Women in the military
Despite various roles in the military in the past, the role of women in the armies, particularly in combat, is controversial. It is only recently that the armed forces have begun to attribute a more prominent role to women. Thus, an increasing number of nations begins to expand the role of women in their militaries. However, soldiers are traditionnally viewed as men. Thus, the frequent exclusion of women from many combat roles is seen as a form of sexual discrimination. Many on each side of the issue cite the physical and mental differences between men and women.
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Women in the military have a history that extends over 4,000 years into the past, throughout numerous cultures and nations. Throughout history, women have played many roles in the military, from ancient warrior women – such as Joan of Arc – to the women currently serving in conflits, such as the war in Iraq . Some countries have chosen to not allow women to fight in the military, while others have used women to fight in their wars as frequently as men. Although women have been recruited to serve in the military, only a few countries permitted women to fill active combat roles. For instance, 800,000 women served in the Soviet military during World War II, of which 70% took part in front line actionWomen Warriors Throughout History, 20th Century, battles, tournaments, soldier, revolutionary, war, pirate, duel, fighter, female, lady, disguise, martial arts, historical re-enactment, living history, Lothene Experimental Archaeology.
Arguments of the contemporary debate
Many see the exclusion of women from military combat jobs as a sex discrimination. Some believe that women are forbidden to serve in these roles only as a result of the traditionalist view of soldiering as a male profession. Equal opportunity laws should also apply to the military. Besides, many point out at numerous historical examples of women achieving much on the battlefield in combat roles.
The most obvious argument is the fact that women might be weaker physically. Thus, they would not possess the physical attributes suitable to become combat soldiers. The Center for Military Readiness stated that “Female soldiers are, on average, shorter and smaller than men, with 45-50% less upper body strength and 25-30% less aerobic capacity, which is essential for endurance”.
The disruption of the combat unit’s spirit is cited as another reason for women to be banned from front-line combat situations. The idea is that soldiers would not trust women to perform their duties in a critical situation. The second psychological concern is that romantic relationships between men and women could disrupt a unit’s fighting capacity. A third argument against the inclusion of women in combat units is that placing women in combat would create a risk for them of being captured, tortured, and possibly sexually assaulted.
In “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” from Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, the author explains that the reason for removing Isreali female soldiers from the front line would not be a reflection on the performance of female soldiers, but that of male infantrymen after witnessing a woman wounded. For instance, the Israel Defense Forces saw a complete loss of control over soldiers who apparently experienced an uncontrolled, instinctual, protective aggression. Melody Kemp mentions that Australian soldiers have voiced similar concerns saying that these soldiers “are reluctant to take women on reconnaissance or special operations, as they fear that in the case of combat or discovery, their priority will be to save the women and not to complete the mission. Thus while men might programmed to kill, it is not as easy to program men to neglect women”. Grossman also notes that Islamic militants rarely surrender to female soldiers. Similarly, Iraqi and Afghani civilians are often not intimidated by female soldiers.
- Focus of the week 3-7 May : women, peace and security
- The Role of Women in the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process
- Gender genocide in the Gender Equality in Bosnia and Herzegovinan War
- The PeaceWomen Project
- Amazons: female warriors past and present
- Soucy, John, “Heroes Turn Out for Exhibit Opening at Army Women’s Museum”, February 5, 1980
- Women in Combat: Frequently Asked Questions, Center for Military Readiness. November 22, 2004
- Jake Willens, “Women in the Military: Combat Roles Considered”, 7 August 1996
- http://nav.sfr.fr/default.php?mac=00-19-7E-57-D6-59&url=http://www.google.fr/webhp?hl=fr, “Women in Combat: Why not?”
- Kemp, Melody, “Femme Fatale: Women in the Military Service”, Women in Action (3:1999)