Friday, January 15, 2016

Women At War

Back in December last year the US Army made the historical announcement that women would be free to join the military in ANY role, finally opening up the army to both genders equally. Whatever your opinions on the role of the military, this was a huge step forward for American women as it showed them that their government thought them capable of handling such jobs which are typically seen as very macho.

And why shouldn't they be? After all, gender equality means inclusiveness for everyone in all aspects of life.

US Defence Secretary Ash Carter has warned that we will not see an instant increase of women in the forces, but that it will be a trickle effect. He said that there are "physical differences on average" between men and women and that "thus far, we've only seen small numbers of women qualify to meet our high physical standards" for some units.

The physical differences between men and women is one of the main arguments against this decision. Obviously biology and studies have shown that men are built differently, and on average are physically stronger than women. However with the right training women can reach the same level of fitness as most men, just look at female athletes and bodybuilders! It simply depends on the commitment of the individual person. In addition, physical fitness is not the only part of being a soldier, although being a huge part of it. The scenes that soldiers have to witness during their service are often harsh and unimaginable, and it takes a particular type of person to be able to deal with that. The bravery of soldiers is celebrated worldwide, but you often hear of shocking cases of post-traumatic stress syndrome when they return home form combat. Marine Sgt. Maj. Justin Lehew, an Iraq war veteran, puts it best by saying that "When it comes down to it, I would much rather fight alongside a female warrior than a male coward any day of the week."

Many other countries rely heavily on female soldiers, including Eritrea where women make up 30% of the military, and The Gambia where women can volunteer for any role including combat. 

The US Army is currently voluntary, no-one is forced to join up - they do so of their own free will. However the country still has in place a draft system which can be put in place if the USA is engaged in major warfare and requires more soldiers. Between their 18th and 26th birthdays, American men have to sign up with the Selective Service System (SSS) so that if that situation arises then civilians can be called up for service, which was what happened during the First and Second World Wars. This system has yet to be put in place for women, which raises the question: Is the US Army fully equal? If women are allowed to sign up for service, then surely they should be treated equally to men when it comes to being obliged to sign up for national service in warfare situations? This seems like gender inequality in a reverse form to what we are used to! If we want true equality, we need to take the bad aspects along with the good.

In the past women have taken more active roles during wartime, a famous example being the land girls of the United Kingdom during World War, who stepped up whilst their fathers, husbands, brothers and sons were away fighting. 

They took their jobs in factories, farming and every other walk of life in order to keep the country running. However this did not involve any active warfare. In the UK today women almost have equal rights as men in the army, with the only jobs still closed of to them being the Household Cavalry, Royal Armoured Corps and Infantry. They are able to lead soldiers into combat and receive the same promotional opportunities as their male counterparts. 

War is a heated subject and adding gender equality to the mix is going to cause disagreements within these institutions that have long been male dominated. However in our opinion, if women meet the requirements for jobs and can prove that they will not be a danger to their fellow soldiers, there should be no barriers to stop them advancing to the highest positions in the military.

We'd love to hear your opinions on this, so feel free to comment below with your thoughts. Should women be allowed in the army? Should drafting be applied to both genders? Are there any other jobs where gender based selection should apply?
Alysha Bennett Web Developer

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