Throughout history, societies have excluded women from the military, relegating them to insignificant roles like taking care of families and raising children, while men have enjoyed the fame and glory of fighting for their country. Even today, the military remains overwhelmingly male, and women are systematically discriminated against in all roles within the marines, air force and navy. How can we continue to bestow roles of military heroism exclusively to men, while denying women the honor and respect that comes with military service?
Discrimination against women is so ingrained in the military, that the US Navy Seals openly excluded women until only this year! To this day, the military refuses to relax its requirements to give women a chance to qualify. Assessments still overemphasize physical fitness, sleep deprivation and working under pressure. And although gender is a social construct, our sexist society exclusively promotes these skills in men, making it difficult for women to pass. Military assessments need to focus more on skills that accrue to women, like emotional IQ, empathy and peacekeeping. War is not always about conflict – a lot of the time, battles are won through negotiation and reasoning, which women excel at. The overemphasis on aggression and weapons only makes it easier for men to qualify, and serves to further gender inequality.
The military is also notoriously transphobic, and still has one of the lowest trans populations of any sector of society. Facilities are provided only for men and women, and trans people are forced to pick a binary gender in order to fit in. There is also rampant racism in special forces teams like the Navy Seals, which are still overwhelmingly white.
We cannot call ourselves a truly equal society, while continuing to honor only men with medals and statues for their military heroism. Military heroes enjoy some of the highest moral status in our society, and women feel hurt and excluded that they cannot enjoy similar roles of moral significance. We simply have to bring our military into the 21st century, and make it truly inclusive. Doing so will not only make our society fairer – it will also improve our effectiveness overseas, by allowing us to utilize the wisdom, intellect and fortitude of women in our many military engagements.