The Cat Fight Over Women in Combat

Of the several victories women have won in this country since enfranchisement in 1920, the least liberating of them is having mothers of small children being blown to pieces in frontline combat.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has given military branches until January 2016 to deliberate over allowing women to serve in combat roles. The Obama Pentagon intends to lift the barriers restricting women from serving in such positions.

Progressives hoping to see the change happen have yet to show the country what this would do for either women or the military. So far the leading selling point is this: now they can be men.

Much of the left’s position on the issue focuses on the misguided notion that women can do the job as well as men. This is quite a statement, primarily because everyone knows it’s false. To clear things up right out of the box: no, this isn’t to say that women “can’t” fight, or that that they don’t want to. It isn’t to say that women shouldn’t be able to serve their country through military service, or that many haven’t already done so. I’m only saying that the citizenry has certain moral and strategic incentives to keep women out of military combat. Lastly, I’m not operating under the false notion that military service only requires physical strength, but that it requires a lot of it.

The addition of women into job fields tailored to be filled by strong men (I have a problem labeling military service in this way for the reason that it’s not just another job) has already shown to be a bad idea.

Case in point: Brian Nichols, who was the defendant in a rape case in 2005, wrestled a gun from a female deputy in an Atlanta court house. Nichols then went on a rampage shooting and killing four people. To pretend that the same would have happened to a male deputy misses the point. It’s no question that a female officer (probably six inches to a foot shorter and much lighter than her male counterpart) doesn’t offer the same amount of protection against a 200 pound man.

But just to illustrate the point, after Nichols escaped the court house and led police on a manhunt, Maj. Skip Platt described how, being surrounded by male police in an apartment, Nichols gave up “without a struggle.”

Would male officers have handled the situation better if any portion of their squad were female? Does it need to be tested?

In instances where men attest that every ounce of their body strength was needed to complete a mission, it’s nonsensical to say that there’s an interest important enough to justify adding women to the mix. Think of the EP-3 spy plane that was shot down over China in 2001. The crew of 24, including three women, was piloted by a 220 pound Lieutenant who just barely managed to safely land the damaged aircraft, using brute strength to keep it leveled. What about the male firemen who died on September 11 using every last bit of strength to carry the wounded out of the towers?

Will American warriors have an easier time carrying their wounded off the battlefield knowing that they’re sufficiently gender-diverse? These are questions that need to be faced realistically.

Kingsly Browne, professor of law at Michigan’s Wayne State University, offers some work on how the biological (not social) differences between men and women account for why women shouldn’t be introduced into combat roles.

“The reason men don’t like women comrades in dangerous situations is they don’t trust them when the shooting starts,” Browne says, “and that is probably because women don’t possess whatever cues evoke trust in men… Men don’t say, ‘This is a person I would follow through the gates of hell.’ Men aren’t hard-wired to follow women into danger.”

Further, men and women react differently to pressures. When’s the last time you saw a woman scared of being called a wimp or coward for refusing to participate in some physically arduous endeavor like attempting to open a pickle jar?

Browne notes that “[w]omen are suffering post-traumatic stress disorder at higher rates than men. We know that women in general feel more negative emotional consequences from physical aggression.” This sheds light on another aspect of the issue. Many women aren’t ready to give up their role in society.

NewKeithFierroIcon-285x300 (1)Women aren’t expected to be men. Many women still value “being a lady” just as many men value “being a man.” Unlike the biological factors mentioned above, these social factors are just as important in society. To institutionalize women in frontline combat would change this dynamic. I wouldn’t put it past the American public to second guess a world where little Johnny needs to get used to worrying about his mother being taken captive or killed by enemy combatants while fighting alongside men.

We have the luxury of a civilian control of the military. This should mean that common sense will trump weightless calls for equality in all areas of life regardless of the effect.

Keith Fierro | Cal State Fullerton | @KJFierro

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13 Responses

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  1. Leti
    Mar 14, 2013 - 07:28 PM

    Why is it men that always think it’s okay to decide what is best for us women? I just want a fair shot at doing what I love. If I don’t pass the test, then I won’t make it, regardless if I’m male or female. Don’t agree with my ambition? Fine, that’s your opinion, but excuse me, Mr. Keith Fierro, just get out of my way while I live my life the way is best for ME, not your mother/wife/girlfriend/sister. It’s MY choice. MY life. Not yours. That’s all women want: a choice. Take it or leave it. Tons of guys don’t make it into special ops, but no one says, you failed because you’re a guy. Most women haven’t even tried, and naysayers are already saying you’re gonna fail. Ask Ronda Rousey what she thinks. Don’t know who she is. Look her up.

    • RVH
      Mar 29, 2013 - 02:34 AM

      The thing is, it’s our lives too. The dynamics of a unit are very important, especially in combat situations, and throwing a female in the mix can only make things worse.

  2. Jack Penland
    Jan 26, 2013 - 12:25 AM

    I have the advantage of some of the other commentators, in that I am a veteran. I was an MP back in the dark ages of the Seventies. I’d like to tell you a true story about AIT, (Advanced Individual Training). My Training Company consisted of 296 me and 8 women. Toward the end of the training, we were required to make a 17 mile forced march with full field gear, which included weapons, ammo, web gear and rucksack. Total weight about 80 pounds, most of which was in the rucksack. All 296 men completed the march. Not a single female soldier was able to, in spite of the fact that they were not even required to carry the rucksacks which comprised most of the load. This march was performed in a pouring rain for most of the route, i.e., REAL LIFE, not some theoretical construction. While women do make good pilots, the vast majority are unsuited for Combat Arms due to their lack of physical strength. Not all women, but most. How long before political pressure forces more lowering of standards? Meanwhile, our enemies do not chafe under such restrictions. Should I get into the inevitable “sexual harassment” type complaints which will soon be filed by the truckload, requiring further “modification” of standards which will directly affect a unit’s combat readiness? Bear in mind, it seems to me that the most outspoken proponents of women in combat are are people who are mighty damn unlikely to see any of it, even when those advocates are in the Military.

    • Sarge
      Jan 29, 2013 - 08:30 PM

      Bingo! Well said.

    • JezabelleDisreali
      Mar 06, 2013 - 05:31 PM

      Even if most women are “unsuited” for combat, is it really fair to deny those who are the chance to fight and die for the country they believe in?

  3. d4j
    Jan 25, 2013 - 07:05 PM

    “Men are not hard-wired to follow women into danger.” Have you not heard of Joan of Arc?

    • *enchante*
      Jan 29, 2013 - 02:54 AM

      YES… and have you heard about DEBORAH the only female judge in ancient Israel who was a warrior? Thats not the point. Men know INSTINCTIVELY they have to protect women and children, or else he is a cad. Womens bodies are more complex, she also has a short amount of time to get pregnant when many men could get someone pg in their 50s. Women also could have no more than 1~3 kids at a time while one stoopid human male could have as many as 30? Men tend to tune women out, no matter how loud she barks orders~men will also rry to protect women. And both could get killed in process

  4. John Schreiber
    Jan 25, 2013 - 06:27 PM

    Excellent Article. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  5. Trilby
    Jan 25, 2013 - 05:37 PM

    This post seems operate under the assumption that every single man is physically stronger than every single woman. If that’s not true, which it isn’t, the logic in this post needs to reconsidered.

    If you think the ability to serve in combat (or serve as a police officer) is most importantly about physical strength, then who should fight wouldn’t be a question of gender but of strength. If a women can meet the strength requirements needed for the position, she passes, and if a man can’t, he won’t.

    But physical strength is not the only factor needed to serve in combat. Studies showed that only 15-20% of men in WWII actually fired their weapons in battle, even when ordered to do so. Those might be physically strong guys, but if they were up against an equal battalion of trained women, 95% of whom were actually firing their weapons, I’d put my money on the women. Physical strength matters, but other things in combat matter too.

    But I think you just have a generally patronizing attitude toward women and you don’t really care about combat readiness or ability, you just don’t like the idea of another aspect of male privilege being diminished.

    • *enchante*
      Jan 29, 2013 - 02:44 AM

      This is just SILLY. yes there were women in WW2 like the WACS and WAVES. Some even flew: BUT THEY WERE NOT among the men in foxholes. Besides we also have a menstral cycle men dont have. Changing tampons and firing guns dont mix. We women would actually like to be ladies, sometimes the daughters of radical feminists are totally the opposite and would love to wear dresses, etc. I actually love seeing men in uniform and it doubles as formal attire when couples marry. Most female soldiers like to marry in a wedding dress. I remember when they started to put down the role of housewife and mother(late 60s early 70s. I heardr was involved in some of this so men could start to be irresponsible). This, IMO could be one of the reasons many people under 40 dont seem anchored and go on antidepressants~no mom in the home. I had a grandma who designed dresses from home and sold them. She could have started a business but became ill….its also a SUPER PRIVILEGE TO HAVE A MAN CARE FOR YOU..let THEM FIGHT FOR YOU if need be

      • smr2419
        Feb 02, 2013 - 02:28 AM

        Been in the military for 10 years now. I’m a female. “Changing tampons and firing guns dont mix.” Ma’am. I can guarantee you—they do.

      • JezabelleDisreali
        Mar 06, 2013 - 05:30 PM

        That was brilliantly put.


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