Annie, Drop Your Gun!

As the war in Iraq continues, abatement of the violence does not seem on the horizon. Oddly enough, while the US struggles to enlist soldiers to replenish the ranks, Capitol Hill Republicans are yet again making moves to reverse the direction of women’s rights as they reopen the debate of women in combat. In the recent defense authorization bill the house slid an amendment in that would ban women from both combat and combat support units.

While the left has outspokenly opposed many of the decisions that led up to and accumulated with regards to our actions in the middle east, especially Iraq, this new angle by conservatives to diminish the roles women have in in the military is an attack that can’t be overlooked.

Some interesting quotes have surfaced with regards to this issue from the would-be saviors of the delicate female soldiers. Representative Duncan Hunter of California (R), tells us that “It’s time for Congress to step in, provide some stability to the situation and draw a line of demarcation and ensure that women do not go into direct ground combat.”

Interestingly enough, this attempt is being met with a rather cold reception from the upper officials in the military itself, according to the Washington Post:

Army leaders strongly criticized the legislation in letters to Congress yesterday, saying women are performing “magnificently” in a wide range of units, working where battlefields have no clear front lines.

“The proposed amendment will cause confusion in the ranks, and will send the wrong signal to the brave young men and women fighting the Global War on Terrorism,” Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army’s vice chief of staff, wrote in a letter delivered to the House yesterday. “This is not the time to create such confusion.”

He said that the Army is in “strict and full compliance with Department of Defense policies regarding women in combat,” but that it continues to “study” the role of women in light of an ongoing reorganization of Army units and the complex, changing nature of warfare. Cody wrote that Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, concurred with the letter, an identical version of which was sent to the House by Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey.

While the attempt in and of itself is an affront to the courageous women whom have served through out the Iraq War, all hope may not be lost according to MSNBC:

There are about 9,000 U.S. Army women in Iraq. Banning them from combat support units could further stress the Army, already stretched thin in Iraq.

“27 percent of the Army’s people are women right now, and it would devastate the Army,” says Capt. Lori Manning, retired from the Navy and now director of the Women in the Military Project.

Despite the debate, Pentagon officials are confident Congress will leave the current policy as is … and U.S. military women on the front lines.

More on the subject:
BBC: US Mulls Ban on Women In Combat

This entry posted in Feminism, sexism, etc. Bookmark the permalink. 

119 Responses to Annie, Drop Your Gun!

  1. 101
    Q Grrl says:

    I do find it curious that Robert now claims we’re not adults while at the same time not wanting women to fight in combat (which as you’ve so aptly pointed out Ginmar would make us truly full citizens).

    The only good woman in Robert’s universe is an infantalized woman? Oh, wait, no…. I got it wrong. The only good MAN in Robert’s universe is one who is willing to infantalize women. Perhaps that’s the first qualification for unit cohesion?

    BTW, do you think men used to think that enfranchisement was a social experiment? That women voting might fuck up the cohesion of the government? or property rights?

    and what would that link be between women’s short lived access to property rights and denial of combat service? Hmmmm.

  2. 102
    jstevenson says:

    “How come it’s always a social experiment when it’s women’s rights?” For the record — I am not saying it is a social experiment, I just don’t want it to be. I want women to be able to compete equally with the equal sacrafices and “benefits” (benefits in quotes because there are none — the benefit to get killed maybe). The social experiment comes in when you look at the Army and Navy training (I know you are in the Army, but hear me out). The Army and Navy “gender norm” their training. This puts women at a disadvantage from their male counterparts. Then when they have to compete on equal basis they are not even up to the basic standard. Not because they cannot do it, but because they have been trained to a lower standard. This is crap.

    If you are sitting there bleeding it does not matter if you are a man or a woman. If I have to get my 200lbs over the wall, it does not matter if that person under me is a man or a woman. All that matters is that he or she can hoist me over the wall.

    Sorry for — attributing the wrong quote to you.

  3. 103
    ginmar says:

    Yeah, it’s kind of an interesting intersection there, isn’t it?

    It’s intesting how even women in combat turns out to be all about men, if not those poor guys in the miltary whose feelings are stomped on, but by others whose feelings also get stomped by women who feel that they should be able to live without consulting a committee of men. I can’t imagine why consulting a committe is a bad idea, do you?

    You know, every now and then it’s a smack in the face to realize that for a lot of men, women really don’t exist. It’s like they expect us to disappear magically when they cease to acknowledge us or something.

  4. 104
    Q Grrl says:

    Yeah, and those same men who don’t want us in all the various boy’s clubs feel rejected when we create women-only space. Go figure.

  5. 105
    Pseudo-Adrienne says:

    Ginmar said…

    Betcha five bucks we’re facing a retread of the dreaded civility issue, plus a few more rounds of the ‘feelings’ debate. Funny, feelings never comes up unless it’s in discussion of this kind of subject.

    Yep. Because if you aren’t “ladylike” and do everything in your power to not threaten the male ego and his sense of being correct, more logical, or more rational, then you’re uncivil, you’re not an adult, blah, blah, bullshit. And the “feelings” issue only comes up when the guys’ feelings are hurt (because we didn’t agree with them or weren’t “civil” enough to their liking), and clearly their feelings can be hurt very easily, more so than women’s. Sorry to get off track, but it had to be said. Anyway continue…

  6. 106
    noodles says:

    What’s this allusion to the IDF that Robert keeps making? Women do serve in the Israeli military in combat positions. If the IDF has been made “less effective” as a result, well, to put euphemistically, the Palestinians sure haven’t noticed… They must have kept this weakening disruptive effect on the army of women in combat a close guarded secret indeed.

    Here, for the lazy:
    Men serve three years in the IDF, as do the women in combat positions, while women in non-combat positions serve two. The IDF requires women who volunteer for combat positions to serve for three years because combat soldiers must undergo a lengthy period of training, and it is in the interests of the IDF to get as much use of that training as possible.
    Female soldiers are supposed to be trained and responsible for the same duties as their male counterparts. Those recruited for combat units have to serve for 30 months instead of the current mandatory period for women of 21 months.

    And, please pay attention to this quote:
    The Army is the supreme symbol of duty, and as long as women are not equal to men in performing this duty, they have not yet obtained true equality.

    The person who said that was none other than David Ben-Gurion.

    (How’s that for “ask an Israeli”?)

  7. 107
    ginmar says:

    J., gender norming is on its way out, so I assume that too will be the fate of your argument as well.

    You know, Pseudo-Adrienne, one thing I noticed about this type of thing is that I don’t think the guys who whine so much are really kidding about how mean and cruel and evil they think we’re being. It’s just that men deal with a culture that was designed by men for men to puff men up and make them feel great about themselves, and the slightest bit of unpleasantness feels like sandpaper and salt on what feels like to them open wounds.

    I had a discussion on domestic violence on my blog recently, and I had to notice that the men all talked about emotional abuse. The women talked about physical abuse or emotional abuse that led to it. It felt really weird comparing and contrasting the two, yet it has to be noted.

    The fact, of course, that guys might be being honest about it, however, in a debate like this is no excuse for not listening, though. I’m sick of this particular tactic, especially since as Q grrl noted, the guys who pull this crap are very likely the ones who have no interest in womens’ feelings at all otherwise.

  8. 108
    ginmar says:

    Dammit, I keep forgetting stuff.

    Pseudo-Adrienne, how about the constant requests for women to be patient, to be more polite, to be wittier, funnier, quicker—-if we just hit some mythical standard, that men will grant us equality, but only if we don’t offend them and piss them off. It’s all our failure if we don’t succeed, because men are just so fair and logical that they would give us our rights if only we demonstrated our worthiness.

  9. 109
    jstevenson says:

    “yeah, those silly civilians. with their sensibilities and social experiments” Q’Grrl
    ” grrl, you’re missing the part where the speaker kind of assumes that women can’t be warriers, and that civilians can’t be warriers.” Ginmar

    For some reason you two think that I am against women serving fully in the military. Nowhere did this speaker assume that women can’t be warriors. You forget my wife is one of the few . . . As for social experiments it is not the women being in combat roles that is the social experiment it is the rules and regulations that “civilians” impose on the military to put them there. Women need to be able to compete equally. Right now the system is set up like it is for blacks getting into college. Let’s give them substandard training and substandard expectations and wonder why they are having a difficult time competing.

  10. 110
    ginmar says:

    Except you didn’t read my post carefully. Gender norming is on its way out.

  11. 111
    jstevenson says:

    J., gender norming is on its way out, so I assume that too will be the fate of your argument as well.

    We must have cross-posted, I did not see your post.

    “that too will be the fate of your argument as well.” What argument, that qualified women can and should serve in combat roles? Or is it my argument that women should serve equally with the same benefits and sacrafices? I hope that neither of those arguments face the fate of gender norming (if the Army and Navy are going to get rid of it).

    I am confused?!? I thought you wanted women to serve in combat roles.

  12. 112
    Kim (basement variety!) says:

    Yeah, that would be fine if we were talking about a baseball game. But we’re talking about the defense of our nation.

    We’re not talking about the defense of our nation, we’re talking directly about the offense of our nation. The Iraq invasion was an offensive, not a defensive. Saddam did not invade the US, and Saddam was not responsible for 9/11. He was an evil man, that’s certain, but lets not give misplaced ‘urgency’ to a situation that we created of our own accord.

    Secondly, Robert, you have taken two points here and used them at whim interchangeably to defend your point. The first was ‘I’m just being pragmatic about it and willing to appease the administration’ (note I state administration because the only word we have from the Military at this point is their own disapproval of this bologne. Secondly, you have then brought up the ‘I feel sad when women die, more than I feel sad when men die’. The first option, while not noble at all, is an intellectual stance. The second is straight up emotionalism and hypocritical. It’s a worthless argument coming from a soldier, and even more worthless from a civilian.

    I also think it’s unfair of you to expect people to not be offended at blatantly sexist and belittling arguments with kindness and charity. It’s easy for you to be analytical and distant, however, you’re addressing people whom’s lives are DIRECTLY AFFECTED by these decisions.

  13. 113
    ginmar says:

    You’re arguing that gender norming hurts women because it keeps them at a lower standard. Do you feel such concern for the people in the military who also face lowered standards due to recognition of basic biology? It’s funny, nobody ever complains about the reduced standards for older service members. Only the standards for women are a concern. Why is that? If it’s okay to recognize that age has an effect on the male body, yet does not render it unfit for combat or respect, how come it’s suddenly terribly important that women might be shortchanged when they face the same thing? All this talk about lowered standards, J, and you never once mentioned that gender norming is not the only norming going on.

    Actually, from my experience as a defense lawyer it has been both men and women who lack the discipline.

    You bring up your position as a defense lawyer in practically every comment.We’re not discussing defense and it has no relevance here.

    The problem is mostly maturity and nature. These problems that we are dealing with, for instance prostitution on Navy ships, in a combat zone, in Kuwait, etc. Jilted lovers blowing each other up with hand granades, etc. Have all contributed to the lessening of unit effectiveness. It is the lack of discipline of ALL military members. Additionally, these problems exist with our homosexual brothers in arms also. They are just not as widely acknowleged as opposite sex cases that decrease unit effectiveness.

    Yep, it’s not the majority group that’s the problem, oh no—it’s all service members. Um, yeah, that’s quite ambitious of female service members. It’s interesting in your list of problems, you never once talk about sexual harassment, rape, or sexism, just all that ‘equal’ stuff, in a group where powerful majority is male.

    I am all for qualified women in combat (I am actually married to one). However, it cannot be a social experiment and “feelings”? have gotta f’off. Warriors must live and fight as warriors and the institution cannot be changed to accomodate civilian sensibilities.

    Gee, are you married to a woman? Really? Do you have black friends too?

    You’re trying to have it both ways. You want to equalize fault between the genders and somehow I don’t think you’re talking about Robert’s feelings when you sneer at the concept.

    Civilian sensibilites, huh? Why do I get the feeling that this is just an excuse for “War is hell, you can’t expect men to have any time for those stupid female feelings.”

    Male feelings, though—we have to accomodate those.

    If I hear how you’re a defense lawyer and/or married to a female vet yet again, I will scream. Try talking about something that’s relevant to the issue, like how you managed to avoid mentioning sexual harassment or sexism at all, but managed to act like men are women are equal problems when their numbers are not.

  14. 114
    jstevenson says:


    Sexual harassment and rape are major problems we are facing. In my little sphere of the world we prosecute them vigoriously (usually a bad conduct discharge and minimum of one year in jail for the drunken — he said, she said date rape. Well over ten years for aggravated date rape — she was passed out, clearly said NO/STOP, or senior-subordinate sexharass-rape). I did not mention those because I have work and did not state the obvious. How would you have reacted if I said “another negative aspect of combined units, is increased incidents of rape and sexual harassment?” Please, you have gotta be kidding me.

    Those items I listed were regards to the oft forgotten concept of sexual relationships which cause an undue burden on unit cohesiveness. Those relationships take two people. Of course, crimes also pose an undue burden on unit effectiveness, but I was not talking about criminal acts. Drug use, barracks thieves also put an undue burden on effectiveness. We have rules regarding fraternization, but not dating. Dating takes two people unlike criminal acts, which usually take one person.

    As for age norming, I don’t have a problem with equalization of genders under the current age normative factors. In the Marine Corps everyone has to meet the same standards to pass the PFT regardless of your age. If you have lower standards in other services to pass at various ages then that is wrong also.

    A 40 year old 1st Sergeant is going to have to storm the beach with his 18 year old troops. He or she will also have a higher standard to meet because he has to be better than his 18 year old Marines. That is a leadership requirement not a physical one.

  15. 115
    Jenny says:


    The military leaders (who have had experience serving with and leading women) are the ones telling Congress “Stop with the de-integration already. Women are doing their jobs just fine, thank you very much – and where the hell do you plan to get replacements anyway”

    And newly recruited “white servicepeople” didn’t have any personal experience with regard to whether or not black soldiers were “up for the job” or not, and they were the ones whose military experience was the most integrated.

    So, I don’t really see you point.

    Besides, I wasn’t talking about just gender. That conversation from The West Wing was about gays in military, not women in combat.

    An imposition of women-in-combat soldiers would probably not work out as easily as integration did.

    But we aren’t just talking about “imposing” women in combat are we? We are also talking about rolling back the existing system. Congress is trying to take women out of positions that they have held for years now. That is de-integration, not opposition to integration.

  16. 116
    ginmar says:

    J, when you use passive voice to discuss sexual harassment, yes indeed I DO have a problem with it. It’s not an increased incidence of sexual harassment that’s the problem; it’s men harassing women. I’ve yet to talk to a woman from Iraq who didn’t get harassed or attacked. using passive voice relegates sexual assault to something like the weather, something passive and elemental and without agency.

    Also? I don’t give a shit about consensual relationships. With so many sexual assaults by men in the military going unpunished, I don’t have that luxury.

  17. 117
    jstevenson says:


    What can I say? You will find any reason to disagree with me. Even when I agree with you. I am sorry if I offended you by using the passive voice. It was inadvertant. I am truly sorry if something happened to you or your friends. If you are in the Marine Corps please send me an email and I will make sure that it is investigated.

    Semper Fi.

    Please don’t take that the wrong way either. I am being as sincere as is possible.

  18. 118
    Jenny says:


    I don’t know about ginmar, but I’m not too thrilled when people use the passive voice when discussing things like sexism and discrimination because the conversation always at least implies the question of who is responsible, and to what extent, and using the passive voice suggests a lack of agency, and therefore responsibility. (That said, I’ve probably been guilty of it as well since I’m really bad about using the passive voice.)

    But, then, my big pet peeve is when people use “male” and “female” when “man” or “woman” would have worked as well or better, and when people incorrectly use “man” or “woman” as an adjective. It’s as if everyone else are simply strange creatures that the speaker is observing rather than people as well.

  19. 119
    ginmar says:

    Using passive voice and equalization to discuss non-equal situations are ways of denying men the agency—-the responsibility—-for the acts they consciously commit. When someone well-educated does so repeatedly, I have to wonder and doubt.