Should Women Fight on the Front Line?

Army brat Beth Davie on why women should fight on the front line
Monday , 02 May 2011
Should Women Fight on the Front Line?
Should women fight on the front line?

Women fly Tornado bombers and have won the highest decorations for valour. There are mixed crews on Royal Navy warships, but it seems that mixed-gender teams in close combat roles (where they are required to kill the enemy face-to-face) is still far, far away. According to the UK’s Ministry of Defence, women on the front line could have “far reaching and grave consequences”. I hate to sound pedantic, but you don’t get much graver than being on the front line, regardless of sex.

What possible reason could the MoD have for making such a statement? Have they got absolute proof that women are unable to handle the pressures of close combat? Has a scientist worked out the formula for winning a war – and it doesn’t involve women? No, actually. In fact, officials made clear that the fear was not for female soldiers – but male ones. It’s been suggested that the MoD is concerned about men paying too much attention to a wounded female soldier, at a risk to his own life. So they’re not worried a woman wouldn’t be able to handle a machine gun or the 30 kilo bag on their backs, they’re worried a man might not be able to contain his urge to rescue a ‘damsel in distress’. If this was the case – and I mean really, 100 per cent proven – then we should clearly have an army of females. The enemy men would feel so protective of the women and be so traumatised by every victim they shot, they wouldn’t be able to kill them – seriously, we would not lose.

But on the female distractions front, I spent my formative years on an army camp as my father was in the military and, in my experience, the women I met were not only capable of holding their own, but the male soldiers knew better than to condescend a female comrade. Plus, haven’t women already shown they can handle themselves and save the men? In 2006, in Iraq, then Private Michelle Norris became the first woman to win Britain’s top military award for gallantry after crawling through sniper fire to rescue her wounded sergeant, a man. Bet no one tried to go all Rambo-esque on her.

It’s not a question of equal opportunities or political correctness, it’s about what a woman can do for her country. The MoD likes to repeat the impressive, but pointless statistic that 70 per cent of the armed forces is open to women, but what they leave out is that only nine per cent of total personnel are currently female. It is also worth noting that there is no restriction on the role played by female soldiers in Denmark or the Netherlands (and when was the last time they were in any wars?). I’m not advocating war, but if it must happen, why can’t women fight as well? Have we already forgotten the brave women who parachuted their way into France during World War II? Women have proven themselves time and time again. When will the MoD learn that they are only holding themselves back?