While researching America’s establishment and history through the patriotic glory of the Revolutionary War and also the founding fathers discussing the liberty of our nation, one distinct piece that is noticeably missing from all the research is women. There is no doubt that women played a very important and crucial role in the birth of American nation, but to say the least those roles are left in the shadow. To name a few, Molly Pitcher carrying water to the thirsty soldiers on the battlefield, or even Betsy Ross sewing up America’s national flag, or even uncounted cases of nurses sticking their fingers in soldiers’ gunshot wounds in order to stop and reduce the blood flow.
Women have made great strides in the society through the history receiving more and more rights and appreciation by government and society. Further more, their roles and responsibilities in the nation’s military have grown in leaps and bounds as well. In today’s world, women enjoy the opportunity to obtain more than initial auxiliary roles they had to include taking up the roles of highly trained and recognized fighters in the nation (“Women in the U.S. Army”, 2012). Women veterans of America has documented the fact that women today compose over 15 percent of military forces on active duty, and in total there are more than 1.2 million female American veterans. Furthermore, there are more than 50 memorials to female veterans in the U.S. VA national churchyards. The list goes on to show that the women in the military are finally getting the recognition that they always deserved for all their help and the crucial role they play in America’s defense.
However, earning the military spot or even getting the opportunity to serve the military has not been easy for women, as there are numerous challenges that are unique for the women in the military. Having this in mind, I set my essay to research the perspective of whether military women are treated differently from their male counterparts, and whether they face any major challenges because of their gender, and, if so, are they discriminated. This is one of the major issues not only in the nation’s military, but also in most countries that have armed forces (“Our Nation’s Servicewomen: History and Challenges”, 2010). Therefore, I have placed my paper in different section, where the first aspect will be looking at the brief introduction on how women came to serve in the modern military and then I will analyze both aspect of why women have a hard time serving in the military and explore the perspective of why women should not be treated differently from their male counterparts in the military.
Historical Context of Women in the Military
Women have served in the United States Army from as early as 1775, but their roles didn’t include fighting on the battlefield. Instead, it was nursing the ill and wounded solders, laundering and mending clothing, and cooking for the camp troops. Their solder services were not possible until the 20th century (“Women in the U.S. Army”, 2012). This is also corroborated with Women Veterans of America,which explains that the idea of women in the military was not possible in the early 19th century as most women were left to do the auxiliary roles in the military. However, the situation changed in the 20th century when the Army and Navy Nurse Corps were established. It gave women an opportunity to join the military (White, 32). Whereas men in the military received elite education in most of the military service academies spread across the country, women were not even allowed to enter the campus as military students. This changed in 1976, when West Point, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and also the U.S. Naval Academy started admitting women. In the 1990’s, the female roles were noticeably diversified. However, this still implied that they are not included in the main sphere of the military life.
Women have always been needed in the military at least in some capacity, but after the World War II need in them was limited by assuming that women’s military presence was temporary and allowed only in cases of emergency. This basically confined women to feminine jobs, and restrictions based on gender were still present. Most press outlets presented the military women and brought out the debates regarding their purpose to the public. The outlets merely dealt with trivialities, and objectification of women was central and a source of gender jokes. This had blinded the achievements and contributions that women have made, and also led to the unfair limitation on their participation in the military and also their military benefits (Simon, 9).
Some of the two major areas that are controversial that makes people feel that women should be treated differently includes physical, mental, and moral capabilities.
The most common physically demanding tasks in the U.S. Army are lifting and carrying in a sense of load carriage. In the combat zone, it is expected the solider will perform activities that include lifting artillery shells to carrying supplies from the trucks. Traditionally, most people assume it is a strictly male job as sometimes the weight carried can be as heavy as 50 kilograms per single trip, but in reality the task is not limited to men alone, as women can perform the same tasks if they undergo the same conditioning and endurance training. Furthermore, others will argue that when women are in the field, they should be placed on a women-only unit, or even men should only be in a unit comprising of men alone. Harman and Frykman disagree and, instead, demand women to be treated just like men. Furthermore, Harman says that one doesn't need testosterone to get strong. This is what they concluded after putting 41 women in the military through a rigorous exercise regiment and after a certain period of exercising, 75 percent of women were able to do the same menial work that men in the military performed despite the fact that some women had recently given birth to several children. This actually proves that it is a myth that a woman cannot perform the same menial work with a man. Therefore, women in the military should be given the same type of responsibility as men if women get a chance to undergo the same training as men without any bias.
Most people tend to believe that women have no mental and moral, or even physical capability to be in a combat situation. It is a bias to judge them as a weaker sex; therefore, they will not handle the battlefield in a sense of thoughtfulness and emotional maturity. Instead, people believe that women do not have the mental capability or even the morality to shoot an enemy (Harman et al, 42). In contrast, the opposite is quite true as women have the same mental strength as men unlike the physical strength, which can vary from person to person. Therefore, it is prudent to allow women, if they are up to task, to perform the same tasks in the combat together with men, as they are trained to obtain the same skills and understand the same concepts. Furthermore, the aspect of women being a distraction to men is totally false, as women should be treated as equal in rank instead of being sexist and assuming they are objects of desire. Furthermore, White explains that all the soldiers are equal in the combat zone as long as they are trained accordingly, therefore emphasizing that women should be enrolled into the Army and also given the same opportunity in the military.
Although women are very essential and important to the army, with even up to 91 percent of all the Army positions available occupied by women serving, and 15 percent of them in Active Army, they are still forbidden to occupy around 9 percent of the remaining jobs. Also, around 38 percent of job opportunities are closed to them in the Marine Corps. It is agreed that a great progress has been made in gender equality overall, but cases like Navy, for example, exclude women on the ground combat, in SEAL teams, special boat units, and submarine crews. We are quick to forget that women continue to serve a crucial role in their current position and operations, and, also, just like their male counterparts, they sacrifice a lot in this noble career to prove their dedication and willingness to serve the country.