Women in Combat Pros and Cons
Pros and Cons of Women in Combat
A number of arguments have been raised in defense of military policy that bans women from combat roles. Below is an overview of, the pros and cons, the key arguments put forth in support and against the enlisting of women soldiers into combat units.
There are female servicemembers who have proven themselves to be physically, mentally, and morally capable of leading and executing combat-type operations; as a result, some of these Marines may feel qualified for the chance of taking on the role. In the end, my main concern is not whether women are capable of conducting combat operations, as we have already proven that we can hold our own in some very difficult combat situations; instead, my main concern is a question of longevity. Can women endure the physical and physiological rigors of sustained combat operations, and are we willing to accept the attrition and medical issues that go along with integration? – Captain Katie Petronio, US Marine Corps, served in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq
Physical Ability. While the majority of jobs in the armed forces are open equally to men and women, there are some to which women are just not physically suited. The standards of physical fitness have been set to suit men, and women attempting to reach them will over-stretch themselves. In addition, combat units engage in activities designed to suit men’s capabilities. Women serving in integrated units will suffer higher injury rates as a result of this.
Efficiency. Some women will be able to meet the required standards, but most will not. While integration of women into combat is possible for those qualified, the small number versus the additional logistical, regulatory and disciplinary costs associated with integration do not make it a worthwhile move.
Morale & Cohesion. Having women serving in direct combat will hamper mission effectiveness by hurting unit morale and cohesion.
Military readiness. Pregnancy can affect the deployability of a unit when the unit has a disproportionate number of women or is understaffed.
Tradition. Men, especially those likely to enlist, maintain traditional gender roles. In some situations, men are may act foolishly to protect women in their combat units. Harassment and resentment of the presence of women in a hyper masculine military subculture would likely become a problem.
Abuse by Enemy. Both male and female prisoners are at risk of torture and rape, but misogynistic societies may be more willing to abuse woman prisoners.
Career advancement. Men and women are both given opportunities to join the army, but with the understanding that different roles require different physical, emotional attributes. This should mean in turn that there are multiple routes to promotion so that women have equal opportunities without having to fight take part in combat operations.
My personal experience has been that the (principles) of leadership and team building apply equally to women as to men. As long as you protect qualification standards and give no impression that anyone is getting a free ride, integration, while not without bumps, will be much less dramatic than people envision. ~Major Eleanor Taylor, Canadian Military and the first woman to lead an infantry company in combat.
Ability vs Gender. As long as an applicant is qualified for a position, one’s gender is arbitrary. It is easy to recruit and deploy women who are in better shape than many men sent into combat. It is possible to calibrate recruitment and training standards to women. Extra pre-training for muscle building can also be used to reduce female injury rates. In modern high technology battlefield technical expertise and decision-making skills are increasingly more valuable than simple brute strength.
Military Readiness. Allowing a mixed gender force keeps the military strong. The all-volunteer forces are severely troubled by falling retention and recruitment rates. Widening the applicant pool for all jobs guarantees more willing recruits. Women, who choose to become active combat soldiers, are unlikely to shirk their duty by becoming pregnant after a call-up as these women have willingly joined the army.
Effectiveness. The blanket restriction for women limits the ability of commanders in theater to pick the most capable person for the job.
Tradition. Training will be required to facilitate the integration of women into combat units. Cultures change over time and the masculine subculture can evolve too. Many previously masculine professions have been successfully opened to women over the past century
Modern warfare and public support. In the modern world of combat (Afghanistan, Iraq), all women serving in the military are exposed to “front-line risks”. Support for women serving in the armed forces has not wavered as warfare has changed, a clear sign that the necessity of women serving in combat is recognized.
Cultural Differences & Demographics. Women are more effective in some circumstances than men. Allowing women to serve doubles the talent pool for delicate and sensitive jobs that require interpersonal skills not every soldier has. Having a wider personnel base allows militaries to have the best and most diplomatic soldiers working to end conflict quickly.
Career advancement. As combat duty is usually regarded as necessary for promotion to senior officer positions, denying female personnel this experience ensures that very few will ever reach the highest reaches of the military and so further entrenches sexism. Women have to be given the same opportunities as men, in the army in order to have the same opportunities they have to be exposed to the same risks.