When I first heard about the most recent development in the United States military, I must say I was a bit alarmed.
Don’t get confused. I’m not saying that the idea of women serving side-by-side with men in combat roles while wearing the military colors of the stars and stripes was surprising or alarming to me. What alarmed me is that in this day and age, it is still an issue.
The news first struck me about a week ago listening to National Public Radio. “Oh,” I thought. “I didn’t know women didn’t serve in combat roles for the U.S.”
The radio program went on for the 10 to 15 minutes that it took for me to make my way from my home to the Rec. There were interviews with former servicewomen, getting their opinions on the matter. There were interviews with psychologists and nutritionists. The list goes on and on.
Some argued that women had unofficially served in combat for a long while. Some argued that allowing women to serve on the front-lines would jeopardize the missions the integrated units were tasked with completing. The reasons varied, as did the mouthpiece for each one.
One said that men would feel sexual tension serving alongside women. Where have you heard that before? Another said that the male soldiers might feel sympathetic to their female counterparts and go against the mission to keep them out of harm. A third discussed the fact that most women aren’t strong enough to drag or carry a fallen ally to safety if needed.
Their arguments held no water for me. Now, I’m not a scientist, and I’m not a psychologist. I do know, though, that saying all women or all men will act or react in a certain way in a certain situation is not good. It is a horrible, destructive way to think about matters as serious as war, and life in general.
I’m going to ruffle some feathers here with this next bit, but no, I do not believe that women are as physically strong as men. I would also say that, as a general rule, women are more sympathetic or emotional than men. Keep in mind this is just statistically speaking (according to the statistics I made up in my head). Maybe a higher number of women would be unable to handle the rigors of war, maybe not. I don’t know.
In reality though, none of that stuff matters. I don’t care what the average man or woman would do in a given situation. When it comes to who is best suited for a job, the decision should be made based on individual merit. That is why this apparently new rule in the military seemed so off and, frankly, unethical to me.
I’m not going to sit here and say that the U.S. military shouldn’t have its own standards and should cater to just anyone. All I’m asking is, why don’t we let the practice of grouping people go by the wayside and just deem people adequate or inadequate based on their own abilities? Not by what they can put into an equation while factoring in what others, who might share certain similar characteristics, have shown in the past.
If an individual can shoot a gun well, write a screenplay well, drive a car well or do any profession under the sun well, then that person should be given an opportunity based on his or her qualifications. It doesn’t matter if even 90 out of 100 female “dreamer G.I. Janes” don’t have the abilities to fight as a soldier, the 10 that do should never have been affected by the attributes of the others.
It is time to stop seeing people as part of a group, even if it means the cute blonde might be pulling you out of a foxhole in the near future.
Nicolas Wahl is a junior in journalism and mass communications. Please send comments to [email protected]