The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit on behalf of four American female soldiers challenging the US military’s “combat exclusion policy” which bars female soldiers from serving in combat roles. In his award winning 2001 book, War and Gender, Joshua Goldstein exhaustively documents this topic, and I direct the interested reader to his excellent work. I am interested here in neither the specifics of the legal, nor the force effectiveness, issues. Instead I propose a thought experiment that I believe can serve as a useful “litmus test” that reveals whether a given person’s opinion on the “combat exclusion policy” is driven by genuine concern for force effectiveness, or is really driven by normative beliefs about social gender roles.
Imagine that you are a member of a mixed-gender group of human survivors during a zombie apocalypse.
Consider these three questions:
- Do you oppose the female members of your group (including yourself, if relevant) taking what on hand might serve as a weapon and participating in repelling a zombie assault?
- Is the size of the group relevant to your view (e.g., shifting from say 100 to three)?
- Does your view shift due to the male to female ratio matter (shifting from a single female member to a single male member)?
If, in all of the above scenarios, you are opposed to women partaking in battle, your views on the combat exclusion policy are definitely driven by a firm belief that female human beings lower the force effectiveness of groups in battle. If your views shift across one or more scenarios, well…
Give it some thought.