Women Warriors and the War on Women

up in arms

Obama’s reelection shows that the Democrats bested the Republicans’ War on Women. And with 280,000 women having been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, women go to war. They fight with men. And they die in military combat alongside men. But the United States military, now run by a renewed Obama, has yet to get rid of its own part in the War on Women. It needs to shed all its exclusionary policies and make the military more welcoming for women, instead of putting them in the position of having to sue to eliminate these policies.

Since 80 percent of Army generals come from combat-arms positions, women should have the same opportunities as men to rise through the ranks. While Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta opened 14,000 positions to women, this is not enough. According to the ACLU, 238,000 positions remain closed to women.

Finally, a more disturbing reason the military should end all its exclusionary policies is that there is safety in numbers. The more women join the military, the safer those women will be — not from the enemy, but from their own troops. One-third of all women in the military report being sexually harassed.

Women constitute only about 14 percent of the military. Nowhere near 50 percent is needed to make women safe; according to one report in Scandinavia, the figure to aim for is 30 percent. Once women constitute 30 percent of any office, body, sector, or institution, they can no longer be considered the token or the outside by men, and as such, albeit still a minority, they cannot be marginalized as easily and are therefore less vulnerable to harassment and abuse. The Obama administration should push Panetta into increasing the military from 14 percent toward 30 percent women.

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About Ruth O'Brien

Professor Ruth O'Brien, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York (CUNY) & Honorary Unaffiliated Academic Book Series Editor for The Public Square, Princeton University Press & Heretical Thought, Oxford University Press, USA Last book: Out of Many, One: Obama & the Third American Political Tradition (U of Chicago 2013). Nickname: "Professorette" by Rush Limbaugh (see http://www.gc.cuny.edu/Faculty/Core-Bios/Ruth-O-Brien)

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