I recently read that the Navy will now allow women on submarines, about 20 years after they were allowed on surface ships. I think this is a great move towards shattering the glass ceiling in the military and elsewhere. However, I also need to clarify a couple of things after doing some further research.
One, for now the Navy will only have about 19 women – all officers – commanding a couple of units on the subs, and they will never be by themselves; there will be at least 3 women on gender-integrated subs. Because officers already have their own separate quarters, this will not create a need to reconfigure. Only when they begin to allow enlisted women will this become an issue, and that’s not even in the cards yet.
Furthermore, this will not begin until late 2011 at the earliest. I don’t know how it works with the male crews, but I suspect that all submariners have to go through a selection and training process. These crews are highly specialized and require a lot of training, so I doubt the Navy would let just anyone on – GI Jane this is not.
Finally, there is the question about the close quarters with men and the potential for harassment and inappropriate relationships. These are problems that are found throughout society, not just in the military, although proper training and good self-esteem do help. I would think that any woman – officer or enlisted – who goes through the rigors of obtaining such a job will probably not want to jeopardize it by engaging in questionable activities. That’s how I would have approached it, anyways. I seriously doubt we’d have to worry about a female Navy submarine officer getting pregnant to get out of duty – that seems to be an enlisted phenomenon, although I’m certain it does happen in the O ranks on occasion.
And on that note, I’ve seen a lot of that over the years in the military – women getting pregnant to get out of duty, or some just by accident because they don’t use birth control. These are the women who give the rest of us a bad name, and turn society against females in the military. If the military truly wants to solve this problem, then they need to give deploying women the Depo shot or an implant in the arm (like the Implanon that I have); all of the training in the world will not prevent men and women from having sexual relationships while serving together. I’ve seen firsthand how well that does not work. While I would not approve of this tactic in regular society, because I am a strong believer in personal choice and laissez-faire government, military members are a different story. When we took that oath, we basically pledged our asses to Uncle Sam for a set number of years. That means we have to get shots and do all of the things that our respective services require whether we want to or not. My husband jokingly called Depo a “pregnancy vaccine,” but as I think about it, his remark has a lot of value. It’s one thing to be serving stateside and having your family as planned (or not), but this cannot happen during deployments. The military services spend millions to train their members, and losing them to something dumb like an unplanned pregnancy is just ridiculous.
So my questions are these:
1) Is the integration a good move towards equality, or not enough?
2) Should the military require birth control for deployments?