The push for a woman’s right to serve on the front lines seems like one of the strangest moves for gender equality to a lot of us guys.
We get the women’s suffrage movement, and the desire for a female president makes sense too. But battling ruthless enemies far from home is seldom an enjoyable experience, and it’s always more dangerous than casting a vote or running for office.
Besides, the military is one of the most masculine organizations on earth for a reason. As a cursory look at Olympic records will show, there are physical differences between men and women besides the obvious ones. Heavy lifting, forced marches, hours of hand-to-hand combat – evolution has dictated that men have a natural advantage in many of these activities, due to a different (though hardly superior) physique.
So it’s no wonder some of the brass high up in the man’s world of the military opposed allowing women into combat for nearly 250 years – until this week, actually. Not only did it not seem desirable to women, women seemed undesirable for it.
That thinking has changed in part because other nations led the way.
Though history is full of examples of women warriors, the first modern example that comes to my mind is the Soviet army during World War II. Soviet women were some of the best snipers for the Red Army, and they played a key role during their defensive period of the war, from 1941 to 1943.
Israel is another well-known example of a strong mixed-gender military. Women serve alongside men in combat, and the Israeli army remains a force feared by every country that shares a border with the tiny desert nation.
With history and international experience indicating that women can be just as effective in combat as men, the question becomes “why shouldn’t women serve on the front lines?”
I can’t really think of a good reason.
Neither can Washington, apparently. After Leon Panetta declared that the Pentagon would remove its ban on women in combat this Thursday, no one cried foul. Aside from a few unimportant people who whined that the military was undertaking a “social experiment” in an hour of “national peril,” by Friday morning everyone seemed on board with the idea.
The beltway support for Panetta’s move matches the beliefs of most voters. According to a poll conducted by Gallup, 74% of adults want women serving alongside men. The idea has had majority support since at least 1992.
Americans, then, are united in agreement – allowing women in combat is a no-brainer.