That’s insanity.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    I obviously didn’t say that or it would be written up there in my post. I also noticed that standards were different for 17 – 21 year old males than for males in their 30s. If they change the standards for age, why not for gender? What constitutes passing? Do they need perfect scores? There are other aspects of combat readiness than physical fitness. How about intelligence? Does everyone need to be equal there? I guess an army made up of 17 to 21 year old males with perfect physical fitness scores and IQa of 110 or more would be an ideal fighting force. It would also be quite small.

  • justiceday

    This is not a win for women. All they are doing is trying to distract us from the bigger problem of rape in the military. Women are already in combat zones.

    And if women aren’t protecting other women from being raped it doesn’t say much for them in general.
    This is all around a disgrace to women and America!
    Stop allowing women to be raped in and by the military.

    theusmarinesrapecom

  • chris

    Please do tell how many military men suffer from poly-cystic ovarian syndrome. The author is clueless, and its beyond obvious that he his zero military experience let alone combat experience.

  • JohnAGJ

    As much as I dislike the man, Tony Perkins of the FRC did serve in the Marines. Aravosis quotes from Ryan Smith, also a former Marine, who made the pooh-pooh objection to women serving in combat. There are many religious conservatives who serve in the military – remember the scandal at the Air Force Academy? While I respect their service I also have no problem dismissing such ridiculous arguments as these men make here, we heard similar nonsense about repealing DADT. Yet the one argument I have heard raised IS valid: that standards be equal for men AND women. As long as they are, I have no objections. Whatever difficulties may arise I am confident they can be resolved – as long as standards are the same for both sexes.

  • JohnAGJ

    A servicemember is not considered combat ready if they cannot pass the physical fitness test. These are the minimal physical standards for everyone those in the service and all combat training uses these scores. Are you saying that women are entitled to lower physical standards than men, especially for combat?

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    I followed the link. That’s a test for all troops. It’s not a test to ascertain if a service member is combat ready. Do you have any links for those?

  • http://twitter.com/sdguppy Sherri Santos

    I was so confused to see a female Naval Medical Officer say this would be bad for America. We have been dying in combat since 2003, how is it worse if it is actually acknowledged? Is it because the right lose some power over women?

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    wicked funny

  • http://fighttherightwingnuts.blogspot.com/ mike31c

    Bah, it’s not like these religious nutballs have ever served in the military anyways!

  • JohnAGJ

    Except the standards for men and women are NOT equal and never have been:

    http://usmilitary.about.com/od/army/a/afpt.htm

    If women are going to be eligible for all positions in the military I’m okay with that as long as they meet the exact same requirements men do. Otherwise males have a legitimate complaint about “anti-man gender discrimination”. The problem I see, based on past experiments, is that this becomes highly politicized with the overwhelming majority of women not passing the same physical standards as men. Feminist groups cry foul, military brass feel the heat and then try to lower standards for women so that some might make it through. That’s ill-advised for many combat roles and places lives at risk – both male AND female. Now if they do follow through with keeping standards the same, as well as subject all females to the draft just like males, than I’m okay with this. Yet I remain skeptical this will actually happen.

  • TheOriginalLiz

    Hey, if women can do it, then it isn’t all special and macho and there goes their self-image. Seems to me a case of knowing they aren’t as special as they’ve been pretending to be.

  • TheOriginalLiz

    Exactly – the only real difference in most if not all cases is that women weren’t eligible for the recognition and pay. How many times have men been given preferential treatment in postings, after service jobs, etc. because they were “in combat”, while women were doing the same da*n thing, just not being recognized for it. It has been the military’s dirty little secret since even before my time in the service.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    It’s just the Patriarchy getting worried that we women are gonna get all uppity again and demand passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Three decades ago, they were citing the same reasons: Bathrooms. And women in combat. And religious ‘freedom’ (to subjugate females).

    Anyway, this isn’t the last. If exemptions for specific groups can be asked, and they’re solely for the purpose of having male-only assignments, that’s anti-woman gender discrimination. If women do not have access to every kind of possible job opening in the military, subject to the same requirements as their male counterparts, it’s still not equal. If as a percentage of total membership women are not represented in the ranks in numbers equal to our participation in the military, that’s evidence of continued discrimination.

    To put it more simply: If there are no SEAL teams, Rangers, or Green Berets consisting of female-only units to counterbalance the male-only ones, then we still have institutionalized sexism in the U.S. military. They don’t need to change the physical requirements; they just need to stop saying, “No, we will not allow you even to try.”

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Amen.

  • Naja pallida

    You suppose the Catholic church’s argument for a fetus not being a person will be that it can’t be a child until a priest is capable of abusing it?

  • Naja pallida

    One big thing that everyone seems to be ignoring is that this isn’t really such a drastic change of policy as it seems. We already have women serving in such combat roles. We already have a generation of women veterans who have fought in front-line combat. On the same patrols as men, shooting at others and being shot at. You don’t suppose Tammy Duckworth got her injuries at a nursing tent in the safety of the Green Zone? What this does is finally admit it openly, and allow women to receive the appropriate recognition, commendations and promotions that would otherwise be given to men for performing the same job. It may open up a few things that women are currently not doing, but it seems likely that the Pentagon will still seek exceptions for things like the Special Forces.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Covered a lot of ground in a single bound there Badgerite.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Thank you!

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    “It’s a sign that the wingers are really grasping at——” Dare I say, poo. Bedwetting wingers have feces training problems.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    Brilliant

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    A good aspect of this is that these returning women warriors won’t put up with misogynists pin heads in civy life. Watching a woman in a pair of Jimmy Choos heels and pearls stand her ground against chicken hawk t-bag should be interesting.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    very funny!

  • Badgerite

    Oh please! No crocodile tears about the plight of women from these folks! If they cared about the womens they would be trying to better their situation in the African continent rather than trying to get not only gays but anyone who supports them killed. Not to mention criminalizing being a rape victim. No damage there.

  • HolyMoly

    The wingers never thought to consider that the Soviets put women into combat roles during WWII. Their army did exceptionally well against the Germans. They drove them out of Russia and all the way back to Berlin, so it doesn’t seem like they were hampered in the least by the Bowels of War. Obviously, they figured out a way to make it all work.

    But Post-Defecation Stress Disorder? Come on. It’s a sign that the wingers are really grasping at ANY straw they can, however asinine, to hang onto their long-cherished beliefs that women should be relegated to the kitchen. The natural act of pooping (I still can’t believe this is even a discussion at all) will result in desensitization over time. Get. Over. It.

  • HolyMoly

    Yes, I’ve always believed women should be required to register for Selective Service. But I’d go one step further (or more extreme, if you wish to call it that) — all men and women, regardless of whether they’re able-bodied or not.

    My rationalization being that during a time of war (when the draft is instituted), a wheelchair-bound man or woman could perform necessary tasks that don’t require physical fitness (like secretarial at Pentagon headquarters, or cryptology or computer-based tasks). The blind, the deaf, and amputees could also serve functional roles based on their capabilities. They’d need a sort of modified training simply to instill the sort of discipline required, but who needs to run 2 miles in a specific amount of time if they’re going to crack enemy codes at the Pentagon? Imagine all the great and useful minds that we wouldn’t use under today’s draft…minds that might actually make a difference in the outcome of any conflict.

    This would free up ALL the able-bodied men and women to go to the front lines where they are needed (such as perfectly healthy sons and daughters of senators, representatives, generals, and the wealthy elite). The elite often benefit politically and/or financially from every war they cheer on, so why not at least force them to EARN it? Maybe they wouldn’t be so gung-ho about jumping into an unnecessary conflict if their hides or their children’s hides were at risk.

  • samizdat

    My mom was diagnosed with ALS in November of 2005, and died just after the New Year, in 2007. The intervening months were some of the most painful I or my sibs have ever experienced. I don’t believe I truly knew the meaning of humility before that thirteen months. Taking care of her needs, including lifting her onto the toilet, etc., was a humbling experience. I was squeamish at first, but then I realized she was my mother, and she desperately needed my sibs and myself at that point in her life. Hats off to those who’ve had to face the same level of palliative care needed by a parent or loved one, and struggled through it, sometimes alone (!).

    This guy is some kind of wussy, that’s for sure. And a tool, to boot. Though justiceday has a very good point about rape in the military. It is a serious problem, and it’s being buried underneath nostrums about “patriotism”, and “service”, and disingenuous claims that it isn’t as widespread as the statistics show.

  • nicho

    Any man who gets the vapors from seeing lady parts isn’t much of a man to begin with.

  • justiceday

    This is nothing more than a PR move to take the focus off of rape and sexual assault in and by the US military. Dempsey is even trying to say that’s why women are being raped, because they aren’t in combat!
    At what point is the military going to be held accountable for rape?
    And any woman that thinks this is a move towards equality needs to have their head examined. Worry about the rapes not killing people! Any troop that turns their head regarding sexual assaults is a disgrace to this country and humanity. Our military has no honor as long as this is going on! One in three women is sexually assaulted in the military. And that’s not counting women and children who aren’t serving and are being raped by them!
    www the us marines rape com

  • nicho

    They want female school teachers to be combat ready, but not female soldiers.

  • nicho

    Meanwhile, Catholics claim in court that a fetus is not a person — because it was going to cost them money. Amazing what changes can come about when you drag a hundred dollar bill through a room of pedophiles.

    http://www.commondreams.org/further/2013/01/24-5

  • Tillyosu

    If women now have the opportunity (should we really call this an opportunity?) to fight in combat, shouldn’t they be asked to take on the responsibilities that come with that opportunity? I believe that an able bodied male who signs up for the Marines doesn’t get to choose whether he wants to be in the infantry. They choose for him. Shouldn’t that be the same for able bodied females?

    In addition, shouldn’t all women now have to register for the Selective Service? That’s a responsibility that all men have, because we used to think that only men were fit for combat. If that reason is no longer valid, why is the obligation restricted to men. I just think that if we want women to be treated equally, then we should treat them equally. Otherwise, all we’re talking about is preferential treatment.

  • UncleBucky

    At least half of us (perhaps more, not me, however) have had to deal with another human being pooping or with that person’s, um, poo. And of course I am speaking of parents, health care providers, and end of life caretakers. Now, I ain’t gonna wax poetic about this, but having to deal with another person’s lack of cleanliness, taking care of it, or dealing with it like a mature human being is one of the qualities of a saint, or an angel. Got it right-wingers? Moms and Dads, Older siblings, Grandmas and Grandpas, Aunts and Uncles, Cousins and even babysitters: Saints and Angels. Or nurses, docs, aides, and hospice workers: Professionals!!! (And angels.) Yeah.

    Among professionals who have to deal with this, are astronauts (US, Canadian, & others), cosmonauts (Soviet/Russian), and taikonauts (Chinese). It has been literally centimeters (<90 cm, <3') away from one person to the other in spaceships like Gemini, Apollo, Soyuz, and Shenzhou 9 (2 men with one woman). And even in the ISS, centimeters or meters, it's not like being in a bathroom upstairs behind a door with the exhaust fan running while everyone else is downstairs (OK, I am reminded of either Al Bundy's or Archie Bunker's loud flushing sound). And in other professions or jobs, "bathrooms" are not the same as corporate building bathroom designs. Get over it, bagguers.

    Main thing here is that babies are whining about this. Not mature human beings, saints/angels or professionals. GOT IT, WINGERS?

  • therling

    So this guy says he’s tough enough to be a Marine but can’t handle the idea of taking a shit while a woman is near him? Or that having to take a dump in front of a woman is more “traumatizing” than watching your buddy getting his head shot off? How about the “societal norm” of not killing someone?

  • http://www.facebook.com/randyariddle Randy Riddle

    AFA Translation: War is okay. Women not staying home barefoot and pregnant isn’t okay.

  • smgess

    Too bad the ‘religious’ right does not comdemn the WARS, but the people who choose to fight them. I know no one who was a soldier other than my nephew, who returned from a year in Afghanistan and promptly filed papers to leave the military. Would there were more like him. War is hell for everyone, and we should be working toward peace, not endangering more people, on both sides. Personally, I find a woman with an assault weapon to be every bit as awful as a man.

  • kevinbgoode

    Aren’t these the same people who think every American should have all kinds of guns (first for self-defense, then for hunting, then to stand up to the government if they decide it is a tyranny) and yet they don’t want women in a combat role?

    My head is spinning here – it is more and more apparent to me that the gun/violent/fear/smear/war-against-everything crowd is trying desperately to be the white-male-power only crowd. First they reserve the right to define “God” for everyone else (who, of course, they make into their own image). Then they talk about freedom for themselves (and no one else). And everything, as usual, is based on fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of the boogeyman, fear of the darkie, fear of the woman, fear of the gays. . .and even fear of their own self-created God.

    At some point we need to figure out that these people are completely motivated by fear – and fear alone. That is only occasionally trumped by lust for money and power, but even that is fear-motivated . . .it just gets morphed into fantasies of putting fear in the people they want to force into subjugation.

  • sunmusing

    I worked with women in the coal mines….now, that is one nasty place to take a dump in…but, we had no problem with any of that…other than the standard jokes…and they weren’t bad…but if a co-worker had to go, male or female, it was only natural that we would give privacy to that person…turn around and not look sort of thing…ohhh…there were those who were not so cool about it and they were dealt with pronto…it is not impossible to accomplish with common sense and reasonable education…

  • loona_c

    Then pass the damn Equal Rights Amendment! Finally. The argument in the old days was if it was passed women would have to serve in the military (and men and women would have to share bathrooms!) Looks like that too would happen in combat according to Ryan, such as those “bathrooms” are. So guarantee that women really do have equal rights with men and pass the amendment.

    Actually I had thought that when women (our mothers, daughters, sisters) were in the service and facing combat situations the world would re-think wars. But I guess not so much.

  • Steve_in_CNJ

    Paying women less and regulating their bodies just got a bit harder to rationalize.

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