The Soviets do not seem to have many issues regarding gender equality in their history, as compared to the United States of America who promotes freedom and equality for all. The Soviets sent up the first female astronaut into outer space in the early 1960's (Valentina Tereshkova) and a couple decades before that, promoted their women in combat.
Among over a thousand red army women snipers during WWII, one that stands out is Lyudmila Mikhailivna Pavlichenko from Ukraine. It has been estimated that she killed 309 Germans during the Great War. Pavlichenko, as a sniper, served in general combat as part of the 25th infantry division. Her background consists of studies in History at Kiev University, and as a grinder. When she decided to join up for the war effort:
"The recruitment officer eyed her in amazement. She looked like a model, with well-manicured nails, fashionable clothes and hairstyle..." The same recruitment officer told Pavlichenko that she would be a better fit in the nursing field. (Yeah... I don't think so)
After the soldier was wounded in combat, she was not put back on active duty but instead became an "ambassador for the war effort," and a world-wide celebrity. This included visits to the states and Pavlichenko became the first soviet citizen to be received by President Roosevelt at the White house.
In one of Pavlichenko's speeches in America (1942) she said that, "Soviet women have complete self-respect, because their dignity as human beings is fully recognized. Whatever we do, we are honored not just as women, but as individual personalities, as human beings. That is a very big word. Because we can be fully that, we feel no limitations because of our sex. That is why women have so naturally taken their places beside men in this war."
Women in the United States are restricted from being snipers because it is part of the ASI (Additional Skill Identifier) which is considered ground combat, and anything that is ground combat means that women are prohibited. Women and ground combat is seen as against Christianity and God. In Christianity woman are placed as nurturers and bearers of life, whereas men are the takers of life. This notion supports patriarchal ruled society and that women are seen as objects. In America- A Call to Greatness, Chalfant compares women being in combat as equally sinful to breaking sodomy laws (which included homosexuality at the time the book was originally written- 1996) Protestantism still holds influence and is rooted deeply in the identity of this nation.
With the idea of protestantism and patriarchy, the U.S. Military and U.S. Nation are too caught up on "masculine ideologies of strength and belligerence," as noted by Barry Adam in The Defense of Marriage Act and American Exceptionalism. The military thinks that by having women in combat, it will depict the institution as feminine and weak. One of the same major reasons for which the military has discriminated against homosexual soldiers for so long. But despite the exclusion policy against women, in today's modern warfare women are "serving in real combat everyday and are vulnerable to being injured, killed, or captured." (McSally) In a New York Times article, Women at Arms: GI Jane Breaks the Combat Barrier, Specialist Veronica Alfaro fought in Afghanistan as a ground combat solider, without the title (of course). Alfaro gunned, drove, ran as a truck commander, and was a medic. The United States is being hypocritical and arrogant when it comes to gender-equal laws in combat.
Arguments that the military uses for why women should not be in combat are due to generalizations made instead of on an individual basis:
1) Women lack physical strength to be effective in ground combat
Physiology may place emphasis on men being naturally stronger than women, but there are many women that have the physical strength and capability for ground combat, AND many men that do not. It should also be noted that the army does not submit male recruits to physical strength examinations before assigning them to positions in ground combat. It is later tested if he will be able to perform his job properly based on his completion of training. I agree that with most women I know, they would not be physically
qualified for ground combat, but they probably aren't looking towards the military anyway. But there are plenty that could hold their own and be a challenge to an opponent. Combat position should be based on the individual, not based on generalization of sex.
2) Women's presence will decrease unit cohesions and therefore overall effectiveness
This means that a team with a woman would not be able to unite and bond properly, than they would otherwise without the woman. This whole concept supports that men cannot focus with a woman around. The blame gets placed on women, instead of dealing with male soldiers being the ones with the real issue. Veteran/Author, Martha McSally says that, "military cohesion is based on people's uniting for a common mission or purpose, and not based on the group consisting of a common race, creed or gender." Not being able to unite with your team and get the job done, is a personal issue. Not a "blame-it on-the-woman" issue.
3) Women JUST DON'T BELONG in combat
The proper role for a woman was to stay at home and be with the family (but that was also over six decades ago). The idea that women should not serve in combat, because it is a fundamental principle, is a load of bull. It is a woman's choice as to whether she wants to serve in combat, or does not want to serve.
Back to WWII and the Soviets, based on her efforts Pavlichenko became a Poster-Child for the period because of her heroism based on military skills. This conflicts with the ideology of the American "Damsel in Distress" that is depicted in Deploying Race, Gender, Class and Sexuality in the Iraq War. In the article, Private Jessica Lynch became the American Poster-Child for the war effort because she was a "hero of circumstance" and was promoted as an innocent victim held captive, that was rescued by strong male U.S. soldiers. This not only helps support that women have a passive role in the war, but also gives an example to the media and public of why women should not be in ground combat.
Pavlichenko held an active role in her war. And was seen as a hero. Most modern U.S. military women hold active roles as well, but do not receive the recognition and credit that they deserve. The nation needs to stop giving out reasons why women cannot be in ground combat, when in modern warfare women are being placed in the positions to act and serve in ground combat roles anyway.
Adam, Barry. The Defense of Marriage Act and American Exceptionalism: The "Gay Marriage" Panic in the United States.
Chalfant, John. America- A Call to Greatness. USA: Xulon Press, 2003 (139-141)
Feitz, L. & Nagel, J. Deploying Race, Gender, Class and Sexuality in the Iraq War.
McSally, Martha. Women in Combat: Is the Current Policy Obsolete? (2005) From Duke Journal of Gender Law & Policy.
Spicer, M. & Farey, P. Sniping: An Illustrated History. London: Compendium Publishing, 2008 (128-129)