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Opening Arguments

GI Jane

How do you feel about this? Proud? Horrified?

An Indianapolis-area soldier, believed to be the first female Indiana National Guard member wounded in Iraq, was presented a Purple Heart this morning.

For better or worse, the debate about women in combat is all but over in this country. Women are still barred from "direct ground combat" units, but that is a nearly meaningless distinction. They do everything from fly planes to drive trucks through the fighting, and the concept of "front lines" doesn't mean what it once did. Consequently:

The number of female casualties -- 68 dead and more than 430 injured -- represents a tiny fraction of the total. Still, by one estimate, the deaths exceed the number of military women who lost their lives in Korea, Vietnam and the gulf war combined.

Backers of The Equal Rights Amendment failed to get it into the Constitution, despite repeated efforts over several years. Too many weren't willing to say that men and women should be treated completely equally by the law under all circumstances and despite any consequences. I'd say we've gotten there anyway, without the ERA. The deploring may now begin, but then what?

Posted in: Current Affairs


L. Moore
Mon, 01/08/2007 - 7:30am

You're right about the ERA in a strange sort of way. The reason it failed was because the women who WANTED special privileges organized STOP ERA with the help of big business (which didn't want to pay women equal wages for equal work) and Senator Sam Ervin. The backers of the ERA have always been willing to accept the responsibilities that go along with the right of legal equality.

Steve Towsley
Mon, 01/08/2007 - 4:28pm

It shouldn't be easy to pass an amendment, but my impression is that it might be better to have an ERA with reasonable exceptions for situations which cannot be practically or realistically solved without allowing for gender. These days, it seems, even common sense has to be explicitly legislated at times.

Twiss Butler
Mon, 01/08/2007 - 8:43pm

When the 14th Amendment was drafted in 1868 to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, the excuse used to deny women the guarantee of equal protection of the law that all men receive as a constitutional birthright was "women didn't fight for it." Despite the proven competence and bravery of women soldiers, the draft/combat exemption continues to be used to keep sex discrimination constitutionally acceptable and to punish women as a class for not doing what men won't let them do. And the alleged male reluctance "to see women brought home in body bags" doesn't exempt women from violence on the home front.

Steve Towsley
Mon, 01/08/2007 - 8:58pm

Twiss --

Very good. And of course, men have no, zero, zilch, nada rights to prevent women from doing anything at all that, as you say, "men won't let them do." The very phrase points up the inacceptability of any such prejudice, whether in wages OR in war.