When we shared the news about the end of the ban on Women in Combat on our Facebook page, in true NextGen MilSpouse style, you had a lot to say about it.
Some of you shouted your support, while others remained skeptical about how opening up combat roles to women would play out in real world situations. A recurring concern many of you expressed is that women might not be well-suited to combat roles in the military, which begged me to ask you the question, what makes men more suited to the task?
By arguing that women are physically weaker, prone to emotional reactions and natural targets of unwanted sexual advances, what does that say about how we view our male troops?
Men vs. Women: Body Composition
We can’t argue the fact that women and men have unique body composition. Science says it all. Men have greater muscle mass; women carry more body fat. But interestingly enough, men and women share similar levels of muscular endurance, meaning that when women put their bodies to the test, they can go as long (if not longer, some studies suggest) as their male counterparts.
One of the very relevant points of concern with the end of the ban on women in combat is that physical standards may have lower standards for women, or be lowered for all troops to accommodate female combat troops, which goes against the spirit of equitable treatment. Although no decisions physical requirements have been made, the chatter is leaning toward universal standards for all.
For our male troops, we know that body type differs, person-to-person. Not all men are combat troops, nor will we expect that all women will seek out combat roles. However, those men and women who do, will be the best of the best, no doubt in our mind.
Keeping Emotions in Check
When we say that women are so emotional, are we really saying that men are not? Or are we reflecting a societal role that we’ve placed on women and men?
The idea that women can’t handle combat because of their inability to control their emotions isn’t really doing any favors for our men. Are our male combat troops lacking emotion or are they trained, from very young to divorce themselves from emotion? And how does that effect our male troops likeliness to seek out resources to deal with their emotions following traumatic experiences that occur in battle? Does that impact their decision to seek or not seek assistance when dealing with PTSD?
The idea that allowing women in combat roles will inevitably result in an increase of sexual assault and violence says more about how we view men in our society than anything else. First of all, there is already an overwhelming amount of sexual assault occurring in our military, not to mention in our country. But the messages being sent about why there is sexual assault is one that begs me to ask, who are we victimizing?
My thoughts? We’re victimizing men.
When we say that women shouldn’t be in combat because of the threat of unwanted sexual advances, what we are really saying is that men are incapable of self-control. That they are mindless, impulsive individuals who are not only incapable of emotion, but are ruthless killers and, at their core, potential rapists.
When we tell women to guard themselves against rape because men are impulsive, we’re tell men, “Hey, guys, you’re impulsive and there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s just the way you are.” Is that what we really think about men? Really? What impact do you think that has when addressing the staggering number sexual assault cases?
Don’t Shortchange Our Men
Regardless of where you stand on the women in combat issue, we have to all be mindful of what we’re implying when we say women are this and men are that. And women have already been in (and died in) combat, even if they haven’t had the “official” combat role. Our male troops are highly trained professionals, capable of facing any challenge that comes their way. Let’s not shortchange our men, please.