Friday, May 27, 2005

If this was male 'gallantry,' what an insult

As California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter demonstrated with an attempt to roll back the roles of military women, a few men still cling to the conviction that women should be limited in their roles in society.

However, as an overwhelming majority of other women and men also demonstrated, women rightly deserve career choices alongside the hardiest of men—in the military.

Faced with ferocious criticism, Hunter beat a hasty retreat from his legislation, cooked up without so much as a by-your-leave or testimony from opponents, that would've stripped military women of the right to serve in risky units supporting combat forces.

If this was Rep. Hunter's idea of gallantry, it was an insult as well as a revelation of his backward thinking. Perhaps Rep. Hunter would've opposed voting rights for women if he'd been around in 1920 when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified.

Unlike men who automatically enjoy career freedoms by virtue of society's gender codes, women have literally battled their way into the work force, then fight even more rigorously to invade so-called "traditional" male occupations.

Maybe it's escaped Rep. Hunter that women now command space flights, captain military ships, pilot the largest tanker and transport aircraft, fly jet-fighter combat missions over Iraq, preside over corporations and universities, serve as U.S. secretaries of state, sit on the land's highest courts, and many do this while bearing children, to boot. Can any man make that boast?

Political insiders are salivating over the prospects of a 2008 presidential matchup between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Condoleezza Rice.

Women whom Rep. Hunter would protect from risky military duties got there through free choice in the all-volunteer U.S. Army and knowing the dangers. And it was women on duty in Iraq who've survived gunfire who were among the first to harshly denounce Hunter's scheme limiting their assignments.

To the everlasting credit of the Pentagon, generals to a man—and to a woman—flailed Rep. Hunter's plan and helped send him into retreat.

Combat roles can no longer be easily defined, especially in a world where enemies don't face each other across neatly dug muddy trenches and fix bayonets for hand-to-hand combat.

President Bush reminds Americans constantly the nation is at war. Heavily armed police and soldiers at vital homeland facilities and jet fighters patrolling the skies are proof the war he describes is close to home where no one is exempted from risks.

Women have become too important in America's social structure to begin chipping away at their rights and their skills, regardless of the thin reasoning the likes of Rep. Hunter concocts.

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