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Essentially, there are two main patriarchal reasons for the opposition to women being permitted in frontline combat zones. First is the issue of gender roles, but particularly, women’s role in society. Traditional women’s roles can generally be described as sets of social expectations, possibilities, and capabilities within a particular patriarchal framework. Each set of expectations, possibilities and capabilities gets defined in relation to the patriarchal framework, which in turn has specific ramifications for individual female bodies. So historically, it has been expected of women to be the primary caretakers of children in the home, to socialize those children into the dominant framework and to adhere to “feminine assignments” (such as dainty appearances and submissive behaviors). Women were also expected to be dependent upon men (specifically in economic matters, but especially in combat matters). Social institutions such as the economy, the state and the military viewed women as physically weak, dependent persons whose primary purpose was to perform domestic tasks and reproduce dominant social norms at home. In a certain sense, women needed to be “protected” so that they could continue to socialize their children in accordance with dominant economic, gender and racial interests. Since men were (and still are) characterized as physically dominant and strong (amongst a plethora of other social attributes), they would be the best candidates to serve in military combat on behalf of the dominant interests of the framework. Under this guise, a woman’s role absolutely would not be at all suited for combat on a battlefield, of all places.
So, the notion that women aren’t suited for combat stems not from a natural or biological standpoint but from a socially constructed, restrictive patriarchal framework. It’s an extraordinarily narrow frame which limits and defines women (as well as men) only in relation to suiting its own interests. So, not only is it wrong to universally claim that women cannot perform equally to men on the battlefield, but it’s not even empirically true within the patriarchal framework itself (as evidenced by the physical capabilities of female athletes)! And outside of the patriarchal framework, women’s roles, possibilities and capabilities would likely become defined in a much more expansive way that doesn’t subordinate them on different levels.
Secondly, aside from women’s gender roles, there is also the patriarchal issue of trustworthiness. Could a woman or a female body actually be trusted to carry out important patriarchal interests in the form of military missions? And can a woman be trusted to do so as well as a man? Those in the media who subscribe to this patriarchal constructed reality and who can define reality only in the traditional terms within which they were socialized will absolutely not trust a woman to carry out a “man’s job,” so to speak. Ironically however, even though women’s roles have indeed changed over time, there are those critics who cannot see the bigger picture (perhaps because they’ve been socialized to view reality through a very narrow scope in the first place) whereby women now can contribute to sustaining patriarchal (and maybe more importantly capitalist) power in newly constructed capacities. In which case, the Department of Defense didn’t necessarily lift this ban in the name of genuine equality, but perhaps the underlying motivation was to say, “Why not now use previously excluded people to further enhance particular, dominant interests.” Along those lines, critics of this decision may want to reconsider their stance.
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