The question of what greater good results from ending restrictions of women in combat arms units, is one that I used to believe had a simple answer. That answer, for me, was simply yes. I saw the removal of gender restriction as a nod from society that there were no preconceived notions of what was “appropriate” for one sex or the other. I have been revisiting my theory often since the announcement that many gender restrictions would be lifted in the armed forces.
The biggest fear, echoed by all, is that the standards will drop in order for the change to occur. Opponents to the incorporation of women in combat arms argue that if a sort of ‘affirmative action’ is applied to training, it will weaken the effectiveness of our armed forces.
My counterargument to this fear, is that it is part of a larger fear that our army has been lowering standards for a long time. This argument, while seemingly grounded in common sense, is applied in a way that I feel is inappropriate. I do not think that standards should be lowered in general, and I do not think standards should be lowered to allow women in combat arms.
And I have met some begrudging agreement when I offer that opinion. Many have told me they wouldn’t mind women being allowed to try, if it meant the government and army wouldn’t lower standards, but they believe that it is impossible.
I still believe that the symbolic gesture of allowing women to try for all the jobs available in the Army is the most important facet to me in the long run. If no women end up in those jobs for a long time to reflect current ability and desire of the general female population, I am satisfied with that. But as long as there are women who want those jobs, who might have the ability and professionalism, then I am dissatisfied with a blanket statement of “No.” It reinforces the idea that women cannot do things simply because they are women. While I do not think the fate of women’s rights hinges on this decision, I think it is one of the last frontiers where women are banned strictly based on their sex.
As far as my 50 meter target, that is to educate the public and the “knuckledraggers” – an affectionate term for Soldiers who do the brute force jobs in the Army and perhaps have not had to work with women extensively. Educate everyone on the extent to which women have been restricted from opportunities due to the gender ban in combat arms units. Women have been prevented from participating in certain missions, or being considered for even positions in staff or support roles in higher echelons of units determined to be combat oriented. Perhaps when people grasp just how much the Army refused to employ women in certain jobs in the past based on the wording of the gender-restriction, they will understand what a great step in the right direction it is to lower the barrier.
As for the more elite fighting units? Ranger regiment and special forces? They have rightfully requested an extension and exception to the policy for the time being. I believe until we can calm the masses about the general integration of women into regular combat units, there is no need to rush the process. And I believe time will prove my assertions correct.