All quiet on the equality front

by Carly Loman / Beacon Staff • February 6, 2013

Tedesco opinion
Gender equality on the battle field.
Gender equality on the battle field.

If it thinks like a soldier, acts like a soldier, and fights like a soldier then it’s probably a soldier. Y chromosome or not, those capable of combat duties should be allowed to fight. 

However, it wasn’t until Jan. 24 that U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the Pentagon would lift its ban on women serving in combat roles. The decision was supported unanimously by military service chiefs. The change happened easily compared to how hotly debated the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was over a year ago. 

President Obama said about the change, “Earlier today, I called Secretary of Defense Panetta to express my strong support for this decision, which will strengthen our military, enhance our readiness, and be another step toward fulfilling our nation’s founding ideals of fairness and equality.”

Strengthening our military and enhancing our readiness are good things, but I wish to focus on the other, less tangible benefit of allowing women into combat roles — becoming a more fair and equal nation.

There is still a disparity between wages paid to women compared to men. Women are still significantly underrepresented in Congress — and that’s just institutionalized sexism. The cat-calling, boob-staring, and judgment-making are all rampant as well. Part of the reason for the latter could very well be the former. The government as a body forms some semblance of a moral compass. If the government continues to practice sexism, the masses will continue to follow that compass — one that is pointing in the complete wrong direction. 

And that’s why allowing women to serve in combat roles is such a positive thing: It sets a precedent that says women can do whatever men can. The decision empowers women interested in the military to seek out whichever roles they wish to fill and know that they will be judged based on their ability, not their sex. 

But also, outside of the military, the change reflects a more advanced way of thinking — one that doesn’t perpetuate the idea that women are unable to get a little dirt under their nails. Young girls should grow up seeing women in camouflage uniforms. It is yet another aspiration that can empower women to see their opportunities as boundless.

Still, the decision wasn’t met with unanimous support. Last summer, an anonymous online questionnaire was completed by over 50,000 Marines. The survey results list many reasons why some still believe women should not be allowed to serve in combat positions. Among the arguments are possible fraternization, preferential treatment, and that women are limited by such things as pregnancy and “personal issues.” Reads like a list of excuses to me, but perhaps the military will need to make some changes to ensure that women are treated equally and protected. In which case I say those are changes worth making and steps worth taking. 

We are far from equality, but that a decision like this was made by such a male-dominated organization as the military is a promising indicator that we, as a country, are working towards becoming a more fair nation. 

Here’s to more size 6 combat boots