Thursday, January 31, 2013

Women in Combat Have the Religious Right Acting Combatative

On January 24th, Reuters reported that the Pentagon lifted a ban on women serving in front-line combat positions. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey signed an order rescinding the 1994 Direct Ground Combat Definitions and Assignment Rule, which barred women from small combat units and allowed the military to restrict certain positions to men.

This decision will open new positions and advancement opportunities to female military personnel. Women in the armed services have proven themselves to be skilled, focused, and brave, and it is only fair that the old policy be rescinded. To boot, other modern militaries worldwide allow women to serve in combat roles. While the percentages of females in combat roles vary from country to country, the fact remains that women honorably and effectively serve in combat postions across the globe.

One could argue that the old ban on women in combat was not only unfair, but outdated. Before the ban was lifted, female soldiers were already exposed to combat situations because of the changing nature of warfare. For instance, according to a 2011 Pew Research report on women in the military, 24% of post-1990 female veterans had combat exposure. To ban women from combat when many find combat thrust upon them during deployment seems absurd.

The Religious Right seems oblivious to these facts, with several right-wing figures expressing everything from disapproval to outrage over the policy chance. Despite female soldiers' many contributions to the military, some right-wing voices are uncomfortable with women in combat. For example, in a January 24th state, CWA president Penny Nance accused the Obama Administration of ignoring issues that women care about. Nance suggested that allowing women to serve in combat constituted "social experimentation" that could impair combat readiness. (See www[dot]cwfa[dot]org/content.asp?id=21856)
"News of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's intent to lift the long-standing ban on women serving in direct combat is further proof that this administration simply does not care about the issues about which the majority of women care. Once again, their interest on women issues is driven by special interest groups. The point of the military is to protect our country. Anything that distracts from that is detrimental. Our military cannot continue to choose social experimentation and political correctness over combat readiness. While this decision is not unexpected from this administration, it is still disappointing. Concerned Women for America (CWA) and its more than half-a-million members around the country will continue to do all we can to see that our men and women in uniform are governed with the respect and resources needed to do the hard task of fighting for and protecting our freedoms."
In a January 29th commentary at the Washington Times, Family Research Council vice president Jerry Boykin acknowledged that female servicemembers have already found themselves in combat because of the changing nature of warfare. He noted that female soldiers have fought bravely, as the number of women injured in combat clearly demonstrates. However, he argued that mixing of the sexes would not be appropriate for all military units. The reason? Privacy for hygiene and bodily functions.
"Some units, like infantry, Special Forces, SEALs and others, are not suitable for combining men and women. It has nothing to do with the courage or even capabilities of women. It is all about two things: the burden on small unit leaders, and the lack of privacy in these units ... Leaders of these units must be focused like a laser on keeping their soldiers alive and defeating the enemy. It is unreasonable to encumber them with the additional burden of worrying about how they provide privacy for the few women under their command during stressful and very dangerous operations. It is not the same as being a combat pilot who returns to an operating base or an aircraft carrier after the fight, where separate facilities are available."
Next, former Congressman Allen West tweeted his disapproval of women in combat, calling it "Another misconceived lib vision of fairness and equality." (Hat tip to Politico. See mobile[dot]twitter[dot]com/AllenWest/status/294440396925329410) On Facebook, West lambasted the decision as potentially harmful to the U.S. military. (See www[dot]facebook[dot]com/ElectAllenWest/posts/10151677536876729)
"Unless the Obama administration has not noticed we are fighting against a brutal enemy and now is not the time to play a social experiment with our ground combat forces. President Obama, as Commander-in-Chief, should be focused on sequestration and the failure of his policies in the Middle East. This is the misconceived liberal progressive vision of fairness and equality which could potentially lead to the demise of our military."
Finally, in a January 25th column at Blog & Mablog, Christian author Douglas Wilson called the new policy an "abomination" and a "monstrosity". Wilson argued that women in combat (and therefore, combat uniform) violate a passage in Deuteronomy banning people from wearing the apparel of the opposite sex. In other words, Wilson argues that combat uniforms are men's apparel because combat is allegedly a male activity. The idea that women have been involved in modern militaries for decades, as well as warfare in various ancient cultures, escapes him. (Hat tip to Love, Joy, Feminism. See www[dot]dougwils[dot]com/Sex-and-Culture/is-your-god-scary.html)
"[Deuteronomy 22:5] is a prohibition for cross-dressing when it comes to men. But the restriction placed on women here is not simply the reverse of that. When a man is getting kinky in the way described here, it is a straightforward transvesite problem. But going the other way, we should notice a different problem. Notice the odd construction -- "that which pertains to a man." The Hebrew underneath is keli geber, and should be read as the "gear of a warrior." Whether we are talking about a man in fishnet stockings, or a woman decked out in full battle regalia, we need to recognize that God finds it loathsome. So should we."
Wilson also resorts to essentialist arguments against women in combat. He insists that because women are created to give life, it is inappropriate for them to kill like men. "Women were created and exquisitely fashioned by God to be life-imparters, and so they must not be transformed into death-dealers," he writes.

Finally, Wilson urges Christian fathers to prevent their daughters from being "seduced" into military life. The idea that a woman might have the autonomy to make career decisions for herself, or that women have identities beyond that of daughter, is conveniently ignored.
"... [T]his egalitarian move, putting women into combat roles as standard operating procedure, is an abomination. We believe further that Christian fathers have a moral and biblical obligation to prevent their daughters from being seduced, such that they sign up for such a thing voluntarily, or coerced, such that they have no option. Both her family and her communion must stand against this terrible thing."
Wake up, right-wingers! Women's role in society has evolved, and women in combat serve as another example of that evolution. Women assuming more roles in society is not "social experimentation", "political correctness", or "loathsome" -- it's a sign that women are making progress in an otherwise male-dominated institution. As usual, the Religious Right watches in horror as the world around them evolves.

To read additional commentary, visit the following links.

Right Wing Watch: Perkins Warns Allowing Women In Combat Will Lead to Reinstatement of the Draft

Love, Joy, Feminism: The Biblical Case against Women in Combat?

Buzzfeed: 13 Countries That Already Allow Women in Combat


  1. Oh my gosh, they even threw in the cross dressing argument. I'm surprised there wasn't an analogy about a ditzy girl putting on her mascara while she drives the tank.

    1. Donna -- If these are the best arguments they can put forth, I'm not impressed. If they're going to oppose something, they can at least put forth semi-coherent arguments.

  2. Well, within a decade, they'll realize that they were (again) on the wrong side of history.

    Sometimes I wonder what world people like that live in, because it rarely comes close to the real one.

    1. Wise Fool -- They live in their own bubble, which rarely resembles reality. I've concluded that from all their odd comments about gays, gender, evolution, abortion, church-state separation, etc., etc.


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