Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Women in Combat

by Madeleine Kando

"The Army is the supreme symbol of duty, and as long as women are not equal to men in performing this duty, they have not yet obtained true equality. If the daughters of Israel are absent from the army, then the character of the Yishuv (Jewish community in Israel) will be distorted." David Ben Gurion

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has decided to lift a ban that prohibited women from serving in combat units. I have never served in the military and wonder if I have a right to voice my opinion on this matter, but my instinct tells me that this decision is of historical importance.

Fighting hand to hand, which combat units are designed to do, should be the least desirable job for any soldier, male or female. That's where the killing occurs. But it is also given the highest respect, both in the military and amongst civilians. And more importantly, it is a stepping stone to advancing your career. If women are denied combat experience, they will also be denied opportunities to climb up the military ladder.

One of the reasons history books are populated by men rather than women is because women didn't take part in the fighting. Glory, fame and admiration went to the winner of a battle. There are exceptions, of course. The Amazons, a race of female warriors, have survived oblivion through Greek mythology and the Valkyries, female Viking warriors are celebrated in Norse mythology. There is a question whether the Amazons and the Valkyries really existed, but almost half of the bodies found in 14 Viking burial grounds belonged to women, and some were buried with the swords and shields they presumably used in life. And of course there is good old Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans who defeated the English in the Hundred Years' War. She definitely was flesh and blood. She was burnt at the stake for her valiant effort to save France.
A lot of people have voiced strong objections against women joining combat units. Part of the objections are supposedly to 'protect' the female population and part of it is to protect the 'military standard'. There is a fear that the fairer sex, because of their supposedly inferior strength, will compromise this standard. But women are already engaged in combat. On today's battlefield there are no front lines and every unit has the potential to engage with the enemy.

Men and women differ from each other in peace, so it should come as no surprise that they’ll likely differ in combat, as well. Males are more aggressive, which can be beneficial in combat, but they are also more prone to accidents and injuries. A recent IDF report found that female combatants maintained alertness better, were more knowledgeable and professional when using their weapons, and had better shooting abilities than men.

Being able to do 100 pushups shouldn't constitute being a better soldier. Hasn't anyone noticed that separate standards are a way of life in the rest of the world?

Female soldiers are first soldiers and then females. A fire fighter, a doctor, a ballet dancer, they can all be females, but they are firefighters, doctors and dancers first. If a woman is brave enough, strong enough and altruistic enough to risk her own life for her country, she should be allowed to do so. She will adapt to combat, I am sure of it. leave comment here