Women in Combat? And Why We Care: Xena, Warrior Princess

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Xena” is a pseudonym.

DISCLAIMER – Nothing written is any sort of official opinion from the military, from anyone in the military, and should not be taken as such. I understand that there’s very strong opinions about war, especially since 9-11, and I’m not trying to open that can of worms in this paticular post.

This is a Homeschooling blog, so why talk about women in combat? It’s been a significant portion of my post-homeschooling life and gender identity, and I wanted to share a bit of that with you today.

So, what’s the link to homeschooling?

This is an issue for homeschool alumni because homeschooling leaders – particularly Mike Farris of HSLDA – consistently advocate against women serving at all. This is blatant sexism and essentially strips women of rights if these leaders had their way. (It’s interesting to note that they’ve also condemned current military policy of allowing Gays and Lesbians to serve openly, as if a homeschooling dad somehow understands military dynamics better than our own Generals.)

Growing up, I was told that military service was a noble profession for boys, but that it wasn’t appropriate for women. I wanted so badly to be a boy – not because I wanted to transition, but because I wanted to do things that boys could do. Every time I was told that something “wasn’t lady-like” or reminded that an activity wasn’t appropriate to do in a skirt, a part of my life’s drive died. I remember going to a military funeral at the age of 14 and being very moved and inspired – but I knew that military service just wasn’t an option because I was born a girl. On the drive home, my mother flat-out told me that she would never support me joining the military. Well, she managed to keep her word, and 12 years later still can’t accept what I do for a living.

When I first met with a recruiter, I mainly wanted to take the ASVAB just for fun and to get an idea of what kind of *civilian* career I might be inclined towards. Once my scores came back and I began to understand the opportunities available within the military, I started seriously considering it. I struggled with a lot of guilt, though. Even at the age of 18, fully living on my own, I couldn’t shake the notion that women shouldn’t be allowed to join. It’s taken years to conquer the mentality that my genitals should somehow determine my career – or parent intended lack thereof.

Patriarchy as a Foundation

The 1980-2000 version of Christian Patriarchy includes an odd romanticized view of the “olden times.” We seem to forget that life in the 1800’s wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Women didn’t have the right to vote, the right to own property, or to hold a job. Those who were able to hold employment outside of the home were forced to turn their wages over to their husbands. Clothing was large and awkward, social expectations severely limited what a woman could or could not do, and women were often victims of domestic violence. Anyone who wasn’t white was considered 3/5th of a person, too, so discrimination wasn’t just against genders. It’s as if the Christians Homeschooling movement has forgotten how bad things were and view the past in a nostalgic manner. I could go on, but this isn’t the blog post to discuss Patriarchy in detail, just keep it in mind while reading on.

Historical gender roles

The human race has been about the survival of the species. Mankind spent most of his or her day doing what we needed to do to continue life – food needed to be grown/gathered/killed. Shelter needed to be built and maintained. Clothing needed to be fashioned in some way. Children needed to be born, nurtured, and raised. Mankind created a social structure to help accomplish these things in the most efficient way possible, and that involved dividing up tasks based on who was best suited to do different things. Women didn’t work more or less, they worked differently while bearing children. Carrying a newborn child into battle just wasn’t practical or beneficial to the army, and there wasn’t anyone else besides the mother to take care of the child.

Today, it’s a completely different story. With the exception of a few fringe households, the majority of first-world families enjoy a comparability luxurious life. Clothing is bought, not made. Food can be obtained in a ready-to-eat format from the local grocery store. Even the most dedicated of housewives relies on multiple tools and gadgets to keep the house together. We’re not scrubbing clothing in a creek or sleeping on dirt floors.

Technology has changed the face of human life. Anyone – given the right equipment and weather – can be anywhere in the world within 72 hours. Men have walked on the moon, conjoined twins can be separated and live full lives, and food is grown largely by machines rather than by hand. The logistical and practical reasons for the female gender to stay home are gone, just as the reasons for males to hand-make spearheads are also gone.

Women in the military

Today, only about 28-30% of America’s age-eligible population is even qualified to have a conversation with a military recruiter. Obesity is the single greatest factor, with medical, educational, criminal and personal appearance issues rounding out the top 5. Out of those 30%, only about 1% is even willing to join. Currently, approximately 15% of the entire military force is female, regardless of job or position. Some talking-head wants to tell me that even though I’m part of an elite 0.06% of the US population, I’m somehow not qualified to do my job based on my vagina? I might not be able to best everyone on pushups, but I can strip and reassemble my M-16 or M-4 in 42 seconds flat, program the crap out of a computer system, and am mentally prepared to kiss my 6 month old daughter goodbye next time my phone rings.

What does “Combat Position” really mean?

The term “Combat positions” generally refers to special forces and infantry specialties, normally at a higher risk of actually engaging the enemy. Just because combat positions will be open to women doesn’t mean that they will be required to be filled with women, nor does it mean that women will be excluded. Every person will be given an opportunity to try out, regardless of their male/female gender. Military service is completely voluntary, and even within the military, service with in the special forces is also completely voluntary. SpecOps training is not for the weak, and most men who attempt the courses don’t pass. The Navy SEALs have a 75-80% washout rate, while the Army’s Delta Force school has a 90% washout rate amongst rangers – rangers who have already passed another course with a 50% washout rate. These fail rates capture only those who actually train for and attempt the courses, they don’t factor in those who serve but don’t try out for special forces, or those who don’t serve in the military at all. As we see from these numbers, a job in a “combat position” is exceedingly hard to get, even for males. If anyone – male or female can make it through the training, then they deserve the job. BTW, 2 females have made it through Ranger school, and there’s more in the pipeline.

Combat has also changed significantly over the last few wars. Gone are the days of “front lines” and “behind the lines.” The biggest threats facing America’s service men and women in Afghanistan are IEDs and mortar rounds. Mortars are usually launched into US and NATO basis using rudimentary targeting capabilities, and can hit anything. So called “safe jobs” “inside the wire” are still dangerous. Women are currently filling these rolls, already placing them at the same risk level as anyone else – regardless of gender or nationality – within the war zone. Simply allowing females the chance to train for special forces positions isn’t going to drastically change the dangers that the human race is facing.

The Draft

This topic has once again surfaced in the news as a congressional panel is considering including women in the draft from here on out. The draft is scary – and it should be – regardless of gender. Us ladies can’t have our cake and eat it, too. Either we live in a world where we can’t vote or own property, or we live in a world where we’re given the same rights and responsibilities as the other half of the population. We’ve worked our rear ends off to get to where we’re at now, but somehow want to disregard that because some women think other women shouldn’t serve?

I don’t like the idea of my daughter being drafted. I really don’t. Not because she’s my daughter, rather, but because she’s my child and I don’t like the idea of the draft, period. Currently, our nation’s military is a 100% volunteer force and we’re lucky that it has been since the Vietnam war. If that ever changes, we as a society will have bigger issues to worry about and probably an enemy threatening more than just our armed forces. Even at the height of Iraq and Afghanistan, all 4 branches were able to maintain enlistment/commissioning numbers by offering financial bonuses and other incentives to join. The idea that America will face a situation where we’ve exhausted all forms of recruitment enticement is very rare and would signal a national emergency of which we won’t have time to care who’s fighting.

Your life

The decision to enlist or commission is an insanely important one. Very few career tracks have more potentially drastic implications on one’s life. It’s a decision that should be made by the individual based on what’s best for them, not on some arbitrary archaic ideology. If you’re a female-shaped person and you want to join, by all means, do your research and make your own decision. Don’t let other people’s notions of gender expectations affect what you want to accomplish in life.

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