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When we think of combat in the Army today we think of the military man. If today's feminists have any thing to do with it that view will soon be changing. Female soldiers; however, are not so quick to jump on this latest bandwagon for equality.
Many military women are puzzled when they see feminists in the media, who are pushing to open up combat roles to women, because they are unaware of any women who are interested in such roles. These feminist activists accept the policy for men as the standard and seek to apply that policy to women. Thus the support making women eligible for the draft and assigning them to combat arms even on a non-voluntary basis when necessary. Military women, however, tend to fell that compulsory service for women is regressive, and instead believe that serving in the military and in a combat role should be voluntary for both men and women. When asked to choose between the status quo and a compulsory policy, most female soldiers support a policy matching Army needs with the women's choices, skills and abilities(1). This is the basic formula used to assign men to occupational specialties.
The gap between American mainstream feminism and many of the women who serve in the armed forces may have emerged in part from their separate, although at time intersecting, historical background.
Women gained political visibility in the United States in the early 1800's. Upper class white women lobbied to increase their educationl opportunities at the college lever; a more varied group joined forces to fight slavery and establish anti lynching laws. The first wave of feminism built on this activism as women organized under the unifying banner of female suffrage (Anderson 1993). Part of the rationale that women offered for extending the vote to their gender rested on women's presumed moral superiority to men and the civilian influence of their participation the state: "World peace, social harmony and the well-being of humanity will only exist when women get the vote and are able to help men make the laws"(Wishmia 1991).
The media has portrayed the debate on women in combat depicts women soldiers as a monolithic group fighting for rights that men would rather continue to deny them; however, as a United States Army Veteran I hardly agree. Enlisted women and women of color particularly are likely to oppose assigning women to combat military occupational specialties (MOSs).
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In conclusion, whether women would be able to volunteer for such roles or would be compelled to fill them, many military women do not believe they could successfully perform ground combat roles because of the physical limitations they already confront on their current jobs.
Anderson, Margaret L. Thinking about Women: Socioligical Perspectives on Sex and Gender. New York: 1993.
Wishmia, Judith. Pacifism and Feminism in Historical Perspective. New York:1991.
Segal, Mady wechsler. Female Soldiers: Combatants or Noncombatants? ed. By Nancy Loring Goldman. Greenwood Press: 1982.