Combatting the Gender Gulf

TitleCombatting the Gender Gulf
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1992
AuthorsCampbell, D'Ann
JournalMinerva: Quarterly Report on Women and the Military
Start Page13

Excerpt in lieu of an abstract: "Should women serve in combat? It seemed a hypothetical question until the American public, transfixed by saturation coverage of the Gulf War saw for themselves servicewomen performing a wide variety of functions -- and getting shot at, killed, wounded and captured. They were not allowed to fight back, however. So impressed was Congress that in 1992 it repealed a 1948 law which prohibited women from flying planes with combat missions. Opposition was strong from an old guard in the military, and their allies in Congress, who felt the change was unnatural, unbecoming, unnecessary, or detrimental to the combat mission of the forces. Supporters noted that a military seeking to maximize its performance would not create artificial barriers. They felt those barriers reflected an unthinking sexism, and tended to encourage negative attitudes ranging from grudging acceptance to low-grade sexual harassment to physical assault. Furthermore, the restrictions placed a ceiling on the career opportunities of ambitious women officers. The coverup of the "Tailhook" incident in 1991-92, together with the attacks on women in combat roles made by presidential aspirant Patrick Buchanan in 1992 suggested that strong resistance reflected deep political and ideological concerns. The new legislation allowed but did not force the military to experiment with women in combat roles. The law forbidding women from serving on combat ships was not repealed. Opponents stalled for time by setting up a Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women to the Armed Forces. The debate on women in combat is not new; the 1992 version is a continuation of an issue that first surfaced in World War II."

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