As the military grapples with how to implement the reversal of the decades old ban on women in “combat” specialties, one of the data points that many people are using (especially in and around the Marine Corps) is the performance of the only two female Lieutenants to have attempted to complete the Infantry Officer’s Course at Quantico.
The first dropped out on one of the first days of training during the grueling Combat Endurance Test; so did 26 of her male classmates. The other female Lieutenant made it about one-third of the way through the course before being sidelined by a debilitating stress fracture in her leg. Neither is any indication that women are any less suitable than men for service in the infantry.
What is the basis for that bold statement, you ask?
This is a guest post by Dorit Geva. Geva is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Central European University, and has written a book on conscription politics in France and the United States. Megan H. Mackenzie wrote an earlier post on this topic.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s announcement that some 230,000 combat jobs might open for American servicewomen in the armed forces is a watershed moment for the American military. But the consequences will resonate beyond his announcement’s effects on professional soldiers. Since the 1980s, the legal reasoning barring women from registering with the draft has been that women do not serve in combat positions. Panetta’s surprise announcement will not only transform the career opportunities of women in uniform, but could affect every woman living on American soil.
Today it was announced that the combat ban for women will be fully removed within the US military. This reverses a long-standing policy that restricts women from serving below the brigade level in positions specified as front-line, ground combat. Given that the policy had been recently reviewed, the change may come as a surprise to some, however there are three main reasons why this policy had to be changed right now.
First, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has long been a supporter of gender integration within the forces and has publicly acknowledged the exclusion as contradicting operational practice and untenable. Panetta plans to step down from his post after only 18 months in the job, making the removal of the combat exclusion his legacy.
Second, the Department of Defense is facing a lawsuit from several female soldiers and backed by the ACLU. The suit has raised significant publicity surrounding the issue of women in combat and the DoD would have had a difficult time defending claims that the policy is discriminatory and unconstitutional.
Third, growing evidence of women's contributions to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including in ground combat, have become impossible to ignore. It is widely acknowledged that there are no 'front' lines in insurgency warfare. Moreover, women have contributed to offensive missions in recent wars, died in hostile fire, contributed in all-female teams during insurgency missions, and even been awarded for their valor in combat. The contradictions associated with having a combat exclusion in a military that provides combat pay for some women and honors their contributions to combat have just become to extreme.
The International Feminist Journal of Politics announces its 2nd Annual IFjP Conference, May 17-19, 2013, University of Sussex, Brighton, England: (Im)possibly Queer International Feminisms
General Keynote: Lisa Duggan, American Studies, Gender and Sexuality Studies, NYU
Conference Theme Keynotes: Jon Binnie, Geography, Manchester Metropolitan University, Vivienne Jabri, War Studies, Kings College London; V Spike Peterson, International Relations/Gender Studies, University of Arizona; Rahul Rao, Politics and International Studies, SOAS
Other confirmed speakers: Rosalind Galt, Film Studies, University of Sussex; Akshay Khanna, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex; Louiza Odysseos, International Relations, University of Sussex; Laura Sjoberg, Political Science, University of Florida
The aim of this conference is to serve as a forum for developing and discussing papers that IFjP hopes to publish. These can be on the conference theme or on any other feminist IR-related questions.
Apply by January 31!
Call for papers
The world has payed attention to the gang-rape of a young woman (her name has not been made widely public) in Delhi and her struggle to survive over the last few weeks. The reports of the brutal incident on December 16th broke through the national news of India and set waves of reports through the rest of the world. The sheer violence, randomness, and horror of it seemed to fixate the globe.
Now, as we learn that this woman's struggle to survive after multiple surgeries, cardiac arrest, and evidence of brain damage has ended, there seems to be an attempt to shift this story back into familiar categories of domestic sexual violence and out of the political sphere. Reports on the death of this woman consistently re-report the hospital's claim that she 'died peacefully.' This may seem like a side note to the entire story, yet these words hold significant political value and raises some important questions, including:
Does the focus on her 'peaceful' death detract from the violent nature of her attack and her exhausting struggle for life over the last 2 weeks?
The James Bond movies aren't the first place most would look to learn about masculinity; it's an action movie, the special effects are always amazing, and most of us just leave the gender analysis at home...BUT just humor me for one scene. In my view the best part of an otherwise mediocre movie (sorry super-Bond fans!) is when Bond is confronted by the ultimate villain, Silver (played spectacularly by Javier Bardem). Silver is a unique antihero, he meditates, he often speaks in a high pitch voice, he giggles, in many ways he is- well- effeminate. In his intro scene he snuggles up to a handcuffed Bond, fondling his chest and stroking his leg, challenging him to recall if his training has taught him to deal with this type of advance. He teases Bond that "there's a first time for everything."
For an action movie, this type of homo-erotic interaction seems rare. The viewers are held in suspense wondering what to think of the villain and how the hero character will handle this apparent challenge to his masculinity. Of course, Bond rises to the occasion (unfortunately there is no hero-villain love scene, maybe we're just not there yet). Bond retorts back, "what makes you think this is my first time." In that moment, Silver is taken aback and the audience seems to relax. By keeping his cool and lobbing the advance back to the villain, Bond's masculinity seems to be not only reaffirmed, but in some ways enhanced. How did a male on male flirtation lead to masculine enhancement for the characters?
The Human Security Report Project (HSR) recently released their 2012 Report. The first chapter on wartime sexual violence makes sweeping conclusions and provocative claims about the nature and rates of sexual violence. The overarching message, and certainly the one picked up by the media is that wartime sexual violence is on the decline. Before taking a closer look at the 5 Myths about sexual violence that HSR seeks to dispel, it is important to put this report in a bit of context.
In case you aren't familiar with HSR, they have made a name out of making counter-factual hypotheses and offering provocative- if not always accurate- headlines. They revived the 'war is declining' headline in 2005- over a decade after most political scientists widely acknowledged that inter-state war was indeed declining (and being replaced with other forms of conflict and political violence). What's precious about HSR is that their depiction of successful peacekeeping, a global decline in violence, and impending peace in international relations ignores the increase in intra-state violence, political violence, and terrorist activities, as well as research pointing to conflict and violence as the primary influence behind global poverty and evidence that the annual percentage of civilian fatalities perpetrated by non-state actors is on clear, upward trend. Most concerning is that HSR have used the tenuous 'war decline' hypothesis as the foundation for numerous other tenuous claims, including that the number of child soldiers has decreased and, now, that sexual violence is decreasing.
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