Now it’s the ladies.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has decided to lift a ban that prohibited women from serving in combat, a congressional source tells NPR’s Tom Bowman. The move opens up thousands of front-line positions.
Panetta is expected to announce the decision along with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tomorrow.
Citing “senior defense officials,” the AP adds:
“The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule banning women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units. Panetta’s decision gives the military services until January 2016 to seek special exceptions if they believe any positions must remain closed to women.”
The obvious reaction is: It’s about damn time.
Of course, I fully expect the few remaining conservative heads that didn’t explode upon hearing Pres. Obama’s second inaugural address to spontaneously combust now. As my friend Imani says over at Angry Black Lady Chronicles:
Prepare for the incoming jokes about women being issued Hello Kitty uniforms and pink guns, while conservatives wax nostalgic for the days when strapping young men didn’t have to serve in a foxhole with women who bleed every month and refuse to die.
Fortunately for our conservative friends, if your head has a propensity to explode and/or combust spontaneously, that’s a preexisting condition that’s fully covered under ObamaCare.
But here’s the thing. It’s odd to me that we’re still having this discussion in 2013. “This discussion” meaning, of course, whether women who want to serve in combat roles should be permitted to do so; and “we,” of course, meaning anyone who isn’t a woman.
The first time I recall discussing the women-in-combat issue was back in college in the early 1980s, and even then, even as a young jackass of maybe 19 years old, I had precisely two thoughts on the matter, and they occurred in this order: First I thought, Gee, it’s kind of sad to think that more people would be eligible to be used as cannon fodder in the next pointless war started by fat, rich, out of touch politicians with no skin in the game. And then, a few seconds later, I thought, But it’s not up to me, because, you know, I don’t have lady-parts or anything, and if women in the military want to fight alongside men, they should be able to make that decision, because they’re grownups.
End of thought process.
But it’s never that simple, is it. Because in America, it’s always the people in charge – usually men, mostly white, mostly straight, mostly Christian – who get to make decisions for everybody else. And they, the people in charge, talk about the people affected by their decisions – usually women, or people of color, or gay people, or non-Christians – like those people aren’t even in the room. Should we allow women in combat? Should we allow gay people to marry? Is this Black candidate really qualified to be president? What are we going to do about all these Muslims/Jews/Catholics/ Mormons/atheists/agnostics/Buddhist/ Zoroastrians …
It’s always been this way. People who aren’t part of one traditionally disadvantaged group or another making decisions for people who are. And if that doesn’t creep you out a little bit – especially if you’re in the group that usually makes the decisions for others – well, damn, brother. It should.
So, yes, kudos Sec. Panetta and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They did the right thing, and better late than never. But it’s still a little creepy, the way these things come about.