Female Front Line Infantry Soldiers and Feminism

(67 Posts)
1DAD2KIDS Sun 16-Oct-16 22:39:45

The MOD are now opening up front line post to women including combat Infantry roles. After lots of study and viewing women on the front line they can see no reason why providing they take a reasonable duty of care towards genrally weaker physical form. It found women to be more prone to injuries and must therefore try and mitigate these added risks as much as fesably possible without diluting combat effectiveness. I for one welcome this news. I don't think anyone should be held back from achieving their potential in their chosen career if they are capable of the job. But I do have a few questions on the feminist point of view.

For a feminist perspective is it right for women to enter into a job that role is to be at the blunt end of killing fellow human beings. Is being a professional trained killer in conflicts caused by a patriarchal world something to be encouraged? Is this a positive or negative profession for women?

I do believe that this is a role where gender differences will have a big impact. I don't think anyone will dispute that male and female physiology is different. Men are naturally more physically stronger than women so the nature of how violent and physical combat is naturally suits males over females. Plus differing hormone levels. If we are to say men are more violent and aggressive then the Infantry is more suited to men. Hopefully we agree on that. Now personally I welcome any woman who is up to the job. But I doubt we will see the ranks of the Infantry hugely bolstered with females over night. I suspect most will simply not want to be Infantry. I think all should be done to say to women this is a job open to you and encourage them to do it. But is there turns out to be a low percentage of women in the ranks of the Infantry would this be seen as frustrating from a feminist view point? Sould the mix be nearer 50/50?

Grimarse Mon 17-Oct-16 06:10:44

But if male aggression and violence is mostly socialised, then we can turn women into effective killing machines too. Perhaps acknowledging that women can do this will help to negate some of the gendered shit in society - toys, clothing etc. Seeing women on the front line makes any arguments about 'toy guns are only for boys' a little bit redundant.

HillaryFTW Mon 17-Oct-16 08:18:23

"we are to say men are more violent and aggressive then the Infantry is more suited to men. Hopefully we agree on that. "

Did you just say that a role is now open to women that previously wasn't, but you want feminists to agree that men are better suited to it?

I'm not sure that's going to work as an approach, TBH.

FreshwaterSelkie Mon 17-Oct-16 08:30:36

But is there turns out to be a low percentage of women in the ranks of the Infantry would this be seen as frustrating from a feminist view point?

For me, personally, probably not. Because I'm fairly non-militaristic, so from my hippy-dippy point of view, I'd prefer that I job I perceive as brutalising to the people that do it is needed less and less in a more co-operative world. So the fewer people that do it, male or female, the better, for me. One could argue that being militaristic is anti-feminist in itself - I grew up in the era of Greenham Common, so predisposed towards this point of view.

But, that said, I think it's important that there is true equality of opportunity for women to participate in the role as it exists. I'm not sure that I buy the need for superior physical strength as of all the soldiers I've talked to, only the special forces have ever done any close up combat. Any of them or indeed any martial artist will tell you that there is more to it than brute strength. So I don't buy that as a reason for women being held back.

I'm not sure that saying that men are naturally more aggressive and violent than women is a feminist position either - feminists are far more likely to argue that this is a result of nurture not nature. We socialise men into being more accepting of violence. That said, I don't think there's much gain to be made from socialising more women to be violent - rather the opposite.

So, a mixed bag from me, really. If women want to do this role, then I think all barriers to it should be removed. But If women don't take up the opportunity, then I wouldn't lose that much sleep.

WhenSheWasBadSheWasHorrid Mon 17-Oct-16 08:38:38

But I doubt we will see the ranks of the Infantry hugely bolstered with females over night

I think you are right about this. I think women should be able to do the same role as men but I would be very surprised if we see a huge influx of women joining the infantry.

1DAD2KIDS Mon 17-Oct-16 09:47:47

I think in RL maybe because of many factors such as socialisation ect I don't think the job would appeal to most women. I welcome anyone into the role who is up to the job.

I am ex forces my self and I really don't agree that strength, aggression and endurance are not vital parts of fighting and the Infantry. Although the modern battle field negates some of this need (due to armoured transport and air power/artillery etc) we can not forget that sometimes these attributes are needed in bag loads for both victory and survival.

Personally I don't agree that women are naturally not as physically strong in general. It is simply a mater of biology that is just life. I don't think anyone can dispute that as the weight of research supports this. This is the reason why there are different fitness standards for men and women in the forces to offset the difference in male and female physiology. Personally a policy I disagree with as I believe that everyone regardless of gender should meet the same standard. Also the RAF has started taking in women a couple of weeks early to improve their strength and fitness prior to starting basic training. It had be found female recruits were struggling with the fitness standards (although lower than the standard for men) and were far more prone to injuries. So the aim of this training is to help support female entrants. After all the MOD does have a duty of care to its staff and is a great equal oppertunities employer these day. Although I have servered with many women who are ace and I hold in very high regard (we are like a family) very few of them would meet the male standard (not always through lack of effort I may add, they just can't get there). Like I say I support all who can do the job of Infantry but in terms of combat effectiveness we have to be grounded in the real world. At the end of the the real world battlefield does not distinguish between gender. There are plenty of people on MN who regularly agree that men are in genral far pyshicaly stronger (even when equal high and build) and also far more violent nature (biology or nurture we can't ignore the difference).

I don't think MMA and other Marshall arts examples equate here. I totally agree that in a Marshall arts setting women are just as capable as men. It is a lot about techniques and skill. But that is a fight on a mat for a few minutes. But real life combat is very different. Sometimes we don't fight the wars or battles with all the advantages of superior firepower or support. Sometimes there is a need to operate in very inhuman conditions, great strength and fitness to carrying on fighting and pushing forward. And yes tones of aggression. A classic example is the Falklands war. Due to the loss of the helicopter the Infantry had to March huge distances carrying all their equipment, weapons, rations, water and ammunition across huge distances in very harsh conditions. I don't know if any on you know what it's like to carry weapons, body armour, water, ammunition, Comms equipment and other equipment. It does take a lot of psyical strength. So for me we must always be able to fight in the worst case scenario. Therefore I am really happy about women Infantry but I think the standards should be the same for men and women, would people agree to that?

So should we let men and women to meet the same standards or should we alter the playing field based on gender to get a 50/50? Do physiological differences have an impact on the attractiveness of some jobs depending on gender or is it simply a social contract?

Doobigetta Mon 17-Oct-16 17:33:34

I agree with you. Women should absolutely be able to fight in frontline/infantry units, but only if they meet the existing physical requirements. Giving them additional training to be able to do that is fine, I think. But lowering the standards is not. I think I've read that one of the reasons the U.S. military is less formidable than it used to be is because standards for fitness and endurance have been relaxed. Partly to allow more women to qualify, but also because all recruits are tending to be less fit and strong than they used to be. I don't see anything positive in British forces going the same way.
I do think it's sexist bullshit, sorry, to say that women are fundamentally less aggressive than men and our gentler natures should be preserved. That's socialisation, albeit very ingrained. It's not universal.
I have also read that even the small number of women who can meet the physical standards for infantry, paras, whatever, find it much, much harder than their male colleagues in the long term. they pick up chronic injuries more easily, take longer to recover and have to retire earlier- their bodies just don't have the same level of resilience. But if individual soldiers are aware of this and want to do it anyway, that's up to them.

MoreKopparbergthanKrug Mon 17-Oct-16 22:06:03

I have to admit, I know nothing about the Army side but quite a bit about the RN. The new ability for women to serve in RN SMs for example has diddly to do with new research proving it's safe (though of course, there is) nor enlightened attitudes; it's all about the problems recruiting submariners and wanting to recruit from a bigger pool. I wasn't in in the early 90s when women first went to sea on the surface fleet but I hear the real reasons weren't dissimilar.

I am interested to hear the RAF are starting basic training a couple of weeks early for women. I've been out of the basic training side of the RN for a while but I know there were/are real problems with the male recruits getting feet and lower limb injuries from having to wear boots rather than soft trainer type shoes they'd been wearing their whole lives. There were fewer of those type of problems with the women - presumably because many girls don't wear trainers all the time growing up in the same way many boys do (sweeping generalisation!).

1DAD2KIDS Mon 17-Oct-16 22:22:16

I agree. Doors should be open to all but we can't ignore the differences that are at play between me and women in context to the Infantry role. To me sliding standards will result in catastrophic results on the battle field.

I don't believe women in the Infantry will effect cohesion as long as the standard are the same then every only is equal and capable of pulling their own weight and proforming the same. Women have been inadvertently working on the front line in resent conflict and the studies show that everyone works together well. I personally never seen any difference when serving on Ops with females, very much one team no gender. I think one thing I miss is how the barriers between men and women are broken down in the forces. It's a cool environment to work in. A trust in the people around you regardless of gender that doesn't seem to exist in the civi world.

Very good point about females being more prone to injuries. That is my personal experience and supported by resarch. The Army should do their best mitigate injury through enhanced physical conditioning. But we must be also brave enough to accept that many women are just not physically robust enough for the Infantry. It's no reflection on women just biology.

Genvonklinkerhoffen Mon 17-Oct-16 22:26:39

The mod doesn't actually have a definition of the words woman or female so fuck knows how this will be audited.

1DAD2KIDS Mon 17-Oct-16 22:30:01

MoreKopparbergthanKrug interesting input. I think evidence that modern life style is also causing challenges to the MOD.

It's great news about submariners. Like I say I belive all doors should be open to all providing the standards are met.

My worry is that there is political pressure to reduce standards to allow more to meet the grade. A dangerous game in my book.

EmpressKnowsWhereHerTowelIs Mon 17-Oct-16 22:30:15

You're making repeated references to gender, OP, but do you mean gender? Or biological sex?

1DAD2KIDS Mon 17-Oct-16 22:35:57

Sorry I have failed to be more astute on this website site. I suppose to clarify we are looking at the performance differences based on biological sex.

As the fitness tests for example specify differing standards for males and females. I don't know where the MOD stand for those who identify as a gender other than their biological sex

HillaryFTW Mon 17-Oct-16 22:36:47

I'm assuming a minority of both sexes would pass army tests/training - that minority might be 5% for men and 1% for women or whatever, but if tests are passed, I'm not sure that matters.

It also sounds as if, because the career is getting less popular and perhaps because of changes in frontline activities, physical tests may be different than they used to be also.

1DAD2KIDS Mon 17-Oct-16 22:44:18

What we need to understand is that general milliary training and standards are different than the physical standards for the Infantry. Warfare has changed in many ways but little has changed in terms of the attributes needed for close quarters combat. Also the weight of of the combat equipment issued theses days one could argue that the modern Infantry solider need to be stronger than their historical counterpart

1DAD2KIDS Mon 17-Oct-16 22:45:46

If anything like those pass rate figures were true we would have no army

Voteforpedr0 Mon 17-Oct-16 22:47:51

What about periods though ? Seriously that would be a bit of a problem would it ?

HillaryFTW Mon 17-Oct-16 22:53:02

I meant 5% of the male population and 1% of the female. They were example numbers, as per my "or whatever" phrase.

Never mind. Your agenda is clear. Ta ra.

1DAD2KIDS Mon 17-Oct-16 22:57:49

I don't think so. It is just an additional bodily function to male sex. Remember the female sex already serve on the front line in Afghanistan etc overcome this problem. Although someone serious period effects could cause a problem. But is the same for any health condition that effects combat effectiveness male sex or female sex.

MoreKopparbergthanKrug Mon 17-Oct-16 23:04:06

Standards were being reduced to allow more to make the grade, of both sexes; I do see that slowing down tho.

In the RN, the standards of the aerobic element of the annual fitness tests are different for the 2 sexes and also lower as you get older. You can (largely) choose between a 2.4km run or a bleep test. Neither of those accurately represent tasks that need to be done at sea. It's more about having a moderate level of fitness so that surviving on adrenaline and being able to function on very little sleep is easier. The level of eg bleep test required to demonstrate that equivalent level is different because of the physiological differences between the sexes.

However the strength element of the annual RN fitness test is a directly replica of a vital safety task on board; carrying 2 * 5l firefighting foam on a multiple shuttle run. The standards required for this task are the same for all, no matter what age, sex or rank.

1DAD2KIDS Mon 17-Oct-16 23:04:51

HillaryFTW what's the agenda, prey tell? And surely this is a place to challenge views. Not to just chin it off when it conflicts with your understanding or perception of my "agenda"

The male sex is more far more suitable for the high physical standard and less prone to injuries. That is just science. The percentage differences are a very different proportion.

EBearhug Mon 17-Oct-16 23:05:46

Plenty of women use Mirena or implants these days, which mean they just don't experience periods. I know plenty of other women have big problems with hormonal contraceptives, but not everyone does.

Periods aren't always a problem. I haven't been in the military, but I have spent months travelling/camping in remote parts of Africa and Asia. I had periods during that time, but I have no memory of them being a problem or anything; in fact I have no memory of them at all, which suggests I didn't have any flooding or anything like that. They seem to be lighter in hot countries. (I could check back in my travel diaries, which were quite detailed - but not at this time of night.)

I would guess that if you do have problematic periods, that would count against you, not just in military service, but in other jobs. Now I'm in my mid-40s, I do appreciate having a desk job where I can work from home when I need to, including heaviest period days. It would be more problematic on floody days in other jobs - even something like teaching, if you can't get to the loo every hour as I have needed to on bad days.

1DAD2KIDS Mon 17-Oct-16 23:09:33

I think the navy have it about right. Where it's a matter of safety and combat need tests should be the level required to do it effectively for ALL.

The Infantry is massively pyshicaly demanding. I don't belive standards should be dropped for any one in this role because the real world combat doesn't distinguish between pyshical ability

EmpressKnowsWhereHerTowelIs Mon 17-Oct-16 23:09:42

I don't know where the MOD stand for those who identify as a gender other than their biological sex.

This is where they stand on it, apparently. Hence the relevance of knowing whether you were talking about just women or also about anyone who "identifies as a woman", regardless of their biology.

www.theguardian.com/society/2016/sep/17/transgender-soldier-is-first-female-to-serve-on-the-front-line

1DAD2KIDS Mon 17-Oct-16 23:19:43

To be fair I was talking in terms of tests where differing standards are set for differing biological standards. I assume the postion on this is to go with the identified gender. Which I belive is correct as we identify people in line with their gender not their biology. That party why I think all tests should not be biological sex specific. The same hi standards for all.

The MOD is great by the way. We have a post op transgender Flight Sargent at our training school. The MOD where fully supportive of her physical change.

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