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Sun Jan 27, 2013, 05:46 AM

A question on gender and the military.

I have been following the threads here on DU about women in combat a little bit. Firstly I have to say I did learn a few things from them. When the topic first came up I was a little bit confused for I guess I had always assumed that since women are in the military they are doing exactly the same things that male soldiers are. I have never been in the military so I didn't have a clear idea what exactly the difference is between the different "jobs" one can have there. So now I know that "front line combat" is a specific function that apparently was not open to women until now (a separate issue is that other soldiers are of course in combat as well, but apparently "front line" is something very specific).

Now I have read the threads arguing the pros and cons of this and it seems to me that essentially two different points were made:

Pro: Women are very much capable of doing anything a man does, so barring them from doing so is discrimination.

Contra: Some argument about societal norms and having mixed groups of men and women crammed together in tight spots (having them perform bodily functions in front of each other etc.).

Now I have to say, I am not a physician so I have no expert knowledge on the question as to whether perhaps the female body generally reaches a breaking point quicker than a male body, but my uninformed take on the subject is that it seems to be such that if you set equal physical requirements for men and women, the people who pass them will be equally physically capable, regardless of their gender. So my gut reaction is to say the "Pro" argument above is correct.

As for the "Contra" arguments I have read, most of them do seem to be focused around the question as to whether men and women should be doing these things together rather than on the question as to whether women should be doing them at all. And I think this question is a valid one.

Now before you hammer me with "separate but equal is discrimination" hear me out:

Society does make a difference between race and gender. For ages we have had separate bathrooms, locker rooms etc. for men and women. If there was a separate bathroom for white people then this would correctly be labeled discrimination, but a separate bathroom for women and men has never been deemed such, for various reasons. To my knowledge it boils down to the idea that such separation is legitimate or necessary "as a societal norm" first and foremost to protect women from men. Guys would probably for the most part not care if all bathrooms were "integrated".

Now while I do agree that combat is a situation very much removed from the normal conditions of society, even in a combat unit there exists times where there is no actual shooting going on, and specifically during these times I wonder why it is taken for granted that the usual societal norms should not apply.

I am given to understand that there is undeniably a rape epidemic in the military. This would appear to suggest that the conditions that created the societal norm of gender separation in other circumstances do not magically go away just because it is the military.

So really my question boils down to this: I think integrating combat units may or may not be a good idea, I cannot really say. But shouldn't we in principle at the same time be discussing getting rid of the separate bathrooms, locker rooms etc. for men and women everywhere else too? The problems that arise or do not arise from mixing genders do not appear to me to be any different, inside the military or outside.



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Reply A question on gender and the military. (Original post)
redgreenandblue Jan 2013 OP
CJCRANE Jan 2013 #1
OneTenthofOnePercent Jan 2013 #2
redgreenandblue Jan 2013 #3
CJCRANE Jan 2013 #4
redgreenandblue Jan 2013 #5

Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 06:06 AM

1. No.

(A) There are already unisex bathrooms in some places.

(B) Men and women have different physical requirements in that area which means that men's bathrooms can be designed differently to save space and hence money.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 08:03 AM

2. These norms DO already apply. There are separate but equal facilities on many bases over here.

 

Contrary to what you might think, there are a number of women on forward operating bases. Women are in convoys all the time, going outside the walls. The FOB I'm currently stationed at has separate bathrooms, showers and billeting (tents/bunks) for women. The separate facilities ALL have combination locks... basically, the females know the codes and only the females can access the designated bathrooms/tents/showers.

I do believe the facilities they have are separate, but equal - albeit fewer facilities because there more guys in the military stationed here, in general. I think any military person, gender aside, that can complete the standardized physical requirements should be eligible to perform ANY duties befitting someone of that physical qualification. Same jobs, same qualifications, same pay, same opportunity.

Something to think about... I've noticed that the foreign militaries comprising ISAF generally have coed bathroom facilities. Although, I'd be willing to bet billeting/showers are separate. It's not even awkward going to the bathroom with members of the opposite sex in the same bathroom. You simply greet them in whatever relevant language, they say "hi" back with a smile, you do your business, then you wash your hands and leave. There's not even special soap to get rd of the cooties! Oh the HUMANITY!

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Response to OneTenthofOnePercent (Reply #2)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 08:39 AM

3. Yes. But I think the issue that was raised in those threads....

... was concerned more with the type of setting where there are no facilities to begin with. I was given to understand this is what "front line" means: No base, improvised showers, shitting in a bucket and so on.

Again, I am not knowlegable about the details of military life, but my understanding was that the issue that was raised was concerned with a specific type of setting. Some military members here had suggested that mixing men and women in these situations is not a good idea.

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Response to redgreenandblue (Reply #3)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 10:10 AM

4. I'm sure in that situation...

you just go behind a bush or a rock.

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Response to CJCRANE (Reply #4)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 02:28 PM

5. Here is the thread that prompted me to post this:

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