Where women warriors will lead

Hugh Gusterson in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

As a result of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's January 24th announcement, within a few years it will be normal to see women leading men into combat, serving on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and returning to the United States in flag-draped coffins as their tearful husbands comfort their children.

As well as resolving the debate about the role of women in combat, Panetta's announcement will reverberate well beyond war zones. For example, it will have implications for a longstanding tension between antiwar feminists and those I have called “feminist militarists.” In the 1980s, antiwar feminism seemed to have the upper hand. These were the years of women-only peace camps at Greenham Common and Seneca Falls, and an antinuclear movement led largely by women such as Helen Caldicott, Randall Forsberg, Jessie Cocks, and Pam Solo. In a decade in which Carol Gilligan's argument that women reason about right and wrong “in a different voice” held sway in women's studies programs, many feminists took it for granted that militarism was an expression of patriarchy and that feminism was necessarily anti-military. But at the same time a different kind of feminist, typified by Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, was arguing that it was time to smash the glass ceiling in the military and let women fight in combat. While this is a breakthrough in terms of equal opportunity, casting women as fighters signals the eclipse of what had been a powerful ground for critique of the military.

More here.