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Integrating women into the military, like with African-American men, would also contribute to more cohesive fighting units again serving to promote a united, strong U.S. military organization.
Anti-female bias in the military
The struggle for equality in the military for women parallels that of African-American men in many other ways. As a direct result of the need for additional "manpower," women's push for better treatment in the military, and a desire for a larger, stronger military, in 1948, the Women's Armed Services Integration Act was enacted. This act made it possible for women to become permanent members in the military.
Once again, as with African-American men, that act alone was not enough to ensure integration thus leading to a multitude of policies designed to accomplish that end. Almost immediately following this act, in 1949, it was changed to eliminate women with dependent children. This was not changed until the 1970's. Now, like men, women may serve in the military even if they have dependent children. The struggle for women in the military continues as is evidenced by the fact that as recently as 1984, it was recommended by the Defense Department Advisory Committee on Women in the Services that "the Office of the Secretary of Defense reiterate, through the publication of a formal policy statement to commanders and field personnel at all levels, the requirement that women be fully utilized in their assigned operational units" (Defense Technical Information Center, 2012).
Striving towards gender equality
Unlike the Executive order mandating racial integration executed by Truman on behalf of the African-American man, women's rights in the military were actually championed in Congress by Senator Margaret Close Smith. She was the impetus to the Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948 (Borlik, 1998). Without her hard work and dedication it is unlikely that this act would have passed Congress and it is even less clear if Harry S. Truman would have bypassed Congress with an Executive Order mandating equality for women in the United States military, especially given the views on women during the 1940's. Clearly, it was not until the 1970's that women were allowed to serve if they had dependent children though this posed no problem for men of any color.
However, like African-American men, women have had the support of many. As noted above, Senator Margaret Close Smith successfully fought for women's rights within the military. Along with the senator, there was the pressure born to bear by the Feminist Movement, and like the African-American men, the Civil Rights Movement also played a significant role. As of this writing, in these United States of America, women are still not guaranteed equal rights in the military or anywhere else according to the Constitution. This is because the Equal Rights amendment guaranteeing women the same rights that all men have (regardless of color) has never been added as an amendment.
Additionally, women in combat is still a fierce debate. There are many arguments against women in combat and they tend toward the "protective" stance once relegated to African-American men. For example, one hears of the lack of physical ability, the possibility of rape, the possibility of pregnancy, the innate "differences" of women, and the basic need of women to nurture, which is in direct opposition to the required killing skills of a soldier. This is akin to stating that African-American men were not intelligent enough to fulfill the necessary obligations of a fully commissioned soldier. Further, it is not likely that an event such as Tailhook will come to light regarding African-American men though it came as no surprise when it happened to women in the military. Harassment and assault of women in the military was an accepted fact and has yet to be completely eradicated despite the many policies prohibiting this type of treatment, thus making it impossible for women to benefit from the same equality attained by African-American men in the United States Military.
With regard to African-Americans, it can be argued that the military has done a better job at integration than some civilian institutions; however, there remains a great deal to accomplish the same on behalf of women. The struggles of the African-American man and women to gain equal status in the military have been supported and thwarted at every turn. Yet, the military has managed to successfully managed to integrate African-American men whereas, there is still a decidedly unequal position for women within the military, thus making that transformation incomplete. With this in mind, it would behoove the American soldier to remember that the reason he or she is fighting is precisely so that all people have the right to fight beside them regardless of skin color and gender and only their individual actions can transform the military into a completely integrated fighting machine.
Borlik, A. (1998, June). DOD Marks 50th Year of Military Women's Integration
Retrieved January 12, 2012, from U.S. Department of Defense…[continue]
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