A Big Step Towards Equality for Woman…In The Military.

Out-going Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has lifted the ban on women serving in combat roles within the armed forces.


This is a sweeping and striking move towards gender equality. The significant impact of such a decision will have ramification far beyond the Department of Defense.


Within the military, access to combat roles will allow for more women to move up to the highest ranks. There have been female generals and admirals already. That is true. However, leadership roles in combat units is often a key towards advancement…particularly to the highest levels of the Pentagon.


Not everyone is a fan of this type of equality. I am and I am not sure if I can explain why. However, times are changing.


No worries, though. They will not be praying in General Conference. That would be crazy.

About Chris Henrichsen

Chris Henrichsen has moved Approaching Justice off of Patheos. Find his latest posts and the new Approaching Justice. Thanks!

  • http://loydo38.blogspot.com the narrator

    Given our patriarchal culture and it’s general need to protect women, I hope this forces more caution from US leaders about using violent military force.

  • http://themormonworker.wordpress.com J. Madson

    I am reminded of Stanley Hauerwas great essay on why gay’s are morally superior prior to gays being allowed to serve openly which began thus, ““I am ambivalent about recent discussions concerning gays in the military. I see no good reason why gays and lesbians should be excluded from military service; as a pacifist I do not see why anyone would want to serve. Moreover, I think it a wonderful thing that some people are excluded as a group. I only wish that Christians could be seen by the military to be as problematic as gays (p. 519).”

    He imagines what it would look like if the non-violent message of Christianity was pursued to the same degree many mainline churches pursue sexist and antigay agendas. Imagine if Christians were so dedicated to love and non-violence that the military considered Christians a threat to their aims just like they once considered homosexuals a threat or women. So yes it’s great that there is equality and all that but sad that Christians see serving in the military as a good thing

  • Dan Kindrick

    Terrible idea. Lets put aside the inept, unqualified, political hack, oxygen thief that Leon Panetta embodies for a moment though. The military is not ikea or a social science project for ivory tower civilians to tinker with. People’s lives are on the line every single day. Some of my family members and scores of my dearest friends are currently being deployed more frequently than Bill Clinton ‘engages’ with interns.

    Cheekiness aside, one of the main reasons I did not reenlist in the military was due to rampant political correctness and fatigue from working for women soldiers. Not to sound like a complete misongynist but the military tends to throw rank at women when they are not qualified more so than any other professional setting that I’ve experienced in my life.

    Don’t get me wrong, I understand why. The military has historically been dominated by males and to this day is generally an old boys club. I was ‘military intelligence’ (yeah I know…oxy moron) and was surrounded by incompetent leadership, saturated really. But because they had certain body parts they were handed power regardless of content of character or ability to lead. I literally feared for my life whilst deployed. Not from Al Qaeda but because of incompetent leadership. That’s not to say that there is not incompetent male leadership in the military but the frequency is a whole lot less.

    I can’t imagine infantry or special force operators being subjected to the same political correctness. Ultimately If somebody is qualified…they’re qualified. But before you get all jacked that there is ‘finally’ equality in the military just realize that there is a lot more to it than some dumbass civilian snapping his fingers.

  • Darren

    “I am and I am not sure if I can explain why.”

    I think you lke the idea as a novelty but cannot come up with one cogent reason to support the idea. That’s liberal tihnking to a tee.

    I think sending women straight to the front lines of combat will result in God withdrawing His benevolent blessings upon us as we move to becoming a nation of cowards and less than exceptional. When in times of emergency women have always stepped up to the plate but doing this asa matter of policy to further erase the notion that men and women are indeed different and have differing roles not just in society but in in life as a whole will further result in weakening families. I’m *very* grateful for the LDS Church’s due diligence in maintaining gender distinction.

  • Tharls

    “Not to sound like a complete misongynist but”

    I feel like that’s one of those phrases like, “I have lots of black friends” where, if you have to say it you’ve lost the battle. Even taking your word at face value and assuming that you did have a number of incompetent female leaders, you are also clear that you had bad male ones as well. Somehow only the females are representative of their entire sex, though. Combine that with odd Bill Clinton potshots and unironic use of the phrase “ivory tower” and I’ve gotta say, you’re not helping your case.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/ Chris H.

    “I think you lke the idea as a novelty but cannot come up with one cogent reason to support the idea.”

    Not really. It is more that I had to pick up my kids from school and did not have the words in the rush to get out the door. Thanks for the comment.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/ Chris H.

    Dan was not saying that he is not a misogynist…just that he is not a complete misogynist. :)

    Though, he is a bit of a potty mouth. Must have had some really crude teachers during his time at BYU. I blame them.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/ Chris H.

    J. Madson,

    A few of those points did cross my mind. I figured you might make them. Thanks!

  • Darren

    Chris H #6;

    “Not really. It is more that I had to pick up my kids from school and did not have the words in the rush to get out the door. Thanks for the comment.”

    You’ve had plenty of time since getting you kids home to think of why you like sending women to the front lines of combat. Could you now elucidate me?

  • Darren

    Rather that you like so much the equality of sending women as well as men to the front lines of combat.

  • http://themormonworker.wordpress.com J. Madson

    I will say this for your post Chris. Posts like this, pants to church, women praying in conference, etc seem to always bring out the misogyny in LDS culture.

  • Mark B.

    Since combat is a huge step down from civilized life–see, for example, Ryan Smith’s piece in today’s Wall Street Journal–the step towards equality that this represents is a step downward.

    I think that one can question the wisdom of such a step without being a misogynist.

  • Mex Davis

    Well, well we are about to sink to a new low. I understand the need to advance and without combat it makes it very hard to do so. But war being as ugly as it is, sending mothers out in to the middle of it, we have truely sunk to new depths. We have always protected our women from such horrible things and being in combat was one of those little things that gentelmen, fathers, brothers did not want their wife, mother or sister to be in. I’m old fashion yes, but I’m sure our Father in Heaven who doesn’t like that we are fighting so much and now allowing women to do the dirty work, how disappointed he must be.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/ Chris H.

    Mex, I have no doubt that you are sure about that.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/ Chris H.


    Here I go:

    I believe is the inherent political, legal, and moral equality of women. While I am sympathetic of what both Mark and J. Madson has mentioned above…I wish combat on nobody…this is more about professional respect. Woman, are, of course, already actively in the combat theater…or at least they were when we had a move active combat presence in Irag and Afghanistan. Blanket denial of women in combat positions (we are not so much talking about combat itself as we are combat positions) is a rejection of any sort of competence or meritocracy (granted it is a slippery concept).

    From what I heard on NPR this morning, it sounds like some positions like special forces might still be male only units. However, those are significantly small groups.

    Do I want my daughter to be in combat? No. However, I do not want my sons in combat either. If my daughter (7) decided that she wanted to be a general I would support her in her goal. Right now she wants to be a dentist… so I am not too concerned.

    I tend to agree with John Stuart Mill that it is inherent on the opponents of gender inequality to come up with the best case for such inequality. I have yet to hear an argument of the sort that convinces me to the end. In someways, my egalitarianism is intuitive. My experience and moral senses push me in that direct.

    That is liberal thinking for ya. :)

  • Mex Davis

    Chris H – not sure what you comment means. I’m torn for those that choose to be in the military and and all that goes with it but for what I know combat is really a bad place to be and even strong men wither under fire. PTSD is a reality amongst those that serve in those highly strssful situations. Having a loving and nuturing woeman going through that, surely her children would be harmed also. Just can’t get my head around this idea. Maybe we should be working harder at stopping wars and conflicts then we wouldn’t be faced with such hard choices.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/ Chris H.

    Mex, sorry. I am just not that “sure” about anything these day. I have no shortage of strong feelings…that is for sure. I do not know if this will actually lead to an increase in women in actual combat. They already are. It is more a matter of equality within the larger bureaucracy of the Pentagon.

    War is evil. That itself is not justification for denying that women equality in the military. It should, however, give us pause about whether we should bring war upon the women, men, and children of other lands.

  • Darren

    Chris H;

    Thank you for your reply and insight. First and foremost I want to make clear that I do not view you as a person who desires harm on anyone let alone wanting combat for combat’s sake and I hope I do not come across as one who does. But here lies the cux of the matter: war is hell and I do not see any moral or ammoral good coming from sending women to the front lines of bnattle as a matter of standard policy.

    Morally I find sending women to the front lines of combat as empty. War has always been among men and nations and it has traditionally been the sons of Adam, not the daughters of Eve who fight on the fronts. I cannot phathom God smiling upon a nation which sends His daughters off to fight in war right on the front lines. I think the moral guidelines of the Judaic-Christian emphasis on gender differences and thus differences in gender roles as a means of great strength to individuals and to a nation. Erasimg those differences will be detrimental (I’ll say ruin) moral strength via a nation which desires to protect the female gender. My personal view is that this moral strength is from the fact that God the Father loves his daughters and He Himself does not desire for them to go off to the front lines of war; even when war is upon a nation. Creating a policy which ignores the Judaic-Christian gender distinction goes agqainst the nature of God and thus the nature of our existence.

    Pragmatically I do not see sending women of to front line combat as empowering to neither women nor men. I can easily forsee complications resulting from a policy which sends women off to the frontlines. I foresee a raise in sexual relationships which in turn will have a negative impact on the military. Sex releases emotions that are simply uncontrollable and that will reduce military effectiveness. There’s also the issue of menstration and pregnancy. Would women get a leave of assignments because they are menstrating or pregnant? If so what’s to stop men from insisting on the same? This will result in an increase of envy and selfish procurement to avoid the call of duty. I can foresee much conflict and chaos in sending women off to the frontlines.

    Overall, gender equality when fought along the lines of erasing gender distinction has been harmful to society, especially the family. Such will be the same for the military for sending women to the frontlines in the name of gender equality.

  • http://rainscamedown.blogspot.com SilverRain

    The hygiene on front lines represents a problem for people who bleed and cramp one week out of four. From a tactical standpoint, this also increases the supply requirements. Also, we have a serious strategic problem if this means women can be drafted. Who will be left to take care of food production, etc. the way they did during WWII if all able bodies are out on the fronts? It is impractical to think they will hold back on available drafts if we need the bodies.

    There were practical and strategic reasons for excluding women, and this highlights very well how ideals can overcome reason.

  • http://rainscamedown.blogspot.com SilverRain

    I forgot one….it also raises the question of how pregnant a woman can be and still fight on the front. Could pregnancy be used to dodge physical responsibilities? How soon after having children will they be put back out? Could they be forced to take birth control, with its potentially serious side effects? What if the birth control fails?

  • http://rainscamedown.blogspot.com SilverRain

    They kind of just keep coming. Since rape is historically a tool of war against women, how will they process front line soldiers who are raped as a result of war? Will they have policies in place for how soon they can be put back out?

  • http://rainscamedown.blogspot.com SilverRain

    I think this is the last question which comes to mind. Will women have to meet the same physical requirements as the men, which will skew against them, or will they have different requirements, like in PE class, potentially putting the units with women at a disadvantage?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/ Chris H.

    “Who will be left to take care of food production, etc. the way they did during WWII if all able bodies are out on the fronts?”

    We have had a WWII like war since…WWII. i think some of the concerns about the front are not taking into account that we fight war very differently.

    The military is pretty good at writing policies. They are rather smart and savvy actually. I am sure that they can handle issues related to pregnancy and the like…they already do on a regular basis. Women have been POWs in the last 25 years. I am sure almost all of the concerns about these things are address. No doubt somethings could be updated, but the DOD spend tons of time doing that. It is what they do.

  • http://rainscamedown.blogspot.com SilverRain

    “I’m sure they’ll take care of it” really isn’t comforting to me. Nor does banking on never having a trenches-type war again. Nor does it deal with all the other issues I mentioned.

    But if you like to focus on the ideology and not the practicality, you’re obviously not alone.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/ Chris H.

    Don’t whine about practicality while at the same time freaking out about trench warfare.

  • http://rainscamedown.blogspot.com SilverRain

    Um . . . okay. *LOL*

  • JimD

    So, will women now be required to register for the draft the way men are?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/ Chris H.

    Not that I have heard. Of course, the draft has been a pretty dormant institution that politicians have be hesitant to touch. So, I highly doubt it.

  • JimD

    Chris, do you think the same policy arguments that justify women in the service, also require women to be subject to Selective Service registration just as men are?


  • http://mhjasinski@comcast.net Lt.Kijhe

    All problems in the military are caused by heterosexual males.

  • http://snailhollow.cobabe.net/ Jim Cobabe

    As far as I am concerned, let women fight anywhere they want. They got what they demanded, and as a group, they deserve what ever they get.

    If a few of them die, let them die, and decrease the surplus population.

    Let us see how survival of the fittest works. Social Darwinism at its finest.

  • http://snailhollow.cobabe.net/ Jim Cobabe

    “I think this is the last question which comes to mind. Will women have to meet the same physical requirements as the men, which will skew against them, or will they have different requirements, like in PE class, potentially putting the units with women at a disadvantage?”

    Too late to worry about that now. The deed is done.

    Of course it would be ridiculous to impose the same standards for women going into combat. That would instantly discriminate against all but a few. We need a whole new set of rules that cater to the sensitive feminine sensibility. They will need to include regulations about proper use and application of cosmetics in combat, certainly, and give due consideration to the latest trends in female military fashions on the front line, to be featured in Vogue and critiqued in the NY Times.

    Of course.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/ Chris H.


    I do not think that allowing women to serve in this capacity would make it also an imperative that women be required to be part of the draft/selective service. That said, I see nothing on the horizon that will take us away from the all-volunteer force that we have. So, the issue may be moot.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/ Chris H.

    Jim Cobabe,

    You may want to take a timeout. I am willing to let you rant, because it just makes you look silly. However, stepping away may be better. Just saying. :)

  • http://snailhollow.cobabe.net/ Jim Cobabe

    Chris H,
    Of course! :-)

  • http://snailhollow.cobabe.net/ Jim Cobabe

    It occurs to me to further point out, to those who entertain such theories about “equality”. It seems rather specious to assert an argument that is fundamentally flawed at the source. It is of no merit to insist that the chain is sound in all of its other links.

    Thanks. ;-)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/faithpromotingrumor/ Chris H.

    Flawed? As in…you disagree with it. I am not sure if you are in any way familiar with any of the theories of equality I am referring to. That said, I am way beyond fundamentally flawed. I am rather happy that way.

  • http://snailhollow.cobabe.net/ Jim Cobabe

    Chris, thank you for your kind forebearance. Your attitude is completly understandable to me. :-)

  • http://snailhollow.cobabe.net/ Jim Cobabe

    If we wanted real equality, we should be advocating for women in professional football. Instead of just hanging around at half time singing the national anthem in skimpy outfits! :-)

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