Women in Combat: Are We Selling Our Male Troops Short?

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.

Women in Combat: Are We Selling Male Troops Short?
First Lt. Christel Sacco, executive officer of Company B, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment, at Fort Jackson, S.C., is training to earn her Ranger tab. Photo Credit: Army.mil

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.

Related: Women in Combat – Fact or Fiction

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?

Sexual Assault

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?

Women In Combat: Are We Selling Our Male Troops Short?

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.

Now it’s your turn. What do you think about women serving in combat positions or in the special forces? 

5 COMMENTS

  1. Well written. I also agree with the idea that we are short-changing our men by immediately reverting to the excuse that the ban shouldn’t be lifted due to a possible increase in sexual assault. As a woman in the military, I can tell you that the threat of assault will always be there, whether in a combat situation or not. The threat is also true for other males, so should be create isolated combat positions to keep the men safe from the men? Of course not.

    • Thank you, Amiyrah! I think it’s so misleading to say that we’ve dropped the ban on women in combat…surely women have been there from the start, regardless of whether or not they’re “officially” considered as such.

  2. A really excellent post. I’ll be interested to see what changes get made to physical standards as well.

    I can’t wait till our society gets to the day where if you’re able and willing to do a job, you’re allowed to without all the overgeneralized “group A can’t do this” and “group B is naturally better at it!”.

  3. […] there is a growing population of male milspouses. Chalk it up to the increasing opportunities for women in the military, the acceptance of LBGT families and service members in the Armed Forces and changing gender roles […]

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