Prior to attending the Fall Conference the direction of my paper was focused, very broadly, on discrimination against women in the military. However, during the peer discussion group it became clear that narrowing my topic was necessary. I decided focusing on the combat exclusion policy would be much more current.
During the course of my research I was surprised by several facts about women serving in the military and the argument against allowing them to serve in combat. Although I knew women had always played a role in the military, I learned that this involvement was to a much larger extent than I had expected. Through my research I also learned that many of the reasons for keeping women out of combat roles were similar to those used to keep African-American and Homosexuals out of the military. One of the biggest claims was that group dynamics, especially cohesion and male bonding would be affected by integrating women. However, the same was said to be true for African-Americans and Homosexuals. This proved to be a false claim after both groups were fully integrated. People opposed to the combat ban also claimed that being overly cohesive and having too much male bonding could actually be detrimental to the mission. Furthermore, one of the most logical arguments that I came across involved sexual harassment. One opponent to the ban stated that the reason for sexual harassment in the military is because women are not seen as inferior to men. According to this research, if women held the same positions and were expected to perform in the same way as men there would be less inferiority and more respect for women. Therefore men would not think they can take advantage of their female counter parts. Finally, I was surprised to find that most of the material I came across was focused on social issues of allowing women into combat roles. Before I started my research I thought I would find more arguments involving the physicality of women.
This January, I received the most surprising and positive bit of information on this topic. On January 23rd, the Pentagon announced that they would be lifting the ban on women serving in combat. Although I was elated by this news because it is a giant leap forward for women and the possibility of them having successful careers in the military, it also called for the readjustment of my paper. My initial plan was to suggest through my research that the combat ban should be lifted. However, seeing that it already was, I suggested possible ways to successfully integrate women into their new combat roles. For example, equipment should be adjusted to fit a woman’s physique so they can move more easily, and the units should not be segregated to discourage animosity between male and female units.
Although my paper has changed from my original vision, I have truly enjoyed this process and I am looking forward to the Spring Conference!
Victoria Turecamo, Long Island University