An interesting issue on the American political scene today consists of whether women should be allowed to serve in frontline military positions alongside men. Recent laws and decisions have moved in the direction of fully allowing this; but there is far from a consensus that this would actually be a good idea. The purpose of this sample argumentative essay provided by Ultius will be to review the arguments for and against women serving in frontline positions, and then reach the conclusion that women should not in fact be allowed to serve in the military in that capacity in four key parts.
- The essay will begin with a general overview of the issue under consideration here.
- Then, it will proceed to consider first the argument in favor of women being allowed to serve in frontline positions.
- The argument against women being allowed to serve in frontline positions.
- Finally, the essay will reach the critical conclusion that the argument against has greater merit than the argument for, with the latter relying more on ideology than serious considerations regarding the nature of actual frontline combat.
General Overview of Women Serving in Frontline Positions
It has historically been the case within the United States as well as many other nations that women have not been allowed to serve on the frontlines. But then this was reported by Mark Thompson of TIME (along with countless others) back in the December of 2015:
“Women will be allowed to serve as fully-fledged members of front-line U.S. military combat units, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced“—with Carter (qtd. in Thompson) specifying that this means that “they’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortar, lead infantry soldiers into combat” (paragraphs 1-2).
This can only be understood as a historical reversal, led primarily by considerations regarding gender equality within contemporary American society, and the notion that forbidding women from serving on the frontlines is little more than an archaic hangover from a more patriarchal age.
President Obama (qtd. in Chappell) has been very supportive of this decision, speaking of it in the following way:
“One of the qualities that make America’s armed forces the best in the world is that we draw on the talents and skills of our people. . . . Over recent decades, we’ve opened about 90 percent of military positions to women . . . Today, the Defense Department is taking another historic step forward by opening up the remaining 10 percent of military positions” (paragraphs 6-7).
Obama, in his capacity as President of the United States, has expressed confidence that this change of policy will in fact make the military as a whole considerably stronger. This is admittedly a quite strong endorsement. It will be appropriate, however, to turn to a more critical evaluation of the issue under consideration here, including the validity of that endorsement.
Argument for women serving in frontline positions
The primary argument for women being allowed to serve on the frontlines in the military alongside men comes from the angle of gender equality in the workplace: essentially, keeping women out of those roles could be interpreted as a form of unjust discrimination. As Moritz has written:
“Most of the women we spoke with strongly believe that the military should be like any other job field: All opportunities should be open to both men and women. . . . Perhaps the most important argument for maintaining gender equality at every level is that it’s necessary to truly enable women to have successful careers within the military” (paragraphs 5 and 7).
If women cannot serve in frontline positions, then they also cannot reach the highest levels of achievement within the military; and this argument suggests that just as this is a double standard within any other professional workplace, it should also be considered unacceptable within the military profession as well.
Feminist theorists—such as Simone de Beauvoir for example, have long insisted that women have been treated as second-class citizens by men within even modern and developed societies, with women primarily having to define themselves in terms of how men see them, and not in terms of how they see themselves. In this context, it could be suggested that prohibiting women from serving in frontline positions would be just another symptom of this general way of thinking.
The idea here would be that it is primarily men—due to their own subjective perceptions of women—who define what women can and cannot do, with women themselves having little autonomous say over their own dreams, ambitions, and self-concepts, which could well include serving in frontline positions. This line of argument culminates in the suggestion that full gender equality all across society is in dire need of implementation, in order to remedy the history injustice done against women by men.
In addition, from the perspective of the argument for women on the frontlines, the argument against is primarily informed by overt sexism, and thus hardly even worthy of serious consideration. Jessica Valenti of The Guardian has indicated that opponents of women on the frontlines often cite such vague factors such as “emotions,” going on to also point out that
“perhaps the most misguided of all reasons to not let women serve in combat positions is that they might get raped” (Valenti).
In short, the argument could be made that unless there is a credible reason why women should not be allowed to serve on the frontlines, the default should be for them to be allowed to do so; and from the angle of the proponents of the policy, such an argument simply does not exist. However, this assessment itself may be significantly colored by ideology.
Argument against women serving in frontline positions
One of the primary arguments against women serving in frontline positions is rooted in the simple observation of physiological differences between men and women, as well as of acts of violence carried out against women in the military. As Russell has written:
“Despite feminists, over the course of the last few decades, maintaining with vigor that women are equal . . . to men in many ways, science demonstrates the opposite, as far as pure physiology goes;” and Russell (a woman) has supported this assertion with the findings of a study that indicated that “men had an average of 26 lbs. (12 kilograms) more skeletal muscle mass than women and that they had more upper and lower body strength” (paragraph 3).
Such facts are scientifically irrefutable; and they are also quite salient, given the obviously physically demanding nature of military work on the frontlines. As much as one may want to believe that women are equal to men in this regard, there is no empirically plausible way to make that case. This is similar to the way in which women have their own athletic leagues: the unspoken assumption is that if women were placed in direct physical competition against men, then they would of course lose badly, due to purely physiological reasons.
On the basis of such considerations, Russell has concluded that
“lifting restrictions on women in combat is harmful to our military’s primary goal. It exists solely for the purposes of political correctness; it goes against the very emotional, psychological and physiological nature innate within men and women—at a great cost of our national security” (paragraph 8).
Russell thus directly contradicts Obama’s belief that women on the frontlines will make the military as a whole stronger: she is of the opinion that this statement is colored by ideological blinkers of political correctness, and that it fails to take into account the actual empirical realities of frontline combat, and what it would physically, emotionally, and mentally mean for women to actually serve on the frontlines alongside men.
Following this line of thought, an argument against women serving in the frontlines alongside men can also be made from the angle of sexual dynamics—which, from this perspective, is a very real force that is more often ignored by advocates of the new policy. As Newbold (qtd. in Hickford) has written:
“The issue we’re now debating has to include a recognition of cohesion and the cost of sexual dynamics in a bare-knuckled brawl, amidst primeval mayhem, in which we expect the collective entity to persevere because it has a greater will and fighting spirit” (paragraph 9).
The implication here is that the presence of women alongside men would fundamentally disrupt the kind of group cohesion and collective will that determines success on the frontlines. Sexual assault is a real and valid concern as well, for the simple reason that humans are sexual beings, especially when placed within a context that is specifically designed to bring out one’s more animal impulses.
The argument against women serving in the frontlines alongside men, then, is informed by both empirical and ideological considerations. At the empirical level, the argument can clearly be made that women are not physiologically constituted in the same way as men. This would make women, in general, unqualified for the kind of work that would be required within the context of frontline military service.
At the ideological level, the argument could be made that there are more holistic inherent differences between men and women as well, and that these differences not only make women unsuited for frontline combat but would even make their presence detrimental to the work done by men within that context. Of course, this sounds like a rather impolite thing to say; but from this perspective, the advocates of women on the frontlines are merely engaging in political correctness, and about an issue where such political correctness is unforgivable, given that it could quite directly be a matter of life or death for the soldiers on the ground.
On the basis of the above analysis, the critical conclusion could now be reached that the argument against women serving on the frontlines has greater merit than the argument for the policy, and that it has thus been a mistake to change American policy in such a way that women are now allowed to serve on the frontlines. Among other things, the main argument in favor of women serving on the frontlines—namely, workplace equality—becomes a trite one, when the stakes are high as they are when it comes to military combat. There is no room here for ideology or sentimentality; rather, policy must proceed on the basis of clear-eyed vision of empirical realities, including the real physiological differences between men and women, as well the psychological dynamics that prevail between most real men and women as they actually are (and not as feminists may hope that they might be).
As the issue stands, it is a fact that frontline military combat is one of the most physically demanding of all possible lines of work. It is also a fact that a certain kind of emotional and psychological mindset is needed in order for units on the frontlines to carry out their work in an optimal way. It is not clear that women are physiologically equipped for handling that kind of demand, and it is also not clear that sexual dynamics would not interfere with the operations of soldiers engaged in frontline combat. In light of these considerations, the argument for women on the frontlines seems quite abstract and idealistic. Especially within a context that is inherently non-idealistic in nature, and where being too abstract could easily get one killed. Given these points, then, it is necessary to reach the impolitic conclusion that women should not in fact be allowed serve on the frontline alongside men. This just seems like an all-around bad idea that has been driven more by feminist ideology than by any serious consideration of the nature of the actual scenario on the ground. We hope you enjoyed reading this sample argumentative essay, and did you know that by reading it, it may also make you a better writer?
Beauvoir, Simone de. The Second Sex. New York: Vintage, 2011. Print.
Chappell, Bill. “Pentagon Says Women Can Now Serve in Front-Line Ground Combat Positions.” NPR. 3 Dec. 2015. Web. 31 Aug. 2016.
Hickford, Michele. “The Best Argument You’ll Ever Read for Not Having Women in Combat.” Allen B. West. 13 Sep. 2015. Web. 7 Sep. 2016.
Moritz, Dani. “Women in the Military: Why Can’t We Serve on the Front Lines?” The Muse. n.d. Web. 7 Sep. 2016.
Russell, Nicole. “Why Women Shouldn’t Be in Combat.” Conservative Review. 6 Feb. 2016.
Thompson, Mark. “Pentagon Opens All Frontline Combat Jobs to Women.” Time. 3 Dec. 2015. Web. 7 Sep. 2016.
Valenti, Jessica. “Women Are Already on the Front Lines. Now They Get Official Recognition for It.” Guardian. 4 Dec. 2015. Web. 7 Sep. 2016.
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