Give Women a Chance at the Front Lines

JUDITH GHOUGASSIAN
El Vaquero Staff Writer

For two years, I wanted nothing more than to be given the opportunity to be in the United States Marine Corps. After months of research and countless hours of time spent with recruiters, rigorous workout sessions, and memorization of Marine Corps terminology, I decided not to join for personal reasons. Should that give people the right to discriminate against my sex?

It’s not enough that by law women are restricted to fight in front-line combat, but they are not even granted the respect that they deserve as soldiers, and as human beings. Where is the recognition for the women who fight for our country?

Recently, the undying love that I have for the military and soldiers who are fighting for our country was put into another perspective by a Marine Corps recruiter who, in a conversation about why I did not join, proceeded to tell me, “I don’t put women in the Marines.” He added mockingly, “don’t worry, I’m not trying to recruit you.”

Prior to this comment, he mentioned that he has heard many women say they were at one point going to join the Corps, but when it came down to doing the task, they changed their minds. Thus implying that women are not confident enough about their decisions to join the military.
From the start of our conversation, this recruiter made me feel as if he was looking down on me, not only because I happened to be a woman in a skirt, who might have looked too “feminine” to be a soldier, but also because to him, I was a clear example of what he was trying to prove: women are not cut out to be Marines. ?

It’s people like this who make me want to join the corps, fight in combat and show society that women are just as capable as men.

If I were to say that women are not given opportunities to succeed in the military, I would be lying. Women are given the chance to join the armed forces, provided with similar physical training as men, and are able to choose from various MOS’s (Military Occupational Specialties).

Big deal. You can call me a feminist, but just because we are thrown these opportunities, does not mean that we are treated equally.

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There still lies some underlying evidence that men are perceived as being the ideal sex; that they are physically and mentally cut out to be in the military, causing women to earn less credit for the same amount of courage that they bring as soldiers. Women do not receive this credit, and will not do so until society stops trying to shelter them.

With this in mind, it is argued that women do not have the physical strength or endurance to face front-line combat, along with the excuses that it may be too dangerous to put women in the position of becoming prisoners of war. It is also said that if women were to join men side by side in combat, the chances of rape and sexual assault would increase. Right, lets not disrupt the esprit de corps by bringing women into combat…

When discussing the role of women in the military, lets not fail to remember Joan of Arc, who in 1429 led French troops into battle against the English, or the hundreds of women who disguised themselves as men in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars just to fight in combat. What about the women fighting for our country in Iraq as we speak?

Although federal law still bans women from front-line combat, some say that the chaotic nature in Iraq crosses the boundaries of war, not only putting men and women, but even children at risk. This goes to show that the role of women in combat has already changed, whether we like it or not.

So far, both women and men in the armed forces are required to take physical fitness tests based on their age and gender, and there are no such tests present that measure the physical skills needed for a particular MOS.

According to an article written by John Diedrich of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, by April, 19 women soldiers had died in Iraq, which is far more than in any conflict since World War II. How can we say that women are not equally capable to physically bear the dangers of combat, when we have clear examples like Pvt. Jessica Lynch of the United States Army? Most of us know by now that Lynch was attacked, raped and taken hostage by Iraqi troops on March 23, just outside of Nasiriya, but fought to survive the fierce ambush. Members of her 507th Maintenance Company were captured and killed, which included two other women.

Although 90 percent of the military jobs are open to women, infantry, armor, special operations and most artillery units still remain closed. If women are being ambushed and dying for our country, one would think that they would gain equal amount of respect and rights.

According to Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness and a former adviser to President George W. Bush, the risk of sexual assault is what necessitates the prohibition against women in combat. Although rape should never be tolerated, whether it happens to a woman soldier, or civilian, the fact remains that women in the military are three times as likely to be raped than women who do not serve in the military. However, some may argue that women going into the military are obviously aware of the many risks that may constitute the armed forces.

Martha Ackmann, a professor in a women’s studies program at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., says that, “the threat of sexual assault diminishes every woman’s life, whether she is on the battlefield in Iraq or jogging through Central Park. But attempting to curtail rape by restricting women from professional opportunities in the military is a little like forbidding women from going outside their homes to make sure they won’t be attacked.” ?

Ackmann adds that, “it is not much of a leap from asserting that women should not be in threatening military jobs to claiming that women should not be war photographers, for example, or astronauts.” ?

It’s one thing to be aware of the consequences of combat, and another when you are denied your individual rights. Under recent law, women in the military are denied the right to use their own funds to obtain abortion services in military facilities overseas. These women are out there fighting for our country, and we deny them their right to choose?

Why? If the United States is to remain the world’s strongest military power, we need to provide both men and women with their equal rights. The same respect and opportunities given to a male should be granted to those women who are fighting for us.