Woman in the military can fight and die for their country, but when they hit a high level of achievement we don't see or hear them
For the past 12 years, I have watched, read and followed negotiations during the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and leading up to Syria. What I noticed is that there are rarely any female military brass partaking in military negotiations. Syria is President Obama’s eighth military debate and I have not seen one woman weigh in on any of them. When President Obama said in his speech Tuesday night that his family did not want to go to war, I knew that meant his wife, daughters and possibly his mother-in-law. Of course the first family is not in the military.
CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) holds states responsible for ending discrimination against women, which it defines in Article 1 as “any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.“
States agree to follow the convention using such measures as reviewing their national legislation to remove discriminatory laws, criminalize discrimination against women, creating national tribunals or institutions to eliminate discrimination and by implementing policies.
Gender is an emerging sub-field of Security Sector Reform (SSR). SSR generally refers to a process to reform or rebuild a state’s security sector. Sometimes known as gender balance, promoting the equal participation of men and women in the SSR processes and security institutions is a method of strengthening the military as well as increasing their representation and effectiveness. In relation to the Security Sector Reform processes, this may involve ensuring that women and men are equally involved in assessments, monitoring, and evaluations.
Because men are over-represented, promoting equal participation generally involves increased recruitment, retention and the advancement of women in the military and other security organizations. Doing so may require developing policies for security sector institutions that allow personnel to perform socially expected gender roles like flexible working hours for parents for instance.
The lack of female military brass partaking in military decisions concerns me greatly. I know there are several female military brass that have plenty to contribute, but aren’t seen or heard from. As a woman myself, it makes me wonder why the military “old boys club” excludes these women after promoting them for their input into the pros and cons of military intervention, drones use or putting boots on the ground. I have often seen several high-ranking military men on special panels, but never women.
One example is Margaret Woodward who commanded the entire U.S. air campaign in Libya during Operation Odyssey Dawn. She organized the entire U.S. airstrike campaign and became the first woman to command a U.S. combat air campaign.
Today, the Major General holds the very important role as Director of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) in Washington, D.C. Her office is the single point of accountability and oversight for sexual assault policy matters, and she reports directly to the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Where has she been in the sexual assault hearings?
As our country contemplates the course of action in military conflicts, the lack of female input only hurts the debate, prolongs it, and serious points may be overlooked. It makes me wonder if they’re even consulted for their expertise.
Maybe they are not looked at with the same prestige or the sexual assault and rape scandal overshadows their input but either way, their absence is disturbing and as a citizen and voter, I would like to hear what these women have to say about future important and expensive operations.