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Readers skirmish over women in battle

By Jim Kavanagh, CNN
January 24, 2013 -- Updated 2229 GMT (0629 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Many commenters say women can't meet physical demands of combat roles
  • Some worry about women being raped if captured; others say women are raped by fellow troops
  • Concerns about menstrual cycles and pregnancy are a common thread
  • Some say women should be required to register with Selective Service

(CNN) -- CNN.com readers snapped to attention at Wednesday afternoon's announcement that the Pentagon was planning to open combat roles to women.

Commenters who identified themselves as male and as veterans overwhelmingly -- but certainly not unanimously -- opposed the change.

The story's very first comment raised the question of pregnancy's effect on battle readiness (some comments may be edited for brevity, clarity and style:

Common Sense: What happens with maternity leave when (you're) in a combat zone?

A presumably female reader replied:

Frum: Women in combat not a good idea
Policy change allows women in combat
Gabbard: Pentagon decision 'major step'

Laura Flowers: They get reassigned duties and sent back to a more appropriate post if they're pregnant obviously. Use your common sense. Besides, women will be on the front lines typically only in an MOS (military occupation specialty) that qualifies for that. The exceptions might be mechanics, commo, medics and supply.

The back-and-forth continued through more than 1,700 comments in the first few hours.

Bakari: This is good. Everyone should be able to fight for their country no matter the gender.

Jon: Warfare is NOT a gender neutral playing field. This is going to get a lot of people killed.

Many former service members endorse decision

Many expressed concern that enemy forces would rape female service members captured in battle.

Aezel: I have mixed feelings about this. I have no doubt about women's ability to fight, kill and be effective soldiers. I do however shudder to think what would happen to them in a POW camp in the Middle East. Many of the enemies of the United States they will be asked to face are utter barbarians. Men can be tortured, but the sexual violence that can be additionally be visited upon a captured woman takes it to the next level of inhumane. I wish our female soldiers good luck.

Finn: Obviously you think male POWs are never raped because they don't talk about it. Guess again.

But others pointed out that many women already in the military are raped by their own comrades.

101TestUser: Women in the military are being raped every day ... by other US soldiers. Including gang rape. Other Americans are the greatest threat to female U.S. soldiers. The solution is to get these rapists out of the military. Go see "The Invisible War" if you are actually concerned about this issue.

Join the discussion on Twitter

But the most discussed issue was whether women are physically and emotionally capable of meeting the same training standards as men and of operating under battlefield conditions.

Jeff: Being a former Army man ... lets' make sure that if it's open, the physical requirements are not lessened. I would not want to have to move / carry a 300-pound Pioneer box with a woman that can only carry 75 pounds worth of weight. If women get into the infantry or any field that is physically exerting, I will expect them to be a very buff looking woman. You want the rights, then you better carry your weight, no excuses, no exceptions otherwise stay out of my MOS.

Unknown: Some of us can do it, some of us can't. I agree with the policy at least allowing for the opportunity for the most elite female soldiers to be included in combat units; however, the standards should not be lowered. Lowered standards means more people killed.

WheresmySandwich: To lower standards would be an insult to both genders, especially women who want to prove they're just as tough as their male counterparts.

Ralph M: My father landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944. He was a combat medic. Treating wounded and dying men was difficult, but treating women casualties would go against OUR values in this country relating to our mothers, sisters and aunts, etc. Other countries do not value women as much as we do in this country. I am the father of six daughters. I do not want them in combat. How much political correctness do we need? We allowed gays to openly march in the San Diego Gay Pride parade last year in military uniform. There is nothing sacred in this liberal society we have created. Be a woman and all that goes with it. You do not want to get shot and bleed to death on some foreign land that really does not care that you are there. If our country is attacked -- sure fight and die, but equal opportunity can and probably will get you killed.

Some comments drew a connection between allowing women in combat and last year's decision to allow gay personnel to serve openly.

Lazicus: Retired soldier and not a huge fan of the gay lifestyle. That said, I'd take a gay man at my side over a female of any stripe if we were under heavy attack. Men are men and women are women, and they are not the same.

Another Twitter thread

Many commenters, not all of them women, pointed out that women already serve in the military and have performed admirably under hostile fire.

sallymae: I hate to tell you guys, but as a WOMAN VETERAN, we serve and do the same jobs as MEN and get the same pay OR HIGHER than men. Women outrank men, and there are more women officers than men. If you're too insecure to handle that, then prove it. Put on a pair of combat boots and grow some!

I can bet the trolls sitting at home with beer bellies and no jobs are the ones disrespecting the women who will be saving your butts! Enlist -- serve our country -- and then come talk to me! BTW -- I can kick you ass any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Another common thread was concern over service interruptions brought about by menstrual cycles. That brought this sharp reply:

Kathy0715: Anytime someone states "I'm all for, but.....", you're not really all for anything. I remember when people said women couldn't be firefighters and EMT because they had menstrual cycles and would cry. I remember when people said women couldn't be pilots because they had menstrual cycles and would cry, etc. Do you think John Boehner has menstrual cycles?

Vincent: Now let's make it really fair and make women between the ages of 18 and 26 sign up for selective service just like the men have had to do.

Been there, didn't like the food, bugs & blood: Real equality will not be achieved until the draft is reinstated.

tardis_blue: I generally oppose war, but I oppose gender inequality more. And I agree with the others saying it's time to sign women up for selective service. I'm not thrilled with the whole idea of selective service, but it should be equal. It is just as traumatizing to lose a father or brother as it is to lose a mother or sister. And as the mother of an only son, I'd love to see my son's chances of getting drafted reduced.

Join the discussion on Facebook

Some were looking at the possible distraction of sexual tension in the barracks and at outposts.

Sandra R.: All this is going to do is make wives/girlfriends uneasy when their men get deployed because you are going to have women around who tempt them, and we all know women will do whatever it takes to get promoted. This is a bad idea! So many people will come back pregnant, and relationships will be ruined. It's still so unfair the females PT tests are way easier than the men's. They should have to cut off their hair, too. Fair is fair!

Kristina replied: Sandra, women are already involved in the military in numerous aspects and thus already around men on deployments. The decision to allow them into combat roles does not change that. If you do not trust your husband to deploy without cheating on you, the problem is either you, him, both, and/or your relationship, not the fact that women are in the military.

OCsurfer: I'm a bit torn on this entire issue. On one hand, I'm all for equal gender rights. But on the other hand, there's a reason we've gone several millennia without women serving as soldiers. It may be distracting to the troops, it's more expensive to administer (male and female restrooms is only one example), and there's been no testing to see how a male soldier will react to a female soldier's presence or if she gets injured in the battlefield. I just don't think this has been thought out well enough yet.

Some commenters were more focused on the decision's effect on Washington than on the battlefield.

By the numbers: Women in the U.S. military

boyamidumb: As a Vietnam-era war resister, I was ALWAYS for a draft. I was drafted and I said NO. But I had to think about it and make very hard choices. The people around me had to think about it. My friends and relatives had to think about it. When everyone is involved, we will think harder about the choices we make and how we sacrifice our youth. I love my country, and I understand that we must have a military, but I also know how politicians have misused our troops over and over again. Bring back the draft and end the wars.

ttom: If it makes our leaders think twice about putting troops in harm's way for ill-conceived wars, I'm all for it.

There were more than a few attempts at humor that do not merit highlighting here. However, a couple of comments that were not terribly misogynistic and even kind of funny managed to find their way into the conversation:

Shari: I think as long as they can pass the exact same physical requirements, then why not? Might even be a benefit there, has anyone ever seen how crazy women can get when provoked? As a female, I would know. There be some crazy beeches out there. :)

Jackson: And they can end the war in seconds with the following line ...

"Oh, this is so typical of you, enemy soldiers. ... This is JUST like that war we had three years ago, when you said this would never happen again, and like a fool, I believed you....well, trust me enemy soldiers, there are going to be some changes in THIS relationship, that's for sure." The enemy will surrender before that speech is done.

What do you think about women in combat? Share your thoughts on iReport. We especially would like to hear from women.

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