Modern Issues: The Struggles for Today's Women
There are many problems that come with being a woman serving in the military. Studies have shown that the children of women who have been deployed overseas are adversely affected seventy-five percent of the time to the point where they will harm themselves purposefully or engage in alcohol and drug abuse (1). Therefore the question arises if it is morally right or wrong to deploy a mother overseas despite her willingness to go. Many military leaders would argue that the need for women in the military outweighs the risks involving mothers’ families. The United States is currently fighting in two wars, and so the armed forces needs every woman who is willing to fight and sacrifice herself for her country, regardless of if she would be leaving a motherless home behind in the case of her severe injury or death.
Pregnancy is another issue that is currently being debated.
Ten percent of women currently serving in the military are pregnant and over forty percent are mothers, so the military would experience a severe shortage of power if each of these women left the military(2). Pregnancy used to be a reason for women to be dismissed from their duties, but today’s feminist movement would challenge such a dismissal. It would be taken as an implication that pregnant women are less capable of performing their duties than men.
Another question regarding soldier-mothers is how much time to allow new mothers to stay at home and take care of their newborns. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests a twelve month period for breast feeding, but the armed services only offer around six weeks for a mother to spend time with her baby.
An even more complicated question is how to deal with women who demand more time or refuse deployment to stay with their children. These women are treated like other soldiers who refuse deployment and have been arrested, have received court martials, and have been put under deployment deferrals (3).
The United States Armed Forces still faces the problem with rape and sexual assaults on women. The armed forces have slowly been taking steps to prevent sexual harassment amongst their numbers, but it is still a prevalent and frightening issue. Within the past decade, women have been stepping up and reporting assaults. One particular incident involved the office of Brig. Gen. Silvanus Taco Gilbert III (pictured to the left., Gilbert took it upon himself to clean up discipline at the Air Force Academy in the summer of 2001, and went down hard on even the most minor infractions. The number of women who reported rape doubled that year, because the male cadets were exploiting his efforts to punish anyone who broke an Academy rule. The cadets were using their victims' misdemeanors to blackmail them and told them that if they were to report the rape then they would tell Gilbert about the minor rules the women had broken. Gilbert was dismissed from the Air Force Academy two years later for the problems his office created (4). This incident helped the Air Force Academy recognized that punishing women for reported a rape is not an appropriate response.
Women as Veterans
The Women in Military Service for America Memorial (pictured to the right) opened on October 20, 1997, after its groundbreaking on June 22, 1995, and a dedication ceremony on October 18, 1998. The Memorial is in the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C., and is funded by its correlating non-profit foundation as well as being endorsed by the Department of Defense, Department of Veteran Affairs, Department of Interior, and the Department of Transportation. It operates an Education Center and works on archiving the names and experiences of the almost two million women who have served in the Armed Services by locating them and cataloging them in their database. The architecture of the memorial is purposefully designed to represent women’s struggles in overcoming the barriers that were put up in the past to restrict them, and the pinnacle is the Memorial’s glass ceiling engraved with quotes about the power and utility of women soldiers (5). It is the only national memorial to women who have served to defend the United States.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (logo pictured below) added the Center for Women Veterans in 1994 under Public Law 103-446. The Center’s raises awareness of women veterans so they are treated with the same respect as their male counterparts (6).Since female veterans have done many of the same combat jobs as male veterans, they require many of the same rehabilitation and health care services as men (7); the Center for Women coordinates these services for women and suggests further services to the Department of Veterans Affairs which meet women’s unique needs as veterans (8). Services that were originally created for male veterans now recognize female veterans because of Public Law 103-446, including the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, Psychosocial Rehabilitation Programs, and the Center for Minority Veterans. These services help women veterans transition back into civilian life after serving in military positions.
The Medical Centers offer free exams and counseling for medical issues that may stem from serving in combat positions, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, drug abuse, or sickness from Agent Orange or other combustion products. There is also counseling for Military Sexual Trauma for women who were assaulted or raped during their service. Women veterans can apply for all of the same compensation grants that men can, such as loans for buying a home or pensions for those who were injured during their service and cannot work. Many women veterans do not even consider themselves veterans since the veteran archetype is male, but the same services that have helped men in the past are now helping women (9).
1. Mary Eberstadt, "Mothers in Combat Boots," Policy Review, no. 159 (February-March 2010): 42, accessed March 1, 2011, Academic Search Complete.
2. Eberstadt, 41, 43
4. Michael Moss, "General's Crackdown Faulted in Rapes," New York Times, March 26, 2003, accessed February 17, 2011, ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times.
5. Women in Military Service for America Memorial Foundation, Inc., Women in Military Service for America Memorial, accessed March 22, 2011, http://www.womensmemorial.org.
6. US Department of Veterans Affairs, Center for Women Veterans, accessed March 23, 2011, last modified March 4, 2011, http://www.va.gov/womenvet/.
7. The American Legion, Guide for Women Veterans (Washington, D.C.: Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation Division, n.d.), 7.
8. US Department of Veterans Affairs
9. The American Legion, 2-9.