America\'s military

For decades, America’s military, and it’s citizens, have been grappling
with a very important decision: should women be allowed to serve in combat? This
issue has been in the media since I was in elementary school, and so far there
is no end in sight. Although there are many advocators for allowing women to
fight in the military conflicts, such as liberal feminists and equal rights
activists, there is a great number of people, including military and government
figureheads, who strongly disagree. Which leads me to ask the question, “what’s
the big deal?” Why is it that there is such controversy about this topic? The
pro- arguments are pretty straight-forward, mostly stemming from equal rights
for women. But what I want to learn is what is the underlying basis for peoples
desire to keep women out of combat? They have to have more legitimate reasons
than just being chauvinistic. In this paper, I will use government documents,
independent studies, as well as media articles to explore the reasons that women
should not be allowed on the front lines, as well as why they should.





One of the strongest arguments against allowing women in combat is physical
inadequacies. Antagonists argue that women are not physically qualified to serve
in combat situations. In her article, “Sex and the Soldier”, Stephanie
Gutmann claims that,

The female soldier is on average, about 5 inches shorter than the male
soldier, has half the upper-body strenght, lower aerobic capacity, and 37% less
muscle mass. She cannot pee standing up... She tends to get pregnant.

Whereas these are all facts, do they really impact a woman’t ability to
perform routine military duties? There is proof that they do not. In the Israeli
army, women are “perfectly capable of handling a tank... many are better shots
than men, and others are certainly more courageous” (Newsweek, 72). I find it
difficult to believe that all men who enlist in the armed forces have the
required strengh when they first enlist. Gaining the necessary strenght is part
of training. If men can achieve the strength through training, then so can
women.

There is also the inevitable issue of menstruation and pregnancy. A retired
Special Forces colonel stated that, “most females just aren’t physically
prepared to live in the woods the way we do; they can’t shower; they’ve got
female problems every month” (ORBIS, 453). Although going through menstruation
without showering can be



uncomfortable, it is by no means unbearable. And women who are willing to
fight in combat are probably prepared for those aspects. But what about
pregnancy? Undoubtedly, this is an important issue. During U.S. deployment in
Bosnia, starting in December 1995 and ending in July 1996, 118 women soldiers
had to be sent back to the U.S. due to pregnancies. Furthermore, during
pregnancy, “a woman must be exempted progressively from routine duties”
(Human Life Review, 37). Problems such as these affect the unit from which the
soldier was removed, because they operate as a team, each member being integral
to the whole. The apparent solution to this is just to not get pregnant, but as
many know, this is easier said than done. In this case, the military could help
prevent pregnancies by standardly issuing various methods of birth control to
its soldiers, both male and female.

Perhaps the greatest argument against allowing women in combat is the ensuing
effect of military cohesion. Cohesion is defined as

Shared committment among members to achieving a goal that requires the
collective efforts of the group. A group with high task cohesion is composed of
members who share a common goal and who are motivated to coordinate their
efforts as a team to achieve the goal. (MacCoun, 291)

The military aims for moderate cohesion, because high cohesion can promote
prioritization of friendships and social activities over military

responsibility. Many people believe that allowing women in combat is
detrimental to the ideal level of cohesion, threatening to raise it, therefore
downgrading military readiness. Placing male and female soldiers together in
mixed units inevitably presents sexual attraction. Wether or not these
attractions are acted upon does not change the fact that cohesion is altered.
“...sexual competition would wreck comradeship and discipline” (ORBIS, 452).
However, in a study by the National Defense Research Institute, Margaret C.
Harrell reports that, “our overall research findings are that gender
differences alone did not appear to erode cohesion” (Harrell, 54).
Furthermore, interviewed units felt that their coworkers were professional
people whom they trusted.

From the research I have performed, I have learned a lot about why people
believe that women should not serve in combat. The second half of this