A group of female pilots, Marines and soldiers have had it with the military’s discriminatory and sexist policy that excludes women in combat positions, so they have filed a lawsuit in the hopes of getting this resolved once and for all.
According to NBC News, the American Civil Liberties Union is representing four women: Marine 1st Lt. Colleen Farrell, Marine Reserves Capt. Zoe Bedell, Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Hunt and Air Guard Major Mary Jennings Hegar. Not only have they all served in Afghanistan or Iraq, but two of them are also Purple Heart recipients. But apparently that’s not good enough to allow them into specific combat positions that are only open to men.
It’s about equality based on ability–not gender, says Major Mary Jennings Hegar, who served three tours in Afghanistan, trained as a search and rescue pilot, served five years in the Air Force, and was awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross with a Valor Device for heroism while participating in an aerial mission near Kandahar Airfield in 2009:
To this day, that same part of me doesn’t understand why someone’s gender would have any bearing at all on what job they ended up in. I always thought that your skills, strengths, and interests would be better qualifiers. I remember watching the news when I was in high school and hearing that they were opening combat aircraft up to women for the first time. My first thought was, ‘Cool! What do I need to do to get one!’ followed closely by my second thought, ‘What changed? Why weren’t we allowed to fly in combat before?’
According to the lawsuit, more than 14% of the 1.4 million active military personnel are women, and yet rules continue to exclude them from over 200,000 positions, as well as career fields. Specifically, servicewomen are denied training and recognition for their service, put at a disadvantage for promotions, and prevented from competing for positions even after they have demonstrated their ability.
Perhaps the U.S. military has forgotten that this is the year 2012. Perhaps they have forgotten that women continue to prove time and time again that they are just as capable as men–if not more sometimes. Or perhaps they are still getting over the fact that gays, lesbians and bisexual service members no longer have to keep their sexual orientation a secret since the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was revealed last year.
Whatever the reason for their sexist beliefs, not allowing women into a combat position simply because of her gender is discriminatory. Period. The only policy the military–and any organization for that matter–should have is this: If you are able to do it, do it. In other words, they should have one physical set of standards for all soldiers and anyone who can pass–male or female–should be deemed fit to enter into combat.
Hopefully this lawsuit will end this sexism once and for all because it continues to move our nation backward not forward. Hegar summed it up best:
That’s the problem with the military’s combat exclusion policy. It makes it that much harder for people to see someone’s abilities, and instead reinforces stereotypes about gender.