Women in the military
|Women in society|
For over 3,000 years in a large number of cultures and nations, women have played many roles in the military, from ancient warrior women, to the women currently serving in conflicts, although the vast majority of all combatants in every culture have been men.
Even though women serving in the military has often been controversial, a very small number of women in history have fought alongside men. In the American Civil War, there were a few women who cross-dressed as men in order to fight. Fighting on the battlefront in disguise was not the only way women involved themselves in war. Some also served as nurses and aides.
Despite various, though limited, roles in the armies of past societies, the role of women in the military, particularly in combat, is controversial and it is only recently that women have begun to be given a more prominent role in contemporary armed forces. As increasing numbers of countries begin to expand the role of women in their militaries, the debate continues.
More recently, from the beginning of the 1970s, most Western armies have begun to admit women to serve active duty in all of military branches.
- 1 History
- 2 Academic studies
- 3 Women in combat
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 Further reading
World War I
Thousands of women served as nurses and in other support roles in the major armies.
The only nation to deploy female combat troops in substantial numbers was Russia. From the outset, female recruits either joined up in disguise or were tacitly accepted by their units. The most prominent were a contingent of front-line light cavalry in a Cossack regiment commanded by a female colonel. Others included the famous Maria Bochkareva, who was decorated three times and promoted to senior NCO rank, while the New York Times reported that a group of twelve schoolgirls from Moscow had joined up together disguised as young men. In 1917, the Provisional Government raised a number of "Women's Battalions", with Bochkareva given an officer's commission to command the first unit. They fought well, but failed to provide the propaganda value expected of them and were disbanded before the end of the year. In the later Russian Civil War, the Bolsheviks employed some women infantry, while female soldiers are also recorded in the White Guard.
World War II
All the main nations used women in uniform. The great majority performed nursing, clerical or support roles. Over 500,000 had combat roles in anti-aircraft units in Britain and Germany, and front-line units in Russia.
In 1938, the British took the lead worldwide in establishing uniformed services for women, in addition to the small units of nurses that had long been in operation. In late 1941, Britain began conscripting women, sending most into factory work and some into the military, especially the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), attached to the army. It began as a woman's auxiliary to the military in 1938, and in 1941 was granted military status (with 2/3 pay compared to men). Women had a well-publicized role in handling anti-aircraft guns against German planes and V-1 missiles. The daughter of Prime Minister Winston Churchill was there, and he gushed that any general who saved him 40,000 fighting men had gained the equivalent of a victory. By August, 1941, women were operating the fire-control instruments; they were never allowed to pull the trigger, as killing the enemy was considered to be too masculine. By 1943, 56,000 women were in AA Command, most in units close to London where there was a risk of getting killed, but no risk of getting captured by the enemy. The first "kill" came in April 1942.
The Third Reich, contrary to popular belief, had similar roles for women. The SS-Helferinnen were regarded as part of the SS if they had undergone training at a Reichsschule SS but all other female workers were regarded as being contracted to the SS and chosen largely from concentration camps. Women also served in auxiliary units in the navy (Kriegshelferinnen), air force (Luftnachrichtenhelferinnen) and army (Nachrichtenhelferin).
In 1944-45 more than 500,000 women were volunteer uniformed auxiliaries in the German armed forces (Wehrmacht). About the same number served in civil aerial defense, 400,000 volunteered as nurses, and many more replaced drafted men in the wartime economy. In the Luftwaffe they served in combat roles helping to operate the anti—aircraft systems that shot down Allied bombers. By 1945, German women were holding 85% of the billets as clericals, accountants, interpreters, laboratory workers, and administrative workers, together with half of the clerical and junior administrative posts in high-level field headquarters.
Germany had a very large and well organized nursing service, with four main organizations, one for Catholics, one for Protestants, the secular DRK (Red Cross) and the "Brown Nurses," for committed Nazi women. Military nursing was primarily handled by the DRK, which came under partial Nazi control. Frontline medical services were provided by male medics and doctors. Red Cross nurses served widely within the military medical services, staffing the hospitals that perforce were close to the front lines and at risk of bombing attacks. Two dozen were awarded the Iron Cross for heroism under fire. The brief historiography focuses on the dilemmas of Brown Nurses forced to look the other way while their incapacitated patients were murdered.
Hundreds of women auxiliaries (Aufseherin) served for the SS in the camps, the majority of which were at Ravensbrück. In Germany women also worked, and were told by Hitler to produce more pure Aryan children to fight in future wars.
After the world wars
The Democratic Republic of the Congo began training an initial 150 women as para-commandos in 1967 and many more were trained subsequently, over a period of several years at least. The women did receive complete jump training as well as weapons training although it is unclear to what extent they were actually integrated into the combat units of the Congo.
Israel is currently the only country in the world with a mandatory military service requirement for women. Mandatory conscription for single and married women without children began in 1948.
Initially all women conscripts served in the Women's Army Corps, serving as clerks, drivers, welfare workers, nurses, radio operators, flight controllers, ordnance personnel, and course instructors. Roles for women beyond technical and secretarial support started to open up in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In 2000, the Equality amendment to the Military Service law granted equal opportunities in the military to women found physically and personally suitable for a job. Women started to enter combat support and light combat roles in a few areas, including the Artillery Corps, infantry units and armored divisions. A few platoons named Carakal were formed for men and women to serve together in light infantry. Many women would also join the Border Police.
A 2008 study by Jennifer M. Silva, a sociologist of culture and inequality (her goal is to investigate the relationship between systems of inequality), found that the female cadets saw military training as an "opportunity to be strong, assertive and skillful" and saw such training "as an escape from some of the negative aspects of traditional femininity". The female cadets also believed that the ROTC program was "gender-blind" and "gender-neutral". The study claims that female cadets "were hyper-vigilant about their status as women performing tasks traditionally seen as men's work and often felt that they had to constantly prove they were capable".
Silva's study found gender playing a role in how cadets perceive leadership, quoting one female cadet: "in the Navy the joke is that a woman in the Navy is either a bitch, a slut or a lesbian, and none of them are good categories to fall into, and if you are stern with your people then you are a bitch, but if you're a guy and stern people are like, wow, I respect him for being a good leader".
Of the female cadets Silva interviewed, 84 percent said they did not want a military career as it would interfere with being able to get married and have children.
Women in combat
||The examples and perspective in this section deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (November 2013)|
Some nations allow female soldiers to serve in certain combat arms positions. Others exclude them for various reasons including physical demands and privacy policies.
In the United States
Women have been involved in the U.S. military since 1775, but more in the civilian fields of nursing, laundering and mending clothing, and cooking. Hundreds of women enlisted and fought in the US Civil War, nearly all of them disguised as men. In 1917 Loretta Walsh became the first woman to enlist. But it was not until 1948 that a law was finally passed that made women a permanent part of the military services. In 1976, the first group of women was admitted into a U.S. military academy. Currently, approximately 16% of the graduating West Point class consists of women. According to statistics only 15.6 percent of the U.S. Army's 1.1 million soldiers are female. Women serve in 95 percent of all army occupations. In a one-year span, some 40,000 American military women were deployed during the Gulf War operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. But not one woman was able to take on any form of combat. In 1994 a policy prohibits women from being assigned to ground combat units below the brigade level. A study conducted by Matthews et al. 2009 to examine the attitudes of West Point cadets, Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets, and non-military-affiliated students from civilian colleges toward a variety of roles that women may serve in the military. The results showed that military cadets were less approving of women being assigned to certain military jobs than non-military students.
Almost twenty years later, in 2013, an order was issued to end the policy of "no women in units that are tasked with direct combat". On January 24, 2014, the US Army announced that 33,000 positions that were previously closed to women would integrate in the upcoming month of April, though it still has yet to be determined if and when women may join the US Army's Special Operations community. Prior to the 1994 Department of Defense assignment rule, 67 percent of the positions in the Army were open to women. Today, 78 percent of the positions in the Army are open to women, and women serve in 95 percent of all Army occupations (active duty and the reserve components), as of 2014. In the U.S. Air Force, 99% of career fields are open to women, the only ones prohibited to women are Special Tactics Officer, Combat Control, Special Operations Weather Technician, Combat Rescue Officer, Pararescue and Tactical Air Control Party.
Female U.S Army soldiers are being asked to take part in a new training course designed by Combined Joint Task Force Paladin, which is specifically designed for Female Engagement Team members. The course will help female soldiers train for tasks such as unexploded ordnance awareness, biometrics, forensics, evidence collection, tactical questioning, vehicle and personnel searches, instructions on how homemade explosive devices are made and how to recognize if a device is homemade. This change will open up hundreds of thousands of front-line positions for women. The goal is for all assessments to be complete and have women fully integrated into all roles in the army by 2016. By May 2015, all nineteen women vying to become the first female Army Rangers had failed their training at Ranger School. Eleven of the nineteen dropped out in the first four days of training. Of the remaining eight who failed in the next step, three were given the option to enroll in the course again.
Social and cultural issues
Some people think having women in a combat unit would hurt unit cohesion. There are worries about romantic or sexual relationships developing, potentially inappropriate fraternization, or that a woman might get pregnant. Some people are not willing to accept the risk of women being captured and tortured and possibly sexually assaulted, which happened to then-Major Rhonda Cornum. Some argue that there is a shortage of male combat soldiers and that women should not be treated as second-class citizens in the military.
According to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society, Israeli soldiers reacted with uncontrollable protectiveness and aggression after seeing a woman wounded. Grossman also notes that Islamic militants rarely, if ever, surrender to female soldiers, lessening the IDF's ability to interrogate prisoners. On the other hand, Iraqi and Afghan civilians are often not intimidated by female soldiers. However, in such environments, having female soldiers serving in a combat unit does have the advantage of allowing for searches on female civilians. Children and women are more likely to talk to female soldiers than to male soldiers.
Some reports show that a woman in the military is three times more likely than a woman in the general population to be raped, and in Iraq are more likely to be attacked by one of their own than an insurgent. There is currently a lawsuit in the US military in which the plaintiffs claim to have been subjected to sexual assaults in the military. A documentary called The Invisible War has been made on this lawsuit and topic.
Women on submarines
In 1985 the Royal Norwegian Navy became the first  navy in the world to permit female personnel to serve in submarines, followed by the appointment of a female submarine captain in 1995. The Danish Navy allowed women on submarines in 1988, the Swedish Navy in 1989, followed by the Royal Australian Navy in 1998 Canada in 2000, and Spain; all operators of conventional submarines.
Social obstacles include the need to segregate accommodation and facilities, with the U.S. Navy estimating that modifying its submarines to accommodate women would cost $300,000 per bunk versus $4,000 per bunk to allow women to serve on aircraft carriers. However, some countries have women serving on small diesel-electric submarines where they sometimes hot bunk with men.
Recent U.S. Navy policy allowed three exceptions for women being on board military submarines: (1) female civilian technicians for a few days at most, (2) women midshipmen on an overnight during summer training for both Navy ROTC and Naval Academy, and(3) family members for one-day dependent cruises.
In October 2009 the U.S. secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, announced that he and the chief of naval operations were moving aggressively to change the policy. Reasons included the fact that larger SSGN and SSBN submarines now in the fleet had more available space and could accommodate female officers with little or no modification. Also, the availability of qualified female candidates with the desire to serve in this capacity was cited. It was noted that women now represented 15 percent of the active duty Navy  and that women today earn about half of all science and engineering bachelor's degrees. A policy change was deemed to serve the aspirations of women, the mission of the Navy, and the strength of its submarine force.
In February 2010 the secretary of defense approved the proposed policy and signed letters formally notifying Congress of the intended change. After receiving no objection, the Department of the Navy officially announced on April 29, 2010, that it had authorized women to serve aboard submarines.
The first group of U.S. female submariners completed nuclear power school and officially reported on board two ballistic and two guided missile submarines in November 2011.
In 2012 it was announced that 2013 will be the first year women will serve on U.S. attack submarines. On June 22, 2012, a sailor assigned to USS Ohio (SSGN 726) became the first female supply officer to qualify in U.S. submarines. In 2015 the U.S. Submarine Force will begin accepting applications for the Enlisted Women in Submarines (EWIS) Initiative. This is a detailed process that will systematically place enlisted female Sailors on OHIO Class submarines. Female Sailors from all communities and ratings will be afforded the opportunity to be among the first to join the U.S. Naval Submarine Service.
- Military sociology
- Women in combat
- Women in the military by country
- Women in warfare and the military (1945–1999)
- Women in warfare and the military (2000–present)
- Women in the military in the Americas
- Puerto Rican women in the military
- Women in the military in Europe
- Women in the Philippine military
- Gender and Security Sector Reform
- List of women warriors in folklore
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World War II
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- Green Berets
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- Women Veterans
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