Since this is my general attitude to the problem, I find it very interesting that women in the American military are increasingly doing the same things as men, and facing the same risks, without anyone making much of a fuss over it. The kind of conservatives who go crazy about the minor changes embodied in Obama's health care proposals are mostly silent about women carrying guns and getting killed in combat. Where, I wonder, are the fundamentalists on this one? Aren't female soldiers a bigger violation of Old Testament norms than limits on medical tests?
But the changes go on, and I can't remember the last time I heard an important politician say anything about them. Right now about 1 in 20 of the soldiers in our front-line Iraqi bases is a woman. The attitude of American officers seems to be pretty much my attitude toward the whole problem of breaking down gender barriers, that is, the problems involved are only what would expect from any major organizational change. It probably helps that the female soldiers aren't exactly shrinking violets. From a piece in today's NY Times:
I think the lack of any political opposition to women serving in combat reflects two major changes that have taken place in America. First, the military has become a career path full of specialists, not a trial of manhood for all the males in the population. Second, most Americans have accepted that some women can do almost anything a man can do, and that if women can so something, it is just wrong to keep them from doing it.
Staff Sgt. Patricia F. Bradford, 27, a psychological operations soldier, said that slights, subtle and not, were common, and some were easier to brush off than others. Women are still viewed derisively at times in the confined, occasionally tense space of an outpost like Warhorse.
“You’re a bitch, a slut or a dyke — or you’re married, but even if you’re married, you’re still probably one of the three,” Sergeant Bradford said.
At the same time, she and other female soldiers cope with the slights, showing a disarming brashness.
“I think being a staff sergeant — and a bitch — helps deflect those things,” she added.The issues that arise in having women in combat — harassment, bias, hardship, even sexual relations — are, she and others said, a matter of discipline, maturity and professionalism rather than an argument for separating the sexes.