Four servicewomen, no strangers to the realities of modern warfare, are rebelling against the “brass ceiling” barring women from serving in combat positions–front lines which female veterans say they have already crossed in the past decade that the United States has been at war.
“We want to have a chance to compete to achieve those same standards the men are currently the only ones able to compete for right now,” said Captain Zoe Bedell of the United States Marine Corps Reserves on Saturday’s Melissa Harris-Perry.
Bedell, who served two tours in Afghanistan, is one of four plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Defense Department brought forward by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Service Women’s Action Network this week claiming that Pentagon rules excluding women from more than 238,000 positions on the front lines of combat are a violation of their constitutional rights.
While leading a team of female Marines that worked alongside and support the infantry units Bedell said that she faced discrimination. “When they came into contact with the enemy, so did my Marines,” she said of the infantrymen.
“I took care of my Marines,” Bedell said. “I always assumed the organization would take care of us, but after ten years at war, these rules haven’t changed. They’re not reflecting the reality on the ground.”
Back in February, women were allowed closer to combat lines when the Pentagon opened up 14,000 “combat-related positions” to female troops, still leaving roughly one-fifth of the regular active-duty jobs out of reach for women.
“That feels like discrimination 101,” Harris-Perry said on Saturday. “One’s identity should never be more important than one’s capacity.”
Anu Bhagwati, executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network, which is representing Bedell and three others in their lawsuit, called the the existing rule a “classic case of sex discrimination” in the workplace.
“The military is the last place where you can legally discriminate against women simply because they are women,” Bhagwati said.
See the second part of the discussion below.