Throughout history, women have always had a large impact on the military. Whether it’s being a soldier or supporting a soldier, they’ve played a role.
So why is the Pentagon worried about women?
Author Cynthia Enloe answered this and other questions in her lecture before about 20 people Tuesday night in the Mass Media and Technology Auditorium. The program was sponsored by the women’s studies department.
Enloe, a researcher and government professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., studies the impact of militarism and politics on women.
She has written several books concerning those issues, including “Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women’s Lives” and “Bananas, Beaches, and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics.”
Beyond women’s roles as soldiers, Enloe said the Pentagon is worried about women for two crucial reasons.
“If women become unhappy, they will persuade their husbands not to re-enlist,” she said. “If they’re worried or stressed, it will distract the soldiers.”
Enloe said the Army loses money if soldiers do not re-enlist. The Army also does not want soldiers to lose their focus on the war because of “home problems.”
Enloe’s major points concerned the results of ending the draft and the important role women play in ensuring that men not only enlist, but re-enlist in the military.
After the Vietnam War, Congress ended the draft-compulsory military services. Enloe said women influenced that decision.
“This was an unpopular war,” she said. “Mothers and wives were turning against the war.”
Enloe said the decision left the military with a loss of primarily middle class soldiers.
Because of the loss, she said the military had to find ways to make itself more attractive.
The solution was offering educational benefits and ending the two percent women ceiling in the military, she said
Now, Enloe said, women make up 15 percent of America’s armed forces.
Though the change was a step up for women, Enloe said only 12-15 percent of recruitment is targeted toward women.
“The military is afraid that if they get large numbers of women, the military would not seem like a masculine institution,” she said.
Another concern, Enloe said, is women in combat.
“Women make up 20 percent of the Air Force,” she said. “The Air Force has more jobs that are not defined as combative.”
Enloe said the numbers of women in the Marines, which is considered to be the most combative branch of the military, are the lowest.
Lee Humphreys, a senior from Aiken, S.C., serves in the national guard and was once an active duty officer. He said he did not agree with everything Enloe said.
“I did agree with a lot of the stuff,” he said. “But I felt like some information was left out about some of the soldiers at the incident at Fort Bragg.”
Humphreys referred to the five soldiers that killed their wives after returning from the war last fall. He said that the soldiers did not kill their wives because of military training as Enloe suggested.
“It’s more so the stress of coming home after you put your life on the line,” he said. “Coming home to personal problems that a lot of civilians like lawyers, will still end up killing their wives for.”
Louisville sophomore Soyica Williams agreed with Enloe’s lecture, but she said she was expecting more.
“I agreed, but it was pretty boring,” she said. “I thought it would have been more reasons the Pentagon was worried about women.”
Williams said the lecture was informative and important because of the recent war.
Jane Olmsted, director of the women’s studies program, said she was informed and intrigued by Enloe’s lecture.
“I think she really engaged the audience,” she said. “She spoke to them and with them. That’s always nice.”
Olmsted said the issues Enloe introduced were very important to women and their effect on the military.
“The focus on the military (is) making sure that women are happy with their husbands or their children going into the military,” she said. “Keep those people happy in order to keep the military invigorated.”
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