By Anita Doberman: Local columnist
Women were first admitted to West Point in 1976 after President Ford signed legislation opening the nation’s service academies to females.
For the class of 2011, more women than ever entered West Point, bringing the number of female cadets to 225, which is 17 percent of the class.
This is good news for women, and good news for the military.
Diversity in our military means a wider range of ideas, opinions and capabilities. I would be proud if any of my four girls wanted to join the academies or the military, and so would their dad. There’s no doubt women’s contribution to our military has been invaluable, but not without a lot of debate and controversy, especially when it comes to women in combat, where, for the most part, women are still barred from direct roles.
I am grateful to those women who blazed trails that opened options for my daughters in the military, and in society at large.
But I don’t think women should be in combat.
Men and women are not the same, and pretending they are does not make it so.
Part of the ideology of women’s rights is that many of the apparent differences between men and women are culturally imposed. Remove the obstacles in front of women, the thought is, and the differences disappear. Girls don’t play with dolls because they are more docile than their toy-car-toting brothers, but because we give them dolls rather matchbox cars. Modern research has backed up some of this philosophy.
And even if we assume that boys and girls really are nearly interchangeable, men are still much more suited to combat than women. Women are simply not as strong as men. Believe me, I wish we were. I’ll put a jar of food back in the pantry rather than ask my husband for help. Men average around six inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than women. But even pound for pound, men are far stronger.
Technology has not changed the battlefield enough to overcome the need for strength. Even ignoring the morale difficulties of a mixed sex fighting force, that might be just as compelling a reason to argue for combat remaining all-male, there is no room for someone who is a physical liability.
There are some women who are stronger than the average man, but not many. This makes the military uncomfortable, because it’s been forced into the unenviable position of being one of the country’s great defenders of political correctness. So while we can find women who are physically capable of combat, it would be expensive and unnecessary — the hallmark of a decision made for politics and not logic. I want my girls to have every opportunity that men have, but I won’t elevate my desire for equality over the needs of our military and the lives of the men who fight.
Anita Doberman is a freelance writer, mother of five and wife of an Air Force pilot stationed at Hurlburt AFB in Florida. Contact her at: