Despite the “Ban”, I’m a Woman and I Served in Combat

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About xoJane, Jane Pratt's lifestyle site for women, is not about changing yourself to fit any mold of what others think you should be. It is about celebrating who you are. Like Sassy and Jane before it, is written by a group of women (and some token males) with strong voices, identities and opinions, many in direct opposition to each other, who are living what they are writing about.


  1. wellokaythen says:

    Excellent point about women already being in combat situations.

    The elite special operations units actually should be LESS hyper-masculine in their outlook instead of more hyper-masculine compared to more regular units. Their operations are supposed to require more subtlety, more flexible thinking, less adherence to strict formal rules, less uniformity of dress and behavior, more thinking outside the box, etc., so being extra bound up in strict gender roles seems counter-productive, just from a tactical standpoint.

    Being locked into traditional gender roles creates strategic and tactical weaknesses that an enemy can exploit. Machismo creates blind spots that an intelligent enemy can take advantage of. (Fortunately, the Taliban have an even bigger blind spot in this regard.) Too much loyalty to established gender roles can actually hamper preparedness, not increase it. Underestimating the fighting ability of women creates unnecessary weakness. The security forces at the Tel Aviv airport have learned the hard way not to underestimate the commitment of women to risk their lives for a cause.

    • Wellok,

      You’re devious, but not devious enough. It goes both ways. The “machismo,” as you call it, may actually be a cover story. The enemy thinks we are more sexist than we really are, which gives us the element of surprise. The official story is that we don’t send women into combat, so the enemy fails to notice when we secretly infiltrate women into their territory anyway. They think we’re too sexist to do anything like that, which is precisely why we can get away with it.

      Think about it. I’m sure there’s someone at the Pentagon thinking about it this way as we speak. Here’s what you do.

      As head of Special Operations you make an official public announcement to the entire world that you do not use women in any combat operations whatsoever. You get an official exemption for your organization. There’s some public outcry, some hearings, people all over the world take note of this policy, the policy stands for a while, and in the meantime you secretly recruit women into Special Operations anyway. You can use people that the whole world is convinced you would never use. This creates all sorts of opportunities. If a woman SEAL is captured in northern Pakistan and accused of being a SEAL, the Navy has plausible deniability. How could she be a SEAL when women aren’t even allowed to join the SEALS? Clearly America’s enemies are lying — those Pakistani Taliban are obviously getting desperate with their propaganda.

      The word “special” in the U.S. military is a codeword which means “I can’t tell you what I do, so don’t ask. It’s better for everyone if you don’t know.” The more “elite” or “special” the units, the more secrecy surrounds them, and the greater gap there tends to be between what the military says it does and what it actually does.

      It’s so quaint, kind of sweet and scary, really, that the public takes the military at its word when it says it assigns roles to some people and not others. When the military acts sexist, everyone assumes that it’s sincere in its sexism. That’s the best kind of cover, the most believable kind! What’s most amazing is how many people in the military believe what the Pentagon says about what it does. The more elite the unit, the more the unit is like an espionage team, and the distinction between soldier and spy really starts to break down. You have to remember that at the elite level there are cover stories, legends, etc. that are there to help operations.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if in the most secret ops the military has already been using women operatives for years without telling anyone. The CIA has already started doing this, quietly using women in very dangerous operations without announcing it. Some of those nameless stars on the wall at Langley are probably women who have died undercover. The really top secret units tend to be more like CIA teams than military squads anyway, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the Pentagon is doing the same thing.

      The secret wouldn’t stay secret for long, of course. But, if sexism is a weakness, then the enemy’s overestimation of our sexism could be THEIR weakness. So, maybe the elite units ought to act MORE macho in the next few years, to add to the cover story.

      • wellokaythen says:

        Wow. Super devious. You realize that you’ve just blown someone’s cover by writing this, don’t you? Don’t answer the door when someone knocks tomorrow. It’s probably bad news for you.

  2. wellokaythen says:

    Now I’m curious about how “the private sector” handles the question of women in combat roles. All those private security forces with those thousands of employees overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan – what are their policies about women mercenaries? (I know we’re not supposed to call them mercenaries, but the word really does fit.)

    Those companies have very little public oversight, so they have very little political pressure either way, so do they put women in harm’s way more or less than the official military system? Just curious if they are more pragmatic or more traditionalist or about the same.

  3. Now if society were to apply ‘social science’ to this situation, we would have Affirmative action. Since women have been banned from combat, I say we ONLY send women into combat for about 20 or 30 years to ‘even things up’. No I am not kidding. That is what we have done (sorta) in other areas when women were deemed to be behind the curve.

    • wellokaythen says:

      Hmmm. 51% of the country’s population, so make women 51% of the casualties? Probably not many voters going to back that anytime soon.

      • Sounds good to me. Every women who dies on the battlefield is another man who wasn’t sacrificed in her place.

        I’ll support women being 51% of casualties just as strongly as I support women being 51% of Congress… and for the exact same reason. Equality.

  4. “We can hope, of course, that as more women move into traditionally male-only jobs in the military, the macho culture that defines masculinity as opposed to all things (and therefore all people) feminine will change.”

    It is clear that you are extremely anti-military and extremely anti-male. Yet you are in the military with men….Something isn’t adding up.

    I don’t think the military will be worried about making the culture less ‘macho’ and more feminine in the case of a war like 1941-1945. Other things will matter more than self-pity and self-absorption.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    So. What about gender-norming physical requirements?
    Also, keep in mind that the new idea is putting women in Combat Arms, not just putting them where they could get killed while serving as MPs or signal corps or transport people.
    This is not about getting killed. It’s about killing the other guys.
    So. What about gender-norming physical requirements?

  6. Alowing women to serve in the military without passing exactly the same requirements for physical ability as men actually means KILLING men. If female soldiers can`t run as fast, carry a wounded soldier as fast etc. they will put male soldiers in danger they otherwise would not be in and because of this they will DIE. Men will have to move slower away from teh enemy because they have women in their troop who can`t move fast enough for long enough and this will lead to cases where male soldiers will be killed who would have been able to get away had they not had to slow down for slower women. Women who can`t carry a wounded male soldier long enough will lead to male soldiers dying because thy did not get medical atention because women couldn`t get them there. They will die in order for women who are not physically in shape to be soldiers get to “play war”. If you ar pro women getting into the military without passing the same physical standards as women you are in favour of such a policy of sacrificing male lives for female “self actualisation”.

    • So keep the standards; what’s the big deal? Most women won’t pass them, but then most male soldiers don’t either.

      • WHat are you trying to say here? I don`t get it. All male soldiers pass the standards otherwise they would not be allowed in. It is most of the female soldiers who can`t pass the male standards and they should because it is the minimum requirement for being able to perform well enough as a soldier. CURRENTLY women are given a much, much easier test which means most of them are bad soldiers
        that can not even perform close to the minimum standard because somehow it is seen as not “fair” that women have to pass the same standard as men. This is the view almost all feminist have on this issue. It is a lowering of standards all armies have been against but which feminists have successfully managed to pressure governments to accept. This is the view that male lives are, and actually winning the war, is less important than a woman actualizing herself as a soldier. That is a big deal. It is a big deal if we keep allowing women to get in easier to play soldiers at the cost of male death. It is also a big deal that feminism have showed itself to so blatantly not give any value to the lives of male soldiers or what actually wins wars. It is very revealing of feminism as an ideology, its motives and the specific feminists that have held this view that they value women’s possibility to be soldiers “for fun” above male lives and actually winning wars.

        • wellokaythen says:


          I think it’s totally fair to ask what are the costs and benefits of allowing women into more combat roles. Then, we can add them all together, weight them, and come to an objective conclusion whether it would make things better or worse. That sounds very practical and reasonable to me.

          Can you imagine ANY benefits to allowing women into combat positions, or are there only drawbacks? Is this lifting of the ban just a political stunt to please feminists, or might there be something else to gain? (It could be that the drawbacks outweigh the benefits anyway. Just saying the military might benefit in some ways doesn’t mean it’s not a political stunt.) Just curious what your perspective is.

          • Benefit: Drawing on all available resources to do an important job.

            Drawback: None that I can see as long as the same standards are maintained.

            It’s exactly the same question if you consider the cost/benefits of allowing blacks or gays to serve in combat roles. As long as they can do the job, all objections are meaningless bigotry that hinders our ability to field the best possible force.

    • wellokaythen says:

      What I’ve noticed is that normally when people talk about success in the military, it’s all about teamwork, working together, mutually supporting each other, putting the mission and the unit above the individual, the team is greater than the sum of its parts, etc. Teamwork is more important than individual qualities.

      But, when the subject of women in the military comes up, all of a sudden the military is all about the individual. It’s all about carrying capacity of the individual, and women can’t keep up, the individual woman isn’t strong enough, etc. Suddenly it’s the individual abilities that are the most important factor, not teamwork. When the subject of women comes up, women are assumed to be not integrated into the team, so it’s her versus the men in the unit.

      One woman can’t carry a wounded man to safety? Okay, then make sure the unit has at least two women in it. Problem solved. Two women ought to be at least as strong as one man. If the main problem is individual carrying capacity, then use more individuals. Besides, that’s just looking at the glass half-empty. Women are smaller, so when they’re wounded they’ll be easier to carry. Wouldn’t it be beneficial to have smaller, lighter personnel? I thought the whole Rumsfeldian revolution in the military was smaller, lighter units….

      It just seems sensible to me that if a squad is going house to house in Afghanistan, it could be extremely useful to have at least one woman in the unit, especially if the local women have information that could be vital intel. For all the same reasons it’s useful to have women police officers on patrol.

      • Richard Aubrey says:

        The Navy already did that. Two women couldn’t carry a simulated wounded man throught simulated passageways during training, which was the standard. So the Navy said, okay, four. Problem is, four people can’t carry a litter through passageways. Those oval thingies in the doorways you sometimes see? The door is closed and the oval thing is opened when in combat. Prevent flooding and fire spreading.
        Use two women to carry a guy? That means two people out of the shooting piece of it, not one.
        The Marines have women–see Lionesses–who help deal with women and the Army has a similar program.
        But to get to talk to the women, you first go over the wall, through the door, and kill the bad guys, and then you have time to talk to people.
        And as to the teamwork issue; the point is each invividual should be able to carry his load, figuratively and literally. Otherwise he is letting down his squadmates.
        Okay, we make it legit for a woman to cock a fifty standing up. She gets shot, draws attention to the position. You do see a downside, don’t you?

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