The University of Maine student newspaper since 1875
Sunday, Oct. 4, 6:03 p.m.

Women’s rights on the front line eliminate long-standing form of sexism

I’ve never quite understood the arguments against allowing women to serve in combat roles in the military. The physical differences between men and women are not significant enough to prevent females from operating weaponry. Furthermore, women of the 21st century have rights that far surpass those of their 1950s counterparts. The right to serve and to fight should beinarguable. In a time of conflict, there is no excuse to turn down able-bodied, intellectually capable people from serving in a military that has been deemed necessary.

Women have been formally allowed to enlist in the United States military since the first World War. But, until this past week, their roles have been limited to those deemed non-combat related. Undoubtedly, these limitations are derived from the notion that women are physically inferior to men and unable to effectively “fight” opposition forces. Certainly, not all women are capable of performing physically demanding tasks; however, neither are all men. It has been noted that the foremost inhibitor of ability within the military is obesity, not sex. Still, many fear that females are too weak and too fragile to engage in physical altercations.

But, women have been engaging, unofficially, in combat roles in the U.S. military since revolutionary times. Instances of females disguising themselves as men to fight in wars are not uncommon. Women have entered into combat roles, again unofficially, in the modern day military. It is certainly not unheard of for a woman stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan, or anywhere else for that matter, to fight enemy forces if the situation so requires it.

This is not an issue of ability; instead, it is an issue of sexism. It is well-disguised sexism, certainly, but it is sexism nonetheless. By removing the ban on women serving in combat positions, the military has noted that they will now be judging all women separately, based on ability, rather than as a “weak and feeble” conglomerate. The beauty of living in a free country is that all people are able to choose how they would like to live.

Men can follow traditional and rigid “guidelines” of masculinity, if they so desire. Similarly, a woman can live as a housewife, as long as that idea entices and excites her. However, if a woman is to decide that the path of homemaker is not one that fulfills her needs, then she is surely entitled to go her own way, so to say.

Discrimination is not to be celebrated; yet somehow, this blatant, sex-based bigotry has been allowed to slip through the cracks for so long. Any profession — be it teacher, waiter, mechanic or heavy weapons operator — should hire based only on the applicant’s ability. If more men are qualified to enlist in combat positions, so be it. But one unqualified man should never, in this free country in 2013, be preferred to a qualified woman.

Jeri Cosgrove is a third-year English student with a concentration in creative writing.