It is essential the government moves to allow women to serve in the British Infantry on the front line. And today's news that a government-commissioned review has recommended this is a step in the right direction. Opposition to today’s announcement is nothing short of sexism. As somebody who has served on this so called ‘front line’, which in my opinion does not even exist in modern warfare, I am flabbergasted by some of the responses to this much-needed move to make our army more inclusive.
For the Whitehall based civil servant who has no experience of serving in the military in any capacity - incredibly, those who have the power stop this piece of equality in its tracks - I think it is important to point out that in 2014, gone are the days of a ‘front line’ as a line of good guys facing a line of bad guys. All too often we read about another Afghan soldier turning his machine gun on our soldiers - sometimes in the perceived safety of a base; and the weapon of choice for our enemies, at least the last ten years, has been the cowardly devices of roadside bombs or suicide vests. None of these deadly tactics discriminate at who they kill, be it a man or a woman.
When I served in the desert in Iraq in 2007, women did many of the same roles as me, faced the same danger as me and on many occasions, did the job somewhat better than me. Our Army does not go anywhere without vital assets such as medical support, engineering expertise and soldiers specifically skilled in roles such as dog handling or bomb-disposal; women have been brilliantly carrying out these roles, under-fire, for years.
The realities of warfare have evolved, and women now face the same threat as their male counterparts. Never has a women not been able to carry out any of these roles in the face of enemy action because of their gender, and to suggest suddenly that women will be physically incapable is nothing short of an injustice to the thousands of women who have risked their lives, endured real conflict and in some cases, paid the ultimate price.
I am disappointed, but not at all surprised, to hear Major General Patrick Cordingley use blatant sexism as an excuse not to support this great act of gender equality. Today he said “Being in a fighting unit, you need to concentrate on the enemy, you don’t want distractions looking after women…” a statement which isn’t just hugely offensive to women in our military, but also outright idiotic.
And as far as the argument that women just aren’t as physically strong as men, and therefore won’t be able to carry out tasks asked of them on some fantasy front line, well, that is simply nonsense. In the army, I have seen a whole spectrum of shapes and muscular design amongst former colleagues. I have seen soldiers approaching 7 foot, fantastically muscular in shape, as well as comrades like me, who are somewhat skinny in build. With the right training and skills, we all have been able to contribute to tasks that have been demanding, and to say that women are physically not up to it is unintelligent and grossly unfair.
The training the army provides is generally considered the best in the world. It will not take much to adapt the physical side of this training to accommodate women.
This move is long overdue and very much needed if the army wants to underline its commitment to equality. The argument opposing it is only based on sexism… and it stinks.Reuse content