This article was published on the Neon Tommy website in January 2013.
The Pentagon’s decision to allow women in combat opens up hundreds of new front-line positions to women and expands gender equality in the military. This change is not only revolutionary for the armed forces, but also represents another step for the United States towards broadening its equal rights spectrum, following gay marriage victories in several states last year and the easing of citizenship requirements for illegal immigrants.
Last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the 1994 Pentagon restriction against women in combat has been lifted. The decision is just and beneficial to women, who can now ascend to better positions in the military.
Despite the restriction, many American women have already served in combat roles; however, because their service was unofficial, their merits have been ignored. The restriction has also been used to restrict women’s ascension in the field, as serving in combat positions such as infantry or artillery is essential to achieving higher positions in the military.
The women who have served in combat deserve equal recognition as men for equal work. Similarly, men and women should be treated equally in the military and should be held to equal standards and expectations.
The army fitness test for women is currently less rigorous than the test for men. For men between the ages of 17 and 21, for example, the test requires the ability to do a minimum of 42 push-ups to pass (to score 60 out of 100). In contrast, 42 push-ups for women between the ages of 17 and 21 is the equivalent of scoring 100 on the test, while 19 is the minimum score to pass.
The women’s test should not be less rigorous than the men’s, nor should the military have to lower its standards as a result of greater female presence in the field. Rather, female standards to enter the military should meet male standards so that the necessary athletic qualities are preserved and the women capable of meeting such requirements can prove their capabilities of performing as well as their male counterparts—if not better.
Defense Secretary Panetta’s decision is valuable because it gives women of military caliber the right to acquire a front-line position that matches their abilities. This groundbreaking achievement for women’s rights in America ensures that women will continue to enter new professional areas and prove their ability to succeed in male-centric environments like the military.