Has the increased inclusion of women changed the”gendering” of soldiers?The army has been male dominant throughout history inall parts of the world and there are many commonly discussed matters orconcerns regarding the impact of women and gender perspectives. One of themajor concerns is that generally, women are not suitable for war due to theirlower physical abilities and supposed lack of mental fortitude which may leadto a decrease in combat effectiveness of the units. The other challenge is theidea that the inclusion of women and gender perspectives in the army willdisrupt the cohesion within teams and within military culture. The currentmilitary training and operations is regarded as ideal by existing standards andany change in standards or the methods used in training will be negativeespecially if they are imposed through political leadership. However, the UNstates the need for female soldiers and gender perspectives when carrying outcertain tasks in peace operations the aims of civilians and the militaryoverlap (Peacekeeping.un.
org, 2018). This essay will explore the ways womenhave increased their participation rates and the what extent this increase haschanged the gendering of soldiers.The idea that the current methods for maintaining unitcohesion is perfect is proven to be false as traditional training methods arebeing changed regardless of gender issues. Problems such as collectivepunishment, racism and homophobic slurs have been solved by new methods used bydrill sergeants. On top of changing training methods, the inclusion of women inthe army can be beneficial as they can also act as role models to the localcommunity by inspiring women and girls in male dominated environments tobelieve in themselves and to never forget their own rights as well as the goalof peace. These views may be significantly different to the traditional methodsused in the military, however, they may prove to be useful in the modern-dayoperations within the army.
The traditional view from military theorists describemilitary capability as the mix of physical factors, conceptual factors andmorale factors. This is also seen as the size of the army, the management ofthe army and the willpower of the soldiers (Brooks, 2003). Whilst there havebeen several debates on where the emphasis has been placed, there has oftenbeen an overemphasis placed on physical military qualities such as the numberof troops and the advancement of the technology used whilst putting lessemphasis on intangible qualities such as morale, education and culture (Smith,2007). This overemphasis can be seen when battles that have had lower numbersand worse technology have been victorious which proves that militarycapabilities are misleading, especially when used as a measurement for theimplementation of military policies (Biddle, 2010). Women in the militaryprovide many specific benefits and perspectives that lead to an improvedconduct of operations. Their inclusion in combat units as well as their viewson certain matters has the potential to increase the efficiency of datagathering and analysis of units.
Allowing women to join the army gives accessto local communities leading to an increased task force which can help whentrying to gain a better understanding of local conditions and its culture. Oneof the most important roles of women in the army derives from the mixedengagement teams, cultural analysts or interpreters of which provide access toareas that all-male groups cannot enter. Female liaison officers have the potentialto unite the military and humanitarian organisations which have historicallyhad tension between the two groups due to the male dominance of the army(Mychajlyszyn and Shaw, 2005).
Although the army is taking measures to include morewomen in the army, women only make up ten percent of the total workforce. Ithas been seen that women play a huge role when gathering local intelligencefrom other local women in towns and villages that fear for their lives and optto speak to female soldiers instead (BBC News,2012). The Royal Air Force hasbecome the first service to accept women for all roles within their teams whichis a huge step in reducing the “gendering” of soldiers that apply. This is tobe emphasised further when the Royal Marine Commandos open applications as wellfor both genders. Ground close combat missions was strictly closed off to menonly and in 2018 is looking to allow both genders to apply for the role andthose who pass the rigorous tests will be allowed to participate (BBC News, 2018).Problems such as lack of cohesion and the increased threat of injury for womenhas raised concerns but can be rectified through increased training andleadership and the new measures are being monitored closely (Gov.uk, 2018).
Attractingmore women in general, increases the pool of candidates and improves thechances of finding the best recruits regardless of gender which is one of themain arguments for de-gendering of troops. Troops are not only required toprovide military actions, but they must also be trained in humanitarianmissions which means soldiers need different skill sets which may be fulfilledby the women that apply due to the decreased regulations. One of the main problems with recruiting more womenyear on year to the military is the fact that some straightforward issues arenot addressed. Combat uniforms designed for women do not exist but wouldprovide more incentive for women and give them a sense of belonging. Theseactions may lead women to thinking that they are an afterthought as they arestill a minority in the army. The army also causes many developments in civilsociety to be avoided. The topics of individualism, racial and genderintegration and lesbian, bisexual, gay and LGBT rights have been left avoidedby the military when these topics do not actually harm the effectiveness of theorganisation.
Previously, there have been many societies which joined togetherwithout any problems such as the LGBT and African American community. Thisleads to the question as to why women in combat and implementation of genderperspectives would be detrimental, if not even beneficial to the army. Thedebate on unit cohesion doesn’t have historical data to provide a strongargument, but in recent years, the integration of women in non-combat parts ofthe army in other regions of the world has led to zero negative effects. Asidefrom the military, in the corporate world, the integration of women andequality policies that are introduced to companies have seen improved businessefficiencies and other positive effects. Tony King, a professor that studiedand compared the impact of integrating women in different countries, with afocus on unit cohesion. He finds that in the current state of the army, it isnot gender which affects the unit cohesion, but rather the training andcompetence of the soldiers.
The social cohesion is not the limiting factorwhereas the professional and task orientated form of cohesion is (King, 2013). Gender mainstreaming is the current approach takenwhen assessing the different outcomes for men and women as a result of plans,policies and activities. The United Nations Security Council has createdresolution UNSCR 1325 which tries to push implementation of gender perspectivesforward in peacekeeping and peacebuilding when carrying out peace missions ledby the United Nations (Un.org, 2000).
The goal of this resolution is to achievegender equality and reaffirms the importance of women in the prevention ofconflicts and peace related missions. This resolution works towards helpingwomen by protecting them from sexual abuse in armed conflict. This movementalso signals to the broader military organisations that gender perspectiveshave significant benefits. The empowerment that women feel when they are makingan impact and contributing positively to one of the most masculine andpatriarchal societies of them all, implies that they have very few objects intheir way regarding women’s participation in our wider society. One of the most challenging tasks it the method bywhich women will be implemented into the military.
The argument of workingtowards gender equality and the UNSCR 1325 is not strong enough to sway themilitary leaders from the imperative need for defence of the nation. The notionof gender equality may be agreed upon by the military leaders but a simple”rights-based” approach may not lead to any change. Instead, the challenge isto convince the military leaders that it would be beneficial for the militaryto implement women and strengthen the army and increase efficiency whencarrying out core tasks. The focus therefore must not be on a feminist agenda,but more on improving the efficiency of existing roles and the methods they arecarried out. Diane Otto highlights the fact that the ideologies behind UNSCR1325 limits itself to “inside” strategies which means that it is constricted toworking within the mainstream institutions rather than the more profound workdone outside of them (Otto, 2009). Military organisations, although for themost part are the protectors of society, are often the ones to blame for someof the worst cases of sexual harassment and assault around military camps inpeacetime (Cloud, 2013).
This leads to the issue for feminists and the approachthey take when confronting military organisations reading these topics andwhether a more transformative method needs to be implemented to make adefinitive change for the better. The differences between gender balancing andgender mainstreaming are both strategies that support UNSCR 1325, however, theease of implementing gender balancing is assumed to be easier than gendermainstreaming (Kronsell, 2012). The statistics show that the recruitment ofwomen has become more prevalent in the Western world, but there is a struggleto implement a gender perspective. It is important that the women that sign upto the military are not simply advocates of women’s rights but are doing so forsimilar reasons to men; for the belief in the cause to defend and protect thenation and respect the professionalism of military culture.
The incentive behind the creation of military forcesis to defend the nation from threats, but the military is controlled to alsoachieve political aims. Their main priority is not to improve women’s rightsand therefore becomes problematic when partnering with women’s rightsactivists. The progress made by implementing UNSCR 1325 was a huge first stepin reducing the gendering on soldiers as seen by the gradual shift inresponsibilities given to women in the army.
The removal of the restriction forwomen to carry out ground armed combat as well as the opportunity to apply toany role within certain departments of the military show that both men andwomen are treated equally and are only limited by the physical ability to pass.Change takes time and the slow improvement in conditions for women as well asthe proof that women are an important asset to the military by providing manybeneficial key competencies in peace missions, proves that the verytraditional, egotistical and male dominated sector is implementing changes andslowly removing the gendering of soldiers.