The history of humankind has always been followed with wars. Various military conflicts seem to follow social, economic and cultural changes all throughout the world. If we look at the gender aspect of all military forces of all times, we are about to see that men have been dominating as a combat force in every army. Being stronger and enduring men combatants were outclassing women in sword fights and archery, which had earned them a reputation of good war fighters for centuries. But times gradually changed and military technologies made it possible to kill soldiers of any opposing force on different ranges simply by firing a trigger. The latter led to the fact that the demands for women in terms of physical conditioning seem are revised from time to time by different social groups, from politicians to members of the armed forces. But while the supporters of these initiatives prepare ground for approving them on the legal basis others hold different opinion on this question, supporting it with different arguments.
Nowadays the question of lifting the ban from women service in combat forces raises a lot of controversy in the US. In general, women are capable of serving in the army, but the restrictions on the combat forces serving should be preserved. The arguments presented below are explaining why women have to be banned from serving in combat.
In order to get acquainted with the issue we should consider the background of the reasons of legislating women in combat in the US. The vivid examples of women at service were WWI and WWII, where numerous women were serving as nurses, engineers, clerks and even pilots. But the phenomenon of women at military service had significant restriction on their participation as a combat force. Only in late 70’s the difference in the demands for men and women at service was abolished, and the soldiers of both genders faced with completely similar requirements at military service. But the gained equality for women and men had nothing similar in real combat situations, because women were prohibited from combat contacts. The issue was officially stopped in 90’s, when the Department of Defense banned women from serving in combat forces on a legal basis. But that was not for long, as in 2013 the secretary of Defense removed the prohibition on letting women serve in combat. The procedure is being implemented now and is said to be completed in 2016. As Lerman explains, the Army sees it as an opportunity to make itself stronger: “The ban removal is about to unlock as many as 237,000 positions to women at service” (Lerman). The initiators of the procedure are greatly excited on the subject, but the major part of the country opposes the perspectives of letting women fight at battlegrounds.
Their arguments are sound as they are based on physical, psychological and moral basis.
First, those who oppose the possibility for women to serve in combat forces, name the differences in terms of physical condition of women and men. The advances of modern military technology made it possible for soldiers not to wear heavy plated full body armor protecting from swords and spears. But with all latest technology the weight of ammunition of a modern soldier can reach 80-90 pounds. And having a long term marathon, being fully equipped, for several days with the shortage of water and food seems to be easier for men than women. The answer for the reasons of such situations lies in the sphere of physiology, ss Parker explains it: “males have the benefit of being boosted up on testosterone, the hormone that boosts not only sexual libido but aggression.” (Parker). Thus, higher level of testosterone leading to objective reasons of having more strength, more endurance, stronger bones and muscles have been an attribute of male soldiers for centuries. Even after special trainings average female soldier is weaker in this sense than average male soldier. The latter means male Special Forces and infantry are more efficient in combat than women. This statement was approved by the study in 2013, when equal quantity of men and women were to take a test in terms of physical capabilities. According to the results 1,2% percent of men and 21,3 per cent of women failed it. The conclusions of the experiment, as explained by Unruh, were dissatisfying for women as their score discredited the belief any woman can be equal to man in combat: “Reliance on unrealistic scenarios of well performing women would impose heavy pressure on females and put all soldiers at greater hazard” (Unruh). His opinion is worth to consider, because as long as a battle unit consisting of men is outperforming the one consisting of women, women will never be a part of combat forces.
Second, the psychological basis of the problem has a lot of aspects such as possible moral damage caused by the realities of a battleground, potential threats of interrelations between men and women soldiers, and the attitude of opposing forces to a female military hostage, aggravated by possible cases of sexual harassment. In particular, specialists fear that being emotionally dependent, women might be tortured by the terrible memories of combat situations more than men. As Bell shares the experience of his friends at war: “War is hell. Heads are blown off; arms and legs are maimed; suffering is so intolerable it affects men for years. …Do we want females to suffer from it either?” (Bell). That is why soldiers, who had the experience of direct contact with opposing forces, are not going to agree on letting women in combat in any case. Another psychological issue that prevents women from serving in combat is not the physical strength, but the strength of feelings. Soldiers of different gender may easily get attached to each other, but any romantic relations can decrease the performance of a battle unit significantly. In many cases any battle situation might turn out to be not completing a battle task, but protecting a woman soldier. Boykin has dwelled upon this issue and his studies show that combat commanders are greatly concerned of being distressed by the attempts of maintaining sexual tensions in the forces rather than on concentrating on life-threatening danger and defeating an enemy (Boykin). And this has rational sense because armed forces tend to be a kind of male subculture. Women interference in many cases can be the reason for the subculture to modify, which is going to take many years. These facts tend us to consider male battle unit to be more efficient than mixed gender battle unit. Better efficiency on the battleground means more saved lives and achievement of combat tasks.
Despite all the mentioned facts there is still an initiative group of people that are willing to change the situation and allow women to serve in combat. On the basis of the scholary source we see that Wilson gives numerous examples of women, serving in the US Navy and Air Force starting from 1940’s. Thus, he is completely assured that women should serve: “Gender is no longer accepted as a barrier to a woman’s use of her God-given talents in whatever way she chooses” (Wilson). His weakest point in this sense is that it is not enough to have a will or talent to serve. For example even some men are not allowed to serve because of their failure of meeting physical and psychological demands the Army has. Still, more people from the Army wish women could serve in combat on par with men. Leon Panetta, US Secretary of Defense and the initiator of a ban removal is sure that it would lead the way for more talented people in the forces (Harris). He is completely confident that increasing the role of women at service would strengthen the armed forces. The only thing that is not sounded by him is that women are at military service already. It is enough for women to be military clerks, engineers, nurses, test pilots and so on. Let them do what they can do properly is better, than sending them in conditions where they are a weak force. As for the nature of the initiative groups, they are mainly feministic. What is aggravating the situation is that while shouting about equality of rights to serve in equal conditions they forget that men and women have completely different physiological condition. Scientific researches, studied by Kirkwood, came to the conclusion that the anabolic effect of testosterone make men at least 30% stronger than women, providing basis for coping with heavy manual work, improving endurance, supporting faster and bigger muscle gain and increasing skeleton strength (Kirkwood). This is a grave reason that influence in-combat efficiency. This state of things cannot be changed by the implementation of the law. Some representatives of this group claim that there are cases when women pass all military physical tests with equal to men’s results.
But they are not paying attention to the fact that the quantity of succeeding women in this case is so small that it can easily be ignored. That is why we consider the position of people supporting women in combat vague and unrealistic.
From presented facts we can clearly come to the conclusion that woman do not belong in combat due to a number of reasons, supported by sound arguments and proved by experiments and statistics. From the one hand, women possess weaker physical characteristics than men, which automatically make them a weak link of the combat unit. A different way of considering this issue is the number of psychological issues arising from mixed gender battle units. Among them are possible affection between men and women in forces, obstacles in terms of coping with battle tasks, difficulties in unit management and sexual harassment issues.
Everything listed above should be recognized as potential weakness of a combat unit. As any weakness can easily be turned against the unit by its enemy, it is of vital importance not to allow undermining its defense and combating capabilities. The latter means not allowing women to join Special Forces and combat units.