Arkansas Congressman Tom Cotton told Laura Ingraham on her radio show Tuesday that military women are physically unfit to serve in combat due to their “nature.” Cotton, a former Army infantry officer in Iraq and Afghanistan, explained that female soldiers should limit their military duties to non-infantry combat roles and that women should continue to be legally barred from competing with men for infantry combat roles.
“To have women serving in infantry, though, could impair the mission-essential tasks of those units. And that’s been proven in study after study, it’s nature, upper body strength, and physical movements, and speed, and endurance, and so forth.”
Women have long been prohibited from front-line combat positions, but steps are being taken for women to join the ranks on the front lines. The two women to enroll in the Marine pilot program did not pass (26 out of the 107 men who enrolled in the course also failed), adding fodder to the institutional thinking that women do not belong in combat.
Last year, the Defense Department reviewed its ground combat exclusion policy for women, and announced that women would be formally allowed in crucial and dangerous positions closer to the front lines. The Pentagon opened up 14,000 combat-related jobs to more women in the military, including tank mechanics and front-line intelligence officers. Even with this small step, women are still prevented from being able to serve in combat.
Although a recent survey indicated that female solders showed little interest in serving as front-line fighters who must go through a grueling training, another survey by the British Ministry of Defense listed more than 11 countries that allow women in front-line roles. However, restrictions to female participation in combat operations are still limited.
Rep. Cotton expanded on Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s “concerns” expressed on the Today show about having women in combat since “men have emotions when you see a woman in harm’s way.”
Despite small steps being taken for a more inclusive and fair combat policy, obstacles and views such as Congressman Cotton’s remain as obstacles to women’s advancement in the military, where discrimination has long been an impediment.