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True confessions of an ex-chauvinist: fodder for your professional reading on women and the military.

IT WAS 5 June 1953. One of the world's great feminists (my mother) pinned one of the yellow bars on my new uniform. Talk about working outside the home--a single parent, she had done that every day of her life! Talk about women in combat--I watched her knock out an assaulting male half again her size with one blow! when I was a boy, every time I felt like crying, she would say, "Oh, stop it! You're just like your sister." When I was a lad and would whine that something was too heavy for me to lift, she was wont to say, "Oh, come on. Your little sister could lift it!"

In June 1953, I had survived the jump from the 30-foot tower, fully clothed, into the Naval Academy pool. I had found the nerve to get into the boxing ring with a 200-pound classmate. (1) I had flown in open-cockpit biplanes. I had finally mastered the obstacle course. I had survived the stormy transatlantic crossing in a world war II "tin can" (i.e., destroyer). I had taken small boats through the surf in amphibious exercises. I had managed being upside down, underwater in the cockpit of the Dilbert Dunker. (2) That month I felt like saying to that great feminist, "See Ma, I finally did something that my sister could not." I did not say that, of course, but a great feminist appeared to have created a chauvinist--and at the time we were both proud of it. She died in her sixties during her lunch hour at an electronics-parts factory about the time Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, so my mother did not live to see that pride tarnished. But so far I have lived another five decades to witness radical changes in that world. No longer can a new lieutenant congratulate himself on doing something his sister cannot. No longer can a recipient of shiny, new silver wings thump his chest, congratulating himself on his manliness. Maybe 100 years from now, American history will proclaim that the world changed more in the last half of the twentieth century than in the first. In an article in the journal Foreign Affairs, Francis Fukuyama seems persuaded that this new world will continue evolving in the twenty-first century--increasingly feminized in both political and military affairs. That is to the good, he says, for such an environment in the west will be increasingly peaceful and well ordered. (3)


My aim in this "Fodder" piece resembles that of all its predecessors: to provide some insights for the air warrior/scholar on an important dimension of the profession and to suggest a dozen important books that might aid in that endeavor. Women now constitute more than 20 percent of the service and are eligible for every job in the Air Force, save special operations. They have written by far the greater part of the literature on gender and the military.

Clearly, leaders of both genders must understand women's importance to the success of the mission. Too, outside the service at least, some individuals assert that women complicate mission accomplishment--and the military leader should be aware of their arguments. At the end of the article, following the pattern of the inspiration for the Fodder series--Col Roger Nye's book Challenge of Command: Reading for Military Excellence--I identify two books for the overview and the rest for depth and mastery.

Historical Background of Women in Combat

Conventional wisdom has always identified women as the nurturing gender and peacefully inclined, but it characterizes males as violent and aggressive. People still vigorously debate whether those traits reflect learned behavior or a genetic predisposition. (4) Undoubtedly, women have fought and fought well in wars since time began. However, according to Joshua Goldstein, those are exceptions to the usual--rather rare exceptions in fact. He argues for the occurrence of only two massive, sustained experiences of women in combat. One involved the African kingdom of Dahomey (now the Republic of Benin) from the eighteenth to the late nineteenth century; a third of its army at times consisted of regular female organizations--successful ones at that. The second entailed the use of women in combat in the Red Army of world war II. Those women fought bravely and competently, but the Soviets ended their combat employment as soon as feasible and did not again place them in combat specialties after the war. Although Goldstein describes himself as profeminist, he does assert that the historical record demonstrates that women have never served as primary fighters anywhere--even in the two cases mentioned above, they represented the minority. Elsewhere, they saw heavy use during wartime in support functions but hardly ever in combat--and then inadvertently for the most part. (5)

The First Feminist Wave

In America individual women have fought here and there. However, their participation in what is often known as the First Feminist wave usually had to do with other things. Feminists were prominent in the abolitionist movement before the Civil war and afterwards in the long campaign to acquire property and voting rights for women. That culminated in the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution right after world war I. (6) Too, the first wave had functioned as a prime mover in the ill-fated 18th (Prohibition) Amendment and in the various peace movements. The latter seemed to promise that the feminine influence, once women got the vote, would tend toward a more peaceful world--unhappily it did not immediately turn out that way.7 In one of the most influential books since the end of world war II--The Feminine Mystique (1963)--Friedan argues that the First Feminist wave had made a very promising start, opening the way to political participation and higher education for women as well as enhancing the promise for further progress. But then she laments that something went radically wrong.

Women in World War II

American women made a major contribution in world war II, as they had in world war I. They left the home in droves to participate in war industry and other parts of the economy. They also populated several auxiliary organizations for the military, conducting various noncombat functions and thus releasing many men for combat duty--still in support functions as they had served in smaller numbers from 1917 to 1918. In world war II, my feminist mother worked as a crane operator in the Bethlehem Steel shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts, building aircraft carriers (earning high pay for a woman). Many women got used to the better wages and what they considered more meaningful work than the usual housework drudgery. When the men came home, anticipating a bright new world of peace and prosperity, most of the women had to go--but where? Our crane-operator feminist had to take a job on the line of a tack factory doing random checks confirming that the boxes coming off the line indeed contained 100 tacks--hour after hour, day after day, and month after month!

According to Friedan (looking at the world through what appears to me the rather narrow lens of an upper-middle-class New York suburban housewife), women were "driven" back and trapped into the relatively meaningless drudgery of keeping house for their children and professional husbands, who worked in the great city. What trapped them? Partially, the postwar colleges. Curricula for women stressed such functional matters as managing homes--not expanding minds. Reading The Feminine Mystique, I am not altogether certain who the trappers were, for, presumably, women went into the home-economics courses, marriage, and suburbs voluntarily. But I guess Friedan thought that the culture trapped them, not their individual husbands. Protesting that she did not hate men, Friedan claimed not to disparage the role of the homemaker. Rather, she thought that women needed "something more" to reach the apex of Maslow's pyramid and thus fill the self-actualization requirement--always through higher education and meaningful (paid) careers outside the home. (8)

That seems likely since Friedan received her education at Smith College and then did graduate work in California, majoring in psychology. Her great book appeared just about the time of Abraham Maslow's heyday.Maslow's theory and Friedan's book have both been criticized for having too narrow a focus. (9) A splendid writer, however, shemade amassive impact with The Feminist Mystique, even though it dealt with an elite minority of women. Doubtless, a huge number of overworked American women would have been delighted to experience a little of the boredom suffered by her affluent homemakers in Westchester County.

The Vietnam War and the Ending of the Draft

The war in Vietnam proved traumatic all the way around. Military life came in for wide disparagement, and the antidraft movement caused huge strains on American society. After Pres. Richard Nixon visited China and then concluded Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty I, the threat to national security seemed much diminished. As always, women played a prominent role in the peace movement and the draft protests. Friedan's restless housewives strove to escape their suburban traps. Nixon attempted to stem the rising discontent by ending the draft in 1973. (10) To cap all that off, the near-simultaneous occurrence of the Watergate scandal and the fall of Saigon shook American confidence to its very foundations. Nixon's successor, Gerald R. Ford, moved to stabilize things, but he didn't last long. Women's votes were becoming evermore powerful, and before Ford lost the election of 1976, Congress ordered the admission of women to the federal military academies, very much against the preponderance of military opinion. (11) Thus, a new day was dawning for the women's movement as Jimmy Carter came into office with an administration even friendlier to women. (12) Not long after, the Soviets moved into Afghanistan and became active in the Horn of Africa, seeming to mount new threats to the interests of a weakened America. President Carter moved to signal the Kremlin on the dangers of their actions by reversing the decline in defense spending. He also proposed making women subject to draft registration--allegedly to signal his seriousness to the Soviets. (13) By then women had gained admission to the academies and flying schools of all the services, but, temporarily at least, that was about as far as Congress seemed willing to go in 1979. Some military women, especially officers, wanted the combat specialties opened for females--but few in either the officer or enlisted ranks advocated doing so on anything other than a voluntary basis. (14)

Women and the All-Volunteer Force

Meanwhile, a fortuitous juxtaposition of two events greatly assisted both the all-volunteer force and the women's movement. As the second wave of the feminist movement gathered steam, Congress passed the ERA, which seemed certain to receive early ratification. (15) As the draft ended in 1973, it quickly became quite clear that the services' source of male recruits in any but the lowest mental categories was drying up. However, women in the highest two brackets were ready and willing to serve. In many cases, they could earn much more in salary and benefits by joining the services than by remaining in the civilian economy. The same did not hold true for top male prospects. Thus, the rapid increase in high-quality female enlistees made up for the shortfall of good male recruits. Although during that same period, combat specialties on the surface and in the air remained closed to women, the flying schools and academies admitted them in increasing numbers. Nevertheless, women were a great help in support areas; indeed, the all-volunteer force probably could not have succeeded without them. (16)

The Academy Mandate

Men seem cursed with the eternal need to repeatedly prove their manliness. (17) In days of old, when society occupied itself with hunting and gathering, combat and hunting offered men the only opportunities for proving their manhood. By 1953 other alternatives had become available. (18) As I suggested in my opening paragraphs, in my case at least, that need was an important factor in my selecting a Naval Academy appointment over admission to a civilian college. That school and its sister academies had long had the reputation of representing the last bastions of male chauvinism. It also made them a favored target for the Second Feminist wave.

In the spring of 1972, the superintendent of the Air Force Academy, Lt Gen Albert Clark, saw the handwriting on the wall and set his staff to planning for the admission of women as cadets. (19) The rank and file there and at the other academies, however, had little enthusiasm for the prospect. (20) Not until October 1975 did Congress pass and the president sign the legislation, and the women prepared to arrive in July of the next year. Harking back to the original experience at the Air Force Academy in the 1950s, junior officers were brought in to serve as surrogate upperclasswomen for the early days. The other academies did not follow suit. (21) There, upperclassmen provided leadership. In Colorado the scheme did not work out very well. The upperclasswomen came in for training several months early, but the results proved disappointing. In the 1950s, most of the surrogate upperclassmen had been new graduates of the older academies and were still in pretty good condition. (22) In 1976 the females brought in to serve a similar function came from the ranks of junior female officers who volunteered for the task, finding themselves especially challenged in the physical dimensions of the program. However, in the end their participation did help a little because the initial crop of female cadets was in fine condition from the outset and compared favorably to the surrogates who had preceded them to Colorado. In fact, during that first summer, the Air Force Academy experienced less attrition among women than did the other schools. (23) Unlike the other academies, the Air Force Academy quartered females separately at that time and again during the first semester. By the second semester, in the spring of 1977, the women had moved into the integrated squadrons, and the officer upperclasswomen had moved on to new assignments. (24)

It was almost immediately clear that the women would hold their own academically--and they have done so in all the years since. Some of the male cadets then, and still, thought that the system favored the females, quickly claiming that their physiological characteristics did not meet the demands of military life. Too, results in the area of military training and accomplishment seemed to indicate that the women did not compete on an equal plane, though some of them did excel and achieve high cadet rank. Women's attrition over the first four years was higher than desired, but high attrition all the way around characterized those early postdraft years. The rate at which women left the program continued as a source of disappointment into the 1990s. (25)

From the beginning, planners anticipated problems with sex and pregnancy. The women had training in avoiding sexual assault and rape from the first summer onward. Self-defense courses came a little later. Developing an equitable policy on pregnancy proved especially difficult because of the problem (then) in proving paternity, yet a female cadet clearly could not perform her duties during pregnancy. Involuntary discharge for expectant mothers had ended in the rest of the Air Force two years earlier, but it was hard to see how a woman could stay up with her class during pregnancy and maternity leave. Ultimately the policy permitted a pregnant cadet to go home to have her baby and then return to reenter a later class if she could prove that she no longer had legal responsibility for the child. (26)

In the early years, athletics also caused problems. Nonathletes at all the academies had always grumbled about the special privileges they thought intercollegiate competitors enjoyed--special training tables, for example. Since a good deal of military training occurred during meals at the standard tables and since none of that went on at the training tables, cadets deemed the latter a very valuable privilege. This proved especially troublesome for women. The first classes boasted very high achievers, and almost from the outset a far greater proportion of women than men made the intercollegiate squads, thus escaping the usual Doolie (i.e., freshman) training at meals. (27) Further, from the first summer onward, the command attempted to make Doolie training more "positive"--which meant less shouting and humiliation for the freshmen. That plus the high proportion of women on athletic squads led to disgruntlement among the men and tended to confirm their notions of the existence of a pro-female bias. Even after 30 years, in anonymous surveys a significant minority of male cadets still declare that women do not belong at the academy--a perennial problem for command. (28)

Combat Exclusion

For a long time, the feminist movement held that the last two great barriers to full equality were the admission of women to the academies and the combat-exclusion legislation passed by Congress in 1948--both tough obstacles. (29) As noted above, President Carter was rebuffed when he took a shot at the latter, shortly after women began attending the academies. But Congress still would have no part of registering women for the draft. (30) The law prevented the assignment of women to aircraft crews with combat missions and to all warships. Service policy denied them admission to combat specialties in the Army and Marine Corps--largely infantry, artillery, and armor units. (31) The movement advocating civil rights for Blacks had provided important precedents for the notion with their combat in world war II and Korea. The final proof of full citizenship became a willingness to fight and die for the country.

Then and now, the arguments addressed two issues. According to one side, equity demanded admission of the excluded group to combat for the sake of the Declaration of Independence and its assertion that all men are created equal. The other side urged effectiveness first and then equity. The military existed to fight and win the nation's wars. Whatever detracted from that purpose deserved rejection. The armed forces, the argument went, were not social laboratories designed to find cures for our domestic woes. (32)

Effect of the First Gulf War

During the Gulf war of 1991, tens of thousands of women deployed with US armed forces to combat theaters. Still excluded from combat arms, several were killed by Scud missiles and two were taken prisoner. Continuing technological advancements, such as standoff weapons, seemed to make the distinctions between combat and support specialties less relevant, a point women made to strengthen their case to remove the last barrier. Witness the case of Maj Marie Rossi, an Army transport-helicopter pilot killed in an aircraft accident as the war ended. Proponents argued that the fact that she carried troops and goods forward to combat areas subjected her to as much risk as the male pilots of combat-helicopter gunships. The increasingly technological nature of combat, they maintained, made differences in upper-body strength less relevant. The capture of one enlisted woman and one officer did not seem to result in the horrors for female prisoners that many people feared. (33)

Effect of Tailhook

The media and military did much to "hype" the substantial contribution that women made to the Gulf war, but that publicity alone probably would not have proved sufficient to move Congress and the services to remove some of the combat exclusions. Back in 1948, I had an aviation rating in the enlisted Navy--thoroughly bored and stationed at North Island Naval Air Station, observing manly naval aviators zoom overhead in their beautiful Corsairs and Bearcats. It appeared to me that I could escape into a world of adventure and manliness by applying for admission to the Naval Academy. I never became a naval aviator, but the picture I had was not altogether fantasy. Not long after world war II, Navy flyers formed an association to promote the future of naval aviation. By the 1990s, the Tailhook Association had long held an annual convention, usually in Las Vegas, Nevada. (34) Although these gatherings did include seminars and speeches by some heavyweights, they always included late-hour parties that sometimes got pretty raucous. (35)

The one in 1991 occurred shortly after the conclusion of the Gulf war during a time of national exuberance. Atop that, Navy men have never acquired a reputation for teetotaling or for reticence in pursuit of the opposite gender. (36) That combination made the Tailhook convention of 1991 one of the most famous, or infamous, in the history of the organization. Even the most charitable descriptions make a mockery of the "officer and a gentleman" idea, and both the chief of naval operations and the secretary of the Navy had to leave their offices early because of the scandal. No court-martial convictions ensued, but many male officers were otherwise punished, sometimes to the ruination of their careers. Some bad behavior occurred on the part of female officers too, but none of them was punished. On the other hand, the assault victims never had the satisfaction of seeing their attackers convicted in court. Lt Paula Coughlin, however, the most famous of them, did receive a $400,000 settlement from the Tailhook Association and a $6,700,000 judgment against the Las Vegas Hilton for failure to provide security. She later resigned from the service. (37) The naval investigative system got some bad publicity, and many argue that some innocent people suffered from a "witch hunt" while certain guilty parties--beneficiaries of immunity and other factors--went unpunished. (38)

Women Go into Air and Sea Duty during Combat

The combination of publicity coming out of the Gulf war and Tailhook armed the advocates of women in combat. (39) Congress soon repealed the legal impediments of 1948 to combat flying and shipboard service, leaving it to the services to open the way. In the mid-1990s, the Navy and Air Force soon did so, placing women at sea aboard combatants and in fighter and bomber cockpits. They soon got their baptism of fire, flying in combat over the Balkans and Iraq. (40) The Army and Marine Corps, which had not come under those laws, had a better case for exclusion, based on physiological differences in average upper-body strength. (41) Thus, restrictions against women in ground-combat arms and special forces remain in place.

Continuing Problems

Breaching the last barrier did not end the tale. Culture involves more than merely changing laws, training, and barrages of publicity. We know from our reconstruction experience after the Civil war that it is sometimes possible to drive attitudes underground temporarily, but to truly change culture makes for a daunting challenge. (42) Moreover, human relations are dynamic, not static. The balance is forever changing. Society may have succeeded in civilizing the Tailhook Association, only to find sexual-abuse scandals popping up at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds and the Air Force Academy. (43) Even without the scandals, as noted, significant portions of the male cadet and midshipman populations still do not think women belong at any of the academies. (44) we have yet to reach consensus among some of the most distinguished intellectuals in the land as to whether aggressiveness is a genetic or an acquired trait. We face a long and difficult task in obtaining a true consensus among cadets, albeit we think that leadership and training can do much to control any antisocial tendencies. (45)

After both the Gulf war and Tailhook, in the spring of 1993, sexual-assault trouble occurred at the Air Force Academy. The superintendent of the day, Lt Gen Bradley Hosmer, himself an academy graduate, did begin important and effective reforms to control the problem: establishing a sexual-assault hotline available around the clock, founding a Sexual Assault Services Committee to coordinate policies and information, and creating Sexual Assault Awareness week (later, a month) dedicated to training and education. The academy also founded the Character Development Center during those years. Women had reached the highest cadet ranks in the years since 1976, and female graduates were prospering on the line of the Air Force. However, the experience with graduate Kelley Flinn alone would have been enough to warn us all against complacency. (46) Still, we had room to hope that reforms were working to some extent and that things were improving.

At the onset of 2003, however, a storm broke that rivaled the Navy's Tailhook problem. Three women cadets or ex-cadets sent an e-mail to the world, including members of Congress and the media, saying that the sexual-assault problem at the Air Force Academy was running wild, that women could not report assaults because they feared punishment while the perpetrators went unpunished, and that the command remained unconcerned. (47) The events prompting the e-mail took place in the immediate aftermath of al-Qaeda's attack on the world Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The secretary and chief of staff of the Air Force had been fully occupied with those events when the trouble in Colorado burst upon the scene. They dispatched a working group to the academy almost immediately. Led by Mary walker, the Air Force counsel, it had orders to investigate the charges and make recommendations. It did so rather rapidly, and by March the secretary and chief had instituted the Agenda for Change at the academy. Moreover, Air Force leadership almost immediately replaced the superintendent and commandant. Congress also appointed former congresswoman Tillie Fowler to lead a commission to investigate and recommend. Its report, issued in September 2003, generally seconded the many measures in the Agenda for Change but lamented the loss of confidential reporting for the victims of sexual assault. It also accused the walker working Group of failing to cite the shortcomings of Headquarters Air Force in the whole affair. (48)

Meanwhile, the Department of Defense instructed its inspector general (IG) to establish accountability for the difficulties at the academy. That report, which came later, assigned faults by name to some of the academy and headquarters leaders--though that included neither the sitting commandant nor most of his predecessors. (49) The Air Force had also tasked its IG to review the academy's actions in response to sexual-assault charges over the previous 10 years. Only a few of those had resulted in court-martial actions, and the IG agreed with the academy's investigation and handling procedures in all cases but one. (50)

Very often, one person's firm conclusion is another's pure speculation. Yet I offer the conclusions below as so fairly well established that readers of this journal might want to consider them as assumptions for their personal, professional study of the subject of women in the military. I also offer a list of suggested hypotheses that readers might want to use in their professional reading on the subject of this article. Folks on all sides of the debates consider some of them the ground truth, but this journal's audience might want to test them for validity in their further readings.

My Tentative Conclusions

* Women can fight and have fought with competence and aggressiveness.

* Women can handle scientific, technical, and mechanical work.

* Women can fly and have flown high-performance aircraft.

* Women can perform and have performed effectively at sea.

* Women are at least the intellectual equals of men.

* Women, on average, are not as strong in upper-body strength as men, and they have less physical endurance in the short term, though they enjoy a longer life expectancy.

* Culture changes only slowly.

* A built-in political conflict surrounds the integration of women, based on the demand for equity on the one hand and the requirement for military effectiveness on the other.

* Tension exists between the need to protect the confidentiality and privacy of an alleged victim of sexual assault and the equal need to consider the alleged perpetrator innocent until proven guilty.

* Tension exists between the need to protect the privacy of alleged victims and the need to have timely information for enabling a legal prosecution of perpetrators.

* Women have successfully integrated themselves into all the federal academies and will remain there for the foreseeable future.

Suggested Hypotheses for Further Study and Debate

* The question of whether male aggressiveness and propensity for violence are acquired or biological characteristics remains unproven.

* Part of the trouble with sexual harassment and sexual assault arises from biological roots; another part has its origins in cultural norms.

* Men generally have a psychological need to prove and prove again their manliness.

* Women do not have a similar need to prove their femininity.

* Sexual tension is inevitable in mixed-gender units.

* Undesirable features of a culture can be controlled to some degree through legislation, training, and leadership.

* The definitions of sexual assault and harassment are broad and inconsistent.

* Women may never be admitted to ground-combat units in the US forces.

* Women now comprise about 20 percent of the Air Force; they have largely been integrated, but it remains to be seen whether increased numbers will solve remaining challenges.

The intense study of all the books in the sampler offered below will certainly not make us experts on the subject of women in the military, but it may help an air warrior build a conceptual framework for ideas to expand his or her understanding of a complex issue. Too, it contains works from various viewpoints in the hope that unreformed chauvinists or extreme feminists will have some new fodder to chew on.

A 12-Book Sampler for Reading on Women in the Military *

Two for the Overview

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. New York: Norton, 1963.

This catalyst for the second wave of feminism argues that middle-class women trapped in the suburban home are subject to unfair limitations in their growth potential. Cofounder of the National Organization for women, the author served as its first president.

War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa by Joshua S. Goldstein. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

A fine scholar analyzes the subject from a multidisciplinary viewpoint at many different levels. A must-read.

Ten for Depth and Mastery

Who Will Fight the Next War? The Changing Face of the American Military by Martin Binkin. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1993.

A fairly dispassionate, short analysis of the subject.

Women and the Military by Martin Binkin and Shirley J. Bach. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1977.

An earlier analysis made the point that juxtaposition of the end of the draft and the maturing of the Second Feminist wave made the increasing use of women in the military possible and essential.

The Air Force Academy: An Illustrated History by George V. Fagan. Boulder, CO: Johnson Books, 1988.

Though a coffee-table book, the scholarship is fine, and the history is an honest one, covering the admission of women to the Air Force Academy, among other things. The author has been associated with the academy since its founding.

Ground Zero: The Gender Wars in the Military by Linda Bird Francke. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Written by a hard-core feminist who conducts an extensive and well-written analysis of the subject, this book concludes that the full integration of women is impossible because of the unyielding macho culture of the services.

The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars? by Stephanie Gutmann. New York: Scribner, 2000.

Writing equally well and from the opposite viewpoint from Francke, Gutmann makes the basic argument that the attempt to integrate women into all service specialties is making the military a hollow shell.

Women in the Military: An Unfinished Revolution by Jeanne Holm. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1992.

Written by a famous Air Force major general, this book argues that the integration of women into the military is highly beneficial but has not gone far enough.

Women in the Line of Fire: What You Should Know about Women in the Military by Erin Solaro. Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2006.

This well-written, recent argument advocates elimination of the remaining barriers to women in ground-combat units of the Army and Marine Corps.

The Weak Link: The Feminization of the American Military by Brian Mitchell. Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway, 1989.

Written by a hard-core opponent of integrating women into the military.

Dress Gray: A Woman at West Point by CPT Donna Peterson. Austin, TX: Eakin Press, 1990.

The author is an early and articulate graduate of the US Military Academy and a firm believer in the utility of women in the Army. She left the service after a short time but clearly retains a very high opinion of the Military Academy despite the obstacles she faced as a cadet.

Bring Me Men and Women: Mandated Change at the U.S. Air Force Academy by Judith Hicks Stiehm. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981.

Written by a feminist who speaks with authority about the initial integration of women at the Air Force Academy. She resided at the academy for several months while researching the book.

The 13th in a Baker's Dozen

Bullies and Cowards: The West Point Hazing Scandal, 1898-1901 by Philip W. Leon. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999.

This splendid little book by a Citadel professor shows that such events as Tailhook, cheating scandals, and sexual-assault troubles are not altogether new. Read it to obtain some perspective on the subject.

A Timeline: Women in the Military

1947 USAF founded

1954 USAF Academy legislation signed

1969 President's Commission on an All-Volunteer Force founded Air Force ROTC opened to women

1970 First American female generals (Army)

1972 Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) passes Congress USAF Academy plans admission of women

1973 Draft ends women enter flight training in Army and Navy

1974 Involuntary discharge for pregnancy ends

1975 President signs bill admitting women to service academies

1976 First women admitted to service academies women in the Air Force (WAF) abolished women admitted to USAF flight training

1981 Supreme Court rejects women's draft

1982 ERA ratification fails

1991 Tailhook scandal Combat-flying exclusion repealed

1994 Combatant ships opened to women

1999 women fly combat in Operation Allied Force

2003 Sexual-assault scandal at USAF Academy

* None of us will live long enough to read all of the literature on gender and war, so my list is only suggestive, not authoritative. It includes works from both sides of the argument and some from men--though women have penned the vast preponderance of the literature.


(1.) For a long time, women at the academies participated in a self-defense course instead of boxing. However, according to Vice Adm Rodney Rempt, women at the Naval Academy recently have become involved in boxing. "State of the Academy" (remarks, Conference Commemorating 30 Years of women at the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, 8 September 2006).

(2.) The Dilbert Dunker was a mock airplane cockpit on a slide next to a pool. Lifeguards were posted on each side. A midshipman, fully clothed, donned an inflatable life vest and a parachute harness, and strapped himself into the cockpit. Released down the slide, the dunker inverted in the water so that the victim found himself upside down underwater. He had to unstrap the seat belt, swim downward, get out of the parachute harness, inflate the life vest, rise to the surface, and climb into a floating inflatable raft. If the midshipman did not do so in a certain time, the lifeguards dived in to rescue him--and he got the chance to try and try again, or he did not graduate. At the time, the same applied to a midshipman jumping from the tower: either he jumped and swam across the pool or he did not graduate.

(3.) Francis Fukuyama, "women and the Evolution of world Politics," Foreign Affairs 77 (October 1998): 24-40. He does declare, though, that some limits exist. The socialization process can restrain male tendencies toward violence and domination to some extent, but they are to some degree founded in biology and thus not easily eliminated. He also points out a growing and important role for females in the support parts of the armed forces, but he characterizes integrating combat units as attempting the unnatural, given the utter dependence upon male bonding, which the proximity of women will certainly undermine. His persuasive arguments do not go uncontested, for in subsequent issues feminist scholars stoutly oppose his arguments with convincing pieces of their own. Among other things, they question whether male violence and aggression are really genetically based and whether individual characteristics of either gender really determine issues of war and peace. See Barbara Ehrenreich et al., "Fukuyama's Follies," Foreign Affairs 78 (January/February 1999): 118-29.

(4.) Fukuyama, "women and the Evolution of world Politics," 24-26. The notion that the genders are biologically different in the psychological dimension is an anathema to many feminists, but he points to significant and growing evidence that male violence and aggressiveness have some genetic roots--and not just among humans. See also Sarah Glazer, "Are There Innate Differences between the Sexes?" Congressional Quarterly 15 (20 May 2005): 1-2, http://library.cqpress/cqresearcher/document.php?id+cqresre2005052000&ty (accessed 8 September 2006).

(5.) Joshua S. Goldstein, War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 60-64, 66-68; and Martin van Creveld, "Why Israel Doesn't Send Women into Combat," Parameters 23 (Spring 1993): 5. Van Creveld agrees on this point. See also Cecile S. Landrum "The Israeli Fighting women: Myth and Facts," Air University Review, November-December 1978, nov-dec/landrum.html (accessed 6 March 2007). The myth was that Israeli women had always fought alongside men in their many wars against Arabs, but that notion was discredited in Landrum's article, among other places. Women had briefly fought in desperate circumstances of a defensive nature in 1948--and then only in small numbers. In all the wars that followed, they were excluded from combat.

(6.) Sarah Glazer, "Are women Returning to a 1950s Mind-Set?" Congressional Quarterly 16 (14 April 2006): 11-12, 2006041400&ty (accessed 8 September 2006).

(7.) Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique (New York: Norton, 1963), 81-101. Clearly the women's vote has long been a formidable factor in national politics, but the increase in female participation in office has not been proportionate and remains rather thin. Jane S. Jaquette, "Women in Power: From Tokenism to Critical Mass," Foreign Policy, no. 108 (Fall 1997): 37. Similarly, though the numbers of women have been increasing rapidly in the Air Force and their promotions at the lower and middle levels have been better than those for their male counterparts, they are still not very numerous at the top levels.

(8.) Dr. C. George Boeree, "Abraham Maslow, 1908-1970" (accessed 29 August 2006). Boeree explains Maslow's theory as arranging psychological needs in various layers of a pyramid. The bottom layer includes physiological needs such as food, air, and water. The second layer includes safety needs such as protection and stability, which become a concern after the first layer is largely satisfied. The next above are belonging or love needs, and the fourth layer includes having the respect of others plus one's own self-respect. Threats to any of the layers below could drive a person's concerns downward. At the apex of the pyramid is self-actualization, which may have been what Friedan was talking about when she argued that suburban, middle-class wives needed "something more."

(9.) Ibid.; and Joanne Boucher, "Betty Friedan and the Radical Past of Liberal Feminism," New Politics 9, no. 3 (Summer 2003), (accessed 28 August 2006).

(10.) Pamela M. Prah, "Is the Pentagon Using a 'Backdoor' Draft?" CQ Researcher 15 (19 August 2005): 2, http://library.cqpress/cqresearcher/document.php?id=cqresearcher2005081900&ty (accessed 8 September 2006).

(11.) Lt Gen Albert P. Clark, USAF, "Women at the Service Academies and Combat Leadership," Strategic Review 5 (Fall 1977): 64.

(12.) Judith Hicks Stiehm, Bring Me Men and Women: Mandated Change at the U.S. Air Force Academy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981), 91. Indeed, during the inaugural parade of 1977, the usual order in the ranks was reversed so that President Carter could see the short women as they passed the reviewing stand.

(13.) Prah, "Is the Pentagon Using a Backdoor Draft?" 1318. Both Congress and the Supreme Court quashed the Carter proposal at the time. Cong. Charles B. Rangel proposed a similar draft measure in 2003, but it was voted down in the House, 402-2, with Rangel voting against his own proposal.

(14.) Rodman D. Griffin, "what Role Should women Play in the Shrinking Military?" CQ Researcher, 25 September 1992, rre1992092500&ty (accessed 7 September 2006).

(15.) Glazer, "Are women Returning?" 13; and Lt Gen Albert P. Clark, USAF, "women at the Service Academies," Strategic Review 5 (Fall 1977): 64.

(16.) Martin Binkin and Shirley J. Bach, Women and the Military (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, 1977), 64-77; and Report of the Defense Task Force on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, June 2005), 8, doc_recd/High_GPO_RRC_tx.pdf. At the opposite pole is former secretary of the Navy (and US Naval Academy graduate) James webb, who argued that male midshipmen still tried and needed to prove their manhood by traditional means. But, he says, the presence of women at the Naval Academy denied them the opportunity. See his article "women Can't Fight," Washingtonian, November 1979, 273.

(17.) Michael Kimmel, Manhood in America: A Cultural History (New York: Free Press, 1996). Kimmel dedicates his entire work to the proposition that American men have always been obsessed with a forlorn hope of proving their manhood--and that doing so is impossible. Thus they are doomed to be eternally frustrated unless they adopt the Kimmel solution: men can succeed only by giving up the chase and welcoming females, gays, and nonwhite races as equals. Only then can they fulfill their need for self-actualization. Although a sociologist in the state university system of New York, Kimmel has not written a sociological study here--or even a cultural history. One of the chapters, "The Masculine Mystique," suggests that he is envious of Friedan and would like this book to serve as the male counterpart to Friedan's tremendously successful work. In Bring Me Men and Women, Judith Hicks Stiehm says that some Navy men testified in Congress that admission of women might impair motivation for the males who sought appointment to demonstrate their manliness (31). See also webb, note 16.

(18.) Andrea L. Smalley, "'I Just Like to Kill Things': Women, Men and the Gender of Sport Hunting in the United States, 1940-1973," Gender and History 17 (April 2005): 183-209. Smalley argues that in modern times, insofar as sporting magazines were concerned, hunting was not a gender-specific sport until after world war II. In the nineteenth century and up until world war II, it generally had been something that members of the upper class had done in their leisure time; members of the working class stayed too busy to indulge. But the increasing entry of women into the male workplace and the expansion of hunting to include the working classes caused editors to emphasize hunting as a macho endeavor that would help males establish their masculinity.

(19.) George V. Fagan, The Air Force Academy: An Illustrated History (Boulder, CO: Johnson Books, 1988), 186.

(20.) Clark, "women at the Service Academies," 64-65.

(21.) Ibid., 69.

(22.) At least two future four-star generals were among the first crop of surrogate upperclassmen: Gen Charles Gabriel and Gen Jerome O'Malley.

(23.) Lois B. DeFleur et al., "Sex Integration of the U.S. Air Force Academy: Changing Roles for women," Armed Forces and Society 4 (Summer 1978): 620.

(24.) Fagan, Air Force Academy, 193-95; and Stiehm, Bring Me Men and Women, 110-29.

(25.) Stiehm, Bring Me Men and Women, 121, 129; Goldstein, War and Gender, 97; Sharon Hanley Disher, "30 Years of women at USNA: A Success Story," Shipmate 69 (September 2006): 17; Rempt, "State of the Academy"; and Lt Col Laura A. H. DiSilverio, Winning the Retention Wars: The Air Force, Women Officers, and the Need for Transformation, Fairchild Paper (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air University Press, 2003), DiSilverio/DiSilverio.pdf.

(26.) "Mom, the Cadet," Time in Partnership with CNN, 28 November 1977, 0,9171,919137,00.html (accessed 14 September 2006).

(27.) In "State of the Academy," Rempt reports that at that moment, 41 percent of the Naval Academy women were on intercollegiate squads.

(28.) Brian Mitchell, The Weak Link: The Feminization of the American Military (Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway, 1989), 48-60. Mitchell's book is obviously hostile to women in the military. See also Clark, "women at the Service Academies," 69.

(29.) Stephanie Gutmann, The Kinder, Gentler Military: Can America's Gender-Neutral Fighting Force Still Win Wars? (New York: Scribner, 2000), 147.

(30.) Jeanne Holm, Women in the Military: An Unfinished Revolution (Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1992), 353-56.

(31.) Clark, "women at the Service Academies," 65.

(32.) Goldstein, War and Gender, 101; and Paolo Valpoline et al., "Gender and war," Jane's Defence Weekly 31 (23 June 1999), (accessed 9 September 2006).

(33.) It seems that the Iraqis did treat both prisoners better than had been anticipated, and at first both denied having been sexually assaulted. However, some time after she had been liberated, Maj Rhonda Cornum, an Army doctor, admitted that though her general treatment had not been that bad, she had been sexually assaulted but not raped. Melissa Rathbun-Nealy, the captured enlisted woman, reported that her own treatment had been civilized. Gutmann, Kinder, Gentler Military, 153; and Goldstein, War and Gender, 94-96, 149.

(34.) So named because of the metal hook beneath and at the rear of the aircraft fuselage. It is designed to engage the arresting gear on the carrier deck and rapidly halt the aircraft upon touchdown.

(35.) Gutmann, Kinder, Gentler Military, 159.

(36.) Griffin, "what Role Should women Play?"

(37.) Ibid., 187; and Christopher Hanson, "Women Warriors: How the Press Has Helped--and Hurt--in the Battle for Equality," Columbia Journalism Review, May/June 2002, 4-5, (accessed 14 November 2006). Hanson argues that the television magazines have perhaps inadvertently weakened the women's movement. Their format has taken the form of the TV journalist acting in effect as the knight in shining armor, galloping to rescue a female victim as in The Perils of Pauline. The point is that they model the female officers as victims in need of protection--hardly compatible with the vision of the vigorous, brave combat leader who can take care of herself.

(38.) william H. McMichael, The Mother of All Hooks: The Story of the U.S. Navy's Tailhook Scandal (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 1997), xii-xiii, 302-3, 325-37.

(39.) Ibid., 95.

(40.) Greg Seigle, "Gender and the Military," Jane's Defence Weekly 31 (23 June 1999), (accessed 8 September 2006).

(41.) That part of the process may not be over yet, as witnessed by CPT Adam N. Wojack, USA, "Integrating women into the Infantry," Military Review 82, no. 6 (November-December 2002): 67-74. Wojack, a serving infantry officer, favors integrating women into combat arms, and Military Review is an official Army journal (note, however, that the article includes a disclaimer that opinions are those of the author only). The admission of women to combat aircraft and warship crews seems to have cooled the drive against exclusion but certainly did not eliminate it. See Erin Solaro, Women in the Line of Fire: What You Should Know about Women in the Military (Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2006). Solaro's entire volume argues for eliminating the last barriers of exclusion from the Army's and Marine Corps' ground-combat units.

(42.) Lt Col Karen O. Dunivin, Military Culture: A Paradigm Shift? Maxwell Paper no. 10 (Maxwell AFB, AL: Air war College, 1997), 16, Maxwell_papers/Text/mp10.pdf.

(43.) Goldstein, War and Gender, 97-98.

(44.) In "State of the Academy," Rempt reports that the latest surveys show that the percentage of male midshipmen who so state is now down to six or seven.

(45.) Goldstein, War and Gender, 96-97; and Dunivin, Military Culture, 26.

(46.) Kelly Flinn, Proud to Be: My Life, the Air Force, the Controversy (New York: Random House, 1997). Flinn graduated with the class of 1993, went through pilot school, and became the first woman admitted to the B-52 program. After training, she was assigned to a far-northern base and became sexually involved with the spouse of an enlisted person. In the process, she lied to her commander and disobeyed orders to stay away from the man. Threatened with a court-martial on those grounds, she chose to leave the service instead of facing those charges. The media made much of her position as a qualified B-52 pilot, but she had not been on the line long enough to have qualified as an aircraft commander. Her book was on the streets two months after she left the service.

(47.) "Report of the Panel to Review Sexual Misconduct Allegations at the U.S. Air Force Academy" (Arlington, VA: The Panel, 22 September 2003), 10, (hereinafter Fowler Panel Report), content_storage_01/0000000b/80/23/5c/8b.pdf; "Evaluation of Sexual Assault, Reprisal, and Related Leadership Challenges at the United States Air Force Academy," Report no. IPO2004C003 (Washington, DC: Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Defense, 3 December 2004), i (hereinafter DOD IG Report); and "Air Force Inspector General Summary Report Concerning the Handling of Sexual Assault Cases at the United States Air Force Academy" (Washington, DC: Air Force Inspector General's Office, 14 September 2004), (hereinafter AFIG Report), AFD-060726-033.pdf#search=%22A%20inspector%20general%sexual%assault%22 (accessed 14 September 2006).

(48.) Fowler Panel Report, 1-7; Report of the Defense Task Force, 3-4; and "Report of the working Group Concerning the Deterrence and Response to Incidents of Sexual Assault at the U.S. Air Force Academy" (Washington, DC: Headquarters US Air Force, June 2003), i.

(49.) DOD IG Report, v, 42-140.

(50.) AFIG Report.

DR. DAVID R. METS I received assistance to improve earlier drafts of this article from Brig Gen Janet Therianos, USAF; Ms. Cathy Parker; COL Jack Sinnott, USA, retired; and Col Herman Gilster, USAF, retired. The faults that remain are entirely my own.
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Author:Mets, David R.
Publication:Air & Space Power Journal
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Date:Sep 22, 2007
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